Two promising young drag racers will be busy fine-tuning their cars over the winter as they try to get back on the podium next season.
Brother and sister Ellie (15) and Jaxon (13) Wellborne have become familiar faces in the New Zealand drag racing scene with consistent results and will spend the offseason in the shed modifying their cars.
The New Zealand Drag Racing Association junior dragster series ran from November to March at different destinations throughout the New Zealand.
Ellie finished second overall in her division in her third season of racing while Jaxon was placed fourth, just milliseconds away from a podium finish.
Drag racing is adrenaline-filled and not for the faint-hearted. Cars in the junior class reach speeds of more than 100km/hr and can cover the 200m stretch in little more than nine seconds.
Their father Gavin was a former drag racer. That enthusiasm for motor sport was highly infectious and his offspring were bitten by the same bug.
Nowadays, he has hung up his helmet and is busy enough as the key mechanic. He is happy to act as support person in the racing team for his children, and has even built a car from scratch.
"My car is mothballed," he said.
The NZDRA circuits is a series of events held at tracks from Tokoroa to Nelson, which means a lot of travel, and 40 other drivers competed this year.
"The competition is pretty stiff. They've done really well. They've come along in leaps and bounds," he said.
The junior class is judged by a driver's ability to anticipate the start and how close they could get to a pre-determined time for their run. Points are scored for a quick start and by getting as close as they can to an estimated "dial-in" time.
Those rules encourages the younger drivers to hone their skills at the start and during the run to get the best out of their car, irrespective of who had the biggest engine.
"You have to anticipate the start and you have to be able to feel what the car is doing," he said.
An entry level car could cost $2000, although those costs could quickly balloon into the tens of thousands of dollars without some type of restriction on the class.
"Otherwise it would boil down to who has the biggest wallet," he said. They ate a lot of Weetbix, he said.
"If you wanted to spend a million dollars, you could."
Ellie will graduate to a full-size car next season as she had outgrown the tiny cockpit of her current car. That would mean a lot of hours in the shed with Dad over the winter months putting a new car together.
Wellborne said the family moved to Levin from the Kāpiti Coast recently and were amazed at the how popular motor sport was in Horowhenua.