Challenge to male domination

By Andy McGechan

Women show they have what it takes, writes Andy McGechan

Scout Fletcher was runner-up in the 125GP class in her debut season. Photo /Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
Scout Fletcher was runner-up in the 125GP class in her debut season. Photo /Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

Girl power continues to make an impact on the predominantly male domain of motorcycle road-racing.

Canterbury teenager Scout Fletcher, Auckland's Avalon Biddle and Taranaki's Nicki Smith were each impressive, and perhaps an inspiration to other women, during this season's New Zealand Superbike Championships.

Fletcher experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in her first motorcycling expedition to the North Island this season, but still she emerged with a smile on her face and a trophy to show for her troubles.

The 17-year-old Honda star from Christchurch secured the No2 spot on debut in the closely-fought 125GP class, the five-round series wrapping up in Taupo a fortnight ago, but it wasn't without a few scary moments along the way.

Racing against the men and boys of the sport was no easy task, especially considering she had no knowledge of the North Island circuits.

But Fletcher rose to the occasion when she dominated the 125GP racing during her first visit to Hampton Downs for the penultimate round of the series. She won two of the three 125GP races that day, including the all-important New Zealand TT title.

She had an eye on beating championship favourite Troy Guenther, of Australia, at Taupo's final but a succession of crashes ruined her title bid and even threatened to cost her the championship's No2 spot as well.

In the end she fought back to finish a brave third in the final race of the weekend, enough for her to hold on to the No2 ranking.

Fletcher, a first-year university student at Canterbury, studying biochemistry, knew she was jumping into the deep end with her national motorcycling campaign this year but she reckons the final result was worth it.

"I didn't enter the nationals with high expectations and thought a top-five finish would be a good aim. To finish runner-up is pretty good though."

While Fletcher now looks ahead to next season and another crack at a New Zealand crown, another young woman, perhaps even an inspiration to Fletcher, has taken up a racing career option overseas.

Orewa's Biddle raced her Suzuki to top-10 finishes in the ultra-competitive 600cc supersport class this season and then immediately packed her bags to head to Italy to take up the offer of a ride with the New Zealand-owned Wil Sport Management team.

The 20-year-old Biddle will be racing in the Honda CBR600 Cup competition, a support class within the Italian Superbike Championships. "I will be based in Tuscany, near Florence, and will be over there for about six months."

Meanwhile, the quiet demeanour of 33-year-old Taranaki rider Smith (Kawasaki) belies the fire-breathing spirit that resides within her petite frame.

Her chosen sport of high-octane motorcycle racing is not one that's typically the domain of the fairer sex, but she fought her way to sixth overall in the Pro Twins class this season. "My goal was a top-five finish and I'm still pretty happy with sixth," said Smith, who works as a supply chain co-ordinator at Fonterra, based in Eltham.

"This is my first full season and it was awesome going down south to race on those tracks for the first time. I had to learn the tracks as I went, all the while battling the guys who'd been there many times," said Smith.

The men had better sharpen up because these women, and perhaps others too, will only get better as their confidence and experience grows.

- NZ Herald

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