NOSTALGIA RACING A FAMILY AFFAIR FOR CHELSEA LEAHY
27 April 2017
One of the highlights of the Queensland Drag Racing calendar, the Cruzin Magazine Nostalgia Drags and Hot Rod Reunion, is knocking on the doors of Willowbank Raceway as hundreds of the country's best hot rods and race cars of yesteryear prepare to fill the state’s premier motorsport facility for a family-friendly weekend of retro fun.
With a little something on offer for punters of every persuasion including trade stands and a rousing show'n'shine, the event is underpinned by a full day's schedule of Drag Racing, and with some 130 entrants across a variety of classes at this year's event spectators are in for a day jam-packed with action.
The Leahy family are a familiar name around Willowbank Raceway, and third generation racer Chelsea Leahy is the latest in a string of champion racers from the Leahy lineage. “It all started with my grandfather Roly,” explains Chelsea. “He’d been racing since the sixties, and I think there’s about six of us now in the family that actively Drag Race.”
Following in the footsteps of her father Greg and grandfather Roly, Chelsea assumed the driver’s seat in the family’s Junior Dragster several years ago at 15 years old, and after a brief hiatus from racing she will take to the track at the weekend for her third season pedalling her own Front Engine Dragster in Mid Eliminator.
For those unfamiliar with Nostalgia Drag Racing and Front Engine Dragsters, Chelsea’s ride for the weekend digs deep in to the archives of Drag Racing history for a truly classic look that belies the smooth, fibreglass hulls and high-tech trickery of modern day Drag cars. It’s about as simple as racing gets, and excusing the family connection to historic racing, therein lies the appeal for Chelsea and the Leahy family who can perform much of the maintenance on Chelsea’s car themselves.
Chelsea’s car runs a mechanically-fuel-injected, 350 cubic inch small block Chevrolet V8 engine. This is backed by a two-speed automatic transmission, a favoured gearbox amongst the Drag Racing fraternity, and while vehicles in other classes can have the transmissions shifted autonomously by a computer-controlled pneumatic system, Chelsea still shifts the car in to top gear herself.
“I’m pretty much sitting right over the rear axle, too,” she adds, and this combined with the car’s short wheel base can make for one hell of a ride over the quarter mile – which for the record, the car covers in a touch over eight seconds at nearing 250km/h!
Chelsea explains that Mid Eliminator is a class that she feels a rather intimate connection to. “A few of the guys that still race Mid Eliminator used to race with my grandfather Roly, and I think that’s pretty cool,” she laughs, not for one second bothered by the fact that she’s one of the youngest in the field, and the only female racer fronting up to Mid Eliminator at the weekend’s event.
“Especially at the Nostalgia events, I’m very used to being the only female,” she says confidently. “It's a privilege to be racing these guys with their decades of experience, though. I feel like I belong there.”
“Willowbank is my local track… I’ve raced all over the country, but I can safely say that Willowbank is my favourite,” adds Chelsea, tipping her cap to her home track which she’s hoping will play to her advantage at the weekend’s racing.
“There’s plenty of friendly rivalry out on the track, but once the helmet goes on I want to win and it doesn’t matter who’s in the other lane!” she says, boasting the kind of staunch confidence that only someone with the lineage of the Leahy’s can.
The Cruzin Magazine Nostalgia Drags and Hot Rod Reunion lights up the Willowbank quarter mile this Sunday 30th April, 2017. Gates open at 6am, with racing from 8am. With children under 13 free, the Cruzin Magazine Nostalgia Drags and Hot Rod Reunion represents a great value family day out. For more information visit www.willowbankraceway.com.au