Sarah-Jane was the ‘it’ face of Australian motor sport during the 2000s. She often modelled for V8 teams; she got plenty of work with sponsors and represented the Australian Grand Prix Corporation on more than one occasion.
At one stage she could even claim to be the world’s most downloaded women, thanks to her impressive website, popular calendar and motor sport modelling work.
Short in stature, her lack of height initially confined her to face work, but she secured jobs in some of the nation’s most popular magazines.
Her career was well rounded, she appeared in Ralph and FHM, motoring magazines like V8X – which also included her own column – she produced her own calendars, represented L’Oreal and Dunlop and even sang in an all girls band called Sirens.
Before she became one of Australia’s most in-demand models, Sarah-Jane was a settlement clerk and volunteered for missions and worked in women’s refuges.
While she had been around for a while, it was the Chico Roll advertising campaign that gave her a national profile.
“My modelling career just happened really,” Sarah-Jane explained to Speedcafe from her London base.
“Chico Roll was the campaign that really got me out there. It was very controversial so it was a chance for me to be quite vocal at that point.
“From then on I was more of a personality rather than a face; I did a lot of radio, television and newspaper interviews.
“It grew hugely from there, but I have always been media savvy so I knew how to drive it.”
Sarah-Jane was doing a lot of swimwear shoots, her calendar was a best seller and her website was one of the biggest in the land. What thrust her into the limelight again was her campaign to be the world’s most downloaded women.
At that stage American swimwear model Cindy Margolis was the undisputed queen of the downloads. In 1999 she has more than 70,000 downloads in 24 hours, Sarah-Jane smashed that record in quick time.
“Oh, I think I had three million visits in 24 hours,” said Sarah-Jane.
“It’s a bit of a long story, a bit like a face book mad moment really. If you have ever seen that film Social Network, it happened very similarly.”
While this was happening, Sarah-Jane was also focussing on a singing career. She was in a girl band called Sirens.
“I was singing in girl band ‘Sirens’ and I was very serious about pursuing a recording career,” said Sarah-Jane.
“While recording I landed the ‘Chico Roll’ campaign and the publicity was so widespread that I then became known.
“Because of this I was dumped by my management and record company, they thought I would no longer be a surprise in the market and that my newfound fame would harm the image of the band.”
It was during this time that motor sport was starting to take up a lot of her time. Her father Barry Jupp was a racer but she never really followed the sport until she went to watch some racing at Winton.
“I went to a meeting at Winton one year and was blown away by the sound of the V8’s,” said Sarah-Jane.
“It was the noise, the smell, the infectious fans, the cars and the bikes.
“It was my mission to get in one.”
So Sarah-Jane got some work as a promotional model representing teams and sponsors down the V8 pit lane, which she loved.
“It was my life, I adored it,” said Sara-Jane.
“The people I met were fantastic and the perks were fab!
“Life is good to you if you are genuine, avoid the bullshit and have a good sense of humour.
“I am quite a tomboy by nature so I wasn’t into the flutter, flutter girly stuff.”
Apart from the constant work, Sarah-Jane enjoyed the camaraderie with the V8 teams.
“It is a very tight and loyal group, for most it is their life,” said Sarah-Jane.
“I met many team members from track to track, they were great people and very genuine.
“My favourite driver would be John Bowe, he was always warm natured. Dickie (Dick Johnson) was cheeky, Craig Lowndes was always very friendly and personable and Peter Brock a gentlemen.
“Despite what people think when it comes to promo girls, I never in all the years had any advance by anyone at the track, I kept business as business.”
As a high profile celebrity Sarah-Jane got to experience more at the track than the average Joe. She described her first hotlap as “mind-blowing” and her flight with the Roulettes as “just incredible”, but her favourite memories are linked in with the Australian Grand Prix Corporation events.
“I can’t go past the Formula One two-seater ride in Mark Webber’s Minardi,” said Sarah-Jane.
“We did three laps around Albert Park in 2002, which was out of this world.
“I also got the opportunity to jump on the back of Randy Mamola’s Yamaha 500cc two seater.
“I remember being on the back wheel into the first hair pin at Phillip Island. I think we clocked 279 kilometres an hour that day!”
With the good times comes the funny times. Sarah-Jane lists a parade lap in her Lotus Elise at Albert Park as her most embarrassing moment.
“I was sponsored by Lotus for a while and had an Elise, which was a great car,” said Sarah-Jane.
“I was asked if I would like to do a parade lap around Albert Park at the Formula One event.
“We started our engines in line with the other Tattersall’s prestige cars for this lap.
“Slow and safe was the brief and leave a gap. Well I left a gap alright, in-fact a gap as long as the main straight.
“I floored it. We had no helmets or seatbelts on and I did about three corners and there were no cars in sight.
“Going okay at this point I went flat to the floor. Coming to the last bend entering the main straight and whooshka, the wheels locked up. I had major over steer, then under steer and no bloody steering. We were sideways on the grass in line with the concrete fence heading for the pits.
“The car just stopped in time, not due to my skill, it was just sheer luck.”
On exiting the car Sarah-Jane had to contend with a very unhappy Clerk of the Course.
“I modestly drove into pit lane and went back to the tent realising I had escaped death,” said Sarah-Jane.
“There was this mad man running behind me. Another autograph I thought, but it was a Marshall with a message from Tim Schenkin who was the Clerk of the Course.
“The message was that I was banned from the track for “imbecile behaviour” and I was removed from the circuit promptly on the back of a trailer.”
In the mid 2000s, at the height of her popularity, Sarah-Jane retired from the race track after her mother fell ill.
“My mission was to set up my website and to then launch my singing career, but mum fell ill,” said Sarah-Jane.
“I managed to keep it all together, working and caring for her, then she died.
“Her death totally crushed my world, the spotlight was of no interest to me anymore and life took a different journey.
“I lived abroad for a while after that then returned home to study as an art therapist.”
These days, Sarah-Jane is happily living with her long term partner in the UK and now spends her time looking after her two children and stays behind the camera.
“I have an adorable four year old boy and a baby girl,” said Sarah-Jane.
“Motherhood is so meaningful to me, more than anything that I’ve ever done.
“I have also taken up professional photography. I am shooting kids fashion, family and high profile celebrity clients.
“All shoots are on location, rugged and natural.
“I am so happy with a camera in my hand and feel passionate and alive. I have always been very creative and this fits in well with my family responsibilities. I love it.”
Living in England means she doesn’t get the opportunity to watch V8 Supercars, but those times at the track are so far removed from her current life, that she doesn’t even think of racing.
“Oh dear, how it has all changed,” said Sarah-Jane.
“I’m in mother world now, it is about the ‘Octanaughts’ and ‘Special Agent Oso’ (kids programs).
“I realise that I am fortunate to have had some of the most amazing experiences over my life so far and am grateful for all of them, but nothing tops being a mum.
“I really love it here, England is a pretty country. I have no plans to return to Australia at the moment, maybe for a holiday, but that’s about it.”
Photo Credit: Big Dog Bites
Sarah Jane was also a singer.