Nicole and Julian Jonic in front of their 1971 Ford Falcon XY GT.
Nicole and Julian Jonic in front of their 1971 Ford Falcon XY GT.

Why ‘petrol head’ deputy mayor is so excited for Winternats

GROWING up with five older brothers and a father that loved fast cars, it’s no surprise Ipswich Deputy Mayor Nicole Jonic quickly became a “petrol head”.

Bathurst was a “sacred day” in her household growing up.

Amid the sometimes tedious reports and papers councillors sift through each week, there was something to bring a big smile to Cr Jonic’s face last month.

It was to do with the return of the Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway after the 2020 event was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Organisers of the biggest drag racing event outside North America are hopeful of 30,000 motorsport fans flocking to the Ipswich track over the four days, eager to get back among it after a disjointed year.

“(My family are) just motorsport enthusiasts,” she said.

“We’ve always had Fords.

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“That’s just what I grew up on. That adrenaline that you get when you’re driving or riding in a fast car, doing it safely, I love it.”

It’s a passion she shares with husband Julian, who spent five years building a 1971 Ford Falcon XY GT in their shed.

He started his mechanic apprenticeship in Ipswich in 1995 and is a life member of Willowbank Raceway.

They slapped a ‘Cr Nicole Jonic’ sticker on the front windshield of the Ford on Thursday.

As a preview for the Winternats, which will start next Thursday, Cr Jonic was driven down the dragstrip in a Ford Mustang by drag racing legend Maurice Allen.

She couldn’t leave without getting behind the wheel herself.

“I wasn’t even looking (at the speed) I was just looking at the revs and keeping it straight basically,” she laughed.

The return of the one of the biggest events on the Ipswich calendar comes with another reason to smile for the accountant and chair of the council’s Economic and Industry Development Committee.

The council has contributed $35,000 towards the event with a significant return expected.

The 2019 event brought in about 24,000 spectators and injected $8 million into the local economy.

“I know there are a lot of car enthusiasts in our area that have been waiting for something to happen here so Winternationals is such a massive event,” she said.

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“It’s nothing to be sneezed at and 91 per cent (of those who attended) came from outside the region.

“What better stimulus can you get?”

The Jonics’ young son competes in go-karting and the family will be just as excited as anybody in the stands next week.

“You feel it in your body when you’re a spectator here with this sport,” she said.

“You cry from the alcohol in the air, you can’t get away from the noise and it rattles through your body so you get the adrenaline without even being behind the wheel.

“It’s such a great event for the kids. There’s never a dull moment.

“To have this in our backyard is just phenomenal. It’s an exceptional experience for us in Ipswich.

“What I really get excited about what Winternationals is the Top Fuellers. When you go back behind the alley you can see the people that are rebuilding their engines after every run.

“It’s not just the driver and it’s not just the car, it’s the whole team and that’s what I really love.”

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