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Tuesday, 03 August 2010 08:30

Terri SanderTerri Sander is a stalwart of Australian Drag Racing, with her Rover, affectionately known as Mama’s Toy, a regular fixture on the Willowbank Raceway quarter mile.

I had the privilege of interviewing her for Girlracer Magazine late last year in what turned out to be an insightful and inspiring interview. Little did I know that six months later she’d be wrapping up her first ANDRA (Australian National Drag Racing Association) Championship for Super Street at the biggest event on the Australian drag racing calendar, the Castrol EDGE Winternationals. After the event I had the opportunity to speak to Terri about this event, winning her first Australian Championship and preparations for the new season.

How would you sum up your 2010 Winternationals?

This four-day drag racing season finale was just the best! It began for us on the Wednesday as we unloaded the race car and set up our chairs, tables and anything we needed to make our days at the track as comfortable as possible. We had all three qualifying passes on the Thursday and two rounds of racing on the Friday. Then we had an early rise Saturday morning for the third round.

The excitement was building after each round win and I was feeling relaxed and confident going into the final three rounds on Sunday. I went into this event in fourth place and 60 points shy of the leader and after winning the fourth round Warren knew the day before that if I’d won this race I then had the bye run into the final and had the Australian Championship wrapped up. He managed to keep this fact to himself on the Saturday though, knowing full well you take on one race at a time and never think ahead. I still had to front for the semi-final and final and only needed the runner-up position to confirm the championship win. I claimed the Runner-up placing and only lost by one thousandths of a second.

Nerves don’t come into the equation anymore but the excitement and adrenalin still run through my veins and it’s an awesome feeling be able to compete in front of such an enormous crowd. Our days were also made extra special with the presence of not only our two children being there supporting us, we also had the thrill of having our two beautiful little grandchildren with us at the track, one six years of age and the other 20 months.

On the completion of racing all finalists come back up the track to the presentation dais at the start line. While waiting to be called up many people approached me giving congratulations and as I stepped forward to accept our third ANDRA gold Christmas Tree trophy this was when the reality of it all set in.

I was smiling from ear to ear… I had become an Australian Champion.

How do you feel about winning your first Australian Drag Racing Championship?

To become the Super Street Australian Champion had been a goal I set for myself and one of our crewmembers actually said to me early on in the year that he felt like this was to be our year for success. I’m very proud and pleased to have won this title at the age of 54 and being a wife, mother and grandmother. I’m over the moon with Terri Sanderdelight and the support I have received from family, friends and racers has been absolutely amazing. I’ve been competing since 1993 but it was only in 2004 that I seriously took on the challenge of competing at the major events. It’s not so easy taking on the young guys with their youthful energy and high levels of concentration (needed for this motor sport) and as we all come to realise as we age our levels of concentration can dwindle. It’s definitely a time in my life that I will remember and treasure forever.

Was it particularly satisfying given the adversity you’ve had to overcome to achieve it?

Yes, it was an extremely satisfying achievement given the fact that I have to race against people young and old, male and female. My husband was actually amazed at how I managed to keep my concentration up over this four day period especially as I went into this event having a slight body malfunction with bulging discs in my back (that I’ve had for a while) and Sciatica in my left leg causing constant pain. I was determined to push through this in order to do my very best in racing and believe we can do anything we set our minds upon. Racing is my passion and I have always believed you should have fun first with your chosen sport and if success comes your way then that’s an added bonus.

I understand that you’ve put a new engine in ‘Mama’s Toy’, how’s it going?

Yes, my husband Warren worked hard assembling another Chev 350 and J&L Race Engines did the machining, balancing of the engine, flowing of the heads and gave technical input with the selection of parts.

The plan was after the seasons’ finale, in June, the old motor was to come out and this one in as soon as possible to give us enough time to set it up correctly before the commencement of the new racing season in September. After three test days at Willowbank Raceway and only a few minor changes, being made so far, like jets sizes, squirters and power valve, we are very pleased with her performance already.

