Female Riders Q&A

Over at the excellent motorsport blog Riding Fast and Flying low you can currently find an excellent Q&A with British Superbike rider Jenny Tinmouth called Carpe Diem.

After an excellent read there and with women in motorsport a hot topic again after it was announced that Ana Carrasco will be partnering Maverick Vinales in Moto3 (more here:http://www.crash.net/motogp/news/186269/1/moto3_ana_carrasco_to_become_first_female_moto3_rider.html) it made me want to revisit an interview I was lucky enough to have with the super talented Melissa Paris last December after her MotoGP ride, she was wonderfully honest and open and comes from a very interesting point of view as her husband is a rider too!

The Q&A was printed on crash.net (with my old surname!)and is worth a look to see the comments and reaction a female rider gets from the general public!  Link here:


Here is the interview content in full:

Melissa Paris is one of a handful of high-profile female racers and despite only taking up racing at 21, her natural talent has led her to wild-card rides in World Supersport and British Supersport, complimenting her career in the AMA Sportbike series.

Then, in November, the 28-year old American was given the dream opportunity to test a Tech 3 Yamaha MotoGP bike at Valencia (pictured) – which her husband Josh Hayes had raced, as a stand-in for the injured Colin Edwards, just days earlier.

Here Paris talks about how it feels to ride a factory-built MotoGP bike, what it’s like to be a woman in a male dominated sport, and her hopes for next season…

You were originally meant to be testing the Tech 3 Moto2 bike, how did feel to be offered to ride the M1 instead?

Melissa Paris:
It was really surprising to be honest! People have been giving me a hard time when they read that maybe I was just a little disappointed at first. Trust me, I was ecstatic for the chance to ride the M1. I was just a touch sad about not getting to ride the Moto2 bike. I’m greedy! I want to try them all!

Did seeing Josh ride the M1 to 7th place during the Valencia Grand Prix make you more nervous or more determined to do well when you got the chance to ride?

Melissa Paris:
Watching Josh didn’t really change anything for me. His situation is always going to be different than mine and this was no exception. I can’t imagine the pressure he must have felt, although to be fair, he heaped most of it on himself.

How did riding a MotoGP bike compare to the production bikes you are more familiar with racing?

Melissa Paris:
The M1 is pretty different to the R6 I usually ride. There is definitely the trickle down of technology, which is why grand prix racing is so important to the development of consumer bikes, but at the end of the day, they are two different animals. I used to race 125 and 250 and it was definitely closer to that. When I think of riding any sort of grand prix bike I can’t help but smile. They just feel ‘right’.

How did you find your time with the Tech 3 team? How much work did you have to put in to get to test for them and did you get to give much input from your time on the M1?

Melissa Paris:
I don’t know all of the details of how the opportunity came together, except that Yamaha US worked really hard to put it all together. The Yamaha Tech 3 squad was amazing. Every single member of the team was so friendly and awesome. They were so generous with everything.

I really went into it expecting them to give me maybe 5 laps or something, but instead they basically filled it with fuel and told me to have fun with it. They seemed genuinely interested in what I thought of it as well.

It made me realise that with all of their experience a lot of those guys hadn’t lost any of their passion for what they do. They seemed genuinely happy for me to have the chance, which was just awesome.

You have raced against Josh at the Daytona 200, what’s it like to be in the same race as your husband?

Melissa Paris:
The Daytona 200 in 2009 was my first race and is still the only time I have ever gridded up with Josh. We had a lot of talks beforehand about some of the possible implications. I think his team had a lot of concerns over situations that could come up. I think they were all worried about what might happen if he were to see me laying on the side of the track or something.

In the end, it went the other way with him falling off with just a few laps to go. I could see he was fine, thank God! It’s really not an ideal situation I think to race against your spouse in that kind of capacity. It’s one thing if we are banging bars on the supermoto track or something, but when careers are on the line, it can get sticky. We joke all the time that we’d have no problem knocking one another down if necessary… but I think it might only be half joking!

While being a woman can help open doors to some amazing opportunities (MotoGP test, British Supersport/World Supersport wild-cards), do you find that it makes it harder to get long term financing and sponsors for a full season of racing ?

Melissa Paris:
There is no denying that being a woman in a male dominated sport opens doors. I’d be kidding myself if I tried to say otherwise. Given my very late entry into this sport and our current economy, I know it would be a lot harder if I didn’t have something unique to sell. In some points it definitely makes me feel like people might not take me seriously… luckily for me, I have been able to partner up with some amazing companies that have stood behind me.

How did you find Brands Hatch when you raced in a very experienced field there in the British Supersport class in 2011?

Melissa Paris:
The experience at Brands Hatch was very difficult. Although I had a great group of people in the Motodex team and a great bike to ride, time was not on our side. We got one day of testing at a very crowded track day at Donington and then it was straight into racing at Brands.

Brands is a pretty difficult track to pick up and I could have definitely used some more laps ahead of time. I tried not to get discouraged thinking that the rest of the field had just raced there very recently. Then you add the fact that they ran on a different configuration Friday due to noise problems.

In the end that didn’t matter as we had an engine failure on my second lap which sat me out the rest of the day. I compounded every problem with a highside Sunday morning in the wet that damaged the bike for the race… I was so grateful for the opportunity, but I just wish I could have had a better chance to show what I was capable of.

You have had some amazing achievements in your career as a female rider, despite being a late starter in motorcycle racing. Do you think it is possible that a woman will make it all the way to MotoGP in the near future?

Melissa Paris:

I definitely think it is possible. It is for sure hard for someone like me with a late start to progress to that point, but it can’t be ruled out. I think there are more and more young girls coming up like boys have been doing, and they will have an even better shot at it.

There is talk that maybe women should race in a separate class, but I think that’s unnecessary. This is one of the few sports where we have a chance to compete on a level playing field.

Your race number is 13, it seems to have been fairly lucky for you so far! Why did you choose to race with a number many consider to be unlucky?

Melissa Paris:
13 has always been my number. Even as a little kid playing baseball it was my number. My big brother raced dirt track cars for a bit and it was his number as well… If it’s unlucky for everyone else, then it must hold a lot of luck for me… As well, I’ve raced with 413 which corresponds to one of my favourite Bible passages.

Finally, what do you have planned for next year? Any more overseas racing lined up?

Melissa Paris:
Right now I’m still working on next year. I will for sure be racing the full AMA Daytona Sportbike series again, one way or the other. So far it’s been a pretty serious privateer effort, but I’m working to put something together to find myself on a better supported program. It looks like I might have another opportunity to do a few British Supersport rounds as well, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that!


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