Josh Leonello admits that racing hasn’t always been a fixture in the Leonello household however after a brush with Joe Princi, one of Junior Dragster’s most prominent figures, Josh and his family graduated their casual interest in Drag Racing to a full-on commitment spanning years and taking them interstate, all the way to the first ever 400 Thunder Junior Dragster National Championship.
“I’ve always loved cars since I was little. My cousin used to race with Joe Princi so we’d go and watch him with my brother and my dad, but I never thought we’d actually get in to Drag Racing. My cousin convinced my dad to get my older brother in to it. By the time my brother had finished racing we’d bought our own car and I turned 13, so I got in to the car and have been racing ever since,” admits Leonello who finished his stint in Junior Dragster this year.
Leonello goes on to explain that the team only fronted two 400 Thunder rounds this season, and going in to the Winternationals they didn’t even consider themselves a Championship contender. “We looked at the ladder and we were a way down. We knew our only chance would be to work hard all weekend long at the Winternationals and make it all the way to the Finals – the pressure of coming all the way up from Sydney was a great motivator, we knew we had to make it worth our while!”
Leonello admits that the car was largely consistent all season long, and that the team had worked hard to perfect the dynamic between the driver and the car. Mechanically, the Junior Dragster maintenance regime is simple enough for Leonello to handle himself, with a little help from his older brother watching over his shoulder.
“We’ll drain the catch can every second run then drop the oil every three to four runs. When we get it home from every second or third race we’ll pull it all down and check the clutch out. Overall it’s pretty easy to maintain, and I can get in and get pretty hands-on myself,” he explains.
Their season came down to a nail-biting finish, with Leonello recalling the details with vivid detail. “It was the Quarter Finals when we knew we’d won. I was racing Riley Hodgson and he had some trouble with his car. It came over the PA that the win had handed me the Championship, but we didn’t know whether to believe it so we stayed focused on racing. Against Jett Willshire in the Final it was a double break-out and he went on to win, but again the commentators said that I had won the Championship.”
“It was overwhelming. It was a great feeling. We didn’t feel like we were that competitive so to win the Championship was a great reward for the hard work we did throughout the season. Of course my family was proud, too,” says Leonello with pride in his own voice.
With his last year in Junior Dragster, Leonello is coy about what the future holds for him and his racing career. “I’ll probably take a few years off and just see what happens,” he says coyly.