PARTY HEARTY

> WE KICK OFF SUMMERNATS WITH A PARTY TO HONOUR THE MOST POPULAR STREET MACHINE IN THE LAND, AS WELL AS THE FUTURE OF OUR SPORT WITH THE LAURIE STARLING SCHOLARSHIP

STORY BRETT COLLINGWOOD PHOTOS CHRIS THOROGOOD & ALASTAIR BROOK

IT’S become a Summernats tradition: gather together a motley assortment of legendary car builders, sponsors and other industry folk, lay on some free booze and grub, and get everyone in the mood for the coming ’Nats mayhem. That’s what the Street Machine VIP party – held on Summernats opening night at the George Harcourt Inn, just outside of Canberra – is all about.

This year’s Summernats VIP Experience competition winners Krystal Bernie and Lee Tomlinson had the opportunity to mix with some of the leading lights of our sport, and there were plenty of those in attendance – including the winner of the 2017 Street Machine Of The Year award.

Burnout legend Gary Myers made history by becoming the first person to have won SMOTY three times – and with three different cars.

His ballistic, near-1000hp powerskid weapon, AGROXA (SM, Aug ’17) was the car that snared him the trifecta this year, and at the VIP party editor Telfo and Valvoline marketing manager Tony McDermott presented Gary with the hallowed SMOTY trumpet trophy and a cheque for a cool $20K.

“It was a lot of hours in the shed and a lot of commitment,” Gary said of building the XA. “I only finished the car back in May, then we it drove to Northern Nats, Darwin and all over the place. It’s hard yakka.”

Despite the work and dollars involved in the build, Gary certainly hasn’t been shy about taking the car to events right across the country and beating on it like it owes him money – which it does!

“Doing powerskids is pretty demanding,” he admits. “It can all go wrong and you can wreck the car. But I just love doing it.”

SMOTY wasn’t the only award presented on the night. The Laurie Starling Student Scholarship was established in 2014 to financially assist promising young automotive fabrication students. This year the deserving recipient was 21-year-old Corey Lepe, of Campbelltown, NSW. Corey works at Xtreme Fabworx in Sydney, while also studying panel beating at TAFE.

“This is a big achievement for me and a big step forward in the car building industry,” a stoked Corey said later on his Facebook page. “It’s an honour to accept this award in Laurie’s name and I hope it inspires future apprentices too.”