The car has run a best elapsed time of 11.20/121.44mph over the quarter mile and because we race dial-your-own (this being a self-nominated time you think your car will run over the quarter mile) consistency is vital for racing success. The Rover’s last three passes have been 11.226, 11.225 and 11.225. Very consistent!

You travelled across the country to attend events last season, what was that like? Will you be doing the same this season?

We have intentions of travelling once again to Palmyra Dragway at Mackay as this seems to be a happy hunting ground for us. In the six years of competing at Palmyra we claimed the runner-up position on our first visit, a semi-final appearance another year, had a rained-out meeting and last season we came up trumps with a win. Again we will compete at Benaraby Raceway in Gladstone as we did last year. Here we also claimed the runner-up position! I love being at the tracks but don’t really enjoy travelling all that much.

The opportunity to travel and race at the Perth Motorplex came about last season when another racer was looking for company. Our group ended up being about 14 people in total. Not all came on the trip with us though as some flew over! I wouldn’t think we’d do this journey again anytime in the near future. It was such a long road haul! We had lots of mishaps along the way like 11 flat tyres these being either on the transporter that was carrying the racecars or the bus we were in or on the trailer we were towing. We had a blown headlight, leaking brake cylinders, blown fuses in the transporter, battery terminal problems and would you believe the bus door blew off and lots more. It was one hell of a ride but we did enjoy it and made some good friendships on the way. Even when things started turning pear-shaped everyone tried to make light of the situation with lots of raucous laughter. They were definitely a great bunch of characters to travel with across our country. I found the track at the Perth Motorplex to be superb and the officials very friendly and helpful. Something I hadn’t seen in my 17 years of racing was a grudge run at a major event. The whole meeting was run so smoothly that they had time for these grudges and they were most welcome with having the opportunity to race at night in front of the many spectators.

As someone who has done literally thousands of passes, what do you think the key ingredients to a successful pass are?

I liken it to a great recipe… you can leave out some of the ingredients but must use the main ingredients for success. I’ve now made 2733 passes down a drag strip (but who’s counting) and still can’t get enough of this great motor sport. I believe to have a successful pass in competition and in the ‘dial-your-own’ racing first you must have a race vehicle that is predictable and reliable to enable you to get the dial-in correct. Then you have to be switched on yourself on the day of racing and be able to maintain concentration even when distractions may occur. An example of this is when you’re lined up ready to go into the burnout pad and there’s a hold-up happening, this may Terri Sandercause you to lose concentration. Another key ingredient is to run your own race. By this I mean block out what your opponent is doing and concentrate solely on what needs to be done with your own vehicle. What you do at the 1000ft mark and finish line is also very important. You must look to see where your opponent is on the track and then decide for yourself… do I keep my foot flat or do I ease off slightly. This is sometimes the case with ‘dial-your-own’ racing because if you go under your nominated time you will lose the race unless you both ‘breakout’ in which case the one that goes under by the least amount takes the win. It also helps to know your opponents vehicle. If you know what mph they have you can then judge more accurately what needs to be done near the finish line.

Key ingredients in a nutshell: predictable and reliable race vehicle; right frame of mind; concentration; and awareness

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Once again I’d like to thank Girlracer for this exposure of our racing achievements and Chelsea Woods for the interview.

Thank you to my wonderful husband Warren who’s always been there for me and without him I would not be where I am today. Thanks to our crew member John Mackay and other family members and friends for their hard work and support over the past 17 years of my racing career.

I’d like to say to all you girls out there in this big wide world of ours…reach for the stars and make your dream a reality…and if you don’t have a goal then create one.


Chelsea Woods Girlracer magazine / Related Article >

 Photos courtesy - Badger Photography 

                                           DRAGSTER AUSTRALIA MAGAZINE - EDITION 802 - APRIL 2nd 2010






Queensland's Terri Sander is coming to race in WA for the first time in Super Street at the Westernationals on February 27-28.

