Female GP rider pussyfoots through 250 GP

Time of article published Apr 8, 2001

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SUZUKA, Japan - Katja Poensgen made her debut on Sunday as the first woman to ride in a Grand Prix 250cc race but found herself in a "no-man's land" and unable to catch most guys in the pack.

The 24-year-old German, who has stepped up from Superstock racing in Europe to the 250cc class of the premier motorcycling tour, was lapped by seven riders before finishing 22nd in the season-opening Japanese GP.

"At a certain point I was all alone out there," she said. "There was nobody in front of me and nobody behind, so I slowed down a bit to reach the finish."

She ended her race in 41min 41.459 on her Aprilia, one lap behind in the 19-lap event won by Japan's Honda rider Daijiro Katoh in 41:03.596. There were still eight other male riders far behind her who failed to be classified.

"I didn't even know how I would feel physically because I've never done so many laps in my life," said Poensgen, daugher of a former motocross and endurance rider who has been racing on a non-junior, regular tour since she was 18.

Poensgen, who stands 1,70m tall and weighs 60kg, is the third female rider to compete in the 52-year history of GP bike racing but the first to challenge the intermediate 250cc class.

There were two full-time female 125cc GP racers before her. Finland's Taru Rinne raced in 1988 and 1989 and Tomoko Igata of Japan in 1994 and 1995. The best finish for either was seventh.

But Poensgen, who hopes to become one of the top 10 GP riders of her class in the future, remained upbeat.

"The dream of every rider is to race in GPs. This is the best day of my life since I started racing," she said.

She has come a long way since beginning to watch bike races with her father at the age of four. She persuaded her parents to invest in her first race bike - a 125cc Suzuki - when she was 14.

Three years later she became the first woman to win the Junior Cup in Germany and competed in the German 125cc the next year.

She finished second once and in the top five three times in the European Supersport series and moved up to Superstock in 2000. - Sapa-AFP

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