Dec 12, 2013
© 2014, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
by David Swarts
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Melissa Paris (13) riding her Freegun-sponsored Honda CBR600RR Daytona SportBike during the 2013 season. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.
AMA Pro racer Melissa Paris, age 30, is working toward racing full-time in the inaugural FIM CEV International Championship and part-time in the 2014 AMA Pro Daytona SportBike series.
The news of Paris’ plans slipped out slightly early, she said, when the Women’s Sports Foundation announced December 11 that she was one of eight young women awarded matching-funds grants to support their professional racing plans
“I was at Laguna [Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in September] and a friend told me about the [Women’s Sports Foundation’s Women in the Winners Circle Project Podium Grant] program,” Paris told Roadracingworld.com. “He said he had seen it on the Internet and that I should check it out. I think the application was due the Monday after the race, so I was e-mailing and texting and asking people for letters of recommendation and all kinds of stuff all weekend.”
Although most of the language in the program’s information packet mentioned four-wheel racing, Paris said it also said “motorsports” so she took a chance and “went for it.”
Paris sent the completed packet out just before the deadline but didn’t hear anything back until late November when she got a phone call from former Indy Car driver Lyn St. James, who created the program when she was the President of the Women’s Sports Foundation in 2007.
“A couple of days before Thanksgiving I was out on a bicycle ride training and I got a call,” said Paris. “I answered it, and it was Lyn St. James. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! That’s cool!’ She was asking me to clarify what my racing plans were, a couple of other questions and told me they were deciding that week who the winners would be. Then I didn’t hear anything, and I thought it was a long shot anyway and I didn’t get it. Then the press release came out yesterday, and there I was.”
The grant is a matching-funds grant, meaning Paris needed to be able to raise sponsorship on her own and then the Women’s Sports Foundation would match it up to $10,000. Paris has been finding sponsorship to support her Pro racing career for years and she said renewed commitments from several of her sponsors has locked her grant in already. And the additional funding is going to go a long way to help Paris secure her 2014 plans of racing in the FIM CEV International Championships as well as selected AMA Pro events, like the Daytona 200.
“I was hoping to keep it under wraps until it was a done deal,” said Paris, “but I’m working on racing in CEV next year and doing a handful of rounds here in the U.S. also, hopefully for Team Hammer again. I’m hammering out the details. I’m almost there. There’s a really great team that I’m talking to and they seem really interested in making it work. It’s just a matter of working out the budget perfectly. I’m really close, but I still need to find a little bit more [funding] just to kind of seal the deal.”
Most racers would jump at the opportunity to race in Europe, but extra consideration was needed because Paris is married to three-time AMA Pro Superbike Champion Josh Hayes, who races for the Yamaha factory team in the United States.
“I couldn’t do this without his support,” Paris said of her husband. “I consider myself a racer first, but it means a lot to have his support. When I first talked to Josh about what I was wanting to do we both talked about our concerns, because there are a few. But at the end of the day he agreed it was a really fantastic opportunity and one I couldn’t pass up. So I think the two of us are going to have to work really hard to make it work, but he’s been super supportive, honestly. The other day he looked at me and said, ‘I think you’re really going to Spain. I’m so happy for you, but at the same time it’s going to be so hard. But I wouldn’t want you to miss this opportunity.’”
For more information on Melissa Paris read her monthly column, “Just A Girl Who Likes To Go Fast,” in Roadracing World magazine or go to her website .