This week’s guest is not our typical writer. While he has been in the industry for many decades, he hails from England and covers a variety of events outside North America. Instead of our usual introduction, we are going to let him tell his story. We are happy to present Roger Gorringe this week.
What turned me onto Drag Racing was way back in 1965 when a film called Bikini Beach was shown in my local cinema. The rather cringe-worthy movie showed just a few minutes of Drag Racing with glimpses of Don Garlits and Tommy Ivo. I was blown away. I delivered newspapers before school and in the news-agent found Hot Rod magazine, which I bought each month and subscribed to for years. It was not until 1968 that I first got to see Drag Racing in the flesh at Santa Pod, England. There were many Jaguar powered Altereds and some US V8 engine vehicles. I remember waiting all day just to see less than a handful of AA Dragsters running seven to nine second passes, but what an experience!
I first got trackside at Santa Pod Raceway, way back in 1972, snapping transparencies of the action with a 35mm Zenith camera and a Soligor 400mm lens. A few shots were used by a photo agency but I have no copies of any of the uses. It was at the start of 1974 that I first saw my name in print along with black and white photos used in Drag Racing News, a monthly publication delivered to all members of the British Drag Racing & Hot Rod Association. I was chuffed to bits. I took over this publication in 1978 as publisher and Editor with absolutely zero experience in that sphere. I struggled through, typing the content for it to be made into copy, then to cut and paste onto layout sheets ready for the printer to work his magic. The magazine ran under my ownership until I gave up in 1989 as costs were getting too high.
I have been lucky to have travelled across Europe and made my first visit to the USA in 1979 attending the NHRA World Finals at Ontario Motor Speedway. Then, in 1982 at Orange County and both times getting a media pass! It gave me the chance to produce the first colour front page in my publication, Drag Racing News featuring Billy Meyer’s Arrow Funny Car. Travelling to race tracks began in earnest in 2001 covering the European championships and managing to get to the US for the first three NHRA events and then the final two, ending each year with a sun tan and a last sniff of nitro for the year. I was also able to work alongside and become friends with some of my photojournalist heroes, Jon Asher, Steve Reyes, Bob McClurg and Richard Brady. I was writing and supplying photos for quite a few worldwide publications and websites, including National Dragster (USA), Motorsport News (UK), BikeSport News (UK), New Zealand Hot Rod Magazine, V8 Magazine (Finland), Santa Pod (GB) event programmes which I compiled and edited for the racetrack for over twenty years. There were several websites that used my material as well including; Competition Plus, Drag Racing Edge, Eurodragster.com, DragRaceCanada.com, Acceleration Archives.com. Over the years I have been published in England, Finland, Sweden, France, Germany, Holland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Middle East and Far East. I did get paid small amounts for some of the text and photographic work but never enough to make any kind of living from it. I had to stick to my design engineering job.
I have over the years been honoured with several awards in my fifty plus year Drag Racing career – 1983 Drag Racing Personality, 1998 John Woolfe Racing Ltd. Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2005 SPRC Alex Brachtvogel Memorial Trophy for Outstanding Service to Drag Racing. I was absolutely stunned on each occasion, believing only racers deserved awards! In 2008 I gained third place in the Les Lovett Memorial Photo Contest, becoming the first non US resident to be chosen. In 2018 I received the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame Lucas Oil Media Award for Lifetime in Drag Racing Photojournalism.
Year 2021 amid the awful Covid pandemic I chalked up fifty years as a trackside photojournalist, though with the crisis and the internet, publications had for the best part disappeared but I was still supplying Drag Racing Edge, DragRaceCanada and New Zealand Hot Rod magazine. Johnny D asked me to supply him with my usual text and photos. Unfortunately as with all good things, this pastime came to an end giving me little alternative other than to retire. I had been invited to attend a meeting with managers at Santa Pod just before 2022 Easter to discuss their event programmes; only to be told that I would not be getting my usual media pass due to mostly finances. While I disagreed with their reasoning, it was no less disheartening. End of an era! -Roger Gorringe