Johannesburg - When you dream, they say, dream big. Those words could have been written for Antoinette Smit, a lifelong biker with a dream as big as the bike she rides.
At an age when most world-class riders are thinking about retiring, she wants to get into Grand Prix racing.
Crazy? Maybe not. Smit was born into a biking family and grew up on small capacity off-road machines, then and now the best training ground for circuit racing on tar.
When she married in 1998 her husband, also a biker, bought her a 200cc Yamaha quad - but she didn’t like it because (a) quads aren’t street legal and (b) they lean the wrong way in corners. So he bought her a Suzuki 400 Bandit - a short-coupled streetbike with a sit-up-and-beg seating position.
She doesn’t want to come across as picky, but she didn’t like that one either. The time had come to choose her own bike - a serious sports machine. And her weapon of choice was an all-black 1999 Yamaha R6.
OK, said her husband, but first you have to complete both the Beginners’ and Intermediate courses at Speed Queen Racing. Which she did - and promptly traded the Yamaha in on a bright red 2006 R6, aboard which she racked up huge distances and even passed her motorcycle riding licence.
Typical biker: ride first, licence later.
But if more is good, lots is better and too much is just about right, and ‘too much’ in this case was her next bike - an 1199cc Kawasaki ZX-12R. Smit readily admits that at 247kg wet, it was too heavy for what she was doing with it but, with 142kW on tap its straight-line performance was incomparable - and addictive.
Then real life intervened, in the shape of a divorce - but you can’t keep a biker down for long. A bit more than a year later, she began dating a rider who also had a dedicated track-day bike - a beautifully prepared Honda Fireblade (that’s the bike in the picture), 60 kilograms lighter and with almost the same power as the ZX-12R .
Given her experience on the Kawasaki - albeit a blunt instrument compared to the Honda - he invited her to join him on a track day at Red Star Raceway in Delmas and, despite the misgivings of the marshals (who were right - the ‘Blade is a bit too much bike for the ultra-tight Red Star circuit in any but expert hands) sent her out on it in the C Class beginners’ sessions.
The rest, as they say, is history. Within months she was riding with the fast manne (and chicks) in Class B, and now she’s applied for a club racing licence at Red Star. Smit is convinced she has the mojo to mix it for real on the track and one day, if this determined young lady can find the right sponsorship, at international level.
Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? Don’t bet on it.