The PokenOz drag racing team (ed: now known as the GruntMonkeys, the team behind Therapy on Wheels) didn’t start with an easy ride, but with determination, support from friends and extreme love for the sport, the team is finally completing its first full season of racing.
About 4 years ago, after crewing for a friend, Mick and Andy discussed the idea of owning their own race car. In the cold light of day, realising they both still loved the idea, Mick shared their dreams with close friend and drag racing guru Simon “Gonzo” Travaglini (from Allfast Torque Converters). Gonzo just happened to have the perfect car for them, Brenton Baxters old LC Torana.There was never a question of who would drive the car. Soon work started on making adjustments for the smaller driver, and preparing Andy for a totally new experience. Having never attempted a burnout before, Gonzo had his work cut out to teach Andy how to handle the Super Sedan known to run in the high 8s. But Andy had the determination and Gonzo had the patience. Towards the end of the 2009-10 season, they were ready for some licensing passes.
Before heading to the track, some last minute burnout and launching practice was done in the carpark, but inexperience saw Andy overheat the transmission and converter, getting them hot enough to melt the powder coating on the trans cooler! Paul O’Neil (from KEAS Transmissions) happened to be over visiting Gonzo, so the pair pulled an allnighter and Mick refitted everything so Andy could licence the next day.
But this was not to be. That night Mick slipped in the shower damaging his arm which required microsurgery the following day. This caused racing to be postponed until the new season.
Plans were once again put on hold when, just a month later Andy was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. With the prospect of Andy facing a tumultuous treatment schedule over the next year, the Torana was put under covers. Throughout her cancer battle, Andy kept a strong focus of getting into the driver’s seat of the Torana, and credits this goal with helping her through some of the toughest times.
Strong determination saw the Torana finally make it to the Motorplex, with Andy in the drivers seat, Mick as her crew chief and a string of supporters by her side. At last a new team was emerging into the ranks of super sedan, easily recognisable with their smiles, laughter, and the ultimate goal to go out and have fun.
The first meet of season saw the team win runner up trophy. With the addition of new team members Jo and Wendy to help, Andy began to show great promise in competing for rookie of the year.
But again disaster struck. “Everything was going perfectly. Both the car and driver were on song,” recalls Mick. A cross wind caught the parachute after the finish line, sending the Torana into the concrete barriers. While Andy was unhurt, it took a lot of long hours, with many friends and favours being called in to bring the Torana back for the final meet of 2011-12. Still half in primer, Andy showed that she still knew how to drive the Torana to its full capabilities.
Now back with a fresh coat of paint and a clean tick of health for Andy, the team have decided their goal for the 2012-13 season is to simply make every race meet. “We’ve had an awesome year filled with fun, laughter, great racing and fantastic people,” Andy reflects, “and when we stop having fun, we’ll stop racing.”
Note: The PokenOz team are now known as the GruntMonkeys, the team behind Therapy on Wheels. Poken was their sponsor at the time, but after parting ways with that sponsor they reverted back to racing as the GruntMonkeys.