The Big O Serves As New Year’s Thunder Grand Marshal

Larry Ormsby humbled by Willowbank Raceway honour.

UPDATED - 7 January 2018: Australian drag racing legend, the Big ‘O’ Larry Ormsby served as Grand Marshal for the New Year’s Thunder event at Willowbank Raceway on Saturday, 6 January 2018.

New Year’s Thunder was Round 3 of the 400 Thunder Professional Drag Racing Series and featured championship rounds for Top Fuel, Pro Slammer, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Bike.

A consummate professional, Ormsby was one of the country’s highest-profile racers from the late 1960s through to the 1980s, most notably as a pioneer of Pro Stock and later by winning the Australian Top Fuel Championship.

In 2018, Ormsby celebrates 50 years in the sport, having participated in his first drag race at Melbourne’s Calder Park in May 1968.

He rose to prominence racing a series of fast GT and GTHO Falcons in the height of Australia’s exciting muscle car era, his record-setting performances earning him official factory support from the Ford Motor Company.

Ormsby won five Nationals titles in four different categories: Stock (1970), Pro Stock (1971), Competition (1976), and Top Fuel (1979, ‘84).

In addition to a successful driving career, Ormsby has also had a major influence on the direction and success of Australian drag racing over the past 50 years.

He was instrumental in the formation of the Australian National Drag Racing Association and was its first Chairman of Honour, held management roles at Calder Park, Adelaide, and Heathcote Raceways, and was General Manager of the hugely successful Winfield Pro Series in the mid-late ‘90s.

“I was delighted when Tony Wedlock contacted me to be Grand Marshal of the New Year’s Thunder event, and I am humbled by the recognition,” Ormsby said.

“Serving as Grand Marshal at Willowbank Raceway watching Australia’s best drag racers battle it out for the gold was a great start to my 50th year in the sport.

“There was a huge crowd, and some fantastic action on the night. It really is an exciting time for Australian drag racing with the growth of the 400 Thunder Series.”

Willowbank Raceway President, Tony Wedlock said the track was proud to recognise Ormsby’s contribution to the sport by appointing him Grand Marshal.

“New Year’s Thunder featured Top Fuel and Pro Stock, in addition to two other professional brackets, and when we thought to appoint a Grand Marshal for the event Larry Ormsby was the perfect choice,” Wedlock said.

“As I kid, I grew up reading about Larry and his fantastic GTHO Falcons, the Big ‘O’ was a superstar of the sport and a genuine household name.

“Then when he moved into the dragsters, including Top Fuel, he continued to win races and set records.

“Not only were Larry’s cars fast, but he went about his business in a professional way. He brought a new standard to drag racing, much like we’re seeing with 400 Thunder today.

“The Willowbank Raceway board was honoured to have the Big ‘O’ Larry Ormsby serve as Grand Marshal for New Year’s Thunder.”

Ormsby’s appointment coincided with the release of his new book titled “The Larry Ormsby Scrapbook – The Ford Years.”

The stunning 285-page book documents all three of Ormsby’s famous GT Falcons – his original XR GT, his Nationals-winning XW GTHO, and the factory-supported XY GTHO “Braker III” with which Ormsby claimed the first ever Nationals Pro Stock title in 1971.

Fans were able to meet the Big ‘O’ Larry Ormsby at Willowbank, with many taking up the opportunity to purchase his new book.