British teenage woman pursues motorbike and motocross championship

Earlier this month, 19-year-old British off-road racer Andy Hancock attended the junior Stakeholders Rally of Italy – the event reserved for members of the motorbike and motocross community. Her dad is a racing expert…

British teenage woman pursues motorbike and motocross championship

Earlier this month, 19-year-old British off-road racer Andy Hancock attended the junior Stakeholders Rally of Italy – the event reserved for members of the motorbike and motocross community.

Her dad is a racing expert and they’ve competed together. Yet despite 10 years in the sport and ample family involvement, Andy had never competed in a kart rally – the first event where she can compete as a woman.

Andy is part of a new wave of women challenging long-standing stereotypes about motorsport, such as the belief that gender plays a large part in motorbike/motocross racing.

British motorbike and motocross racer Chloe Cowan at home in Cornwall. Photograph: Liz Scott/RacingGreenSport

The sport “lacks an identity in terms of a female racing community”, according to Chiara Pirrotta, who also competes in motocross. “It’s not really something that’s accessible, like Formula One or any other racing sport. This gives [woman] people a chance to take part and make some friends.”

Women are joining the sport in their droves. The number of female competitors competing in motocross and karting nationally and internationally has surged in recent years. It’s in part to do with women starting to understand that their innate competitive traits don’t need to be altered for a masculine arena, or the rise of support groups like Women in the Street (WITS), founded in 2004 and dedicated to the growing female circuit.

The internet is a huge help. “There is now a really community-based phenomenon that is developing which people can come together with and support each other,” Cowan said. “It’s really exciting to see and it’s really healthy. I think because racing is unisex, it’s opening doors for a lot of people. The marketing material makes females sound like rocket scientists, and I’m not even doing rocket science.”

Andy is at a stage in her racing career where she is now able to face up to her own gender issues head on. Her father has noticed a difference as she’s grown older and more comfortable with herself.

“Now she’s a bit older and she’s in a more traditional role, you want to feel like you belong,” Justin Hancock said. “She’s not looking at each other as two boys, but as male and female working together. You have the same mindset when you’re racing as you do when you’re riding a bike. You aren’t really thinking gender at that point. She’s a very capable racer, and confident in her own ability.”

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