Former multiple Australian Top Fuel drag race champion, Steve Read, will have a rather unusual lead-up to the Enzed Top Fuel Championship at Willowbank Raceway, Ipswich, April 17-18.
Read, affectionately known as ‘The Pom’, will marry long-time partner Heather Bond at Willowbank on the Saturday morning (April 17), then after the wedding breakfast, take part in qualifying for the Australian Top Fuel championship series round five.
The Brisbane-based English couple first met when Read was racing at Avon Park Raceway, Warwickshire, England in 1989, where Bond, who was educated in Australia in the early 1970s, was an official and later Avon Park Chief Executive Officer.
While Read migrated to Australia in 1993, Bond returned to Australia in mid-2005, catching up with Read at that year’s Winternationals event at Willowbank.
Read and Bond re-established Read Speed Racing (RSR) mid-2006 when they purchased a lightly raced Brad Hadman-built Top Fuel Dragster from US racer Gary Clapshaw.
Read and Bond debuted the car, still in its original Spirit of Las Vegas livery, which depicts artwork of a Las Vegas showgirl and the city at night, at the January 2007 Willowbank Top Fuel event.
However, the car was destroyed during the fourth and final qualifying session at the 2008 Australian Nationals at Sydney Dragway after the fuel shut-off valve stuck open just before the finish line, causing the car to hurtle into the sand trap and safety net at the end of the braking area at over 300km/h.
Read walked away from the crash with just a broken finger when it was wrenched off the steering wheel.
After missing the remainder of the 2008-2009 season, RSR formed a partnership with Dwayne Riley, who owns an identical Hadman chassis to the crashed Dragster and offered the car to Read and Bond to race.
The new RSR/Riley partnership’s first event was the 2009 Australian Nationals at Sydney Dragway, where 12 months after his disastrous crash, Read top qualified and won the event.
Read and Bond adored the ‘Spirit of Las Vegas’ Dragster.
“It was not just bars, panels and an engine to us, the ‘Spirit’ car was a part of the family,” Bond said.
“That crash started a tough emotional run for us. We destroyed the car, Steve and I got engaged in the October, our Read Speed Transport business suffered during the global economic downturn and an overseas sponsorship prospect was derailed with the Global Financial Crisis.
“2009 was also Steve’s 40th year in drag racing and my 20th year and we came back and won the Nationals after being out of the sport for a year,” Bond said.
While Read is a drag racing veteran, even he has been amazed at the events of the past 18 months.
“If I twittered all the dramas we have had since that September 2008 crash, no one would believe me,” Read said.
After getting engaged, Read and Bond had trouble finding a suitable wedding date, due to their busy business commitments.
“So we thought, why not get married at Willowbank on the morning of the Top Fuel event,” Read said. “Most of our closest friends will be there as well as our crew and family.
“The only thing is I will not be able to have a champagne toast that will have to wait until after we win on the Sunday.”
While Read is out of the 2009-2010 Australian Top Fuel championship series contention after missing the two Perth rounds, which carried 50 per cent bonus points and the February Summernationals at Sydney Dragway was rained-out – the Willowbank event is the fifth round of the series – he is aiming to be the first driver to win two events this season at Willowbank next weekend.
Read also said while RSR receives good support from several minor sponsors, the team is on the lookout for a major sponsor.
“We are searching for sponsors. While we have been in this game (professional drag racing) for a long time and have a workshop and transporter, if you want to do it properly, you need at least one fulltime person and various infrastructures, which we don’t have at the moment,” Read said.
Steve Read quick facts
Quickest-ever pass: 4.687sec at Sydney Dragway, September 12, 2009.
Fastest pass: 303mph at Sydney Dragway, February 16, 2008
Has recorded 44 four-second Top Fuel passes.
Has recorded 2 300mph Top Fuel passes.
The third member of the Australian four-second club: 4.966sec at Eastern Creek, June 25, 1995.
The 11th member of the Australian 300mph club: 302.08mph, Sydney Dragway, May 4, 2007.
Inducted into the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2008.
2009 Australian Nationals – Top Fuel
2007 Summernationals – Top Fuel
2002 Australian Nationals – Top Fuel
2001 Australian Nationals – Top Fuel
1996 Australian Nationals – Top Fuel
1995 Australian Nationals – Top Alcohol
1992 Australian Nationals – Top Alcohol
2008 Summernationals – Top Fuel
2007 Nitro Champs – Top Fuel
2005 East Coast Nationals – Top Fuel
2005 Winternationals – Top Fuel
2005 Nitro Champs – Top Fuel
2005 Willowbank Top Fuel round
2004 Nationals – Top Fuel
2003 Nationals – Top Fuel
2001/02 Australian Top Fuel Championship
2000/01 Australian Top Fuel Championship
1993/94 Australia Top Alcohol Championship
Plus the following championships in Europe:
Norwegian championship, 1983
British Championship, 1984, ’85, ’87, ’88, ’90 and ’92
European Championship, 1984, ’85, ’87, ’88 and ’91
Swedish Championship, 1984, ’86 and ’89
Nordic Championship, 1986
German Championship, 1987, ’88 and ’90
Austrian Championship, 1988 and ’90
Steve Read’s drag racing career started in Britain in 1969, riding a Top Fuel Bike.
He was the first driver outside the US to run under six-seconds in an Alcohol-fuelled car when he established a new European record of 5.97sec at 233.9mph.
Read has won national championships in Britain, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Germany and Australia. He was also runner-up in Alcohol Dragster at the 1992 US NHRA Winston Finals at Pomona.
Read first raced in Australia in 1992, after being invited here to drive a Top Alcohol Dragster. He won that year’s Australian Nationals at Calder Park, Melbourne, driving the Adrian Pozzebon car.
Read migrated to Australia with his Top Alcohol Dragster in 1993 and had immediate success, winning the 1993/94 Top Alcohol series.
Read entered Australian Top Fuel in mid-1995 when he started driving for Sydney-based team owner Santo Rapisarda.
Read, along with his late father Jim and his brothers Robin, Tim and Glen were inducted into the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2008.
Heather Bond started her drag racing career at Avon Park Raceway – now known as Shakespeare County Raceway – Warwickshire, England, in 1989 as a start-line marshall.
Bond became the first female championship Chief Starter in 1990.
In 1995 Bond was promoted to Avon Park Raceway Chief Executive Officer. During this time she was involved in forming national championship drag racing rounds in the UK.
Bond resigned from Avon Park at the end of 1998 to further her career as a wine specialist, but returned to drag racing when she crewed on Europe’s fastest turbo nitrous funny bike, which campaigned in the UK and America.
In June 2005, Bond immigrated to Australia with a plan to open a coffee shop in Perth.
But, instead she attended the 2005 Winternationals at Willowbank soon after arriving in Australia where she met Read again after 12 years. The rest, they say, is history.