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.
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
were some of the difficulties you faced in getting into
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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
Gearbox: Turbo 400
Rear End: Ladder Bar
Compression Ratio: 9.5 to 1
Carbi: 700 CFM Holley
Slicks: Hoosier 26 x 9
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
is your day job?
I’m retired but we joke and put on the entry
form…Home Maintenance Co-ordinator.
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.
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.
advice would you give others wanting to break into the
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.
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.
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
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