#17) Ana Carrasco


In a world saturated with choice and opportunities, breaking records or setting firsts isn’t as difficult as it might seem.

Some achievements don’t require even an ounce of talent – i.e. having the tallest mohawk (genuinely!) – but then there are those feats that require something so special only a handful of individuals can ever complete them.

Ana Carrasco is not just one of those people though – she’s also a pioneer for women in motorsport worldwide.

That might be a big tag to place on the shoulders of someone aged just 21, but if there’s anyone who can cope with that expectation it’s Carrasco, who became the first woman in history to win a motorbike world championship last weekend.
 
She did so in dramatic style, carving her way from 25th on the grid to finish 13th and claim the World Supersport 300 Championship title by a single point.

While this may be her biggest career accomplishment to date – and certainly the one that has attracted the most media attention – Carrasco has been blazing a trail for women for years already.

She began doing so aged 12 as the first woman to win the 125cc Extremeno Speed Championship in her native Spain, where the legal age to hold a motorcycle license is 16.

In 2011, now 14, she became the first woman to score points in the FIM CEV International Championship before upgrading the feat two years later in the Moto3 World Championship, a category effectively two tiers below MotoGP – the pinnacle of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

Then in 2017 she became the first woman ever to win an individual world championship motorcycle race by taking victory in Portugal in the same category she would go on to win this year.

For a sport that can be traced back to the late 19th century, it’s incredible to think it’s only now that a woman has been able to claim both an individual Grand Prix win and a world title racing alongside men.

Indeed the world of motorsport as a whole seems to be lacking way behind other sports when it comes to gender parity, although the UK in particular has certainly seen a push to get more women involved at all levels recently.

The benefits are slowly beginning to show too – Katherine Legge has forged a successful career racing sports cars in America, Susie Wolff was the first woman to test an F1 car for 22 years under the leadership of Claire Williams at Williams and earlier this year Jamie Chadwick became the first woman to win a BRDC British Formula 3 Championship race.

The Dare To Be Different foundation, co-founded by Wolff, is also one of a number of projects doing fantastic work to encourage more women to get involved in all aspects of motorsport.

But much of the attention seems to be on car racing and less on bikes, which is such a shame as there are equally as many women achieving incredible things in this format of motorsport.

They include road racing legend Maria Costello MBE, who became the first female to stand on the podium in a TT or Manx GP in 2005 while also setting the fastest ever lap by a woman around that notorious Isle of Man circuit.

The record was taken from her by Jenny Tinmouth in 2009, another woman who has achieved a multitude of firsts in motorbike racing, becoming the first woman to race in four separate British categories, including the famous British Superbike Championship.

Another star on two wheels is Elena Myers, who was the first female to win an AMA Pro Racing sprint road race in 2010 before also becoming the maiden woman across all types of motorsport to win at the Daytona International Speedway.

Three of her American compatriots – drag racers Leslie Porterfield, Cayla Rivas and Valerie Thompson – have also held a variety of land speed records while endurance and trial rider Laia Sanz has also taken on and beaten plenty of men at the infamous Dakar Rally.

But despite this, none of these women have ever really had the attention they deserved for their achievements.

Perhaps though this is because the general public just aren’t interested in TT, road, trial or drag bike racing. While each event attracts plenty of spectators, these are generally hardcore fans and not your average Joe.

Grand Prix racing however has a much more global appeal. It was recently reported that viewing figures for MotoGP hit astounding numbers in 2017 following their collaboration with cloud-based video specialists Grabyo, with their digital fanbase growing to 22 million and their videos receiving more than one billion hits.

BT Sport also do a fantastic job of showcasing not just MotoGP but also Moto2 and Moto3 in this country and, with Carrasco’s championship being seen as a feeder to these categories, it is therefore no wonder that her accomplishments have attracted more interest.

Furthermore, with the exception of Myers, Carrasco is the only racer to consistently beat male riders in close combat, head-to-head racing.

So much has been said in recent years about the ability of women to keep up with their male counterparts both in terms of physicality and speed and, while anyone with sense can see this is rubbish, unfortunately there has been little evidence to prove otherwise.

Until now that is. Over the course of her two seasons Carrasco has finished in the points at every race except one and added two wins this year to the historic victory she claimed last season.

The results from her three seasons in Moto3 may not look great – she failed to score points in 2014 or 2015 – but, when put into context, they aren’t actually that bad.

Her team-mate in her debut season was Maverick Vinales, a prodigious talent now tearing up the form book in MotoGP, while she had an uncompetitive bike for the other two years as she struggled to fund her way in the sport.

She was also a teenager at the time, something that’s easy to forget. While obviously age is no barrier for speed, racing craft can take time to develop and clearly Carrasco has gone away, worked on and mastered this.

Whether or not Carrasco makes it to the very top is something we will have to wait to find out, but one thing is for certain; she is a woman winning in a man’s world.

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