Sanders competes in a unique Rover with a 350cu.in Chev V8, powering it to a best time of 11.49sec. She is the leader of the Rocket Allstar Racing Series.

"Our journey to Perth is basically a holiday and if we do well in racing that would be an added bonus," she said.

"We are not going over chasing points, but don't get me wrong, even at 53 years of age I believe I'm a very competitive person and being female I guess I'm out to prove to myself that age and sex has no boundaries."

Sanders was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003.

"I had all the nasty things happen that occur when anyone goes through this ordeal, like losing my eyebrows and hair and quite often being very ill for months on end," she said.

"My passion for drag racing saw me through some of the tough times, when I knew of a meeting coming up I was really focused on getting well.

"Somehow I drew strength from drag racing and it kept my spirits high. The adrenaline was pumping and I would be able to overcome my illness for at least a day."

"I believe I have come through the other side a stronger and more determined person to do better not only in my chosen motorsport but also life in general.  

Written by Luke Nieuwhof.


                                                                 GIRL RACER MAGAZINE - www.girlracer.co.uk
Written by Chelsea Woods   
Wednesday, 23 December 2009 15:33

Terri SanderTerri Sander is an inspirational woman who loves to drag race!

I’ve seen her and the Mama’s Toy Racing Team out at Willowbank Raceway almost every time I’ve been out at the track. Her dedication to her racing caught my attention and she was kind enough to let me interview her for Girlracer.

What follows is an inspirational story about a woman who has not only been very successful at racing but has also used her involvement in the sport as a motivator to overcome serious illness.

How and when did you get involved in Drag Racing?

I was introduced to the sport of drag racing back in 1993. My late brother-in-law Steve had not long taken up drag racing and my husband and I decided to check it out. We’d been sitting in the grandstand watching for a while and something made me turn to Warren and say, “I wouldn’t mind trying that.” A look of surprise came over his face and I myself found this statement strange as it came from someone who didn’t even drive on the streets very much and really derived no pleasure from doing so.

I have no idea what possessed me to even suggest such a thing, but I’m extremely glad I did.

My first pass was 24th July 1993 in our grocery getting four speed manual Bluebird Station Wagon that only ran 19 seconds over the quarter mile. However after this run and heading back to our pit area I had found out for myself why they call it the, ‘Quarter Mile Smile’ I had the biggest, cheesiest grin on my face, the adrenalin was absolutely amazing and I couldn’t wait to do it again.

I had not only achieved something I never thought in my life possible but also had an instant love of this motorsport.

What were some of the difficulties you faced in getting into the sport?

Luckily the basic requirements for a beginner to start out in Australia are simple. All you need is a vehicle, (bike or car) long sleeves, long pants, closed in shoes and Australian standard helmet and it was only $16 to enter a Street Meeting or Test n’ Tune event.

My biggest hurdle was the first run. I’m lined up in the staging lanes and my heart was pounding in my chest (to the extent that I thought it was going to jump right out), my palms were all sweaty and shaking and my helmet felt like a lead weight. I was nervous as all hell, but I’d made my mind up to do it and I was determined to see it through.

How did you overcome them?

My aim was just to get the car and myself down the track safely and in one piece.  Warren had given me a quick run-down on how I was to perform this first run and the track also had a drivers briefing for newcomers to the sport.

A burnout wasn’t necessary and at that stage I wouldn’t have known how to do one anyway. I veered around the burnout pad slowly driving up to the lights or Christmas Tree as it’s called. Prior to this I studied how others approached and took off when the lights were activated.

After this I entered Street Meetings and began in the Powderpuff Eliminator (all ladies bracket). This got my confidence up to contest the Street Eliminator bracket in which cars run 15 seconds and slower.

How have you progressed since then?

