#SheRides author Laura Llovet discusses how MotoAmerica women racers can help improve interest in road racing here in America.
The thoughts and opinions of a woman who's always on the go...riding two wheels!
Let’s give it up for the ladies of MotoAmerica, ya’ll (claps enthusiastically)! Specifically the ones rocking it on the 600cc machines. Since I’ve been following motorcycle road racing -- circa 2012 -- I haven’t see this many women on the 600cc grid. There’s only five women racers, which on paper isn't a lot. But five is better than one, two, three and four, so I’ll take it.
Of course, even more would be better. I say this because I feel that women (starting with these five) could help revitalize a dull sport. If you don’t know, road racing is currently struggling. But before I get more into this and how these ladies can help US racing, I'd like to talk about each one briefly.
Profile: Women Racers Competing in MotoAmerica
Currently, all of these women compete in the MotoAmerica 600 class, and when they race, they compete against at least 20 other guys. I’ll start with the veterans in this group, Shelina Moreda and Melissa Paris.
Moreda has been racing since 2009 and went pro in 2010. She’s been on the scene ever since, racing a myriad of bikes including Brammo electric bikes and a Harley-Davidson XR1200. She’s also raced all over the world in countries such as Japan and Qatar, and has even instructed at race schools in Europe. Moreda also gives back to the moto community by conducting an all-women’s dirt camps. Moreda currently races a Yamaha R6 for TOBC racing.
Photo by Brian J. Nelson
Paris has also been racing since 2009. In fact, that year she was the first woman to qualify for a Supersport World Championship race. She’s been going strong ever since then, racing internationally with Moreda in the Suzuka 24-hour endurance race. She’s also ridden very cool motorcycles, such as a 125 GP bike to a full-fledged MotoGP bike. Paris currently races a Suzuki GSX-R600 for MPH Racing M4 Suzuki.
Photo by Brian J. Nelson
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Patricia Fernandez is next on the list, making her pro racing debut in 2013. Again, like Moreda and Paris, Fernandez traveled to compete in races internationally. In 2014, Fernandez was the first American woman to compete in Ulster GP road race. In February of 2016, she competed in her first-ever superbike race at the Australian Superbike Championship at Phillip Island. She currently races Yamaha R6 for ADR Motorsports.
Patricia Fernandez, bike number 925. Photo by Greg Sharp.
You can’t miss Anne Roberts on that cool blue bike highlighted with pink plaid! Anne started riding motorcycles in 2010 and hopped into club racing soon after. In 2012, she attended the Yamaha Champions Riding school to really hone her riding skills with top instructors Nick Ienatsch and Ken Hill. She competed in her first pro race in 2014. Roberts currently races a Yamaha R6 for N2 Trackdays.
Photo by Greg Sharp
Finally, we have Caroline Olsen. The aforementioned ladies are all from the US, but Olsen was born and raised in Norway. She began her racing career there, and did very well. In 2011, she was the Norwegian Superstock 600 champion, and had a very successful 2012 season in Scandinavia. In order to grow her racing career, she headed to the US in 2013 and has stayed here to race ever since.
Photo by Brian J. Nelson
Ideally, I wanted to write about each woman separately, but it looks like MotoAmerica beat me to the punch. To bring these women to the spotlight, MotoAmerica is starting a series called “Women of MotoAmerica.” They currently have two articles published, one highlighting Olsen and the other on Moreda.
Why these Women are Important to Road Racing in the US
I’m sure some of you reading this have never heard of these female racers, even though quite a few of them of been in the pro moto racing world for a while.
This is wishful thinking on my end, but perhaps by bringing to light that there are more (again, even if it's by a small amount) female racers competing in the US, it will help to spark a bit more interest in MotoAmerica. Women are still the underdog in the sport, and if more women make it on the grid, the sport will be that much more will be competitive. As a result, we will see these women rise to the top and be championship contenders. Who doesn’t want to see this? People love it when the underdog comes out on top.
Shelina posing for a photo after she one her first race of the season in Qatar. Photo courtesy of Shelina Moreda Racing Facebook page.
This is easier said than done, however. The main issue is how to get more ladies to line up next to the men. As I mentioned earlier, US-based motorcycle racing isn't popular here, and it's going to be an uphill battle to develop a bigger fan base. Gone are the days of world-class studs like Kenny Roberts, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz and Freddie Spencer, just to name a few. Fortunately, in 2015, MotoAmerica came about to help revive motorcycle racing; to help make American motorcycle road racing as popular again.
As of now though, times are hard for American racers. As Moreda recently wrote on her Facebook page:
Getting set to race. It's all about getting ready. This week has been tough. I'm working on racing a solid season in the US, as you probably know I race in Qatar, Japan, and wherever else I'm able to hop on a motorcycle. The support in my own home, the US, has been the most difficult to achieve lately. Finding companies who will take it seriously and stand behind the season to keep it going, that's the hard part, and the part I'm working diligently on. Everyone thinks that as a female racer it all comes easily... Not at all the case. With an amazing opportunity on an amazing team this year, I want it to be my strongest year ever. Nose to the grindstone. What's your thoughts or positive spin on this?
The fact that riders have trouble finding support here is a bit discouraging. However, I have faith this can change. It’s not that motorcycle racing in general is not popular here in the US. After all, MotoGP attendance at COTA in Austin brought in a total of 131,881 people, and it ranked ninth as one of Austin’s largest events in 2015. So, there are definitely moto fans walking (riding) among us—we just have to get everyone just as excited about US-based moto racing.
As of now, MotoAmerica's current goal is to recruit more OEMs to redeem US road racing. In this sportrider.com article, MotoAmerica President Wayne Rainey feels that if they can get more OEMs to sign on, (currently, the main manufacturers for MotoAmerica are Yamaha, Suzuki, and KTM), this will create more seats for riders. This, in turn, will then give them greater opportunities to race and go on to compete on a World Championship level.
More seats also means there's opportunity to get more ladies out there. More ladies competing means we can get more of them to the International championship level. I mean, wouldn't it be so awesome if we could produce one of the first-ever female MotoGP racer. We were the first to put a man on the moon, let's be the first to put a women on that GP grid. And not only that, let's get her to win a championship (I know, let me just dream, okay?).
Caroline Olsen and Patricia Fernandez. Photo courtesy of Caroline Olsen Racing Facebook page.
More Female Racers can Potentially Bring More Female Fans
I also think that it would help a lot if we can actually have more women become fans of motorsports. How so? By helping on the consumer end of the sport.
Let me explain. Women comprise almost half -- about 45 percent -- of NFL (football) fans. And this is a sport where women don't even play on the field! Additionally, “women drive 70-80% of all consumer spending, and many are active NFL fans, going to games, shouting for their teams, hosting game-day parties, playing fantasy football and generally participating in much of the same activities as their male brethren,” according to Forbes.
If a male-only sport can gain and retain that many female fans, I’m sure MotoAmerica could if marketed properly. I think MotoAmerica has the right idea with the “Women of MotoAmerica” series, but I feel like there will need to be more hardcore marketing efforts to not only increase the overall moto road racing fan base, but to have a good portion of them to be women. Let's start by rooting for these ladies and following their progress this season in MotoAmerica..
Feature photo by Brian J. Nelson
Learn more about Laura and the rest of RideApart's excellent staff here: The RideApart Team