Secret life

Need for speed

Optometry student and drag racer, Stacey Reed, on pre-race rituals, keeping calm under pressure and what it feels like to travel at 150 miles per hour

Motorbike wheelie

I am 20-years-old and in my second year of studying optometry at City, University of London. I have been watching drag racing with my dad since I was eight-years-old. My 12th birthday present was to have a go myself.

I remember it like it was yesterday. My first ever time on the race track I rolled up to the lights and I just froze. I couldn’t go forwards. I just completely forgot how everything worked. Then suddenly, that little part of your racer brain kicks in and it all comes flashing back. I knew exactly what to do.

The best thing about drag racing is that the only thing that matters for those few seconds is staying alive. All my dad tells me is to go as fast as I can without dying.

My most memorable race was two years ago. I had crashed my motorbike the year before and then actually beat the reigning champion in my first race back in eliminations. I cried because I was so happy.

You have to hold on for dear life because everything about the situation is trying to chuck you off

The only way that optometry comes into drag racing is when people get ocular traumas at the track and they run to me saying ‘Stacey, what can I do?’ I have had someone with a red eye and someone with a bit of metal in their eye from working on the engine. People do race with their glasses on – they just put them on inside their helmet.

My tutu started off as a joke with my dad. When I was younger I bought my dad a pink tutu and he wore it on top of his leathers while riding his bright pink bike. Now it runs in the family. I wear the tutu every time now for good luck. My dad, my best friend and I all give each other a fist pump before each race. If we don’t do it, then I don’t race. They have to be there.

Motorbike on racetrack

My personal best time is 9.4 seconds which is 150.6 miles per hour. It is such a rush to travel at that speed. As soon as you shut off your throttle and start slowing down you realise how fast you were going. You have to hold on for dear life because everything about the situation is trying to chuck you off – the wind pressure, the bike. Nothing wants you to be on there apart from you.

I do get nerves. But I take a deep breath and try to remember that I am there to have fun. It is taking some time to shut out the world and remembering how to ride your bike. 

  • As told to Selina Powell.

Image credits: Steve Weston and Callum Pudge