Seeing my passion for the sport Warren suggested we look around for a more suitable vehicle to race. We came across a 308 HX Premier and although a big car we agreed it would suit the purpose and at the time was acceptable to our budget. The first meeting with the Premier was 4th September 1993, having a first round loss in the Powderpuff bracket then three wins in the Street Bracket to reach the final.

We noticed that some of the race prepared vehicles had names embedded on either side and we thought what a neat idea so after some thought we came up with, ‘MAMA’S TOY’. It seemed quite appropriate at the time since I was a mum to two beautiful children and the name has stuck over the years. Although now we are grandparents for a second time my husband jokes about changing the name to, ‘Grandmas Joy’. Not that it’s a bad name I’m just not ready for a change.

The years have been very kind to me with many final appearances and 2005 saw the Mama’s Toy race car in eight finals.

When 1998 came around the Premier was put to rest, with the mounting points of the rear suspension showing signs of having been weakened by rust. Prior to this we had purchased a vehicle to be its replacement, it was a Rover.

My first reaction when told this car was up for sale, “What the heck is a Rover?” I knew of Fords and Holdens but this was neither. Warren said its aerodynamic shape would be suited to racing and left the decision up to me. I pondered for a while before giving the go-ahead and so began the history of the Rover!

Tell me a bit about the race car.

Its debut was late 1998 with it running mid 12 second passes over the ¼ mile.

Vehicle specs, just to name a few…
Body: Rover left hand drive
Engine: 350 Chev
Convertor:  3000
Gearbox:  Turbo 400
Rear End: Ladder Bar
Compression Ratio: 9.5 to 1
Carbi: 700 CFM Holley
Slicks: Hoosier 26 x 9

Terri SanderI began competing in the occasional major meeting but going into these events with limited experience I really wasn’t focused on succeeding, I was just out there to have fun with my chosen motorsport.

January 2003 saw my third perfect reaction and almost 1,900 passes down a drag strip. Then after having a mammogram after finding a rather large lump in my left breast I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radium treatments. I also had all the nasty things happen that occur when anyone goes through this ordeal, like losing my eyebrows and hair and quite often being very ill for months on end. I’ll spare you the rest of the gory details of this journey that I hope I never have to take again.

My passion for drag racing saw me through some of the tough times, for when I knew of a meeting coming up I was really focused on getting well. I would don the wig at the track and it looked so much like my own hair that for quite a lengthy period of time others didn’t realize.

Somehow I drew strength from drag racing and it kept my spirits high. The adrenalin was pumping and I would be able to overcome my illness for at least a day. I even made it to three finals this year. You could say my love of this sport literally got me off the lounge and back on track. It was a place to conquer all fears and allowed me to become the aggressor against that which set about destroying my life. I believe I have come through the other side a stronger and more determined person to do better not only in my chosen motorsport but also life in general.

What is your PB elapsed time and speed? PB reaction time?

My best elapsed time over the quarter mile to date is 11.49 seconds @ 116.79 mph. I’ve had four perfect reactions and one perfect pass, a 0.000 reaction and ran 11.760 on my 11.76 dial-in.

I have won and lost races by one thousandths of a second and at the age of 53 and competing against the young guns with their youthful energy and high levels of concentration (which is definitely needed for this sport) is no easy feat, and as we come to realize over time our senses slowly diminish. However in saying that 83 drag racing trophies adorn our living room that I am very proud to own. I have also now made over 2,600 passes down a drag strip and compete mainly in major events.

What is your proudest achievement on track?

I have a couple of achievements that I’m proud of. The first was winning the right to be the first person down a drag strip anywhere in the world in the new millennium. On the Eve of the new millennium Willowbank Raceway had decided to have a shootout event for a racer to win the right to be the first person down a drag strip anywhere in the world in the new millennium. In order to achieve this one had to first win their bracket and with six brackets and then the dial-in shootout, it was not going to be an easy task. I was lucky enough to win the ladies bracket and ran 11.963 on an 11.96 dial-in to win the shootout and at four minutes past midnight on the 1/1/2000 I made a solo pass down Willowbank Raceway to be the first in the world down a drag strip in the new millennium.

