THE past 12 months or so have been pretty good to Queensland racer Kelly Bettes.
Last June, she took out the 2018 Australian Top Fuel Championship in her rookie season – and became the first woman to win a professional drag racing championship in this country.
Kelly rounded out 2018 by making it to the finals of her class at the World Sport Compact Finals in Orlando, Florida, in the Jett Racing Datsun 1200 ute.
The hits have kept coming in 2019, with Kelly back out in front of the Top Fuel points chase in the Lamattina dragster, and being voted as Pro Racer of the Year in the Drag News Best of 2018 awards.
And last weekend, Kelly tried her hand a racing a 4000+hp Pro Mod Mustang and loved it! We called Kelly for a chat to hear all about it:
Street Machine: Can you give us a bit of background on the Mustang?
Kelly Bettes: It’s a Proline stage 4 481X-powered car with twin 98mm turbos, and is part of Collin Wilshire’s Jett Racing team. Collin raced it for the first time at the Brisbane Jamboree last year, and then ran it in Top Sportsman at the New Year Thunder meet, where it ran 6.14sec.
SM: And how did your drive come about?
KB: Collin had to have a shoulder operation last week and he plans to run the car at Sydney Jamboree, so depending on his recovery, he wanted me to be familiar in the car so I could step in for the event if need be.
SM: How many runs did you get?
KB: We tested it over three days. We went out on Friday for my first test hits, basically backing off at the 330ft mark. The guys were testing out a larger tyre that they hadn’t run on the car before. We struggled with a lot of tyre shake, so they decided to put the tyres back on which the car ran with previously.
SM: What happened on Saturday?
KB: That was a normal Saturday night test and tune, so we weren’t expecting to do many passes. I did a half track pass, then another to 1000ft so I could get a feel for how the car behaved in the braking area. The 1000ft pass was 6.316@198mph.
SM: And Sunday?
KB: That was a racer test day. We planned on three full passes; the first was a 6.15@242mph, then a 6.14@250mph. On the third pass it moved towards the centerline of the track, so I buttoned off. We were hoping for a 6.0 pass, but it was very hot and we were happy with how it went.
SM: What was it like to drive?
KB: Definitely intimidating! The way the boost ramps up from the 300ft mark is actually fairly similar to the way the fuel car behaves when the clutch starts to lock up. You are certainly moving fast off the line in both cars, but then they really come alive. In the sedan, that’s when it starts getting hectic – you could be battling tyre shake and the car can be moving around on the track.
SM: How does it compare to the Datsun ute, that thing is no slouch!
KB: The ute is very darty. It might look like it is going straight when you watch it from the stands, but inside you really have to steer it. The Mustang is more like the Fuel car – you need much more delicate steering inputs to correct it, otherwise you’ll make everything worse. I found that out straight away on Friday; it takes finesse.
SM: And what was it like in the braking area?
KB: Braking a lightweight sedan at 250mph is no joke. It slowed down fine, but got the bounces up a little bit. the main thing is to be smart about how you use the parachutes. With this car, I was starting the process at the 1000ft mark. That way, by the time you’re going through the traps, the pilot ’chute is dangling out and then it starts to blossom once you’ve crossed the finish line. This way you’re driving into the ’chute just at the finish line.
SM: So will you get another go in the Mustang?
KB: We will wait and see what Collin decides over the next couple of weeks. He also really does enjoy being on the outside watching!
SM: And things are looking good for you in the Top Fuel chase this year?
KB: It’s been pretty good so far. In the first event, we had a couple of issues, but still got to the semis. Then at the New Year Thunder meeting I red lit in the first round, which was very annoying personally! We took the event win, but Wayne Newby was in front on points. So it was good to make the final in Sydney and catch the lead up straight away. We are better placed in the points compared to where we were last year, so the confidence levels are high
SM: We’re all still impressed at how well you and the Datto went in Orlando, that must have been a buzz?
KB: It was. The atmosphere and enthusiasm from the spectators and crowd is really hard to explain, but it really pumps you up as a driver. It was one the best experiences I’ve had as a racer, it was another world.