5 December 2014

Joe Gatt, one of the pioneers of Australian drag racing, and a strong supporter of Willowbank Raceway, has passed away.

Joe died in hospital on December 3 following a long illness.

Along with brother Ben, Joe began drag racing in 1964 and competed in his ’34 Ford Coupe at the first drag racing Nationals at Riverside in Melbourne in 1965.

Willowbank Raceway board member Lex Swayn said the support the Sydney-based Gatts gave Willowbank in its early days will never be forgotten. “After Willowbank opened in 1985, the track’s then manager Dennis Syrmis called for supercharged cars to form the Wild Bunch eliminator, and the Gatts built a Falcon BB/Gasser in 1987,’’ Swayn said.

“This was at a time when Castlereagh Dragway had closed and Sydney did not have a permanent drag racing track. Joe and Ben Gatt used a bus as a team transporter and made so many trips to Queensland to compete at Willowbank that they considered the Queensland facility to be their home track. They even had the bus’s destination board changed to read Willowbank,’’ Swayn said.

The highlight of the Gatts’ racing at Willowbank was winning Super Stock at the 1991 Nationals.

“They were great advocates of the sport,’’ Swayn added. “They travelled the length and breadth of Australia and New Zealand, spreading their enormously warm and friendly brand of drag racing. Ben was the driver and Joe was a skilled tuner and craftsman, a dedicated racer and a true gentleman.’’

Willowbank’s board of management, staff and volunteer officials offer their condolences to the Gatt family.


Picture:      Joe, with Ben kissing the trophy for Super Stock at the 1991 Nationals at Willowbank.