Melinda Price ready to tackle the Mountain

THUNDER: Former Surf Beach resident Melinda Price will race in the Touring Car Masters event at Bathurst this weekend. Photo: Dirk Klynsmith
THUNDER: Former Surf Beach resident Melinda Price will race in the Touring Car Masters event at Bathurst this weekend. Photo: Dirk Klynsmith

More than 10 years after she last competed at Australia’s most famous racetrack, a former Batemans Bay resident is set for a start at Mount Panorama this weekend.

Melinda Price, 46, had not been to Bathurst since competing in the 24-Hour Race in 2003 until she went to the iconic 1000km race last year to commemorate a decade since the death of nine-time Bathurst winner and touring car legend, Peter Brock.

“Driving home, I just thought to myself, I have to put this back on my bucket list,” she said.

“It is such a special track, and the Bathurst 1000 is such a fantastic event, and I knew I just had to be a part of it again. It’s just wonderful that a year after thinking about it, I’m going to be racing there again.”

While Price is currently based in Melbourne, she lived at Surf Beach for nearly three years and still owns her home there. Although she is not competing in the 1000km enduro over the weekend of October 5-8, Price has had five starts in the ‘Great Race’.

Combined with the other events she has contested on the Bathurst circuit, her start in this year’s Touring Car Masters support race will mean she has been on the Main Straight starting grid 11 times.

Price’s first visit was for the 12-Hour Race in 1992 and was followed by her five starts in the 1000km event – 1994, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000.

She also contested three-hour races in 1999 and 2000, and the two 24-Hour races (2002, 2003).

Melinda has raced in five Bathurst 1000s, including an 11th place finish in 1997. Photo: Dirk Klynsmith

Melinda has raced in five Bathurst 1000s, including an 11th place finish in 1997. Photo: Dirk Klynsmith

There is a huge amount of significance in this visit on two fronts. For one, it’s 20 years since Price was part of the high-profile Castrol Cougars, an all-female team that contested the Sandown and Bathurst endurance races in 1997. She and teammate, Kerryn Brewer, still hold the record for the highest placed all-female team to compete at the Bathurst 1000, finishing 11th outright.

The other is that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and this year, Price passed the important five-year ‘all clear’ mark after battling the disease. She was diagnosed in 2011 when she was eight months pregnant with daughter Lily. Her first round of surgery was less than a week after the birth.

“The good thing about chemotherapy is that I have forgotten most of the awful part of the whole experience! Besides, I didn’t really have time to feel sorry for myself because I had this beautiful little baby to take care of, and she put a smile on my face every day. She still does.”

Just before the three-round enduro season opened three weeks ago, with Melbourne’s Sandown 500, Price teamed up with Breast Cancer Network Australia and the group’s logo is prominent on her 1974 XA GT Ford Falcon.

It is such a special track, and the Bathurst 1000 is such a fantastic event, and I knew I just had to be a part of it again. It’s just wonderful that a year after thinking about it, I’m going to be racing there again.

Melinda Price

It’s a cause she is passionate about and she will be using her time at Bathurst to raise awareness – and money – for the work the group does. When she is not practising, qualifying or racing, Price’s off-track activities include speaking at a fund-raising lunch by Bathurst’s Inspiring Women group, and visiting the local Breastscreen facility.

“I was lucky to get through it and be given a second chance to live my dreams. I’m very grateful for that, and if I can help with raising funds or awareness about what BCNA does, then that will be fantastic. It’s a way of giving back for all the support I had.

“And I won’t be alone out there either – I’m absolutely thrilled that all the competitors in the Touring Car Masters’ races will be showing their support by proudly wearing a pink lady too.”

Price’s car – known as ‘Berta’ – is being run by Luke L’Huillier and Mitch Prince from Melbourne-based racing maintenance professionals, Prolap Motorsport.

Motorsport history buffs will notice that Castrol is celebrating the anniversary, with retro signage and some support, while companies owned by members of Price’s family – Echuca-based concrete pumpers, PumPRO, and Albury-based environmental consultancy, Vantage – have also come on board.

As part of a family with strong ties to motorsport, Price first started racing go-karts at the age of nine, before progressing into the senior categories, amassing a vast collection of achievements and trophies along the way.