Two talented Australian women will be flying the Aussie flag and hope to bring home some silverware when they head to Italy later today to compete in the FIM Women’s European Cup for the first time.
Queenslander Sharni Pinfold and Victorian, Grace Poutch, are proud to represent Australia against the best women road racers in Europe.
The FIM Women’s European Cup takes place over four rounds throughout some of the most spectacular tracks in Italy. Round one in Misano ran earlier this year before COVID-19 hit and rounds 2, 3, and 4 will take place at San Marino, Imola, Vallelunga Raceway in July, September and October respectively.
Grace from Wallan, VIC, and Sharni from Helensvale, QLD, will be on the same team – MotoX Racing – and cannot wait to throw on the leathers and hit the track.
Sharni and Grace will receive full support from the MotoX team which includes technical crew, a nutritionist, sports psychologist, personal trainer and bike coach with 24/7 access to the local go kart track nearby to practice on grom bikes, where both MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso have been known to frequent.
Motorcycling Australia are supporting the women’s efforts and we caught up with them prior to boarding the plane tonight.
How did it come to pass that you are involved in the FIM Women’s European Cup?
Grace – I received a phone call from a pro Spanish team whose team principle was the technical director at the Women’s World Championship which I competed in at Guadalajara in Mexico 2018. He wanted me to come to Europe last year to begin training however I broke my leg badly and had three operations throughout 2019 and early 2020 so I could not attend. I have been given a second chance which I am so grateful for and can’t thank the MotoX team enough for the opportunity.
Sharni – I came across the Cup whilst searching for the best option to focus my efforts to continue racing. I then contacted Sandro Carusi who runs the series and a team I hope to ride for.
What bikes will you be riding?
Grace – The MotoX team are providing me with a new Yamaha R3
Sharni – I will be racing for MotoX team onboard a Yamaha R3 (300SSP)
How does it feel representing your country on the international stage?
Grace – To say that I am honoured and humbled is an understatement. It is hard to believe I will be wearing the green and gold and I hope I can do the Australian racing community proud over there.
Sharni – It really is an honour to represent my country competing in the sport I love most. A true blessing, I will give the opportunity 100%.
What do you hope to achieve? What is the ultimate goal?
Grace – To be honest I have not had much time on a bike since my accident and because of COVID-19, so I am not going over at my fittest. I will be very happy to achieve a top 10 finish in the first event and to progress from there. After that, my goal would be to compete in the CIV SS300 class and Women’s Championship again and who knows after that.
Sharni – For me, my ultimate goal has been to compete at World Championship level. This series is a gateway for that possibility. It is an amazing opportunity for females to be given the support and encouragement to be able to compete in their own championship, which will help bring females through the sport. I feel this will encourage a lot of females initially to begin their careers knowing that there is a female championship available for them.
What class will you be riding in?
Grace – I will be competing in the FIM Campionato Italiano Velocita (CIV) – FIM Women’s European Championship class. This is the only FIM sanctioned Women’s Championship worldwide.
Sharni – I will be taking part in the 3 rounds of the Women’s European Cup held at the CIV – Italian Championship.
Have you competed in the FIM Women’s European Cup before?
Grace – No, my first track day was in Australia in 2016 at Barbagallo Raceway in WA. While I was doing that track day, I was advised that I should get my racing licence and compete. Thanks for the advice Wayne Maxwell. Since then I have competed in the WA State Champs, the Vic State Champs, the SA State Champs, the ASBK, numerous club series and the Italika Women’s World Championship but I have never been to Europe to race. I hear its next level though.
Sharni – No this will be the first time for me in the Women’s Cup.
How has your riding and racing experience in Australia helped you prepare for the Cup?
Grace – The level of racing and the professionalism of the sport here in Australia is fantastic and we are extremely lucky to have such a strong platform to learn from. MA and MV run their events similar to the international level so I believe I am as prepared as possible knowing how each race weekend will run and what to expect. Between my accident and COVID-19 I think a lot of us are on the backfoot with the lack of track time available to us but I’m sure once I swing a leg over the bike it’ll come back to me. I just hope it happens in FP1 as I try to learn the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli as quickly as possible.
Sharni – I have raced for 3 seasons now and one of them being in Australia. My first-year racing in Australia was competing in local club racing with a few one-off national rounds. Majority of my racing has been overseas in BSB (UK).
What are your racing highlights here in Australia and overseas?
Grace – Competing in the first Women’s World Championship in Mexico was an amazing experience and finishing runner up in the 2018 Victorian State Championship was a huge accomplishment given the level of talent in those events.
Sharni – After my first year of club racing in Australia, I was given the opportunity to head over to the UK and compete in the British Superbike Championship – Moto3 class. This was a huge leap for me, jumping straight in the deep end without much experience. It helped me progress and learn very quickly. I went from only just scraping through qualifying at my first round, to my best result of 5th place overall. I managed quite a few top 10’s during my time racing in the championship which was a very humbling achievement for me.
What sponsors/supporters would you like to thank?
Grace – SC Project Oceania, Motorcycling Australia, Motorcycling Victoria, Ross Services, Banhams WA, Michael Sita, Westsliders, Earmold Australia, Broadford State Motorcycle Complex, Champion Ride Days
Sharni – I would like to take the opportunity to thank Motorcycling Australia for the support and guidance with helping us to make this possible. I would also like to thank Sandro Carusi from Moto-X Racing for the opportunity. As for personal sponsors, I am still very much in search for assistance towards helping this opportunity go forward.
Are you looking for sponsors who want international coverage?
Grace – Absolutely. To get a ride in Europe is any racers dream but it comes at a price and I am currently looking for help to be able to finish all 3 rounds of the championship.
Sharni – Yes absolutely. With this series being the only FIM female championship, I feel it offers a stand-out angle for potential sponsors to receive a different spectrum of promotion, and also being able to target a range of audience greater than just average motorcycling enthusiasts.
In your opinion how strong/competitive are women racers in Australia?
Grace – We have an excellent breed of women racers in Australia and we are every bit as competitive as the boys. I’m sure the other women will agree that when we are on track or in the paddock we are not seen as women, we are seen as competitors and I love that about our sport. It’s one of the few sports where gender simply does not matter or play any part.
Sharni – I haven’t had the opportunity to race many girls here in Australia, but we do have some very fast capable women. The sport is becoming more supportive and encouraging for women and I believe this will help us achieve increasing numbers with more girls coming through the sport.
Any advice or encouragement for young girls in Australia who may be thinking of getting a motorbike or getting into the sport?
Grace – Be like Nike and Just Do It. You will not regret it. Motorcycling is so special and unique, and I sincerely hope more women come into the racing scene. If anyone happens to be reading this wondering where or how to start, feel free to contact me as I am always willing to help and advise where I can.
Sharni – I would love to be able to encourage girls and anyone for that matter, that anything is possible if you have a dream and the belief that it can be possible. No matter how big it may seem, belief and intention will guide you to achieve anything you hold in your heart.
Motorcycling Australia will keep you updated on Grace and Sharni’s championship efforts throughout the year, on our web page www.ma.org.au, Instagram and Facebook.
You can read more about the FIM Women’s European Cup at http://www.womenscup.racing/it/