Amanda
Shepherd

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First Track Pass
Bio
Results
Schedule

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Bio

Age: 19
Home Town: Sydney, Australia
One of two female Top Fuel license holders in Australia.

Results

Schedule

My First Full Track Pass


My first full pass in a Top Fuel Dragster felt as though I was strapped into a rocket and I was being launched into the air. It was a sensational feeling, One that I will never forget.

In order for me to pass my Licence there are certain steps I need to take. First is to do a burnout and a launch, then a half pass (600 feet) and then 2 full ¼ mile passes both over 250mp/h (which is roughly about 400km/). I have succeeded with everything so far except for my 2 full passes, which was what I was aiming for on Sunday.

On the 22nd of July I set out to achieve what would hopefully be my first full pass down the ¼ mile over 250 mp/h. Like usual, I had spent all the time leading up to it preparing myself and running through my head what my procedure was.

I even tried to go through in my head what could go wrong when driving a Top Fuel Dragster and what I have to do when it happens. The thing that most people don't realize about these beasts is that everything happens so quickly when you jump on that throttle that your mind has to be ahead of what's going to happen next, if you catch my drift. So basically, if the tyre's start shaking then you have to react the instant you feel a change in the vehicle.

I thought about everything from going through the finish line, pulling the parachute lever and then finding out they didn't blossom and ending up in the sand to even thinking about what would happen if the car wheel-standed and just kept going over and flipped out. I went over it in my head so that HOPEFULLY I wouldn't freak out and I would react to what I had taught my mind to do in preparation for it. But of course it would be different whilst in the car.

Sunday morning had finally arrived. We got to the track and starting setting everything up. I had tried to keep myself calm and collected during the morning, but little help that was. Phil Reed came up to me and asked if I was nervous. I said to him "Phil, I don't have butterflies, I have Terodactyls". He just laughed.

Mat, Dad & my Cousin Luke all said that after half-track you wont seem to feel the acceleration as much. The big blast is in the first half of the ¼ mile. I was actually quite surprised at this.

Dad had ordered a HANS device for me from America, which hankfully had been delivered in time. We tried to fit it a couple of weeks before, but it just wasn't working.

The device is designed to stop your head and neck from moving around too much when you take off, pull the parachutes or have an accident. The first time I put it on, I couldn't believe how much support it provides. I sat in the car all geared up and strapped in and I could not move my head and inch left or right.

All I could do was move my eyes, not my actual head. It made me feel really safe, however, the problem was that he device pulled my head back, which means when I looked straight, my eyes and head were pointing towards the sky. So we thought we would order a skinnier neck brace and see if that helps. We didn't get that until the day of the race. We tried it on and tried to make it work, but unfortunately it just wasn't comfortable for me. So we decided and were advised to run without it until we can get it fitted properly.

The amount of gear that I have to wear is incredible. People that suffer from claustrophobia couldn't do it. I have a balaclava on, a fire suit, clothes on underneath my fire suit, a mouth guard, a helmet, a neck brace, racing boots, thermal socks and 2 pairs of gloves (for a tighter fit). It doesn't seem to affect me, although I think that's because adrenalin gets the better of me.

It was great all of my friends and family were there to support me for the day. that was a big plus. Some think im totally crazy and out of control and others can't believe that I actually do it.

My mum was so nervous (as always) and so was Dad. My Boyfriend had actually said to me the day before that he needs to spend the night preparing himself for my drive tomorrow. Im starting to totally understand where he's coming from. I have some relatives that as much as they would love to and are right behind me supporting what I do, they just cannot come out and watch me drive down the ¼ mile in a Top Fuel Dragster. I think it doesn't scare me or worry me because I have grown up with it.

I have worked on it for so many years, I have grown up being right beside my Dad for every pass that he has made in that car, and I have seen him create fireballs that Evil Kineval would be jealous of, so I guess im just used to it now. After driving the fueller and understanding just how powerful it really is, im starting to see where some of my relatives are coming from.

We went through the warm up procedure in the pits and all was good. I did the methanol warm up with all of my gear on and I asked Mat to strap me into the car so it was as if I was actually on the start line and I could get the feel of it again and run through it.

We then did the Nitro warm up and all was good. I was beginning to get extremely pumped up by the stage. 12:30pm rolled around and we finally set out for the staging lanes.

Like always, as soon as that 7000hp engine fires behind you, you don't think about or even see anything but the ¼ mile in front of you and what you have to do. It still amazes me. Even the butterflies disappear.

