STREET Machine met up with Australia’s newest Top Fuel driver, Kelly Bettes, at the recent Nitro Thunder meeting at Sydney Dragway.
The Queensland-born died-in-the-wool drag racer was the first female to win the ANDRA Modified title, which she did in 2010, and has shown equally sharp reaction times and car control behind the wheel of Jett Racing’s seven-second Datsun ute.
(Left to right) Phil Lamattina, Kelly Bettes and Angelo Lamattina
Kelly is ecstatic to have been given the call up by Lamattina Racing to drive their Top Fuel dragster. The team has been without a regular driver since boss Phil Lamattina decided to step away from the cockpit and take his younger brother John Lamattina with him after surviving a terrifying wreck at the 2015 Winternationals.
The team brought expat Richie Crampton over for a one-off drive at the Nitro Thunder round in Sydney, and Kelly was there to meet the whole family, get acclimatised to the surroundings, and to glean as much as possible from NHRA race winner Richie.
“I like to get pretty hands-on, I like to have a good understanding of what I’m driving,” Kelly told SM. “When you’re out on the track and something happens, it’s good to have the understanding of what actually has occurred and be able to report that back to the crew.
“Quite often with Collin Wiltshire and the Jett Racing team, I would be there at the shed rebuilding engines with them. I like to know what’s going on. That’s why in the short time with the Lamattina team here I have been asking little questions, I just like to know about the whole process.”
Having been given the chance to step up to the elite class, Kelly will go for her Top Fuel licence this weekend at Sydney Dragway. She is set to debut in the Lamattina car at the Nitro Up North event at Hidden Valley Raceway on 21-22 July. However, having been buoyed by their successful weekend in Sydney, where Richie Crampton put in a scorching 4.538sec pass at 329mph on his way to a finals berth, the team is considering competing at the 50th Winternationals, which will bring Kelly’s Top Fuel debut forward to 8-11 June at Willowbank.
“So far the quickest I’ve gone is in the Datsun ute, that’s a 7.000 at 195 mile an hour,” Kelly said. “My other dragster runs 7.30s at 185, so they’re sort of similar but the ute is a bit quicker.”
And how does she feel about the prospect of running fours at over 300mph?
“Pretty excited! I’d be lying to say I wasn’t nervous about it; I think anyone would be nervous when they’re getting in the seat of one of these cars. But I’m really pumped to do it. I’m sure it’s going to scare the crap out of me, but I’ll get there.”
Watch the video to hear Kelly discuss her racing roots and her path from would-be ballerina to Top Fuel pilot.