Another achievement was winning the coveted gold ANDRA (Australian National Drag Racing Association) Christmas tree trophy at the 42nd Australian Nationals and being only the fifth woman in the 40-year history of this event to do so.

Another is being able to introduce other women to the sport and seeing the excitement and joy on their faces after the very first pass.

How often do you race?

For the first 12 years of racing we trekked out to our home track fortnightly and even now most months see us at a track twice a month. Usually the first fortnight would be at a test day for practice before a major event. I did have the tail shaft break a couple of years back but this only set me back a month or so and people now say I’m part of the furniture.

Where do you race?

We are very lucky to live only twenty minutes from our home track Willowbank Raceway, in sunny Queensland. Their schedule is jam packed throughout the year therefore giving us the opportunity to either race or test regularly. The track is open most Wednesdays and Saturdays and the next closest track would be about a two hour trip.

We also travel up and down the east coast of Australia about 1,000 kilometres in each direction to get to the tracks and back home again. My favourite track to compete at would have to be Palmyra Dragway, Mackay, North Queensland, because they treat all racers with respect and equal regardless of the bracket. You are always welcomed with friendly faces and I find this to be the same at all the country tracks.

We are currently contesting the Track Championship series, with the Mama’s Toy Racing Team sitting tied on second place with another young guy. The other series we compete in is the Australian Championship, referred to as ‘The Rocket Allstar Racing Series’, and I am currently leading in the Super Street bracket.

Our season ends for both these series in June 2010 at the biggest major event on the Australian drag racing calendar, the Winternationals, held at Willowbank Raceway.

How much time do you spend on the car between race meetings?

Myself not much at all! I’d be the first to admit I’m not mechanically minded and for safety reasons leave this chore to my partner. I do help out on occasion when nuts and bolts need checking, tyre pressure, water in the radiator etc, but only help with the basic things.

Between meetings maintenance is very low and the car only gets a thorough check once a year.

Where do you work on the car?

The Rover is housed in the garage off the house and only minor work is done there due to limited room. If a major transition is to take place the car is moved to the bigger outside garage giving much more space to move around.

What does a typical day at the track involve for you?

First up would be to unload the Rover off the truck and then set up depends on whether it’s a one, two or three day meeting and where we are competing at the time. When we travel we tend to take extras to be self-sufficient therefore more work to be done.

The tarps and mats would be laid and the extension off the side of the truck erected for shade. Tables, chairs etc placed out for comfort. I have a set routine. I first take the car for a short drive to warm all the engine and gearbox components then tyre pressure is checked and usually under the bonnet as well. Paper work is handed in then we’re usually set to go. At some meetings you may be audited to the scrutineer shed for the officials to check that your vehicle is complying with the rules.

My chief crew member, and husband, Warren does all the mechanical work on the car, but not much has to be done on race days as he has given me a very reliable and consistent car. Warren always knows if I’m in the right frame of mind for racing on the day and sometimes I might get a pep talk from him if he thinks it’s warranted. On winning days though I always seem to have a state of calm come over me and I just know it’s going to be a good day.

I love to chat with the other racers and most times if Warren can’t find me he knows that’s what I’m doing. However I do go into a kind of serious mode when racing has commenced and if I have the door of the Rover closed in the staging lanes this is my quiet time. We had a guy just recently comment on how relaxed I look before racing as if I was ready to go on a Sunday drive.

On the days when I do get eliminated from racing we would then sit, in the grandstand or on the mound, cheering on our favourite racers and if we didn’t know who was racing we’d then pick the race vehicle we liked the best.

What do you like most about drag racing?

