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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have watched this girl grow up to be one hell of a racer. I just watched her drive her rail two weeks ago to an 7:25 in the quarter and beat her dad for the finals in his funny car VB. She will be missed. Condolences to her father Kenny and the rest of the family.

Mon, October 2, 2006

Teen racer killed17-year-old girl's dragster crashes into wall at more than 480km/h on Hamilton-area track
By KIM BRADLEY, TORONTO SUN





A teen drag racer died yesterday at the Toronto Motorsport Park track after she hit a wall in her jet-propelled dragster at more than 480 km/h.

Not only was 17-year-old Kendall Hebert's death witnessed by horrified spectators including members of her family, but the event was "carried live on the Internet," OPP spokesman Const. Mark Foster said.

"She was not competing today, she was performing for the crowd," Foster said from the park in Cayuga, south of Hamilton.

Hebert was one of several members of the Gladiator Racing Team and was on her way to becoming a competitive racer once she turned 18, Foster said.

"She was up-and-coming in the racing scene," he said.


Hebert had just completed a quarter-mile run down the straight track at speeds in excess of 480 km/h yesterday at 3:20 p.m. when, "for unknown reasons, she hit the wall," Foster said.

Hebert's jet-powered dragster flew over the track's concrete barrier and rolled several times, throwing the teen clear.

According to Hebert's biography on the Gladiator Racing team web site, Hebert had just signed a three-year deal to drive the team's Firestorm car, which she had taken to speeds in excess of 482 km/h.

The site also says the teen, who is from Tecumseh in the Windsor area, "comes from a racing family. Kendall's father, Ken, races a Pro-Modified Volkswagen Beetle and her sister Shelby races a Junior dragster."

When she was just 3 years old, her father modified her Barbie Jeep, making it travel at 40 km/h, the site says.

Hebert was also a good student and enjoyed playing on her high school volleyball, field hockey, rugby and basketball teams.

Members of the Gladiator Racing Team could not be reached last night, but staff at the track were gathered together to mourn the teen.

"We're a family, we're all in shock," said a member of the track's staff who gave her name only as Cindy.

"Our thoughts are with her family."
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Another article from the Toronto Star

Monday, October 02, 2006 | Updated at 2:56 PM EDT


Girl, 17, dies in 500 km/h jet car crash
Toronto Star



CAYUGA -
A 17-year-old Windsor-area girl was killed yesterday afternoon when the jet-powered car she was piloting crashed at a race track near Cayuga.




Provincial police say Kendall Hebert of Tecumseh, who has been racing since she was nine, was travelling at more than 500 km/h on the quarter-mile track when the vehicle veered off the end of the strip.




The vehicle then crashed into a concrete barrier, bounced over the wall and rolled several times, ejecting her from the vehicle.




Emergency personnel at the track transported her to West Haldimand Hospital in Hagersville, where she was pronounced dead.




The Toronto Motorsport Track is just outside the city of Hamilton.




Hebert was a Windsor high school student who started in Junior Dragsters and worked her way up to Top Dragster class, where runs hit 290 k/ph.




There are about 50 of the much faster jet cars in North America.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I just found a couple of pictures of her. Firestorm is the car she was killed in
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Teen died racing for her dream
'This girl was absolutely incredible. The girl was fearless.'
Trevor Wilhelm, Windsor Star
Published: Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It was fast, it was dangerous and there was nothing else Tecumseh's Kendall Hebert wanted to do.

Hebert, 17, died Sunday after her jet-propelled dragster hit the wall at 500 km/h.

Ken Hebert, who got his daughter into racing, said Monday her age and experience had nothing to do with the accident. Drag racing, he said, is safer than driving on the highway.

"She drove from Windsor to Hamilton every month to the race track without incident," said Ken, also an experienced racer. "More people are killed on the 401 than will ever be in racing. The fact she made that drive without incident was good enough for us."

Hebert's rocket car veered off the end of the quarter-mile track at Toronto Motorsport Park racetrack near Hamilton.

She was ejected from the car when it crashed into a concrete barrier, bounced over the wall and rolled several times.

Hebert had recently signed a three-year contract with Gladiator Racing Team to drive the car she was killed in. She was described Monday as a great talent and an up-and-comer in the racing world.

