Something comes over Betty Klimenko at motor-racing tracks. She sniffs the high-octane fuel, hears the throaty roar of a V8 engine and feels transformed. “I’m a different person,” she says. “Well, not a different person. I’m just a little bit more … me.”

Klimenko, 58, is among the wealthiest women in Australia, and the only one to have her own professional car racing team, Erebus Motorsport. Last October, in front of 50,000 spectators at Mount Panorama and a television audience of 2.7 million, Erebus driver David Reynolds flashed first across the finish line of the nation’s most famous car race, the Bathurst 1000. The win took Klimenko’s breath away – she literally struggled for air during the last few laps (“I was having an anxiety attack”) – and stunned the many who had dismissed her as a dilettante. “It was an incredible victory,” says respected motoring journalist Bruce Newton. “You don’t win Bathurst by accident. You win it because you’ve got a very good team.”

Klimenko is short and stocky, with a big personality. She swears, she smokes, she has a lot of tattoos. At home in Vaucluse, one of the ritziest of Sydney’s expensive eastern suburbs, she is conscious that her style and interests set her apart from most of her neighbours. As we drink coffee in her upstairs living room, she says her husband, Daniel Klimenko, likes to tell her, “Sweetheart, you live in an area where they think V8 is a vegetable juice.” Not that this bothers Betty. “I actually love being the eastern suburbs bogan,” she says. “It sits well with me.”

Read the full story by Jane Cadzow, Good Weekend Magazine.