Gail is a musher in the 2012 Iditarod.
Gail is a musher in the 2011 Iditarod.


Related Issue: Women Racers Directory, Women in Racing, Women Racers, More Women in Racing, Race Schedules, Notable Women
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The Phillip’s will have to temporarily say goodbye to those close friends who helped them; Rod and Carol Hadfield, Mike Davidson, Andy Jenkins of Broken Hill, Ellis Mathews of Port Adelaide, and all those other stalwarts of the sport of landspeed racing down under. But they will be back to race on the sunny, southern continent in the future.

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Landspeed racing is over one hundred years old and has been captivating the minds of people ever since the piston engine was developed. A great number of people have participated in the sport over that long time span and many of them have been women. The ladies have had to struggle to get the right to race in this male dominated sport, but their tenacity and talent have made them accepted members of the landspeeding community. One young lady who has dreams of going super fast is Gail Phillips. She and her husband, Allen, have been racing since 1995, and successfully setting records, including the prestigious Bonneville 200 Mile an Hour (MPH) Club in 1999. The 200-MPH Club

Gail Watson Phillips just set her first 200 MPH record in an Austin Healey Sprite (Modified Sports Class) at Bonneville in August 1999. contains all the officially sanctioned runs over 200 mph, in all types of automotive classes, AND it has to break a previous record. Now that means there are a lot of people who have run faster than 200, 300, 400 and faster who have not made it into the club and who cannot wear the famous red cap. My brother, David Parks, broke Andy Granatelli's record in 1996, and now has earned the right to wear the celebrated cap. Perhaps there are 500 such people in the world with such an accomplishment, but women record setters are few.

One of them is Gail Phillips and she is out to set and increase records both here in America and overseas in Australia. I first met Gail at the Gas-Up Party and Dry Lakes Hall of Fame in 1997. I had just returned from Black Rock Desert in Northern Nevada as Craig Breedlove and the Spirit of America were dueling Sir Richard Noble and Anthony Green in the Thrust SSC car. Gail and Allen are members of the Gold Coast Roadster and Racing Club, which is located throughout the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, of Central California. This club belongs to the SCTA (Southern California Timing Association), and some of its members race at the El Mirage Dry Lake in Southern California and at the Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah, on the Nevada border. Allen and Gail have also been members of the Dry Lakes Racers Australia (DLRA) and are currently residing in Australia waiting for the racing season to begin at Lake Gairdner in the Province of South Australia. Now the Aussies of Australia and the Kiwis of New Zealand have an old and hallowed tradition for speed racing of all sorts. One Australian is Ken Warby, who has set the waterspeed record of over 320 miles an hour. It isn't unusual to see the Anzac (Australia and New Zealand) nations send their finest drivers and cars by boat and great expense to go racing at Bonneville.

Rarely do we have an American team return the favor and travel half way around the world to go and race in the Southern Hemisphere, but Gail and Allen are doing just that. Lake Gairdner is beyond description for landspeed racers. Bonneville is a huge salt pan that has been degraded by potash and chemical companies over the years, but even at its most pristine, the salt flats in Utah are tiny compared to Lake Gairdner. The trip to Gairdner is a trek, not a jaunt. Australia is vast and the cars have to be unloaded in Adelaide and shipped by train north. Then the racecars are met by lorry, or truck to you non-Aussies and then the bumpy ride begins over rough roads until you reach the lakebed and gaze out over a sea of white salt. The lake bed stretches over sixty miles and a driver can get lost on the great white salt, forcing his crew to circle until they find him and bring him back to base. Gail and Allen have bought a house in Victor Harbor, just one hour south of Adelaide, the capitol of South Australia, where they will continue to work on the streamliner that they hope to set records in when the racing season begins in March. They have been members of the DLRA since 2001 and have made many friends among the Aussies, who have helped make their stay in Australia easier. The Phillips came back to Bonneville for the start of the August racing season and brought Mike Davidson with them. Davidson is a founding member of the DLRA and an expert in Ford Flathead motors and they toured the area checking up on all the hotrod and car shows they could before heading back to Australia. While the Phillips were at Bonneville, they set a new record in the Grand Touring E/GT class with their 1999 C-5 Corvette at 190 mph, breaking the old record of 184, set in 1978, and Gail was driving. They couldn't take both cars to Australia, and in December they loaded their Streamliner on the boat and sent it off. The car will arrive in February and they will get it prepared to run in March.

Their newest vehicle is a Streamliner which has arrived in Australia in preparation for racing at the DLRA's Speedweek event at Lake Gairdner in South Australia.

