Andrew Phillips 1946-1996
Andrew Phillips 1946-1996
A big personality, with great energy and commitment, Andrew Phillips became the Club’s engine room in an important period of revival and growth
Among the best-remembered motor sport moments during the Barbados Rally Club’s 50 years is that captured by photographer Ronnie Carrington during the Pepsi-Cola Autocross at Chancery Lane in 1971 – the late Andrew Phillips, powering through a left-hand turn, the near-side wheels of his Vauxhall Ventora high in the air. And it didn’t just capture the moment, it captured the spirit of the man, too.
Whatever he turned his hand to, either in competition or organisation, Phillips did it with energy and total commitment; for many years, he spilt his time between the Barbados Polo Club and the Barbados Rally Club, and displayed the same generosity of spirit in both sports.
His motor sport career started in the mid-1960s in an Austin-Healey Sprite, contesting acceleration tests and the June Rally – he finished 17th in 1965, navigating for Andrew Atwell. He moved on to a Ford Cortina GT, in which he achieved a string of good results: he was third and class-winner in the 1966 Goodyear Motor Sport meeting (second-fastest in both the standing 1/4-mile and flying 1/4-mile), 10th and class-winner in the Night Rally the same year (with Theo Johnson navigating) and was narrowly beaten to class victory in the Spa Hill hill sprint by Rammy Maraj, in a similar Cortina GT.
As well as driver, he was navigator; he won the large saloon class and finished third overall in the 1967 Goodyear Motor Sport Meeting in the Cortina GT, then navigated Peter Ullyett to fourth place on the same year’s Night Rally in a Mini-Cooper.
He also enjoyed some success in the Mobil Mileage Rallies, class-winner navigating for Ullyett in a Wolseley 1500 in 1966, then the winning driver, with navigator John Cole, two years later in a Fiat 1300. Other vehicles of the period included a Ford Cortina Estate, Holden pick-up, Volkswagen 1300 and the classic Volkswagen 1500 Karmann Ghia, in which he finished second in the 1969 Night Rally, with Heinz Meyer the navigator.
And then came the Ventora, a big car well-suited to a man of stature . . . and a car which would prove a big success. With business partner Charles Colley at the wheel, Phillips won the 1970 Night Rally, then finished second two years later, with Basil Watkins driving. In 1974, with Watkins this time driving his own Holden Torano, the pair finally won the June Rally, after some years of trying.
By now, Bushy Park was open, so the Ventora was multi-tasking as a speed event, race and rally car; Phillips held hill sprint records at Stewarts Hill and Turners Hall in the big Vauxhall, and was a front-runner at the St Philip racetrack, too. The class lap record there did not last beyond the end of 1972, however, as Harry Watkins snatched it in the November.
He did get some satisfaction the following year however; he was among the Bajans who travelled regularly to race abroad, particularly to Guyana, and in August 1973 set a new saloon car lap record at Wallerfield in Trinidad in the Watkins-owned Holden Torano XU-1.
Phillips was multi-tasking, too, as competitor and organiser – he was on the Club’s first racing sub-committee in 1970, operating under the Barbados Motor Racing Team banner, and became Club Secretary two years later.
He was always at the forefront of Club activities in the early 1970s, whether in the committee room, on a racetrack or rally stage . . . or at social occasions. He was instrumental in bringing the first European competitors to Barbados, and is fondly remembered by many who came. One such is Alec Poole, whose final visit to the island in 1975 started off badly, when the Ford Escort he was due to share with its owner Derek ‘Big D’ McMahon, was dropped while being unloaded in the Bridgetown Port; a local body shop worked all night to repair the panels, and Phillips offered to paint the car on Saturday morning, ready for Bushy Park practice – Phillips's house guests included British racer Mike Crabtree, wife Joan and children, so there were plenty of helpers.
Poole remembers: “After collecting the car, once we got out in the country, it went like a dream, and we had the added advantage that Andrew’s lot could hear us approaching for about 10 minutes. It was like a Formula 1 pit stop when I got there at 7 o’clock, with all the kids on standby in two lines at the front of the house with filler, rubbing-down paper, masking tape, primer and the like.
“Meanwhile our hero [Big D - ed] cruised in quietly five minutes later in our hire car, with the air con going full blast and soothing music on the radio. Seeing there was 'nothing' he could do to help, he drifted into the house, wandered into the first bedroom he could find and slid into a large bed.
“We got on with the job in hand and, at about 10 o’clock, just as Andrew was finishing the first coat of primer, there was an almighty scream from inside the house. Andrew’s wife Wynona came running out of the front door, shouting that she'd come out of the shower to find some strange man in her bed. Hearing the words ‘strange man’, I had a pretty good idea who it was – sure enough, when some of our party rushed in, there was ‘you know who’ fast asleep in Andrew’s bed. Andrew and Wynona were the most hospitable people you could imagine, but Big D did seem to be taking it a little too far!” Even so, Wynona and Joan cooked everyone steak, egg and chips for breakfast, knowing they wouldn't bother to once they got to Bushy Park.
In that final year of Bushy Park, with sponsorship from Gordon Spice, Phillips replaced the Ventora with a 3-litre Ford Capri, in which he was bang on the pace first time out, winning the class; he continued his winning ways, despite the car being damaged subsequently in Guyana, but December 1975 was the end of Bushy Park.
It took a while for motor sport to recover and, when it did, Phillips was there, still competing as navigator or driver, often in a flamboyantly-driven Ford Escort MkI, but it is his work as an organiser at that time, for which he will best be remembered. He re-joined the committee in 1987, became Vice-Chairman two years later, then Chairman in 1994.
He was the driving force behind a period of solid growth for the Club; in particular, he understood the value of rekindling the interest of overseas drivers in competing in Barbados, something made easier by the Club’s affiliation to the FIA . . . the impact of Kenny McKinstry’s first trip from Ireland in 1993 is fresh in people’s minds to this day.
His contribution is remembered through the Andrew Phillips Memorial Trophy, awarded each year to the best all-round performer in the Barbados Rally Carnival, an event which has its roots in the work Phillips did back then. As Carnival founder Greg Cozier explains: “What we have been able to do, many years after Andrew's original vision, is to increase the international interest by improving the Texaco, now Rally Barbados, adding the second event [the International RallySprint] and the social aspect, while hugely reducing the cost.
“If the means had been available in the early ‘90s, then Phillips and his rally sub-committee would have done it. The ideas were all there, but it came down to money and the climate at the time . . . it cost the Club money to attract good overseas drivers. In those days, their costs had to be heavily subsidised and, in some cases, completely covered.”
Right up to his death in 1996, Phillips worked energetically on projects to improve the Club, including new plans for a permanent home for motor sport – a site at Paragon was once again under consideration. His passing left a void in the Club that could never be filled in quite the same way.