American racer Katie Sullivan is hoping to have a blast at Willowbank Raceway.
American racer Katie Sullivan is hoping to have a blast at Willowbank Raceway.

American aces brace for Aussie ambush at Willowbank

TWO Californians will be travelling around the world to compete at this week's Gulf Western Oil Winternationals.

Ashley Sanford (Speedflow Top Fuel) and Katie Sullivan (Serco Pro Bike) are ready to take on Australia's best drag racers starting on Thursday at Willowbank Raceway.

While Sanford has become a regular at Willowbank at the wheel of a Rapisarda Autosport International Top Fuel dragster, this will be Sullivan's first time Down Under.

The 28-year-old has met many Australian riders during her years competing in the NHRA Mello Yello Series.

She is looking forward to battlng them in Ipswich over the four days of competition.

"All of (the Australian racers) have been a blast to get to know," she said.

"I know this experience is going to be the time of my life. One thing that makes racing funny though is that once you put that helmet on it feels like it's time to go to battle, no matter where in the world you are.

"I love everything about racing, especially the competition aspect of it. I'm sure that racing at a new track in a different country will feel a bit intimidating at first, but once my helmet goes on I will feel right at home."


American racer Katie Sullivan
American racer Katie Sullivan JERRY FOSS NHRA

Sullivan has plenty of links to Australia, with her engine builder being former Queensland resident Rhett Lougheed, who will travel to Australia with the team to tune the 1853cc Suzuki. Once Sullivan arrives at Willowbank Raceway, she doesn't intend to go home empty handed.

"For years Rhett has talked about taking our bike to Australia to compete," Sullivan said.

"We always dreamed about it, but never quite had the right opportunity before now. A lot of great people have stepped up to help make this trip happen and it has really touched my heart.

"Whenever I go to a race, my goal is always to perform well. I have learned over the years though that a big part of that is having good chemistry with your team and having fun.

"I'm fortunate that I get to bring most of my amazing team with me including my fiancé Greg Justice, my engine builder Rhett Lougheed, and my brother Chance Sullivan. The only bummer is that my dad, Charlie Sullivan, was unable to come with us on this trip.

"Our goal as a team is always to make as few mistakes as possible and my guys do a really great job of that."

While many Australian sporting codes have begun separate leagues for women, drag racing is one of the few sports where men and women compete evenly. It was the dominant performances of three-times NHRA Pro Bike champion Angelle Sampey in the USA that inspired Sullivan to make Pro Bike her chosen class.

"My favourite part of drag racing is the fact that it doesn't matter if you are a man or a woman," she said. "Once that helmet goes on, we are all equal competitors.''

Tickets are available online at www.willowbankraceway., or at the gate.