Gail understands that you don't set records in a vacuum. She has a team behind her that gives her the horsepower and safety equipment to set those records. The team is called P.O.P. Motorsports and includes Doug Odom (Builder/Crew Chief/Driver), Wayne Villard (Crew/Mechanic/Fabricator) and Al Phillips (Crew/Logistics). Doug Odom has been racing for a long time and is one of the best Crew Chiefs in the sport as well as a top quality driver. Landspeed racers don't have the ego that other automotive racing sports seem to possess. Landspeeders love to 'take' your record, then root for you to take it back. They have a love for speed and to test themselves against the clock and the course, not against their fellow drivers and friends. The brand new 25 foot streamliner will have two engine sizes, class B and class C. Gail will drive the class B engine in the streamliner and Doug will pilot the class C engine and they hope to set records with speeds over 300 mph. The designation is B/GS, B/FS, C/GS and C/FS. The first letter stands for the engine size. The second letters after the /mark stands for gas streamliner or GS and fuel streamliner for FS. They are hoping for some really fast times. The Phillips had hoped to break in the car and set records at Bonneville in August 2006, but the car was slow to be completed and bad weather made it impossible to race. After they run in Australia in March, the plan to bring the car back to the United States and go after more records in August of 2007. Landspeed records are not always easy to get the first time out. A great deal of effort and research goes into these customized cars. The team owners, builders and racers have spent a lot of time and money coming up with the best set-up. They often have the car tested in wind tunnels and the engine dynoed over and over again. They listen to other landspeed racers and pick their brains for every innovation possible. Yet no one knows how the car will do until it is tested on the salt flats against the clock. Many hearts have been broken over the years on the salt.

Gail and Allen's vision began over a decade or more ago and is still evolving. They knew Jack Mendenhall, who set records in his roadster, Sally the Salt Dancer, and who fiercely battled the Wilson and Waters roadster for the record over the years. Jack was also the founder of the Mendenhall Gas Pump Museum in Buellton, California. This museum is the headquarters for the annual Gold Coast Roadster and Racing Club Gas-Up Party and Dry Lakes Hall of Fame. Every September the Club hosts over 800 members of the landspeed community from around the world and honors a dozen or more landspeeders who have earned the respect and admiration of their peers. Mendenhall sadly passed away a few years ago, but his son Mark and wife Vickie are working hard to keep the museum going and a beacon for the landspeeding world. Allen and Gail purchased a Jack Mendenhall '32 Ford Roadster HiBoy and are busy restoring it to use as a push vehicle for their racing cars. After they return from Australia they expect to show the roadster and some of their other cars at the L. A. Roadster Show in June. This is their first Ford, but their special love is reserved for Corvettes, of which they have had many. Gail told us about knowing Chic Cannon, an original Safety Safari member for the fledgling NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) founded by Wally Parks back in 1951. Cannon had restored the Mendenhall HiBoy that the Phillips purchased. Cannon told them about his trek to Australia in 1995, with Al Teague, Ken Walkey and Chuck Salmen, called the "Thunder Down Under" trip. These Americans helped the Aussies build up their landspeed racing expertise and gave them hints how the Americans have been doing it since the 1930's. Now the Aussies are returning the favor and bringing their cars and innovations to our shores, including the incredibly gifted Rod and Carol Hadfield from Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia.

Gail first set a 200 MPH Club record in 1999 in a '59 Austin Healey Sprite, going 202 mph. She raced the car and set records in Australia and the United States. The car had a small block Chevy engine and a single carburetor and she ran it on gas. Her crew chief, Doug Odom, replaced the engine with a 383 C.I. Chevy motor and moved the speed up to 220 mph two years later in Australia. Gail has set many records and holds 6 land speed records from the Utah Salt Flats at Bonneville, the dry lakes at El Mirage, California and Lake Gairdner in Australia. She was the seventh woman to be inducted into the Bonneville 200-MPH Club, though that list is growing. Gail also belongs to the Bonneville Nationals Inc (BNI), SCTA, the Utah Salt Flat Racing Association (USFRA), the DLRA, the GCR&R Club and the Australian Women's Motorsports Network (AWMN). When they finish the DLRA meet at Lake Gairdner, Australia on the 5-9th of March, 2007, they plan to return to Bonneville to seek out more records. Nissan's Racing Division USA (NISMO) has offered them a Nissan 3 litre motor to put in their streamliner. Allen is retired and Gail resigned in 2005 to spend all of her time following her dream. “We don't have any children so think of the race cars as our kids, and Doug as their Grandpa,” said Gail. After they return from Lake Gairdner, the Phillip’s will have to temporarily say goodbye to those close friends who helped them; Rod and Carol Hadfield, Mike Davidson, Andy Jenkins of Broken Hill, Ellis Mathews of Port Adelaide, and all those other stalwarts of the sport of landspeed racing down under. But they will be back to race on the sunny, southern continent in the future.



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