"She has been working her way up since she was eight or nine years old and in a fairly high-profile racing family in Canada," said Skooter Peaco, vice-president of racing operations for the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA).

But the fact she was good didn't mean her family never worried. They knew the risks.

"Any time you get on a starting line, it's dangerous," said Hebert's step-mom, Janet. "This is what she wanted to do. There was no stopping her."

Ken said it had been that way since Hebert was a little girl, when he modified a Barbie Jeep for her to make it go faster.

"I'm a motorhead and she grew up being a motorhead," said Ken. "She was very determined in anything she tried. Racing was one of those things."

Family friend and fellow racer Kim Delisle said to handle those powerful cars, it's important to start young and develop the proper skills.

Peaco said kids at the age of nine can drive junior dragsters, which go about 40 mph -- something Hebert's younger sister Shelby does. There are various age categories, but you have to be 18 to get an IHRA licence for racing the jet-powered cars, which Hebert was working toward.

It's not about age, Peaco said.

"There are cars driven by 50-year-old people who are very unsafe," he said. "I don't know that age has any factor. It's more experience and training than anything else. There is a lot of talent involved too. Not just anyone can go that fast and handle a car."

Racing, he said, is what she was born to do.

"That was her destiny," said Ken. "This girl is going 500 km/h in five seconds. It didn't scare her. This girl was absolutely incredible. The girl was fearless. She made us so proud."

She was also an inspiration, said Jaime Guthrie, who taught Hebert Grade 10 English last year at Belle River secondary school. She said Hebert's picture is posted in the guidance room.

"The guys all thought it was pretty cool," Guthrie said. "Here was a girl going out and driving faster than they could on the weekends. Everybody knew about her."
Principal Dan Fister said crisis counsellors were in the school Monday.

"It's been a rough day," he said. "She was well-liked. Some of the kids just found out about it first thing this morning."

At her father's auto shop, Kenny's Performance Plus Auto Repair, Hebert's other dragster was on display as a way of remembering the girl and her passion. People came by to give their condolences, drop off flowers or simply touch the thick rubber wheels of Hebert's car.

[email protected] or 519-255-5777, ext. 642

© The Windsor Star 2006
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hamilton Spectator Today
Kendall was on the verge of becoming a top racer

By Wade Hemsworth
The Hamilton Spectator
(Oct 3, 2006)

Tim Miller has trouble believing that Kendall Hebert can really be dead.

Miller, an auto racing writer with 31 years' experience, was with the 17-year-old drag racer and the owner of the jet-powered car in which she died shortly before Sunday's fatal accident at Toronto Motorsports Park in Cayuga.

He chatted with Dan Pirisi, the owner of the car, and Hebert as she prepared for what would be the last run of her short life.

Four months earlier, Miller had written for The Spectator about Hebert and the incredibly powerful car -- one that was travelling at nearly 500 km/h when it crashed Sunday. The car Hebert had been driving was powered by a helicopter jet engine.

Miller, the author of three books on auto racing, had been impressed by the young driver, and believed she had the potential to become a powerful role model for women in racing, a field dominated by men.

She was poised, confident and talented, Miller said, and was developing a strong reputation.

On Sunday, Miller had gone to see Hebert and Pirisi not for a particular story but just to bring himself up to date on what had been happening with them since he had last written about them. Miller spent nearly an hour in the team trailer talking with them about racing and saw Hebert pull on her fire suit and lace up her shoes.

Miller left before the race to keep an important social engagement. He will always remember his last sight of the young driver. She was smiling and waving goodbye.

At about 3:30 p.m., just over two hours after Miller had left Cayuga, he got the call. She was dead.

"I just ache for her family and friends," said an emotional Miller yesterday. "It doesn't matter what a person's doing. To be taken at this age, it's just not right."

Since Sunday, members of racing's tight community have been trying to come to terms with their shock.

Hebert comes from a racing family, and grew up around cars. Her father, Ken, is a professional driver and her younger sister, Shelby, drives, too.

Kendall had been driving since she was eight years old, an age when drivers take the first in a long line of baby steps that start with driving junior dragsters powered by five horsepower go-kart engines.

