WorldWCR: a Spanish podium, victory goes to Maria Herrera

Christina Chiofalo
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The FIM Women’s Racing Circuit World Championship makes its debut at the Misano Circuit in Emilia Romagna, abbreviated WorldWCR. It is the first event that will (hopefully) make history. For the world of women’s motorcycling it is a great achievement. We are happy about it, and we are especially happy for the female riders who participated.

This world championship was a chance to prove themselves and show the world their skills. This does not exclude the visibility and opportunity to entice teams and sponsors to support female riders in motorcycling in the future, thus helping the female quota. Women with a passion and potential for motorcycling exist, and it is only right that in 2024 they are given the opportunity to exploit it. Opinions on this girls’ race vary from one point of view to another, and we have been able to verify this over the last few days of the race between polls made via social media and live comments I have heard in the stands.

From what I have perceived, interest in the women’s category is not yet high, but is rather infected by prejudice. You hear phrases like ‘women are not made to ride motorbikes’ or ‘that’s easy, they should race with men instead’, but we would like to remind you that as in all other sports where there is already a women-only category, it is important to have one in the speed category of motorcycling as well. We must also not confuse (or rather compare) the performance of a woman with that of a man. However technically prepared and physically trained they may be, they can hardly compete with a man, it is logically genetic. But this does not rule out the possibility, some female riders in this WorldWCR have in fact already taken part in other mixed races.

WorldWCR Christina

WorldWCR Race1

The WorldWCR qualifying warmed up the engines well, but did not go so well with Race 1, which started at 11:50 a.m. on 15 June 2024. After a few laps the race was red-flagged due to an accident, Norwegian driver Mia Rusthen (Rusthen Racing) crashed in Turn 16. Rescuers transported her to the Bufalini Trauma Centre in Cesena, where she is currently in an artificial coma. She underwent surgery to relieve the pressure on her head and remove a haemorrhage. The cause of the accident has not yet been clarified, it is presumed to be a malfunction of the brakes, not excluding the doubt of a possible fainting of the rider herself. The day’s temperatures were high (my mobile phone read 31°) and the sun was beating down. Racing in those conditions with the leather suit and the adrenalin and tension on was certainly not easy.

Race 1 was thus postponed to 16:00 where the red flag flew again shortly after the restart. It is Jessica Howden (Team Trasimeno), the South African also suffers a concussion but is conscious. Australian Tayla Relph (TAYCO Motorsport) also had a fall, who fortunately recovered and suffered a slight contusion to her left shoulder. In the wake of these injuries, anxiety increased, but it was soon abated with the victory of Spain’s Maria Herrera. She won first place after the afternoon’s five laps with a time of 1’49.390. She was followed by Ana Carrasco (1’49.514) in second place and Sara Sanchez (1’49.441) in third. Italian Roberta Ponziani came fourth with a time of 1’49.573. However, the finale of a painful Race 1 ended in an exciting manner as the Spaniards showed their skills at their best, especially the first two. A duel to the last second between Maria and Ana. At the end of the race, the two drivers commented:

Maria Herrera: “I am very happy with today’s result, but tomorrow we can improve. I like this race, it was a good challenge with Ana and Sara. The difference with a men’s race? The men are more aggressive.”
Ana Carrasco: “This is the first women’s world championship, it’s normal to be nervous, it’s new for all of us. Given the race break today and having only five laps available in the afternoon, we pushed and gave our best to try and get the best place. I didn’t find any difference between today’s all-women race and a mixed men’s race, the competition is the same.”

WorldWCR Grid

WorldWCR Race2

It is the day of the ‘grand finale’. The injuries from the day’s Race 1 have slightly left their mark and there is a different tension in the paddock than on the previous day. But it is with happiness that we see Tayla Relph back on the circuit and ready to race, claimed fit from the hospital after further checks following her slip on the track the day before. There is also positive news regarding rider Jessica Howden, who sends her greetings from her hospital bed via stories on social media. No update as far as Mia Rusthen is concerned. Even before the warm-up, Alyssia Whitmore (Sekhmet Motorcycle Racing team) announced her absence, the British rider having to withdraw due to a gastroenteritis.
Thus 23 riders are left in the race and only one will win the title of World Champion. The starting positions on the grid are changed as they are based on the outcome and the points earned between qualifying and Race 1, so we see Ana Carrasco (Evan Bros Racing Yamaha team) in first position, Sara Sanchez (511 Terra&Vita Racing Team) in second, Roberta Ponziani (Yamaha Motoxracing WCR Team) in third. The previous day’s winner Maria Herrera finished in fourth position.

Race 2 is a real spectacle! The riders push hard, we see overtaking and counter-overtaking. They try to exploit the slipstream, responding under braking. Halfway through the race, Mexican rider Astrid Madrigal (ITALIKA Racing FIMLA) crashes in turn 6, while French Emily Bondi (YART Zelos Black Knights Team) retires, returning to the pits with a strong pain in her ankle.

In the meantime, the leading group formed by Carrasco and Herrera, who were fighting hard, was disrupted by Sanchez, who managed to overtake and briefly move into first position.
Needless to say, the final lap was epic! Really exciting! Maria Herrera (Klint Forward Factory Team) managed to overtake and regain first position and cross the finish line, also winning Race 2. She is the winner of the FIM Women’s Racing Circuit World Championship!
Sara Sanchez took second place and third place went to Ana Carrasco. And this is how a Spanish podium is celebrated: listening to their national anthem amid applause, photos, videos and drops of sparkling wine sprayed in the air from the bottles shaken by the three riders. Their smiles are splendid, as are those of the other girls over these three days.


There were so many emotions

During the days of the Championship I got so excited. I had moments of anxiety, adrenalin and excitement (in my opinion often worse than the drivers themselves!) trying to identify with them. It couldn’t have been easy. Some of the participants are not professional pilots, but compete on an amateur level. This also explains the difference in times achieved and the gap visible to the eye on the track between the 26 participants. But they are all good, they handled the situation well, believing and simply challenging themselves in the hope of realising a dream.

I will never forget the scenes I experienced every day before the race. Some were calming themselves by listening to music, some were praying, meditating. Some expressions were serious and concentrated, others never lost their smiles. And then there were the some ‘mechanical’ girls who prepared the bike by checking the tyre temperature, pulling the chain and carrying out routine maintenance on the bike. How beautiful they were to watch! They made the paddock setting even more ‘Girl Full Power’, the name of a project dedicated to women by Yamaha, which sponsored the event with Yamaha R7s. In fact, the female riders all raced on the same bike. A 4-stroke twin-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine. Output 73.4hp and 689cc. All fitted with Pirelli tyres, another sponsor of the event.

This FIM Women’s Racing Circuit World Championship was an exciting ‘first time’!

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