THESE kids are desperate to race, wanting nothing more than to return to a sport they love, but instead have been forced to sit on the sidelines.
Through tragedy and bureaucracy, they are stuck in limbo six months after a State Government ban on junior drag racing in WA, imposed days after eight-year-old Anita Board died following a crash at Perth Motorplex.
Anita crashed her My Little Pony dragster into a concrete barrier at the end of a solo drive to get her junior licence last November.
This prompted Sports and Recreation Minister Mick Murray to suspend junior drag racing for children aged eight to 16 pending the outcome of the police investigation — which is ongoing.
Justine Brown, president of the West Coast Junior Dragster Association — the only junior club of its kind in Australia with about 30 licensed members — spoke out this week in frustration, saying parents and children had been “left in the dark” with no idea when or if the ban would be lifted.
She said these junior racers felt lost without the sport and many were still receiving counselling to come to grips with Anita’s death.
“Counsellors have told parents that these kids need to move forward with the sport, like getting back on a horse,” she said.
“But we’re not able to do that, some of our kids are not coping with their routines since the accident because they don’t know what to do next.
“When a shark attacks, do you ban swimming? Every time someone gets hurt doing anything, our kids ask is that going to get banned now?”
Mrs Brown felt the Government had “pushed aside and forgotten” about junior racers because “they’re just kids and they’re not important”.
“But they’re the future of our sport, our next generation of racers,” she said.
While a few children were apprehensive about returning to racing, most were keen to get behind the wheel again, Ms Brown said. Getting kids back on the track would be another way to pay tribute to Anita.
Parents invest up to $30,000 for their children to take part in the sport, and Ms Brown said only a few were in a position to travel east for their kids to continue to race.
Ms Brown, whose 14-year-old daughter is a junior dragster, said the sport was “unbelievably safe” with harnesses, neck braces, helmets and multiple cut-out switches all mandatory. The range of maximum speeds allowed in the junior sport, depending on age, is between 96km/h to 144km/h.
“I’d like the Sports Minister to come and see these kids and see this sport,” Ms Brown said.
She said children could still race in sprint car, go-kart and motocross competitions.
WA Drag Racing Association president Garrie Fowler agreed people involved in the sport wanted to know what was going on.
“We’d like it over and done with so the kids can come and race again,” he said.
“We’d just like to know what we have to do to prove to the Government and the other authorities that we are safe.”
A WA Police spokeswoman this week said police were still preparing a report for the Coroner.
“When it comes to the safety of children as young as eight operating high-powered vehicles, most people would agree the Government has a serious duty of care,” Mr Murray said.
“The circumstances surrounding Anita Board’s death must be fully understood before any decisions are made about the future of junior drag racing at Perth Motorplex.”
He welcomed the opportunity to meet the junior dragster association.
The police investigation is being assisted by motorsport sanctioning body the Australian National Drag Racing Association.
The Board family was contacted this week, but they declined to comment.
But Anita’s father Ian Board has previously stated that although minor changes might be needed, he didn’t agree with the ban and wanted to see the sport back up and running as quickly as possible.
From left to right: Cooper Moresby (9), Bailey McClure (14), Jeff Martin (11), Dylan Pettigrew (14), Lucas Green (9), Kasey McClure (14), Brock Ferguson (8), Beau Ferguson (10), Harry Rothery (10, back), Kayla Pettigrew (11), Brock Moresby (11) and Madison Brown (14).Picture: Justin Benson-Cooper