Just two weeks ago I had the honour of being in Japan to race with Synergy force Moriwaki team in the 4 hour endurance race, held in conjunction with the infamous Suzuka 8 hour. I got the call up early last week when one of the original riders Melissa Paris from the United a States fell very ill and could not compete. Melissa recommended my name to the FIM women in motorcycling commission as they were supporting this project once again after tasting success last year being the first year an all female team in history to finish this race. They were hoping to improve on the team’s amazing 28th place last year. After being asked Tuesday morning and agreeing to the proposal by 9am, I was on a plane the very next day to Nagoya, Japan. I was greeted at the airport by team owner and manager Midori Moriwaki, who runs Moriwaki Engineering – a well respected who company produce exhausts etc and also an extremely good moto2 machine. Midori is an amazing, amazing lady and continued to inspire me more and more throughout the weekend. She is also very funny and made me feel at ease immediately from the moment I walked through the airport and she screamed ‘Avalon!!!’ with arms wide open, despite never meeting her before.
We headed straight to the circuit Wednesday and got stuck into meeting the team members and a photoshoot with the Honda cbr600rr. It was surreal being in Japan with an immaculate bike ready for me to race, when just two days earlier I had no idea what was coming.
Thursday was the first time on track and all we would get was one 45 minute session before official practise and qualifying the following day. It also happened to be pouring with rain! My team mate Shelina Moreda from the United States completed the race last year and also had been testing the week prior, so we agreed I could do the full session in order to learn the track. It went really well, coming to grips with the bike and fast circuit layout quickly. With two minutes to go however I had a crash going into turn one as the front well lost grip under brakes over a large river running across the asphalt. It wasn’t too much of a big deal and everyone was happy I got it out of the way before the race!
On Friday we got one practise session of 30 minutes which we split between the two riders. It was successful for both of us and quickly followed by Shelina’s (2nd rider) qualifying session. She ended up 53rd out of 78 riders. My sessions was later in the day and I ended up 39th out of 78 which put us 51st on the grid as they combine the laps times of both riders.
Sunday morning saw another early 6am start to be at the track by 7am. The atmosphere before the race was intense. We lined up for the Le Mans start with all the team which included mentor Yuki Takahashi an ex MotoGP rider. We also received well wishes from people like Shuei Nakamoto who runs the HRC MotoGP team, and the Suzuka circuit owner. I did the start which meant my little legs sprinted across the track as fast as possible and I leapt on the bike almost knocking it over in the process. Even with the very average, uncoordinated start I finished the first lap in 41st position and climbed up to 37th by the end of my first stint of 25 laps. Shelina went out but as I was going through the recovery process when the team alarmed that she was signalling she would come in. It was an extreme hurry to put my gear on and I threw my ‘skins’ under gear on back to front and inside out! I made it back just as she arrived into the pits and went out for another 20 laps. This was interrupted by a ride through penalty from speeding in pit lane, but otherwise the stint was awesome and I set my fastest lap of the weekend! I handed back over to Shelina who unfortunately had been dealing with arm pump. We agreed that she would only do another 10 laps at a time, which meant an extra rider change but we would both be doing strong lap times.
My third and final stint on bike was just 18 laps before I handed over to Shelina to finish the race. The whole four hours is completed on the same set of tires so it was starting to slide around a little but nowhere near as bad as I had expected. Shelina was able to hold our position and we finished in 26th place overall!! With all the difficulties encountered this was an amazing result and personally I was so happy, relieved and exuberant to make it to the end!
We are the second all female team to make it to the finish of this race, after Shelina and Melissa finished last year. Its another big step forward for females in motorcycling and we hope our achievements will encourage other women to participate in racing.
Believe it or not, originally I was hesitant to take this opportunity because of the circumstances we were under in Europe. But I am endlessly thankful that I did. The bike, circuit, team and people in Japan were better than I could have ever asked for; and it was beneficial to get so much track time.
We are still planning on even more track time before the next round of the EJC on September 20. Until then I am training hard here in the mountains of? Andorra. Its been really hard work cycling and running at high altitude, but I know the improved strength and fitness will pay dividends on track.
Especially with the Women’s Cup championship on the line in one months time at Jerez, nothing can be left to chance!
Will keep you updated,
Thank you all for the amazing support.