MUSTANG SHELLY

LEGEND

STORY ANDREW BROADLEY PHOTOS SIMON DAVIDSON & SMARCHIVES

MICHELLE DAVIES IS THE WORLD’S QUICKEST AND FASTEST FEMALE ON A 10.5-INCH TYRE. NOW SHE’S STEPPING UP TO THE BIG LEAGUE WITH A WILD HEMIPOWERED MUSTANG DOORSLAMMER in four passes and running a personal best with a stonking 6.38@220mph in the final, on the car’s last ever lap down the track.

Meanwhile, the new Mustang was purchased as a roller, stripped and rebuilt ahead of its debut at Street Machine Summernats 30.

It’s on a longer 115-inch wheelbase and a much larger tyre than the Torana. It’s also 200lb lighter, with a far more modern chassis and a slipperier, full-composite body. Needless to say, the team has the driver and the hardware to achieve great things in 2017.

IN JUST 10 short years, Michelle Davies has rapidly ascended the Aussie drag racing ranks. Starting out in Super Sedan in 2007, she ran a bottom nine on her first ever trip down the quarter-mile, and the bug bit hard.

After building a new Hemi-powered Torana hatch for Outlaw 10.5 (SM, Aug ’12), the wins came thick and fast for Shelly, and she went on to become the quickest and fastest female on the planet on a 10.5-inch tyre. But the Torana had reached its absolute developmental limit, and following lengthy discussion with her husband (not to mention engine builder and crew chief) Gareth, the difficult decision was made to retire her beloved Torry and step up to a Doorslammer.

At Shelly’s final meeting in the Torana she drove like a boss, breaking her own world record no fewer than three times in four passes and running a personal best with a stonking 6.38@220mph in the final, on the car’s last ever lap down the track.

Meanwhile, the new Mustang was purchased as a roller, stripped and rebuilt ahead of its debut at Street Machine Summernats 30.

It’s on a longer 115-inch wheelbase and a much larger tyre than the Torana. It’s also 200lb lighter, with a far more modern chassis and a slipperier, full-composite body. Needless to say, the team has the driver and the hardware to achieve great things in 2017.

How did you first get into cars?

Michelle: I grew up on acreage at Leppington, so we had paddock bashers and we hooned around in them a lot. Gareth was mates with my brother, and [after we got together] we always used to have bikes and cars. We built fast street cars and used to go to all the hangouts and car shows.

Gareth: We’ve had plenty of 10-second street cars over the years. It was always a target back in the day to have a 10-second street car, and we’ve always achieved it.

At what point did you start to step things up and get more serious about your racing?

M: I started drag racing in 2007. We used to go to the drags a lot and I’d always say: “I’d love to do that,” and then we thought: “Let’s give it a crack.” I just took to it, and things progressed from there. We started out with the blue and silver [now yellow] Torana in Super Sedan, and then we moved up fairly quickly to Supercharged Outlaws.

G: The first pass ever that Michelle made down the race track, she was supposed to do a licensing pass, then progress from a 60-foot to a half-track pass and so on. But the first time we strapped her in the car, she did a burnout, then came back and went 9.1@139mph! I didn’t know if the throttle stuck or what, but she was supposed to be off it. The next minute she came back down the return road and she was just grinning from ear to ear. She just smiled and said: “That was awesome!” The day she licensed she left the track having gone 8.80. That was in her first Torana, with a blown alcohol small-block.

How did you go early on with results in that car?

G: It took seven years to win anything, and by then Shelly was in the 10.5 car, so we didn’t win anything in the old car. We were always up there, but I think consistency was our biggest problem.

You learn so much, you make mistakes and you get led up the wrong path. There were a few times we were ready to walk away; pack everything up and sell everything.

M: There were so many times we were going to buy a boat and just go fishing because we were so fed up!

Stepping up to Doorslammer is a huge undertaking. How much of the work will you guys do yourselves?

G: Ultimately now, nothing leaves here. We do everything ourselves, between us and Trent Sturgess. We build our own engines; we do everything. Al [from Al’s Race Glides] will do the gearbox like he always has, and any machine work that needs doing is done by Wayne Newby, but when it comes to building, maintaining and tuning, we do it all.

M: We are lucky to have people with lots of knowledge who help us.

Tell me about the move from 10.5 to Doorslammer.

M: I love the Torana; it’s a cool car and I was just comfortable in it.

I know everything in the car. I can change gears without a shift light because I just know that motor. I know how it feels, I know when to get off it; it just felt so safe. But the car was at its limits.

G: Craig Burns does all our chassis work and he’ll tell you that what Shelly achieved in that car was remarkable. It’s a 100-inch wheelbase with a steel roof and quarters and a steel chassis. The only moly on the car is in add-ons that it’s had over its life. It’s an old, old car. Up until six months ago it had Harley discs and struts, and bits of chain as travel limiters. The car should never have achieved what it did, and it’s only because Michelle is at the wheel. The only reason she’s won so much in that car is that she’s driven through what a lot of people would have got off. If you drive through it and pull it off the wall and off the centreline, it wins races. People who don’t have the ability to drive a car like that aren’t going to beat her.

That’s where the success comes from.

There was plenty of success in the 10.5 car.

M: The PB was 6.38@220mph, but it’s gone 221.9mph before.

That was the last pass we ever did in it. It was good going out against Paul [Mouhayet]. It was an awesome run.

G: We had him to half-track! He said: “Man, I nearly broke the accelerator pedal!” Being a turbo car it got her, but there were hundredths of a second in it. It was a fairytale ending, but I was ready to burn the car after qualifying. We qualified last. Paul came over and asked what the problem was and I told him I couldn’t get the car down the track. He walked away, came back and dropped two brand new tyres down. He said: “Let’s get them on.”