In just nine years, she had worked her way almost to the top of her field. At the time of the accident, she was building driving experience toward her own jet-car licence. On Sunday when the accident happened, she was the only driver on the track.

Bob Elliott, a former driver with more than 40 years' experience in the racing industry, said there were only six drivers in Canada with experience behind the wheel of a jet-powered car -- a group that included himself, Hebert and Pirisi.

Jet-powered dragsters are considered exhibition vehicles only. Their power and their novelty draw crowds wherever they appear, but they are not part of the International Hot Rod Association's regular competitions.

Driving a jet-powered racer is vastly different from driving a traditional drag racer, Elliott said. The thrust of a traditional wheel-driven racer is all in the start, while a jet-powered racer starts slower and finishes fast.

Driving a traditional dragster is a physical workout, he said, where the driver wrestles the car the whole way down the strip. By contrast, the jet car requires little help -- unless something goes wrong. If that happens, particularly in the latter half of the race, it is incredibly hard to bring the car back under control.

Ontario Provincial Police investigators are working to unravel the complex web of safety regulations that govern the racing industry and exploring what went wrong with the car, including why Hebert was ejected from the car after it struck a wall and rolled.

Hebert's home track was at Milan Dragway, near Detroit and just over the border from her home in Tecumseh, Ont., outside Windsor.

When news reached there on Sunday afternoon, race director Chris Baxter was with a group of drivers. They were devastated, when he told them.

"Everybody was really saddened," Baxter said. "We wish the family all the best. She'll be missed."

[email protected]
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
How could this happen?
Seatbelt failed in racer's dragster
Trevor Wilhelm, Windsor Star
Published: Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Kendall Hebert's father said she'd still be alive if it wasn't for a faulty seatbelt that let her get thrown from her rocket car when it hit the wall.

"I hope there is an investigation as to why," said Ken Hebert. "It may save a life in the future. The seatbelt system didn't withstand the accident. It was brand new. It should have been adequate for any situation, and it wasn't. You have to stay in the car or you stand no chance. The cockpit is built to withstand the accident. Many drivers are in worse accidents and walk away. The cockpit did not break up around her. I personally saw it. She may have been bruised and banged. But she'd still be with us."

Hebert, 17, died Sunday when her rocket-powered dragster hit the wall going 500 km/h at the Toronto Motorsport Track near Hamilton. She was tossed from the car when it crashed into a concrete barrier, bounced over a wall and rolled several times.

OPP spokesman Const. Mark Foster said police are focused on determining why Hebert's seatbelt failed. He said an autopsy has confirmed the cause of death was massive trauma to the body, but police may never know what caused the crash.

"There is not much left of the car," said Foster.

Ken Hebert, who examined the wreckage, said the cockpit is still intact but the seatbelt isn't.

"The actual structural integrity of the material did not withstand the crash," he said. "My thinking is that it was inferior metal."

Ken, also an experienced racer and mechanic, said the car is tested and re-tested to strict standards before it's allowed on a racetrack. He said the faulty material wouldn't have been noticed because the seatbelt was installed correctly. He said the family knew the risks and they looked out for her, but they never expected the seatbelt to fail.

"We understood the inherent dangers," said Ken. "We took all the precautions necessary to keep her safe. Her safety was first and foremost. She didn't just jump in the car and go down the track. Full speed was a season-long learning curve."

Ken said Hebert learned how to drive the car by moving down the track at gradually increasing distances under limited power. She also had eight years of experience driving other dragsters.

"It was not a new thing for her to go that fast," said Ken. "The day she was killed, it was just another time. We're not talking about a normal kid here. She's one of the few women in the world to take control of a jet-powered dragster."

He said the rocket car is the safest vehicle for going that fast because it isn't wheel-driven. The speed is attained by the rocket's thrust.

"There is never a chance of wheels spinning or losing grip," said Ken. "This was the safest way to introduce her to the potential speeds and G-forces."

Lucas Fischer, 28, a friend and fellow racer, said Hebert had more than enough experience to handle the rocket car. Like all experienced racers, she knew the risks. "We understand stuff like that is going to happen and we're alright with it," he said. "It's hard for people outside to understand. Kendall went out doing what she was going to do and no one was going to stop her."

© The Windsor Star 2006
 
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