RACHELLE Splatt might be a married mum with a tribe of kids, but sheís also a tough racer who has stormed her way into the record books both here and in the USA. She made her Top Fuel racing debut way back in 1992, and quickly turned the category on its head as she powered past the established teams to reset both the speed and ET records.
That success got noticed in the US, where Rachelle scored a drive with the Luxor Casino Top Fuel team. It was with the Luxor team that Rachelle would become the first woman to run 300mph in a Top Fuel dragster, and the last person to score a spot in the Slick 50 300mph Club. Rachelle is the only woman and only Australian on the Slick 50 300mph list, which reads like a whoís who of the drag racing elite, featuring the likes of Scott and Connie Kalitta, Eddie Hill, Kenny Bernstein and Don Prudhomme.
A clash with the teamís owner saw Rachelle return to Australia before she had finished the 1994 NHRA season, and she set up her own Top Fuel team here. Rachelle continued to race with plenty of success in Australian Top Fuel until 2000, when she had the first of her five children.
Rachelle did return to racing in 2005 for a while, but elected to concentrate on raising her young family instead.
These days Rachelle and her husband Wayne run Dragway Custom Car & Bike, a successful custom hot rod and bikebuilding business north of Melbourne, and theyíve bought a dragster with a view to being competitive in Top Fuel again.
We caught up with Rachelle before the big announcement to talk about her past, and what the future holds.
I felt like I had to have a break from racing due to family commitments. Juggling family, children and a race team was a bit of a problem because I wanted to do a good job at all of it. I felt like I needed to take a break and concentrate on family. Iíve had another two children since I stopped racing, so my family is complete now, and my older kids can join in being part of the race team. So I just felt like it was the right time to come back now.
I donít think they realise what I do, and what itís all about, but they do know what Iíve done. Theyíve seen lots of photos and trophies and have followed what Iíve done, but until theyíre actually at the race track and experience these amazing Top Fuel cars they wonít know what itís like. Iím really excited about introducing them to Top Fuel racing, and theyíre really excited as well because they can be a part of it now.
Itís been 10 years since Iíve driven. Things have stepped up a lot since then. The cars are going a lot faster and quicker so weíve definitely got a lot of work ahead of us to make the cut with the
teams now. I think that I can do that, and I think that I have it in me as a driver to run with the best teams out there. When I finished racing we were running 4.8s and 4.9s at around 290mph; now theyíre running about 4.6 at about 330mph. Itís definitely a lot quicker and faster, but itís in my blood and I reckon I can jump back in and run with the guys.
Yeah, Top Fuel is very expensive so we wonít be able to run on our own.
We are looking for a sponsor to come on board; someone that is really willing to work close with us and achieve the best results they can with the publicity that we can give them, on and off the track. So hopefully we can find a sponsor thatís as excited about Top Fuel drag racing as we are.
Well I was pretty excited to be racing in America as it was, and just to be keeping up with the guys in my second year of racing. It wasnít a goal for the team to run a 300, or try and get into the Slick 50 300mph Club. My focus was just on driving and doing the best I could. So when we did run the 300 at Houston, Texas, it was a bit of a surprise. I didnít realise it was a 300mph run and didnít know until I had this massive amount of reporters and cameras racing down the return road towards me. Yeah, it was an awesome achievement and I felt like it really set my place in NHRA racing.
Itís an amazing thing to look back on all these years.
Itís amazing to have my name with all those famous racers. I used to watch these guys on video before I started racing, just to watch how they raced and techniques and to be familiar with the tracks, never really thinking that I would be in a club of the first 16 people to run 300mph on a drag strip, to be listed with all those amazing drivers.
They treated me great. The guys were really good. Theyíve had women driving Top Fuel and funny cars over there, so it wasnít a big surprise to have another female join them in racing, so they just accepted me and I became friends with a lot of the drivers.
Well, thatís all I can really remember: Dragway Wheels and race cars. All the way back to when I was a little girl. I was always at the factory, I was always around race cars, I was always watching the race cars being built and I was always going to the race track with him. The whole memory of my childhood is race cars and racing, it was really good.
It was an HQ two-door Monaro. Then I moved on to another twodoor Monaro that was an aqua colour and I took that to Heathcote Park a few times, and that ended up getting given away as a prize in a magazine.
My friends loved it. My dad actually bought it for me as a bare shell; he surprised me with it one day. He said: ďWe can do whatever you want to do with it.Ē I chose the interior, the colour, and we put a 253 V8 engine in it. We did that over a few years and it was ready for me when I got my licence at 18. It was an awesome car.
No, itís not a brand new car. We bought the car off Phil Lamattina.
It has a good history; it was his championship-winning car. So we feel that weíve purchased a great car with good equipment to be amongst the best in Australia.