International Women’s Day- Women racing for success across various Motorsport disciplines

International Women’s Day 2020 celebrates what it is like being a woman today. Covering Women in Motorsport for over 10 years there are many assumptions as well as perceptions from Media and public at large, that Women racing in whichever Motorsport discipline they choose have greater difficulty to succeed at global level.

Kiara Fontanesi Women MX World Champion 6x 2018, 2017, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012.

Not only that, tunnel-vision reporting on Women racing for the win- standing on the dias- claiming victory over competitors- is seen as an exceptional feat for their gender. Not so. These Women race for the win for their own personal satisfaction of beating opponents fair and square on the race-track. Gender dosen’t come into that equation.

For many Women, racing against males or females has been part and parcel of their whole learning and development as a racer/rider/driver. In fact many Women take the opportunity to compete against males to set bench-marks on where their speed, performance and endurance levels are at on the track. Lining up to race for these Women is about making individual performances count- not based on gender, nationality or age.

For sure, gaining financial backing, sponsors, endorsements to enable each female athlete to race- season after season- is tough going. Though when I asked this question- every Woman replied- fighting for financial support brings out individual spirit to achieve goals set to race. Gaining slice of economic pie is about marketing racer/rider/driver performance and profiles especially in era of reaching fan-base via online platforms.

The question ‘what is it like being a Women in present day competing in Motorsport?’ was put to a number of world-class Women Motorsport racers/riders/ drivers who race varying Motorsport disciplines. I wanted to know their own thoughts on what they do to achieve success on the track. I wanted to know, do they feel disadvantaged in any way competing in loaded male sporting events? And, did the topic of gender- being a female- come in to the equation on what it takes to win?

The response was astounding. Not only did these Women make clear their thoughts on what it is like being a Woman racing Motorsport- but also made clear that gender had nothing to do with winning a World Championship Title.

Rachael Archer GNCC WXC 2019 4th Overall

The following Women have gratefully provided their own thoughts, comments on the question above. I have put brief intro for each Woman, their Motorsport discipline and successes. Appreciation goes out to all Women who took time out to share ‘what it is like being a Woman in present day competing in Motorsport?’

Rachael Archer (New Zealand) rider competing in America’s Grand National Cross-Country Series Women’s class (WXC). At 18 years of age, Rachael gained race ride under AmPro Yamaha Team finishing 4th in her first full-season in 2019.

Rachael Archer GNCC WXC: ‘Being a woman in Motorsport it’s a great feeling when you kick the men’s asses and they weren’t expecting it from a little girl with a blonde ponytail.  Sometimes it’s hard because people don’t believe in your capabilities until they actually see what you can do but it does feel awesome when you prove them wrong. Sometimes it can be frustrating when the Women’s Pro payout is less than 1/2 the Pro men’s when we work just as hard but nevertheless you do it for the adrenaline rush and the love for the sport!

Emma Bristow Womens Trail World Champion 6x

Emma Bristow (England) FIM Womens World Trial Champion 6x 2014- 2019.

Emma Bristow: I think it’s an amazing time to be a women in trials. There are women’s classes in all competitions all the way from a grass roots beginners level, right the way through to the highest level of World Championship. Our World Championship now goes all over the world and it’s so encouraging to see women and girls taking up the sport all over the world. This September we will have our first women’s only “indoor style” event, the ‘WTrial’ in Italy in the city of Champio which is very exciting as riders from 14 countries will compete in the event’.

‘While it’s great that we have our own competitions, personally I find it positive that I can compete against the men in many Championships and Nationals where it comes down to the person with the best ability that will win and not based on gender. Then I look at many other sports where women can’t do this and think myself lucky’.

Jordan Jarvis (American) Women MX Champion 2018 most recent Championship success. Jordan currently leads AMA SX Futures Women class within AMA Monster Energy SX Championship, competing in Pro Outdoors for 2020 season.

Jordan Jarvis AMA SX Futures Women’s Class 2020 Daytona

Jordan Jarvis: It’s a hard thing being a woman in a Motorsport. You have a huge target on your back which definitely makes things difficult. None of the guys want to get beaten by a girl. But that’s what makes it such a special feeling when you do.

‘Women don’t have a lot of respect when it comes to motocross. We have to work so much harder than people realize to get noticed. I can almost promise that most of the women who are at the top of any Motorsport work so much more than anyone around them. What we do is difficult so we have to be strong. But we do is what we love. I work hard because I love this sport and I want to make it better for the girls who come after me’.

Larissa Papenmeier (German) Women Motocross World Championship 2019 3rd. Currently competing in WMX 2020.

Larissa: ‘A couple of years ago it was hard for women in motorsport. They didn’t get as much attention as the men. But today it is way better and the recognition is really good. That’s the right way for the women in motorsport.:)

Sara Garcia Dakar Rally 2020 Originals Motul ‘Unassisted class’

Sara Garcia (Spanish) races World Rally Championships, competing in the Dakar Rally in 2019 and 2020. This year Sara raced in Dakar Originals Motul class which is ‘Unassisted’ category through-out the entire Rally.

Sara Garcia: ‘Competing in motorsport for me is just my life. I have been riding since I was 14 years old, usually surrounded by boys. Sometimes it was hard to be the only woman on the track; for example some mates didn’t want to train with me when I got faster than them’.

