IT MAY seem a long way from a ride-on mower to a fully-fledged drag racer, but that's been the pathway for up-and-coming driver Mriah Smith.
The waif-thin Trinity Catholic College Lismore student still can't legally drive a car by herself, but the 16-year-old has been blowing much of the junior competition away since taking up the sport two years agoafter being sidelined from her first love, gymnastics, with a brokenankle.
Currently sitting at number eight in her category of the Castrol Edge Winternationals – the biggest drag racing event outside the United States – from a starting field of 84 contestants, Mriah's proud father, local sign writer Darrell Smith, reckons she could go all the way.
“Mriah has only been racing jun-ior dragsters in the ANDRA Rocket All Stars Pro Series for the past year, and while she knew the first year was always going to be about gaining experience and getting data on the car, she has lately been getting a lot of attention,” he said.
“Each time she runs she gets further into the field – just missing out being top qualifier at the recent top fuel championships by .001 of a second and making it as far as thesemi-finals in her last meeting.
“The Winternationals attract some of the best drivers from all over Australia and New Zealand.”
While Mriah's mother is somewhat more apprehensive about her daughter's new passion, this calm, quietly-spoken teenager seems bemused at the fuss, and even less inclined to explain her technique.
“I never really know what's happening until I'm three or four sec-onds down the track,” she joked.
With a top speed of 135kmh, her drag car will still leave the top production Holden Commodores and Ford Falcon eating its rubber over its standard one-eighth of a mile track, but her dad doesn't worry.
“It doesn't faze me – she is very focused and precise in everything she does,” he said.
“Next season the team will nominate for every round of the ANDRA Pro Series in an attempt at the nat-ional championships.
“If she can gain enough support she wants to compete in the pro series round in Perth, but to get the car and team across the country will cost about $5000, so we're looking for an additional sponsor.”
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