This Saturday (19 September) the latest round of the Queensland Drag Racing Championships will come to Willowbank Raceway, and when it does, there are two fast femmes on which fans would be well advised to keep their eye on.

At the last QDRC event run at the Raceway, the Knijff Earthmoving Modified bracket was dominated with girl power claiming not only the winning honours, but also the runner-up and top qualifying spots.

Nineteen year old Gold Coaster Cheslea Leahy took out the event win in her ‘Forever Young’ front-engined dragster, from 29 year old Highfields racer Nicole Usher in her similarly ‘nostalgic’ Altered ‘Tin Pony’ machine. 

Earlier in the day, 20 year old Katie Cunningham of Mackay had blazed her way to the top of the qualifying sheets, setting the fastest time of qualifying in her big block Chevy modified dragster. 

Both Leahy and Cunningham will be on-track this weekend, while Usher will reluctantly follow the action from the sidelines following a conflicting commitment, with an aim to return for the next round in October. 

The Knijff Earthmoving Modified competitors will be accompanied by more than 100 other racers across the Powercruise Super Sedan, Prime Signs/Speed Elec Super Street, Modified Bike, Wallace Bishop Loyal Watches Junior Dragster and Super Gas brackets. Spectator admission is just $20.00 for adults, $18.00 for students with ID, and children aged 13 and under gain FREE admission. Gates open at 7.00am, with qualifying from 11.00am and racing from 5.00pm. For full event information, please click here.



Chelsea Leahy – Knijff Earthmoving Modified – QDRC Round Three Winner

“The feeling was unreal! It was a great meeting for me and my team, after all the hard work it was worth it in the end!” said Leahy. “This time last year it was only a dream for me to own a modified car and take away a win from a meeting, so the past year has been huge for me! 

“At the start of the meeting I had a few car issues but nothing that couldn’t be fixed! After three good qualifiers the car was running consistent and I had a solo run in round one, and after round three I had won all the races and made it into the final! That is when the feeling of succeeding starts to kick in! 

“The best part of being in the final was it was girl versus girl and with us both in nostalgic cars! That was awesome! After winning the final it felt surreal and I felt like it was a dream – holding the winners’ plaque was the highlight of my day!”

“It was unexpected to win but that morning I said to myself, ‘today I’m going to win’, and I did! Looking back it was a great day, the car was running consistent and there’s no reason why I didn’t have a chance to win! It’s great to see females succeeding in a male dominated sport! There is a stupid stereotype that females can’t drive but trust me, out at the track you will meet plenty of female racers that can DRIVE!  Whether you’re female or male in the driver’s seat, you’re still a race car driver that has every chance of winning! 

“I’m really looking forward to the next QDRC round at Willowbank and as always I’m prepared and will try my best! Hopefully my car’s performance will be like at the last meeting. There are no expectations for me because ‘a bad day at the track is better than a good day at work!’


Nicole Usher – Knijff Earthmoving Modified – QDRC Round Three Runner-Up

“(The round had unfolded) very unexpectedly! The car was not running its best but I was cutting some pretty good lights, I was happy to win a race let alone to win three. I could not believe that we had actually made the final, the adrenalin was pumping and it was a real rush,” said Usher.

“I still can’t believe it actually, we have only been racing for such a little while and we were just out to have some fun. It all happened so fast and it still brings a smile to my face thinking about it. I am definitely feeling the pressure for my next meeting – I am hoping it was not beginners luck!,” laughed Usher. 

(On the fact that it was an all-female final and there was a female top qualifier): “It is really cool. I’m not sure how often it happens but with the amount of females in the class it might become something to watch out for! I love the fact too that the final consisted of two nostalgia cars raced by two young girls with their dads crewing for them. It is so good to see so many women in the sport at the moment. 

“I’m actually pretty shattered as I am unable to make this weekend meeting due to having my best friend’s wedding on Fraser Island, If I was not bridesmaid I think It would have been a polite decline to the wedding,” laughed Usher. “I won’t be missing any more that is for sure – I am realising this sport is quite addictive!

“Thinking ahead to my next meeting I am feeling nervous. I am always nervous, particularly for the first run. We would just like to get the car running a little more consistently and just get some more experience under my belt. My dad is the main man behind the operation, he built the car for me but he works away which makes it hard to race at all the meetings so the biggest goal for my next meeting is for my husband and I to run the car on our own.”


Katie Cunningham – Knijff Earthmoving Modified – QDRC Round Three Top Qualifier

“Being top qualifier in a QDRC round requires that you get the best reaction time in the first qualifier round and honestly to me it’s a luck based sport, its only literally a fraction of a second which can put you from the top qualifier, to being on the bottom,” said Cunningham.

“Being top qualifier was honestly a shock as I have been finding it hard recently to be able to get really good reactions (reaction times), however I was lucky enough to get a really good reaction time in the first round which I was really proud of and I still am proud of.

“I believe that drag racing has always been seen as a male-dominated sport, however, in the bracket that I race in (modified) it has been mostly female-dominated class recently and with more females coming up from the junior classes it’s nice to see more females in the sport.

(On preparing for this weekend): “There’s not really anything I do to prepare as I’m at uni and spend most of my time here, so my pop usually takes care of everything, which I am greatly appreciative of. My main goal is to try and get into the finals – the same as most racers, as for expectations I don’t really have any to be honest!” laughed Cunningham. “I would like to thank my family for everything that they do, the crew are the most important part of a race team and they are the reason that I try and win.