More Women Looking To Be Taken Seriously As Road Racers

More Women Looking To Be Taken Seriously As Road Racers

© 2001, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.


A number of women riders are participating in CCS and Formula USA events at Daytona this weekend, and we talked to several.

“I don’t think women need a handicap roadracing, experience is the key,” said first-year racer Darla Martinelli, who is sponsored by Daytona Harley-Davidson/Buell/ Hal’s Performance Advantage. “Maybe I’m treated differently because I’m a woman. People are always happy and encouraging women to get involved. I think a woman’s lower body weight is a bigger advantage than less upper body strength is a disadvantage.”

When asked who she looks up to in road racing, 28-year-old Martinelli said, “I look up to someone like Vicky Jackson-Bell, and I want to be as fast as the guys. I want to be competitive with the guys. I don’t want to be good for a girl. I want to be good for a racer.”

“It’s interesting,” said’s Debi Venega. “People expect us to be slow. That’s not the case. As an Amatuer, I battled with the guys. The guys respect women racers. They don’t treat me any differently. Maybe they admire the fact that we race and can hold our own. A woman does have to prove herself in the motorsports industry. I found that out when I worked in a dealership.

“Maybe there’s a stereotype that women racers must be ‘butch,’ but that’s not true. Some women can actually use their glamour to help sponsorship. Our less body weight is an advantage because the newer bikes require less muscle than older ones did. I’m sure that guys can throw a bike around easier, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to finish better. “

“I think that some men who don’t compete against us think it’s a joke,” laughed LaVaughn Montgomery-Daniel. “They put us on a different level. Too many times I heard other racers…like Roland Sands said, ‘Damn! She’s fast.’ It took him racing against us, me and Vicky (Jackson-Bell), to see that there was talent there.

“Men’s upper body strength is an advantage. I think that to run a larger bike you must be stronger and fitter. I’ve even heard that smaller guys have some problems. Smaller bikes require more finesse and smoothness. On a big bike you have to be more aggressive.

“It’s not any easier to get sponsorship for a woman, maybe that’s because of the classes that we run. People think that it should be easier, but it’s not. I don’t know what other women’s reasons for trying road racing are. Me, I’ve always liked stuff like this. In college, I played rugby and drove a hot rod car. I wanted action. What got me started was coming to the Daytona 200 one year while I was in Daytona on college Spring Break. I thought, ‘Damn! That looks like fun!’ I bought a racebike the next year.”

Vicky Jackson-Bell is the most accomplished woman road racer in the U.S., and for years has been racing with and beating the best men in the U.S. on 125s. Her leathers carry the slogan, “Who Needs Balls?” and she said “We don’t need balls! I’ve been doing this all my life. I didn’t notice things going on around me. First, guys were mad when I beat them in motocross. One guy even put sand in my gearbox at one race. Then one guy quit road racing when I started beating him.

“I think women can ride small bikes as well as guys. They’re not as physical. They’re all about finesse and being smooth. I don’t think a big Superbike would work for a woman unless she was on steroids or something. Riding in motocross, I think I was at a disadvantage with muscle and stamina, I guess.

“I’ve seen glamour used to get sponsorship. One of my sponsors is KMS Haircare, but I’m a hairdresser. So it works perfectly. I think people respect me for what I’ve done.

“Women ask me about racing but don’t think they can do it. But once they try it, they realize that they can. It’s the transition that’s tough. Many who try it really end up liking it.”

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