I was commissioned to write a post for Madeleine Hicks Real Estate’s community blog on local speedway racer Leonie Knight:
Because I can
Probably the last thing you’d imagine when meeting immaculately groomed McDowall local Leonie Knight is that she spends many of her weekends competing on equal terms in the male dominated sport of speedway racing.
It’s a far cry from her weekday occupation of managing a top recruitment agency but she has become addicted to the thrill of competition and pitting her wits against the more experienced drivers as they hurtle round floodlit oval dirt tracks vying to be first across the line and the chequered flag.
“My dad Phil Mutton was a stalwart of the Brisbane racing scene and ever since I was two weeks old I was taken along to motor racing meetings but only decided to give it a go myself after he passed away on June 15, 2015,” Leonie said.
“Dad was widely known as one of nature’s gentlemen and ran service stations in Zillmere and Sandgate for many years. His great love was motor racing and he was always either participating or building racing cars for sale to other competitors. For years he was the official supplier of methanol racing fuel to IndyCar racing on the Gold Coast.”
At the time of his death Phil was busy restoring a De Tomaso Pantera which had been converted into a racing car and competed at Toowoomba for many years. Leonie decided to enlist his old pit crew, led by crew chief Michael Denning to finish the job in his honour.
The car, dubbed Rory the Red Racing Car by Leonie’s daughters Georgia, 10, and Samantha, 8, was soon restored to his former glory but the thought had entered Leonie’s mind that she’d like to have a go at competition herself. The family were too attached to Rory to risk him in the hurly burly of racing, especially after a clutch-related incident in which he leapt out of the garage in McDowall and wedged himself up a wall.
Fortunately unhurt, Rory was placed on display in the Queensland Motorsport Museum at Ipswich as a permanent memorial to Phil Mutton and it wasn’t long before a muscular Holden V8 by the name of Arnie joined the family and Leonie Knight Racing was well and truly launched.
Arnie came with a 253 cubic-inch motor developing 340bhp and had been built to compete in AMCA (Australian Motor Contest Association) Nationals speedway racing. AMCA had been developed as an affordable dirt track racing discipline where the best driver could win rather than just whoever could afford the best technology.
The top AMCA racers complete a full lap of the oval track in about 16 seconds and Leonie has improved her times from 26 seconds to an average of 17 or 18 seconds. She started out determined not to drive beyond her ability but to drive smoothly and gradually get fast enough to become competitive.
“My pit crew roll their eyes at me when I don’t know all the jargon but I learn more and more of the real names for the thingies on the car every day,” laughed Leonie. “The AMCA guys are great mob to race with and very helpful to me as a rookie, and a female one at that.”
Leonie drove in her first race in February 2016 and competed in the season-ending AMCA Nationals in Lismore in May where she placed 33rd in a field of 41, all of whom were men. That season had already begun so her official rookie season is the 2016/7 season which began in November during which she will complete in the Queensland and New South Wales Title events.
“My goals in going racing are to have fun, to show my fellow women that we really can do anything we set our minds to and commemorate the life of Phil Mutton, a truly wonderful man. On Arnie’s boot is written the motto ‘Grandpa’s Girls’; that’s Mum, me, Georgia and Samantha,” said Leonie.
Keep an eye on Leonie Knight Racing – Helmets & Heels’ page on Facebook for the latest updates on the team’s activities. Why not come out to Archerfield speedway one day? You’ll be expected to give an especially loud shout of support when Leonie and Arnie (car Q52) go blasting by.