‘On races, I was really comfortable; on rally races they usually didn’t know if I was a boy or a girl, so there was no problem at all. Racing Dakar Rally has been amazing, not only for been part of this awesome race but also all these people who encouraged me; they make me feel really special’.

Jessica Backman (Swedish) driver in Touring Cup Series achieving sucess on podium in TCR Europe Touring Car Series 2019.

Jessica Backman TCR Europe Final Round Monza 2019

Jessica Backman: ‘I think it’s great. What I like about motorsport is that you can compete against the guys on the same conditions which is not possible in many other sports. It’s a nice feeling knowing that you have the same chance to win as the guys which is very inspiring and one of the many reasons that inspires and motivates me to be better’.

‘At the track I feel like any other driver, I don’t think that I’m a woman. In the car it’s full focus on what I’m going to achieve on track. I have competed for many years in karting before I began with racing so I’m also very used to being one or the only women competing in motorsport so for me it feels normal’. 

‘Of course I would like to see more women taking the chance to follow their dreams and take the opportunity to race against guys on equal terms. I hope I can inspire some women by proving that it’s possible to beat them’.

Vicky Piria (Italian) races single seater race cars and competed in 2019 WSeries – a F3 5 Round Series initiated as platform for development of female single-seater drivers.

Vicky Piria WSeries 2019 Final Round Brands Hatch

Vicky Piria: ‘To be a Woman in present day in motorsport in my opinion is an opportunity to set an example for all the young female community who aspire to do something different and special, as a driver but also as engineer, mechanic, team manager’.

‘I was bought up in a male environment and for me it’s pretty normal. Of course there have been times that being a woman was seen as some sort of disadvantage but if you show yourself humble and professional with results you can prove disbeliefs wrong’.

Kiara Fontanesi (Italian) Women Motocross World Champion 6x – 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018.

Kiara Fontanesi: ‘In my opinion there is no difference between men and women. In this sport as I grew up here, I’ve never felt the difference and never been discriminated! In all sports it is a job in everything we do. There’s nothing men can do that women can’t!’

Cristina Gutierrez (Spanish) racing car driver who competed in Dakar Rally 2020, 3rd Dakar in a row finishing 26th Overall in Car category with co-driver Pablo Moreno.

Cristina Gutierrez Dakar Rally 2020

Cristina Gutierrez: ‘It is extremely challenging to participate in the motorsport industry being a woman. It is an overwhelmingly masculine environment which, in my opinion, does not fully represent the diversity that exists in society nowadays’.

‘I believe that motorsports has become a growing interest for many women who, unfortunately, may think that the option of being a professional racer is almost unreachable. I would like to tell them that anything is possible and that thanks to other brave women who have come before us we are starting to reach the level of equality we wished for, in terms of opportunities, exposure and recognition’.

Nina Pothof: (Netherlands) races go karts and most recent success of her career was competing if 2019 FIA Motorsport Games winning Karting Slalom category with fellow country-driver Bastiaan van Loenen representing Netherlands.

Nina: ‘I started driving go karts at 5 years of age. At this age I didn’t notice any difference between boys and girls in karting. But right now, at the age of 16. I actually feel the tension between the boys and girls. Boys want to be first, not knowing girls can do the same. I know the boys don’t like it when I’m in front of them, they will push me off the track or so. But their opinion doesn’t really matter to me, I’m just doing what I love and boys can’t stop me from that’.

Avalon Biddle (New Zealand) SBK racer winning Women’s European Cup in 2015 and 2016 and then clinched NZSBK SSP 600 Championship Title in 2019.

Avalon Biddle Timaru International Motor Raceway Photo Credit Mad Love Media

Avalon: ‘For me, racing is what I love. Early in my career, my main challenges were living so far away from Europe’s racing scene and not being recognised or able to forge contacts to race overseas. Winning against my competitors on level playing field is a great feeling’.

The final comments are from Mirjam Pol (Netherlands). Mirjam races Rally Championships, and has competed in 7 Dakar Rallies. In Dakar 2020 Mirjam finished 41st place, and is the most humble, honest, heart-warming peron/rider/athlete to know. Mirjam’s comments are via audio which I have put in brief film with snap-shot moments of her racing over number of years.

Steffi Laier (German) has competed in Women MX World Championship over course of 15 years winning the very first Women’s MX Cup in 2005 and then clinched 3 consecutive WMX Championship Titles in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Steffi: ‘Nowadays Women have way more possibilities and opportunities then in the past days. Women in Motorsport receive more and more respect and the laughing on the mens faces are down to a minimum. I know that Women in every kind of sport will never get the same gratitude as men but I am more then happy that especially in Motocross nowadays Women have their own Championship in a lot of countries in Europe’.

Steffi Laier WMX Title 2010

‘The speed of the Women in every kind of Motorsport is getting higher and more riders have the chance now to ride on the top. It is still hard and it will always be hard to compete in a man’s world but it has changed over the last few years’.

‘Women have proved that they are as good to ride in the same contitions like men. You see it everywhere like Dakar, Six Days, WMX…Womens are riding the same track, the same day and I must say every women should earn a lot of respect for that!

‘Many thanks to people like you or other reporters, photographers as nowadays Women are getting good attention in whichever sport they compete in’.

My grateful thanks to all Women who race Motorsport whose inspiration and strive for success leads us all to pursue our own personal and professional goals.

Words: Sharon Cox.


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