Mat signals me to move forward on the break and the clutch alternating between both, and I roll through the water. Then Dean signals me to burnout and he does the brake signal as well so I don't forget to hold the brake on when I do the burnout. This is because we have carbon fibre brakes and they work best when hot, so we have to hold the brake on slightly when doing the burnout.

It's such an awesome feeling doing the burnout. You slide from side to side and there's more steering involved than you could imagine. I even have to focus on something to try and keep the car straight during the burnout. I pull her up and flick the lever in reverse. After I had finished reversing and had found forward gear, some of the officials started running over and giving me the "kill it" signal by waving their hand against their neck.

I had about 3 different people telling me to shut her down, but I wasn't turning her off until Mat came over. As soon as I saw Mat give me the signal, I turned the fuel off. I thought we must have had a fuel leak or something. After I turned it off, Mat informed me that the car that had made a pass before me had ended up in the dirt down the bottom end. It was all good and cleaned up then all of a sudden whilst I was reversing, the car had actually caught on fire again down the bottom end. So they shut the Fueller off until they cleared the car and made sure the driver was ok.

I didn't freak out, I didn't get nervous and I certainly didn't become un-focused. I tried my hardest not to let this little incident phase me in the slightest. I new what I wanted to do and I was not going to let this put me off.

I sat there, went through what I was about to do (again) and just kept on focusing. I had people coming up to me stressing out saying "don't stress its allright you will be fine" when actually they were all running around like headless chooks. Its Racing. These sort of things happen and the best thing to do is stay focused and to not loose your concentration.

The boys re-fuelled the tank and we got the start up signal again off the officials. As soon as it started I pulled the fuel on. I tried to be a little be quicker this time with everything because the car was already hot. I did a little burnout and pulled her up. After reversing, found forward gear and Mat bought me into stage. This was it. The moment I had been waiting for. The moment that every Top Fuel drag racer I had spoken to was trying to prepare me for. This moment was mine.

I put the pre-stage light on, put it on the high side, pulled my visor down, let my foot off the clutch and moved slightly into stage. I waited for what seemed like forever. I was so pumped up and ready so I just went. I didn't even wait for the flash of the amber from the Christmas tree.

Most of you probably aren't aware that the take off in a Top Fuel Dragster is just a blur. It must be for 0.00001 of a second where you cant focus on anything and you cant remember anything. I remember seeing half track and knowing I was there. However, after half track, it felt as if the car had dug the back end into the ground and the front end was launching into the sky. It was another massive kick.

The car just took off AGAIN. It was incredible, and it actually caught me off guard. That's the best part of the run. When the clutch locks up and the car just goes like a rocket. Its amazing.

I remember my hand being on the parachute lever when I went through the finish line, however im not sure at what point in the run I put it there. I think it was just automatic. The feeling that you get when the parachutes blossom is a definitely a feeling of relief. They really do hit you hard though, but its good to know they are out.

I got out down the bottom end and one of the officials filled me in on my time. I nearly died. I did 449km/h in 5.16 seconds down the ¼ mile on my first ever full pass. I was so excited.

The tow truck pulled up and everyone was ecstatic. Mat and the boys told me that standing from behind all you could see was me trying to drive the thing. Apparently it was going down the ¼ mile like a snake and I spent the whole run keeping it in the groove so they were over the moon. To be honest, I didn't even realize it was moving around that much.

On the return road I saw a couple of my friends parents that had never seen a Top Fuel Dragster before and they couldn't believe it the fact that I had just driver that rocket down the track. I turned around and I said "I still cant believe I've done it".

Phil Reed came up to me and congratulated me and also told me how much it was moving around. Top Fuellers aren't as easy to drive as you think, and there is so much that you have to do in less than 5 seconds, and if you forget something, then your doomed.

I still cant believe that I had to drive the thing to keep it in the groove. Dad had written me a note on Sunday Morning that said "I've got 40 years of driving experience and today, I will lend it to you". I have no doubt this is where I pulled my knowledge from on the day.

It was so great to have everybody behind me and there supporting me. Thanks to Skips Fire Service and to Dragster Australia.

Unfortunately for us we did not make a second full pass as we had engine problems. Yes I was extremely disappointed at this, but I must admit I was totally exhausted after that first run. All the adrenalin and the focusing and the excitement during and after the run just took all the energy out of me. But like Mum and Dad said, as soon as you step into that fire suit, the adrenalin starts pumping again.

It was a sensational day and I would once again like to thank all of the pit crew, the officials and everybody that was there supporting me because without any of you, non of this would have been possible.

I've done it. My first full ¼ mile pass in a Top Fuel Dragster. I will never forget that feeling.

Until Next Time…

Go Hard Or Go Home

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