BETTY Klimenko, the daughter of Westfield co-founder John Saunders, became the first Jew to win Australia’s most famous car race on Sunday.
“It’s very surreal. Now we’ve won the Bathurst 12-hour race and the Bathurst 1000, and we’re going to do it again.” Klimenko, who is the sole owner of Erebus Motorsport, told The AJN after winning the race.
The win was emotional for Klimenko, who grew up watching motorsport on the couch with her dad.
“When I saw Mount Panorama I knew this was for dad.
“It is 20 years since my father passed away and I did it for him,” Klimenko said while holding the Peter Brock Trophy.
“He loved Australia because he loved what it had given him and he always said you have to give back.
“At the end you could hear the mountain erupt – Ford and Holden fans – and it was just an amazing feeling.”
Co-drivers David Reynolds and Luke Youlden delivered the famous Bathurst 1000 title to Klimenko with outstanding drives on Sunday.
They defeated a star-studded field of drivers, which included Jason Bright, Craig Lowndes, Garth Tander, Jaime Whincup and Fabian Coulthard.
“The race had everything – fuel problems, rain, safety cars and everything else,” Klimenko said.
“We needed the safety car at the end of the race because it helped us conserve fuel and get to the end.
“It was a fairytale weekend.”
But it wasn’t the first fairytale in her life.
Klimenko was put in an orphanage at the age of seven weeks and faced a difficult life, until she was adopted by Saunders and his first wife Eta.
She was brought up in one of the wealthiest families in Australia and inherited a multi-million dollar fortune when her father passed away in 1997.
But throughout her life she has had a strong work ethic, which has now led her to the top of motorsport in Australia.
“Winning this race was on my bucket list, and in the next five years our aim is to win the actual championship.
“We’ve been described as the little team that could, and we’ve proved that we can do anything.”