Never too young to be swept up by race fever

Townsville Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - SA­MAN­THA HEALY sa­man­tha. healy@ news. com. au

RE­NEE Gra­cie is pumped for her de­but race in the Dun­lop Se­ries at the Cas­trol EDGE Townsville 400.

The 20- year- old com­peted in the Porsche Car­rera Cup in 2013 and 2014 and her move to the Dun­lop Se­ries is pre­dicted to be her first step to­wards one day rac­ing full- time in the V8 Su­per­cars se­ries.

If she does, she will be the first woman to com­pete in the male- dom­i­nated sport.

“I en­joy this track and have had good re­sults here so I have a lit­tle bit of con­fi­dence,” Gra­cie said.

THE city is ready to race with the Townsville 400 roar­ing into life for 2015 from to­day.

V8 Su­per­cars fans yesterday gave the stars of the show – the driv­ers – a hearty welcome to the city, which many claim as their favourite stop on the rac­ing cal­en­dar.

Fans clam­oured for au­to­graphs at the Townsville 400 Su­per Welcome at Jezzine Bar­racks yesterday af­ter­noon with the driv­ers sign­ing posters, hel­mets, flags, model cars – and even a baby in a Ford one­sie.

Un­de­terred by grey skies, more than 1000 peo­ple lined up to meet the driv­ers on the eve of the Cas­trol EDGE Townsville 400.

Sign­ing ac­tual ba­bies is about the limit for me MARK WIN­TER­BOT­TOM

Dressed in a Ford baby one­sie, Rosa- Leigh Hob­son, 15 months, was placed on to the au­to­graph ta­ble and signed by the Pepsi Max team.

Mark “Frosty” Win­ter­bot­tom said he had signed some un­usual things over the years.

“In this case, I signed the baby’s clothes, not the ac­tual baby,” he said with a laugh.

“Sign­ing ac­tual ba­bies is about the limit for me. But I have signed preg­nant bel­lies and a pros­thetic leg.

It’s awe­some. This ( fan days) makes it.”

Fans lined the path as the driv­ers ar­rived in clas­sic cars, cheer­ing their favourite teams as they stepped on to the stage to sign au­to­graphs. There was a mix of rac­ing and state pride on dis­play, with fans dressed in their favourite V8 Su­per­cars team colours and a splash of ma­roon.

For Tal­lis Wehrman, 8, the chance to meet Lee Holdsworth was a high­light.

“I am a mad Holden fan,” he said. “We go to the V8s ev­ery year.”

Michael Brown and his son MJae, 2, lined up to meet the Holden Rac­ing Team.

“He ( MJae) came out a Holden kid,” Mr Brown said.

“I would be dev­as­tated if he one day told me he pre­ferred Ford.”

The driv­ers signed au­to­graphs for close to an hour be­fore leav­ing to pre­pare for the busy week­end ahead.

But fans made the most of the en­ter­tain­ment on of­fer, with kids go­ing for speed on the su­per slide and the adults en­joy­ing the live mu­sic.

Will Dav­i­son, of the Ere­bus Motorsport team, told the crowd he was look­ing for­ward to hit­ting the Reid Park track.

“The win in Perth was a high­light and a win here would be great,” he said.

Trail­blaz­ing fe­male driver Re­nee Gra­cie, 20, said she was feel­ing con­fi­dent go­ing into the Dun­lop Se­ries.

Gra­cie is the first woman to com­plete a whole sea­son of the se­ries and hopes to one day be the first to race full time in the V8 Su­per­cars Cham­pi­onships.

While she never set out to be a role model for young women hop­ing to pur­sue the sport, she is happy to be one.

“I never thought I would be that per­son in that lead­er­ship role but I’m happy peo­ple feel they can look up to me be­cause I never had some­one to look up to,” she said.

Gates open at Reid Park to­day from 6.30am with the Aus­tralian GT cars the first on rack from 7.10am.

More Townsville 400: Sport

Rosa Leigh Hob­son, 1, gets an au­to­graph from Mark “Frosty” Win­ter­bot­tom yesterday.

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