SPONSORSHIP HOUSE CALL

An off-the-cuff phone call to Maryborough's PRO 1 Race Parts by crew chief Hilton Martin has led to sponsorship support for the return of David House to Castrol Edge Lismore Speedway for Saturday night's (March 6) Production Sedan East Coast Grand National.

The man from PRO 1 Race Parts with the same name as one of Australia's most prolific business entrepreneurs, the late Sir Frank Packer, is the driving force behind the backing of the company.

PRO 1 Race Parts operator Frank Packer, who first raced speedway in 1978, will also compete in the 2021 Production Sedan East Coast Grand National driving a VS Holden Commodore.

When Hilton Martin sourced parts from PRO 1 Race Parts to freshen up the Chrysler Centura House will drive in the ECGN, the phone call took an inquisitive turn when Frank asked: “who's the driver?”

Hilton replied: “David House,” to which Packer, upon hearing the name, quickly responded: “Well, if he's as good as the original David House, he will be ok.”

“It IS the original David House,” Hilton authorised.

“You're kidding, how old is he?” Frank gasped.

“He's seventy-two and still as sharp as a pencil,” Hilton affirmed.

Somewhat shocked, the reply down the line was: “Wow, that's great.”

From that has come a sponsorship agreement over a hand shake in a remarkable story leading into this weekend's ECGN.

“I want to sincerely thank Frank for his much appreciated involvement in David's long awaited racing return to Castrol Edge Lismore Speedway after last season serving as ECGN Grand Marshal,” Hilton acknowledged.

“It's terrific to have PRO 1 Race Parts with us for this year's East Coast Grand National and I appreciate Frank's support,” David House enthused.

The irony of this connection is that Packer was a spectator at that very first East Coast Grand National in 1975 at Lismore, Hilton Martin was on Grenville Anderson's pit crew for the race, won by David House! “Here we are again, forty-six years later back at the same track, the same race,” Hilton said.

Frank, 60, also knows a thing or two about racing, highlighted with a five year American stint driving IMCA Modifieds.

“I went over there three months per year for five consecutive years and did about 30 meetings every year,” Frank explained. He was based in Iowa and worked out of the Harris Auto Racing Shop.

That was some years ago in an on-and-off racing career that commenced at Sydney's Parramatta City Raceway in 1978 steering a Datsun 1600. “I paid eight hundred and twenty five dollars for it and it had twin Webbers and all the good stuff,” Frank laughed. After that PCR appearance, the very next night he competed at the world famous Sydney Showground Speedway. “I remember running onto the infield after having a tussle with a guy and took out all the flags,” he mused.

Packer also competed at the Sydney Showground a couple of years later when he drove in the 1980 International Sedan feature race that featured Americans Rodney Combs and Charlie Swartz. That race was won by Grenville Anderson from Allan Butcher.  Packer raced until 1983 and then moved up to Hervey Bay, Queensland and drove only for two seasons. He returned aged 34, raced for another seven years and then took four years off leading to today's era where “I don't do a lot of racing – maybe six to nine meetings and I have been doing that for the past twenty years or so.”

It's a new ball game for Frank as he lines up for the 2021 ECGN. “I have never raced at Lismore,” he admitted, “though I lived there for a while when I was younger. I thought I had better go there for a race – and this is a very good excuse to go there, plus I have got two brothers who live in Lismore and I haven't seen one of them for four years.”

Packer has a vested interest in the 2021 ECGN. He could emerge winner as either sponsor or driver.

STORY BY DENNIS NEWLYN.