Being able to compete at my age, as it’s a sport that has very limited age barriers. Children as young as eight years of age can compete in the Junior Dragster bracket right up to us older people and I know of a guy still racing who’s around seventy years of age. It’s family orientated and I love the support our family have given me over the years and the great friendships made along the way.

Drag racing has given me the highs and lows that come with any form of sport but the pleasure derived unsurpassable. Imagine sitting behind the steering wheel, strapped firmly by a harness into a race seat, helmet buckled up with a V8 purring in your ears ready for racing. The excitement is building and the adrenalin pumping through your veins. The lights are activated and you stomp on the go pedal accelerating at speed down a drag strip.

What do you like least about drag racing?

Nowadays I don’t handle the heat too well but I usually find ways to overcome this and it’s disappointing when a meeting is scheduled and has to be cancelled due to the weather. There’s really not much to dislike!

What are your future drag racing aspirations?

I am truly hoping this season will see the Mama’s Toy Racing team win a championship. We have come very close a couple of times and I was crushed when I lost the championship in 2004 by one race. I’m usually up there at the top each year. Maybe this will be the one!

An engine freshen up is about to happen in the next couple of months but we intend staying in our Super Street bracket as this then allows us to travel with our sport. Hopefully the car will run low 11 second passes. The cut off for our bracket is 11.00 seconds and if you run under this time in eliminations you are disqualified.

Terri SanderI believe though it’s not so much about winning but how you play the game and I’m so very pleased just to be a part of this great motorsport.


What is your day job?

I’m retired but we joke and put on the entry form…Home Maintenance Co-ordinator.

What do you like to do to relax?

I love seeing the grandchildren but wouldn’t actually say this was relaxing as they always have you on the go.

I play the keyboard and find this relaxes me and puts me in a good mood and I absolutely love Opera music. They say music soothes the soul.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Never give up! I learnt early from my husband that even though you may stuff up at the beginning of a race and have a poor reaction the race is not over until you reach the finish line. I have won many a race when having a not so good reaction because my opponent was not aware of his doings at the finish line.

What advice would you give others wanting to break into the sport?

Visit your local track and observe what happens. Most tracks have test days that are reasonably priced where you can learn the art and get acquainted with the proceedings. First and foremost in my book is to make it fun and then if you’re after wining results practice heaps and perhaps seek out experienced racers who can give you tips on how to succeed.

I have three methods I use to help achieve winning results. They are to combine practice at the track with mentally envisaging the win light in my lane spending five minutes each day running short film clips of racing through my mind. The third is to use the practice tree hooked up to the car for about ten minutes a day at least one week before a major event. This hopefully helps to sharpen my reactions.

Who do you receive support from?

Our sponsor is: Really Natural Skin Care reallynaturalskincare.com

I’m a member of the Australian Women’s Motorsport Network (AWMN). This is a support network established in 2001 to help promote women in motorsport and the automotive industry awmn.com.au

We basically meet the cost of racing with our own budget. My support team is my husband Warren, crew member John Mackay, family and friends. Warren has always been there for me not only as my partner whom I dearly love, but also mechanic, mentor and financier. He constantly motivates and encourages me.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

I’d like to thank Girlracer Magazine for this exposure which in turn I hope will help motivate and encourage others to follow their dreams and perhaps more women to get involved in motorsport and/or the automotive industry. Although mainly a male dominated field there are many women in the world achieving amazing results.

Thank you to my wonderful husband Warren for the tremendous support he has shown me over the years with racing. I am so very grateful!

Thank you to our children for their encouragement and John Mackay and friends who rally around sharing our experiences at the track.

Thank you to Chelsea Woods for the interview.

Believe you can succeed and you will!

For more information on Terri Sander and Mama’s Toy Racing you can visit her website mamastoyracing.com.au You can also follow Terri and Mama’s Toy Racing on Twitter at twitter.com/mamatoyracing .

Girlracer Magazine would like to thank Terri for her inspirational story and for providing motivation to women all over the world who are chasing their dreams! www.girlracer.co.uk