To date, not a single woman in the history of MotoGP has finished a season on the Grand Prix’s grid (Gina Bovaird started a premier-class race, but that’s it)… so when a Women’s World Motorcycle Championship was announced back in October as a part of the World Superbike support bill in 2024, you could imagine the conflicted reactions:
Should male and female racers be in the same series?
Is the idea of a female-exclusive championship demeaning?
Mat Oxley – Isle of Man TT winner and a prolific writer – logs some perceptive responses from a hearty fistful of influential women riders.
First up: The 2023 Women’s European Champ, a 21-year-old Spaniard by the name of Beatriz Neila. Neila believes that anatomical differences are largely the reason for MotoGP’s male-dominant circuit:
There have always been women competing against men, but none have reached the top: MotoGP or World Superbike…because women and men are different, physically different – which is why the new [Women’s World Championship] is a present to us, because it allows women to fight for a world title, to see who’s the fastest woman in the world.”
Next, words from a major icon of female racing. UK-based Maria Costello is the only woman to ever be awarded “Member of the Order of the British Empire” (MBE) – a well-deserved honor that speaks volumes on her accomplishments, but doesn’t come without its own sacrifices:
I love the fact that we can compete on equal terms with men…There are already women racing in the Moto3, Supersport 300 and MotoE world championships, plus team owner Faye Ho is doing amazing things with her all-women team in the British Junior Supersport series.”
I love what Formula 1 is doing with its F1 Academy, which is nurturing women drivers from the grassroots up. What we need in motorcycling is the same kind of support, not women-only racing.”
Today, Rous’s words are echoed back in spades with the experiences of Patricia Fernandez, a highly talented pro racer who has frequented the Super Hooligan Championships, King of the Baggers (KOTB) Championships, and the Bagger Racing League.
Suffice it to say that a racing woman’s experience is far from “nice:”
In the first years when I started pro racing, there weren’t very many girls, and it was nasty… I’ve had my own teammates tell me they would take me out before they’d ever let me beat them.”
In the last 10 years that I’ve been around, [it’s gotten better], but that’s because there are more women, and we’re around more. I’m also more established now, so I think it’s harder to bully me around versus a newbie that just started.”
Oxley’s own opinion roots deep into the part of racing history where “FIM rewrote the rules in the early 1960s, banning women from Grand Prix.” With an airing out of the past, Oxley looks to the future by quoting superstars like World Superbike junior category winner Ana Carrasco, the first woman to win an individual world championship motorcycle race:
I always try to be confident, because… when fans watch MotoGP riders, maybe they think these guys are from another world, but we are all the same. Some of us are racers and others are builders or doctors – I don’t see any difference… you listen to those who want to help you and everything else means nothing.
It’s always important to know who is trying to help you and who is trying to destroy you.”
So where does this leave the Women’s World Motorcycle Championship?
So far, women from all corners of our industry show both love and lack thereof for a dedicated women’s only world racing event. As somebody who has never set wheel to a professional circuit but stands proud as a female motorcyclist, I will always be in support of opportunities that get female talent stretching muscles for the big leagues… but I don’t think the Women’s WMC need be a final stop, folks.
Coincidentally, neither does Oxley:
The FIM wants its new series to be a final destination for women racers, but it’s a fairly big step down from the Moto3 World Championship, which Carrasco currently contests…”
It’s difficult to see the world’s fastest women racers wanting to contest the Women’s Motorcycling World Championship. In which case, what’s the point?”