CENTRAL N.L. – You’re never too young to start your career in motorsports.
“I just loved watching them, and I decided that after go-karts I wanted to move into one of these cars,” said 13-year-old Grace Melendy, who will be racing a bandolero car this summer at Thunder Valley Speedway.
Thunder Valley Speedway in central Newfoundland will host five bandolero races over the course of the summer. The speedway has hosted bandolero invitationals in the past, but this year they are sanctioned by INEX in the United States of America. Bandolero racing focuses on youth from ages seven to 15.
A race scheduled for Sunday, June 24 was postponed due to weather.
Grace started racing when she was 12 years old. Her goal this summer is to finish amongst the top three or five.
“I’d like to go into a sportsman like my dad,” Grace said of her future in racing.
Brad Melendy, Grace and Kate Melendy’s father, has been the organizer at Thunder Valley Speedway since 2016. Melendy’s daughter’s cars are steel tube framed with full roll cages and safety equipment to go along with 34.5 horsepower Briggs and Stratton engines.
“It should be a great season,” Melendy said. “There’s 19 or 20 (bandolero) cars in total on the island, and we should have anywhere from six to 10 here at every of the five races we have planned. So it should be an excellent season here for the bandoleros.”
Melendy said bandolero is something different for people who are interested in a dirtbike or a go-kart as it is a cross between the two.
“If you can drive a power wheels plastic car with an electric motor, then you can drive a bandolero car,” he said.
Melendy said bandolero teaches youth what it takes to own something and how to take care of it, as well as discipline.
“It teaches you a bit about everything,” he said. “How money works and how much it takes to get stuff done.”
Melendy thinks this type of racing is beneficial to those who partake in it.
“You’re not actually just giving them a car to go and do what they like with it,” he said. “It’s in a closed circuit, sanctioned race scene that basically teaches you new levels of how to drive and how to take care of your equipment.”
Kate Melendy turned 11 on June 25, and this is her first year racing.
“I find it’s actually really fun how you get to meet new friends when you’re racing,” she said. “You get to actually win some medals and get some prizes, it’s really fun.”
Kate got started in bandolero because of her sister and father, though her interest was already there to try it. Kate would like to keep doing bandolero racing, but will leave the future sportsman racing to her sister.
“I don’t really care what I get, I just want to pick up my speed,” she said of her goals for the summer, adding though that she would like to possibly finish second or third.
The next bandolero race will take place July 1.