Junior dragsters were not around when Rosco McGlashan was a child but the WA drag racing legend likes the sound of it.
The sport has come under the microscope after the shock death of eight-year-old Anita Board, who crashed into a concrete barrier during a trial run at Perth Motorplex.
Sports Minister Mick Murray yesterday suspended junior drag racing pending an investigation into Anita’s death.
The junior dragsters class was introduced in Australia in 1993, a year after the National Hot Rod Association unveiled the concept in the US. It is believed the first races were held in New Zealand in 1988.
The sport is regulated by the Australian National Drag Racing Association, which said more than 100 children hold licences in Australia.
Children aged eight to 10 can reach speeds of up to 96km/h over 200m. The vehicles are powered by four-stroke, single-cylinder engines and must weigh at least 102kg.
McGlashan said he was saddened by the news but confused by aspects of the reaction.
He said there were always risks in motorsport, as in many other popular pastimes.
He questioned whether a serious or fatal accident in equestrian or gymnastics would spark calls for the sports to be banned.
“The junior dragsters came out about 20 years ago and it’s been a sport that kids get involved with,” McGlashan said.
“You go down the racetrack and they have the junior dragsters there. It’s been around for a long, long time and I’d imagine this has been the first death ever.
“It’s sad but it’s no reason to look down on the sport. It’s just a terrible, terrible tragedy.”
McGlashan’s latest project, Aussie Invader 5R, is designed to reach 1600km/h — double the Australian land speed record he set in 1994. His son used to help him at the track when he was racing jet dragsters.
He would have no hesitation in allowing his children to participate in a sport that brought families together.
He said junior drag racing was in good hands with ANDRA, which he described as “stringent advocates for safety”.
“They’re a pain in the arse, they’re that big on safety,” McGlashan said.
“I used to have run-ins with them because they’d say ‘You can’t do this or you can’t do that’.
“It’s a very well-controlled sport and it’s just a very sad situation. If it was at the pony club and the same sort of thing happened, people would just say, ‘Gee, that’s terrible’.”
ANDRA WA director Terry Jongen said children all over the world competed in drag racing, karting and motocross.
WA Junior Motocross Club vice-president Brad Shackleton said children started riding as young as four but they could not compete until they turned seven.
He said motocross was well regulated by State and national governing bodies.
His seven-year-old son just won two national titles.
“You’d be surprised what kids can do if you give them the opportunity,” Mr Shackleton said.