In only her 2nd year of racing, 14 year old Stacey Nesbitt clinched the 2011 CSBK Honda CBR125 Title and made history by becoming the first women in Canada to win a National motorcycle road racing Championship. Here Stacey tells us what she remembers about her first race, what it has been like to race against the guys and where she is headed to next.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about how and when you got involved in motorcycle racing?
A: My family always enjoyed following motorcycle racing and we spent many weekends during our summers at racetracks. My first actual race however, was in 2009 at Shannonville Motorsport Park, during the last race of the R.A.C.E. series. My sister had raced the CBR125 in the national and regional series that year. The 125 class was started in order to encourage younger racers to participate in the sport. I got involved following my sister because I saw how much fun she was having. We were the first sisters to race against each other in a National series in the same class.
Q: Can you tell us something you remember about your very first race?
A: I remember having to be pushed off the line in my very first race. I had never ridden a motorbike before I went to the race school and I literally learned how to use a clutch just before taking the school. Having never done a race start before and I was new to using a clutch, Chris Chapelle (the R.A.C.E. Director) pushed me off the start grid.
Q: As one of only a handful of females in the sport did you feel any resentment when you started? Was it intimidating to race against the boys?
A: I never felt any resentment for being a girl in the sport. Everyone was very supportive and encouraging. Racing with boys or girls has never been an issue for me and I was never intimidated because when you’re on the track, everyone is a racer – a competitor. When they are wearing a helmet and leathers you don’t even notice if they are a boy or girl on the bike. Besides, if I was looking at the back of a helmet and leathers, I was looking for ways to pass the person not at their gender.
Q: What advice would you give other females that are interested in getting involved in motorcycle racing?
A: Go for it! Don’t let anyone intimidate you and that goes for anything you do, not just motorcycle racing.
Q: You won the CBR 125R Challenge Championship in 2011 and became the first women to win a National Championship in Canada. Congratulations!! What was it like to be the first female to win a national championship?
A: For me it was more about winning my first championship and less about being the first women to do so. Because it was only my second year racing, it was like a dream. When I won my first race earlier in the season it felt so good I knew I could do it again and it helped me to build my confidence to realize I really could win more races and maybe even the Championship. It didn’t sink in for a while, almost like being in shock. But when it finally did sink in it was amazing! I felt like I was on top of the world and didn’t want to come down!
Q: Do you feel like women racers have any advantages over the men they compete against? What about disadvantages?
A: I guess an advantage women would have – at least in this class, is our size. Being smaller, we fit on the bike well and can tuck tighter to be able to benefit from some great drafting. The biggest disadvantage, I think, is not being able to build the same amount of muscle as the men, especially on the bigger bikes.
Q: Do you have any racing idols that you look up too?
A: Definitely! Being from Northern Ireland – Joey Dunlop. I grew up being told about Joey’s legacy and have visited his home town & bar. I also really admire Marco Simoncelli and was really fortunate to have met him too. I especially loved the way he interacted with his fans and handled himself with the public.
Q: Are there any female racers that have been role models for you? Do you find it important to have a women rider to give you inspiration or do you look at riders (male and female) as equally inspiring?
A: I have many friends in the racing community and look at them all equally, it doesn’t matter what gender you are.
Q: What series do you currently race?
A: In 2013 I raced the R.A.C.E. super series at Shannonville, a few CSBK National rounds and a few VRRA rounds.
Q: How do you mentally prepare before a race?
A: Before a race I usually listen to music to relax and focus. I also study the track map and do laps of the track in my head and make a game plan with my Dad on how I should tackle the race – and then I go out and have fun.
Q: Can you describe to us the feeling you get when you are racing motorcycles?
A: I still get butterflies in my stomach every time before I race. As the race goes on though, the nerves fade and I’m completely focused on the race. As for a feeling, I only know the before and after, during the race I am really just focused on passing anyone who is ahead of me.
Q: What other interests and hobbies do you have?
A: I like to play all kinds of sports and I’m always playing them at school. I love to sing and act and am in my school play this year. Also, I really love to read, and almost always have my nose stuck in a book. One of the others racers is reading the same book series I am and we enjoy talking about that at the track too.
Q: You had the opportunity to try out for the Red Bull Rookies Cup this year. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience?
A: It was a lot of fun and getting through to day 2 was awesome! It made it more disappointing though to not make it through to the end, but it was still a great experience. Trying to talk to the other kids was interesting too with all the many different languages. Most of them spoke very little English and this made me very thankful I’m not too bad at charades.
Q: What was it like meeting and riding with racers your age from all over the world?
A: It was really great. I met some really nice people and made some new friends. It was cool to see the different riding styles from different places in the world and to hear about their experiences and race seasons. I was on track with racers from a few different countries and they all rode a bit differently. It also showed which countries had strong competitive series.
Q: Tell us a little bit about being in Spain and getting to ride the Circuito Monteblanco. How did that track differ from other tracks you have ridden?
A: Spain was beautiful and the track was a nice ride. The track flowed well, making it really nice to race. One thing that was difficult was trying to pick reference points for braking, turn in points, etc. The landscape around the track had been cleared so there weren’t any trees or markers to use as a reference.
Q: After the Red Bull Rookies try outs you went straight to Ireland to race in the Sunflower Trophy Race. Can you tell us how that happened and what it was like? What bike were you riding? How did you do?
A: When we were looking at going to Spain, Dad noticed that the Sunflower race was on around the same dates. We figured we could also tie it in and get to see family in the process. It was a lot of fun as well and I really enjoyed myself. The people were really nice and the track was a fun track to ride. I was racing an ex Gabor Talmacsi RS125 in the moto3 class. A big thank you to Alan Patterson of RPM Performance for sorting me out with a bike. Unfortunately due to an oil spill on the track and then rain starting, the meeting had to be abandoned before I got the chance to race.
Q: Where else in the world have you raced? Do you have a favourite track or favourite race experience?
A: The only other place I have raced is Qatar, where the racing was at night and under flood lights. That was really cool. Due to the extreme heat over there during the day we had to race at night! Again it was fun to meet other racers from around the world including Hikari Okubo who raced the CSBK round at St-Eustache this year. I can’t say I have one favourite track but I do really like racing on Circuit Mont-Tremblant. It is a longer track with great turns and curves. It is not flat and I just love the overall track lay-out and have a lot of fun racing it.
Q: What do you think all motorcycle racers have in common?
A: That we all love motorbikes, speed, and love to race. The more racers I meet the more I see it, we are all a bit crazy.
Q: Have you ever had any formal motorcycle training?
A: I have taken Michel Mercier’s F.A.S.T school and the Kevin Schwantz school. Both taught me a lot about the basics of racing a motorbike; which is really helpful to me because I only started riding 4 years ago out of the blue.
Q: What has been your biggest racing accomplishment?
A: In my opinion it would be winning the CBR125 Canadian National championship in 2011. It was really big for me especially because it was only my second year racing. It gave me the confidence to race with the front runners throughout the season and showed me that I can do it and have the desire to do it again.
Q: What’s next for you and your racing?
A: Next up for me is AM600 and AM SBK. I’m really excited for this and my next season! It is going to be really good and I’m already loving the 600. But we need to find sponsors for 2014 to help offset the costs, with the biggest expense being tires and entry fees. If anyone out there is interested please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also very grateful for the support I receive from Forensitech Racing, Powersports Canada, Arai Helmets, Arlen Ness, Pro 6 Cycle, R&M Electrical, the many supporters over the years (we try to list everyone on our website), family, friends and race fans. Also a word of thanks to LFF Racing for the VRRA support in 2013.
I can’t wait to get back on track.