I arrived in Italy 6 months ago beyond excited about the opportunity ahead of me. To race a full season in Europe with machinery and a team capable of winning the championships I was about to enter: The Honda Italy cbr600rr Cup and the Italian Women’s Championship was a dream come true.
Maybe even I was a bit naïve. I’m lucky to have had raced in fierce competition overseas previously however the first race meeting here was still a huge shock. Not only did I eat artichokes for the first time, I got teased for wearing jandals and couldn’t communicate with my mechanic. Then on track.. well I was pushed, shoved and basically chewed up and spat back out. Ok over exaggeration but around 6 seconds a lap off the leaders was less than ideal. It was quickly apparent that the racing here was just a whole different world. I don’t want to undermine what we do in New Zealand (or elsewhere) and to compare the two would be like comparing apples and pears, so I am not even going to attempt it. Let’s just say everything about the racing in Europe is professional. There are no cutting corners (unless it’s to get up the inside on the last lap) and there are definitely no last minute arguments about the rules at riders briefing!
After the first race it was clear to me I needed some more practise and I begged my team manager Zappa for more seat time. I owe him for his patience and generosity in spending hours with me at the go-kart track and going over sections of each race track in painstaking detail. All this with barely a word of English! There is always a way to make things work.
Our first two Honda Cup races were in the wet and I finished 17th in both despite a 200km/hr crash at Misano. Crashing out of the first race in the Women’s championship also wasn’t the brightest thing I’ve ever done – along with making myself sick from training daily in 35 degree heat and forgetting to apply for a visa permit to stay the six months – I’ve made my fair share of mistakes this year. As silly as it may sound, the weather was also a huge challenge for us. It rained at least one day every race weekend which at times was great but also made learning tracks very difficult when you must race against local gurus without even previously seeing the track in dry conditions. Italy also had a particularly hot summer this year where it was over 35 degrees every single day and although I am certainly not complaining, my body wasn’t used to it and I really struggled to sleep, let alone race in black leathers for 30 minutes at Imola! However, if Italy taught me one thing it is that there are some things you cannot change, you’ve simply got to make the most of every situation and keep belief that it will all work out. I’m proud to say it did. The amount I improved race after race was significant and saw me take the win in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the women’s championship.
I want to raise a drink (some Tuscan red perhaps?!) to Phil and Cheryl London of WIL Sport management for making this a possibility. A simple thank you will never be enough to repay them; I can only hope someday I will be able to contribute to WIL Sport Management in bigger and better ways. Also a thank you to my mum and dad who always played down the tough times our family going through to allow me to stay focused on the task at hand. You are both an inspiration.
We are looking for support to do a better programme next year. After learning the tracks, people, language and general ‘know-how’ the second time around I’m certain we can be further up the field. I believe I am capable to race the European or World championships, but only time and more positive results will tell if we can come up with the funding to do so.