Slowly edging the slingshot dragster the starting line, the staging lights turn yellow. As the tire smoke floats past, the driver pears over the velocity stacks on top the engine. Strapped into a tubular cockpit, she practically sits on the rear axle as the car rocks her back and forth — while the engine cackles and spits exhaust out the headers. For a moment both dragsters are motionless. Then, the green the bulbs flash down and side-by-side a thousand horsepower let loose. Burning rubber down the track, both cars sail through the finish. But for driver Chelsea Leahy, this isn’t just another day at the track – it’s family tradition.
Born into a drag racing family, Chelsea practically grew up in the racing pits. Her late grandfather, the famous Roly Leahy, set the benchmark in Australia with his famous “Forever Young” slingshot. Following his footsteps, Chelsea’s father Greg also carried the family tradition by racing slingshot’s and funny cars, so it was no surprise when Chelsea decided it was her turn.
At the age of 15, she began with her brothers Jr. Dragster and developed the skills needed to compete. She raced the Jr. Drags for a couple of years but eventually decided it was time to plan for bigger goals. “I stopping racing junior Dragsters, but I really wanted to keep racing . . . It took me two-years to save up and finally I brought my front engine Dragster from California and shipped it over here!”
Nowadays, Chelsea heavily competes with her dragster in the nostalgic series at her hometown track of Willowbank, on the outskirts of Brisbane, Australia. For this car, it’s back to the basics as a classic slingshot rail dragster chassis, powered by a mechanical Hillborn injected, 350 cubic-inch small block Chevy that pushes out nearly 600 horsepower.
Getting the power to the ground is a 2-speed manual sequential shift transmission, narrowed rear end and 12-inch drag slicks. The car is as “old-school” as it gets. In fact, the only electronics in the car are a delay box for launch control. Although it’s bare bones, this combination is enough to sling Chelsea down the quarter mile at 155mph – in just over 8 seconds.
Each time she rails down the drag lane it’s another step to becoming quicker. She say’s, “My best experience so far, was winning my local track race in July 2015, at a championship round event.” But that’s not her only accolade to list; in the past two years she’s charged up front by taking win at the July Queensland Drag Racing series, and recently claimed “Runner Up” trophies in both in August and September of the 2016 Nostalgic drag series.
You can say she’s gaining momentum, but with the 2016 season at a close, it’s time to rebuild for next year. “Unless I need help, I’m usually the only one who works on my car.” She says. “Right now I’m currently rebuilding my small block and preparing it for next season.” She continued to say that her goals are to become faster, and eventually one day, pilot her grandfathers 200-mph, full-blown, methanol slingshot.
But for now, Chelsea is having no issues carrying on the family tradition in her own car. Focus, hard work and determination are what drive her to commit her spare time to her racing, but overall she says, “I just want to keep racing and be the best that I can be in every race.” I’m learning new things every time I run — but it’s also important for me just to have fun!”