By: Dave Abrahams
Cape Town - At first glance it seemed there were more men than women milling about the Killarney paddock at the 2014 MSA Women in Motorsport day on Saturday but as registration got underway it became clear that, for once, the gents were there in support of their ladies - fettling bikes, polishing screens, fastening helmets and racing harnesses, doing what whatever it took to ensure that their wives, girlfriends and, in some cases, daughters had an absolute blast.
After a short introduction and a safety briefing from clerk of the course Neva van der Merwe (who was not about to relax her standards for the occasion; she was utterly scathing about a young lady who wanted to take her bike out on the circuit while wearing a miniskirt!) the drivers of the GTI challenge brought their cars up into pit lane for the Hot Laps.
And for the most part they were perfect gentlemen, waiting patiently while the ladies – most of whom had never seen a racing harness or worn a crash helmet before – were strapped in, and then taking them round the circuit fast enough to get them high on adrenalin without scaring them out of their wits – with the exception of top contender Andrea Bate, who gave somebody’s boyfriend an introduction to motorsport that left him bug-eyed and Bate with a mischievous grin all over her face!
Then it was the turn of the Biker Chicks, ranging from 13-year-old short-circuit star Erin Lane to a young lady on a Suzuki GSX-R750 (“See, Ma – I do know how to lean!”) to Carrie-Anne Jane, a freelance journalist who had never sat on a bike until two weeks before the day (“Because my fiancé would kill me!”) and was riding a motorcycle for the very first time beyond the confines of the training ground, thereby earning the respect of everybody present - including, we trust, the aforementioned fiancé.
LIVE TO RACE
Live to Race is a group of sports-car enthusiasts who turn their passion for their high-performance toys to good account by making them available for charitable events – their contingent of fire-breathing monsters was led by a Ford GT40 replica (“Just stand on the seat and let yourself slide!”) and included a nest of Cobras, four Subarus, a brace of AMG sledgehammers, a KTM X-Bow, a Porsche 911 GT3, a BMW M3 and a very enthusiastically conducted Ford Focus ST.
These hot seats were reserved for VIP guests and youngsters nominated by charity organisations such as Hokisa and Reach for a Dream, who lent entirely new meaning to the term ‘wide-eyed wonderment’ as they were helped out of the cars after their rides.
The kart circuit was alive all morning with hard-revving 270cc Honda singles as the women discovered for themselves just how much fun these overgrown roller-skates are. Without exception, their lap times were way quicker at the end of their 20-minute sessions than at the beginning.
Which is more than can be said of the ladies on the skid pan, who rapidly learned how to keep the Toyota demo cars under control, gaining immense amounts of intuitive skill and self-confidence that will stand them in good stead the next time they get caught in a Cape winter storm.
There was none of the hard-edged vibe that infuses a normal track day - just a high-pitched buzz of excitement as more than 100 women found out just how addictive speed can be - so much so that at least one was heard to ask, “How do I get into motor racing?”
So we gave her the number of the SA Kart Racing Academy and told her, “Go for it, Jannet!”