WorldWCR: the beginning of the women’s world championship

Lisa Cavalli
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Without going too far back in time, you only have to stop a few years ago to remember that a women’s world championship in circuit racing was unimaginable. Even today it is still strange for some people to see a woman on a motorbike, let alone watch female racers compete on the track! But finally the big moment has arrived: the start of the WorldWCR. From 14 to 16 June 2024, 25 female riders will race at the Misano circuit, rising to 26 with the inclusion of Beatrice Barbera, who will be a wild card in Round 1. The girls come from 18 different nations, and to see them all together wearing their colourful leather suits is truly a spectacle. They are beautiful, smiling and do not hide that veil of tension a few minutes before the start of the race qualifying.
My day began with the roar of their bikes already running for warm-up, the so-called warm-up at 09:00. I then took advantage of the available pre-qualifying time and dedicated it to some photos, videos and interviews with some of them.

Roberta Ponziani

I got to know the drivers better, and some of them enlightened me even more about the championship and the world of racing. These girls are radiant, friends and challengers at the same time. I can feel the adrenaline in the air, and I won’t hide the fact that I feel a touch of envy towards them. To be part of a women’s world championship, the first women’s world championship, is a memorable event. I am not rooting for anyone, but I would like them all to win. Outside opinions on the WorldWCR vary depending on one’s point of view. For some it is right that the girls should also have an all-female world championship, while for others it should rather be a mixed race. I personally, however, am curious as to what the female racers themselves think!

I managed to ask a few of them, here a piece of a conversation with Roberta Ponziani:
‘I think this WorldWCR is a big breakthrough! Until now it was only motocross that had a women’s world championship. In speed, on the other hand, there are already some championships such as the European or the Italian women’s championship, but there was no talk of a world championship until this year. Racing in the context of Superbike is a good opportunity for everyone. As in all sports there needs to be two separate categories, the physique and performance of a woman is different from a man, it is right that there should be a women’s race.”

Competing in a world championship is not cheap, and those who come from the track environment or have grown up in families that have always supported the world of motorbikes, certainly know best how to get around.
Roberta Ponziani: “But in spite of everything we have come this far, and we have done it mainly with our own strength and commitment.”

When asked ‘what do you expect from this world championship’, she replies:
“Home track, I am the only Italian, I have to win!” Roberta plays the field, in the sense that she has already participated in competitions, winning a few titles. She is 28 years old, and she is really tough.

Lucy Michel

Lucy Michel: ‘To have come this far and to race for the first women’s world championship for me is already a victory.’

I was very intrigued by the blond-haired, blue-eyed German, 19-year-old Lucy Michel:
“I ended up racing on the track and becoming a driver almost by chance. I was seven years old when my father first signed me up for a track course at Sachsenring. I wanted to try almost for fun, and without knowing it that day I took part in a selection where only the best were chosen for races. From there it all started and I continued racing and training. I like the idea of the women’s world championship because we can test ourselves and show everyone our potential. I am happy that I finally have the possibility to choose which categories I want to race in. I have so far only competed between males and I liked it, but this time between females it is more fun and interesting at the same time. The challenge is different, and being all women it is easier to compete even if only physically. What I also like about this WorldWCR is that we all race on the same bike, a Yamaha R7, so no one is helped by the engine.”
I ask her how she feels about being the only German in the race and Lucy says: “It certainly makes me proud, especially because out of so many I am the one who has managed to take part. It is not easy for us in Germany to train, they say we are not very good on motorbikes and this is a bit true as there are few tracks available and the cost is high. You have to consider that in addition to the registration costs, there are other expenses to be taken into account each time, such as the plane ticket to Italy for example. To get to know the tracks a little better, I have often trained on the playstation (laughs), but of course it’s not like in reality. I hope that this women’s world championship can be an extra stimulus for Germany, and spur it into giving more support and economic backing to motorcycling, to those who want to get closer to racing (and not just focus on football). It should take an example from Spain, which instead offers different training solutions and often free of charge.”

Continuing the chat, he explains that working on oneself and believing in one’s own abilities, without being intimidated by others, is fundamental. Nobody has the right to say that motorcycling is not for women and that only men can ride motorbikes. With the right training and commitment, you always improve and as long as there is passion and fun, you are on the right track.

And on what she expects from the world championship, Lucy Michel replies:
“From experience I have learnt that expectations, especially if they are too high, can lead to disappointment. So I don’t expect anything, I will just give my best. I am living a dream, a few years ago I took a photo together with Maria Herrera as her fan, and today we are racing together in the women’s world championship! To have come this far, among really strong female pilots, is already a victory for me.

I am happy to be among the female riders at the Misano circuit, and I feel like one of them in terms of passion for motorbikes. In the meantime it is already time for qualifying, won by Maria Herrera, who will start on pole. Sara Sanchez came second, followed in third by Ana Carrasco. Roberta Ponziani will start from fourth position.

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