The next pass the car came out and reset the world record [for world’s quickest female on a 10.5-inch tyre]. We had the record at 6.409, and it went 6.405. We didn’t touch anything else other than the tyres, it just went straight down the track. We were ecstatic, then we came out and went 6.402 and reset the record again. Then in round three it went 6.41, and we knew we had the consistency.

Everyone had come and signed the car, the crowd was unbelievable and the startline was packed. The air had improved a lot and for the first time in her career I changed the tune-up in the staging lanes. I got nervous and took a whole heap of power out and I said to her: “Maybe it’s not meant to be. The car wasn’t designed to run a 6.3, and it’s not going to happen. Just enjoy your last pass.”

It took off and it PB’d in the 60, the 330 and the half, and then it PB’d at the end. When 6.38 came up we were like, wow! It went 1.030 to the 60 and the front wheels were still a foot in the air. It was gone.

The Torana was a ridiculously tough-looking car, while the paint scheme on the Mustang is much more feminine. What’s the thought process behind that?

M: To be honest, I was unsure. My bike is in pink and it’s petite and it’s small and it fits. I thought it might be too much [on the Mustang]; it’s a big car and it’s pretty out there. I was thinking about subtler colours like grey, but Gareth said: “Trust me, I’ve got it pictured in my head, it’ll look mad.” In the end I said: “Righto, do what you want!”

G: It was a ballsy move, because it’s a lot of work if it doesn’t look good. When the Torana was silver with pink, everyone knew it was ‘a girl’s car’. I love that, because it’s her car, and it should look like her car. When we had to repaint the Torana, Michelle said: “I’m over the girlie thing, I just want it tough.” When I sat down with Joe Webb, he said: “Oh, we’ll make it tough!” But we’d be servicing the car and

CHCHCHCHCHCHCH faceboo GENERATION NEXT

sm11cov_1cov_new.indd IT’S a definite case of apples and trees in the Davies household, because Michelle and Gareth’s young blokes, Jake (18) and Brody (15), don’t mind a spot of drag racing themselves. Brody is pictured here with his Class A Junior Dragster, which runs on an 8.00 index over the eighth-mile. Brody has dipped into the sevens in qualifying, so you’re going to need an 11-second street car to beat him to half-track!

people who didn’t know Michelle would be like: “Is this a girl’s car?” Or they’d point at her name on the door. With the Mustang, I wanted people to know from the other side of the pits or from a picture in a magazine that it’s a girl’s car. But I wanted it to look tough, and that’s why we blacked everything out.

How has it been as a successful female in a traditionally male-dominated sport?

M: I guess it’s had its good and bad points. Most of the guys and most of the competitors have been awesome. We get down the deep end and it’s ‘hats off’ and ‘congratulations’. You get the scaredy cats who say: “Oh god, I don’t want to get beat by a girl,” just to say it within earshot. I mean, grow up! Who cares, let’s just race!

What are your expectations in moving into Doorslammer?

M: Just to have fun, really. I genuinely don’t think that we’ll ever be at the top of Doorslammer, but we’ll be competitive. From where we sit now I don’t think we’ll be able to travel all around Australia.

Gareth has his own business, I have a fulltime job, we’ve got the boys and lots of other commitments here. Can we have fun? Yes.

We can go out and race whenever we want and make it affordable and fun. When it’s not fun, who wants to race?

G: Our only real goal is to run a five. Our original aim was that if we ran a 6.50, we’d be the happiest people alive and hang up the boots.

M: But you run a 6.50, and then you’re so close to the 6.40s. It’s a tenth of a second, but before you know it you’re halfway there, and then you’re there. But the Mustang is the last car I’ll drive. I’m not going to get in another car because it took so much convincing and heartache to get out of the Torana and into this car.

With the commitment required in terms of time and money, you guys really gear your life around racing, don’t you?

M: We do. Drag racing takes over. In 2015 when we won the track championships, we were so committed because we were racing every second weekend. It was full on, but it was good. The reward was there at the end.

G: We did 56 laps that year, and 42 of them were in the 6.5s or quicker. We were on it. Our maintenance routine was intense.

It seems racing is a passion that your kids share too.

M: It is. Brody has been racing the Junior Dragster for five years.

He started off in a C Junior, then he went to a B and stepped up to an A. Jake, our eldest son, was a bit harder to convince. He used to come to the track and watch, but we swapped an engine for a Junior and just thought we’d see how he went. He tried it and he loved it. The first event he competed at he went seven rounds and won it. It gets tricky when we race my car and the Junior, though!

You’re very much a family operation, but you seem to have a small, tightknit team you rely on.

G: I don’t think we’ve ever raced from day one without my old man Colin and mum Janis being there. The kids are always helping us, too. With our crew, Trent is either our mate or our third child, depending on how many drinks he’s had! We couldn’t do what we do without him. Wayne Newby helps us, Sam from Pro Logistics, Danny from Custom Bodyworks, Al’s Race Glides, Lucas Oils, Joe Webb from Bad Image, Craig at SCF, Peter Snell who does all our powdercoating. I’ve got OCD, and it’s hard to find people who are on your level. I know Danny and Snelly are on my level, and the standard I expect is the standard they expect. We are blessed to have people like that involved with us. s

YOU GET THE SCAREDY CATS WHO SAY: ‘OH GOD, I DON’T WANT TO GET BEAT BY A GIRL.’ GROW UP! WHO CARES, LET’S JUST RACE!