Something that I was left wondering after my last article was this: are women in motorcycle racing seen as someone that needs to be ‘protected’?
For every successful female rider, there are hundreds of girls who are just dipping their toes into the shark infested pool of motorcycling.
I have taken it upon myself to seek out some of the eager young talent and speak to them about their experiences so far.
A lovely lady reached out to me on Instagram after finding out about my article. Her name is Jodie Fieldhouse and she’s 17 years old and races in two championships. She rides in the Superteen championship in the Thundersport GB class, which is a highly regarded championship in British racing. Alongside that, she rides in the 125 championship at EMRA (East Midlands Racing Association) where she sits in second place in the overall championship standings.
It’s safe to say that Jodie clearly has an impressive talent; race by race she is constantly faster than a lot of the men on the field. When I asked her if she had any advice for girls who are thinking of getting into racing she said “Just brave up and do it! Be different! It was the best thing I did and it would be so good for other girls to get into it. Boys can do it…so why can’t we?”
This brings me nicely back to my point of women still being looked at as needing protection. Some women put on their best dresses and head out, and some women would rather put their leathers on and spend a weekend on their motorcycle, proving not only to the doubters, but to the media and sometimes even to their own teams that girls can be just as good as guys. And guess what? Doing either of those things are perfectly okay. It appears to me that Jodie and all the other girls we’ll hear from soon are breaking the mould, and proving to everyone in their classes that they can kick ass just as well as any guy can.
Another young girl reached out to me on Twitter. Her name is Chloe Jones and she’s only 12 years old, racing in the British Mini Bikes championship as the only female rider in her class – the Mini Moto Junior 4.2. She finished the 2016 season in 2nd overall, with a massive 327 point advantage over third place.
“I got a new bike this year but not until the fourth round. It’s an IMR Mini GP 140 bike, much bigger and faster than my mini moto. I wasn’t meant to race it this year, just practice on it as I had never rode a geared bike before. But as soon as I got on the bike I just got it, I felt so good on it. After just 2 practices on the bike I decided to race it. I am the only girl in the class and I managed to win my first race meeting on it. I have raced it at every single round since and have won every race”.
Something that I am very interested in is how the girls get on in a “male dominated sport”. Their responses are very different, to say the least.
Jodie: “It’s tough riding in a male dominated sport. Some love it, some hate it. We’ve had people giving me all love and support, and we’ve had others shout in our face saying we’re mad allowing a female to race and that it’s wrong!” She went on to tell me that a lot of males struggle to deal with the fact that she may be faster than them, which she found happened a lot at trackdays and races.
Chloe: “I feel okay in a very male orientated sport as the boys treat me just as they do the boys. I’m not sure if they like me beating them but we are all good friends on and off track. I know as I get older and hopefully move on to bigger bikes and tracks that it’s not going to be as easy. There are not many females that make it; I think we find it harder to get the support and sponsorship”.
Emilie Weaving is a mechanic in the British Superbikes paddock. Last season, she worked for MWR Motorsports in the British National Superstock 1000 class, and is currently the only female Ducati qualified mechanic in the UK. I asked her what she thought about being a “woman in a man’s world”, and if she encountered any issues as a female mechanic. She said: “I’ve always got on better with guys, and I’ve always been treated with respect once people can see what I can do. It’s never bothered me, and I forget that it’s different!”
Joi “SJ” Harris is officially the first black woman to be licensed to road race in the US. She also does a lot of work to promote female racing and has attended a number of events as a guest speaker. She had a fantastic response when I asked her how she felt as a female in a male dominated sport.
“It feels like we have so far to go, simply because we can’t change who we are. We women can be amazing at this sport and we might go further if we just stop thinking so much. To me, this sport is about knowing and executing; there is no time to think. It may sound funny, but that may be the very reason why guys tend to be so much better at it in some aspects. Men just go and do it, but us women think about things and analyse everything. After several crashes on my short time racing the one thing that remains the same is the response from the men…they won’t say it but it’s simply harder to see a girl crash as hard as a man did in a race”.
It is clear that she feels very strongly about women in motorcycle racing. She finished our conversation by saying “The day I can see a woman in MotoGP would be AMAZING. I think it’s coming…” and I truly believe that it is too.
Samantha Johansson is a 15 year old who races in the Swedish championship on board her Aprilia RS125. Last year, she was invited to the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies selection event for the chance to compete in the MotoGP support race as the first ever girl from Sweden.
“Some people say you have an advantage because as a girl, you stand out from the crowd and sure that’s true, but I prefer to not see a girl in any different way from a boy. You will still struggle the same way as a boy in terms of finding sponsors. On the track, it’s important to not only compare yourself to the other girls, but the boys too. Your goal should be to always aim for the number one position of all the competitors. You need to believe in yourself and don’t listen to people who tell you that you can’t race because you’re a girl. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Be confident”.
The last person I spoke to was Janette Nassaney who owns a motorcycle dealership in Altus Oklahoma with her husband George. Together they run the dealership and have sponsored numerous teams. In 2016 they ran their first ‘real’ team – Altus Motorsports, with two promising young riders; JC Camacho and their son Jaret Nassaney in MotoAmerica. JC ran in the Superstock 600 class where he finished 5th overall and Jaret ran in the KTM cup, finishing 15th in the championship. Janette managed the team and said: “I really didn’t have any issues as a female. MotoAmerica is very friendly to female riders, team owners and managers. Our team has big things planned for the 2017 season! I would advise any woman no matter the age who wants to be involved in this industry, whether it’s racing or managing is to do your homework. You need to know as much if not more than the guys, but not in a cocky or rude way. In the end I am here and am just as capable. I believe I have been as successful as I have been due to hard work, professionalism, and knowledge”.
It is apparent that the women I have had the privilege of speaking to are all extremely hard-working, driven and determined to prove wrong any doubters.
Women are so capable of doing the same things men are, and these six women are all proof of that.