Dennis Priddle is one of the most well-known drag racers in Great Britain and in continental Europe today. However, he didn’t begin his drag racing career in a car, but rather his first entry into the sport was astride a Rudge powered motorcycle at the 1965 Drag Fest. The event was produced by Sidney Allard who with a lot of assistance from NHRA was able to have eight of the top US dragsters perfor for the first time on British soil. After his first exposure to this group, Dennis has stated, “Perhaps a life-changing moment for me was seeing Buddy Cortines smoke the tires for the full quarter mile and run 200 MPH in the finals against Danny Ongais”.
After completing a five-year technical apprenticeship program at Westland Helicopters, Dennis became highly skilled in the art of designing and fabricating. This gave him the ability to create the numerous race cars he has fielded over the years.
The following winter, Tony Gagne, with Priddle’s help, constructed a diminutive dragster using the 500 cc Rudge engine from Tony’s bike. The car, “Wicked Lady” may have been small but it was potent and carried Tony to the National Championship at the newly opened Santa Pod Raceway in Podington, Bedfordshire. The next year Dennis joined forces with Rex Sluggett to build a front engine dragster named “Tudor Rose”. The dragster was equipped with a Keith Black blown/injected Chrysler fuel engine.
Originally the plan called for Rex to do the driving with Dennis crewing, but unfortunately during a trip to run the car in Sweden, in 1958, Rex broken ankle; so, Dennis replaced him as the driver. This outing resulted in the team setting the quickest Swedish quarter-mile run of that time with an 8.53 second ET. Later that year they set the FIA record for a 2-way standing start of 8.296 second’s followed by a record-breaking 8.20 seconds at Santa pod.
For the 1969 season Dennis teamed up with David Riswick and John Wolfe Racing to field a Reliant GTE, powered by an injected 427 cubic inch Chevrolet engine on alcohol. The car carried him to a pair of Top Competition Class Championships first in Anderstorp Sweden then at Santa Pod in the UK.
In 1970 Dennis acted on his long-term desire to compete in the AA/Fuel dragster arena with a front engine dragster designed and built by Dennis; powered by a Sid Waterman built supercharged Chrysler. This car, called the “Quartermaster”, upped the British corner mile speed record to 193 MPH.
Perhaps the crowning achievement for Dennis was, on May 28, 1972, at Santa Pod Raceway when he broke the European six second barrier at 6.995 seconds. He became the first racer, outside North America, to do this which earned him the nickname “Mr. six”.
During the 1973 season, Dennis added another element to his race enterprise by debuting a blown Chrysler Avenger bodied AA/Fuel funny car in addition to the dragsters. It came as no surprise that he continued producing the same record-breaking performance in the funny car arena as he had in the fuel dragster arena. As technology progressed so did Dennis moving over to rear engine dragsters in 1980 and continuing to just go faster.
Since that time Dennis Priddle continued to set the benchmark for not only the British and European drag racers, but for the US-based teams as well by breaking the world ET record for front engine dragsters with a 6.04 second run in April 1975.
The list of accolades, records, and associate honors that Dennis has established is very long and illustrious including: continuous record-setting speeds and ET’s in Great Britain, Europe, and Scandinavian countries, first European car to go into the six second ET bracket at Santa Pod, five season championships in a top fuel or funny car, two-time holder of the Federation International de Automobile/International Sprint Organization elapsed time records, Custom Car Magazines 1977 Funny Car Driver of the Year, the John Wolfe Racing 30th Anniversary Drag Racing Reunion Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998, and inducted into the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2006.