Australia's 'Queen of Speed' Rachelle Splatt is ready to make her Jet Dragster competition debut at Willowbank Raceway for this tonight's Jet Car Thunder, and while the speeds might be similar, there is much to learn again for the drag racing veteran.
Splatt, from Victoria, is most well known for driving Top Fuel Dragsters, the quickest accelerating vehicles on the planet. Fans have seen her at Willowbank Raceway many times driving the nitro-fuelled machines, most recently in her Gulf Western Oil dragster.
But she is no stranger to being thrown into the deep end. At 23 years of age, Splatt became one of the world's youngest Top Fuel Dragster pilots and enjoyed a career with highlights that included racing in the USA and becoming the first woman in the world to run a drag racing pass over 300mph (482kmh).
Now some 25 years later, Splatt feels like she is new all over again as she takes the seat of the 'Land Missile' Jet Dragster this weekend.
“The way you drive a Jet Dragster is complete opposite to a Top Fuel Dragster,” Splatt explained. “There is not much you can take from one to the other. Instead of a foot accelerator like in a Top Fuel Dragster, you control the power with your hands. In Top Fuel we use a hand brake, but on the Jet Dragster there is a foot brake.
“The driving isn't so much different as the coordination.”
Splatt said the major difference between starting her Top Fuel career and racing a Jet Dragster was in the confidence she had to manage the speed.
“When I jumped in the Jet Dragster I knew I could do it, I didn't have worries about driving it or the speed. It was just getting the start up procedure fine tuned, learning how to do the fire show and how to pop the afterburner. That is the really different part.”
Splatt said racing Jet Dragsters had not crossed her mind until a phone call from Darren Di Filippo, once her Top Fuel rival.
“Darren messaged me out of the blue and asked if I would be interested in driving the Jet Dragster, my first response was yes. I didn't have to think about it, from that first message I knew it was something I wanted to do.
“A went to his workshop to have a look at the car and go through the whole procedure, where Darren explained how everything worked and wrote me down a step-by-step guide so I could embed in my mind what I needed to do.
“We had to do a little bit of work to fit me in the car, adjusting the brake a little bit and making some things closer but it was pretty good. I have driven both Darren's cars now, 'Speed Demon' and 'Land Missile', and I felt really good in both of them.
“I feel so fortunate to say I can go to a track to race a Top Fuel Dragster and a Jet Dragster, and that Darren is trusting in me to drive.”
Splatt will be taking on South African Pieter De Wit, who now resides in Western Australia where he is a frequent Jet Dragster driver.
“This will be my first pass racing against someone in a Jet Dragster so obviously there will be a few nerves but it is really exciting,” Splatt said.
“I am looking forward to meeting Pieter. Pieter has been racing jets for a long time so I am looking forward to meeting him and asking him lots of questions.
“I am so excited about everything for this weekend, the Di Filippos are a great family to race with and for me personally it is more seat time to add to my experience.
“We are going to move forward as a team together and try to get the Jet Dragsters to more drag strips around the country.”
Jet Car Thunder at Willowbank Raceway on Saturday, April 14 will see the skies come alight as the jets roar like thunder down the strip. This will be the best way to cure the kids' back-to-school blues before school holidays are over!
A diverse field of 400 Thunder sportsman racers including Supercharged Outlaws, Pro Radial, Top Sportsman, Super Sedan and Super Street will also battle it out, and with valuable championship points up for grabs in the last sportsman racing appearance before the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals in June, fans can expect plenty of competitive racing.
Adult tickets are available for $30 with kids 13 and under free.
For more information check out www.willowbankraceway.com.au.