An off-road racing phenomenon has been ushered in with great pomp, signalled by the Great Britain under-17 girls’ team winning the GoPro GoPro Junior World Championship in Chile on Sunday.
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The triple world champion Simone Law, who was introduced to the sport as a four-year-old by her father Les, has been compared to Sarah Fisher but a generation on the horizon and only started competing at that level only two years ago.
Now she is poised to take on the world championship alongside her 17-year-old team-mate Georgina Pearce, to become one of Britain’s most promising young female racers.
“That’s two gruelling weeks, an intense two weeks,” Les Law said of the last two weeks when his daughter was away racing on the 2,400-mile racecourse at the altitude of Antofagasta, a mixture of salt flats, desert and high mountain ranges and teams have nothing but the occasional pit stop to rest the bikes, hydrate and ride a bike out for a few miles.
“But this is what she loves. This is the girls’ race, this is what we set out to do,” he said.
“All of a sudden people are interested in it, watching it, seeing it, saying ‘oh, I want to do that’ and they start to fund it themselves, doing it themselves, sending their kids to the training. If you know girls love racing these bikes, that’s what we’re after.”
In some countries there are still some powerful stereotypes about gender in motorsport.
There are numerous media references to the gruelling effect the race tracks can have on the women racers, with equal measures of praise and concern.
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But women racers say they put up with the obstacles as part of their racing culture and particularly here in the UK because of the fanbase.
“You go to a lot of meets and you’re the only girl. It’s not unusual, but it does get you a bit nervous. It’s definitely not the ideal situation. But people will tell you ‘we love the girls’ or ‘we feel sorry for you because we’re watching and there’s all these boys’,” Law said.
“That’s the place where I feel at home. With men’s racing this is the boys’ sport and as a woman it’s a completely different mindset.”
The British team finished fifth after the first race in Chile to get through to the second stage.
Two wins followed from the next three rounds, including one with a record time over 1,800m in El Capitan on the first day, which Law says was the first time she had gone over and kicked out of the pack.
“I could feel my legs starting to wobble but I still had to go on with the job and do it as fast as I could,” she said.