MOTIVATED & HUNGRY: Pink Warrior & 2018 FIM SuperSport 300 World Champion Ana CarrascoFebruary 13, 2019
“Ride like a girl.” I can’t help but smile as I notice the now-familiar slogan on Ana Carrasco’s t-shirt as she enters the conference room at Kawasaki Spain’s HQ in Barcelona’s L’Hospitalet del Llobregat suburb. As I quickly finish wolfing down one of the finger sandwiches provided by Kawasaki for us famished journos, I reflect that nobody will ever again be able to use that expression to take the mickey out of my sometimes overly cautious riding style. Still, I wish I were as fast and proficient on a motorcycle as this young lady.
This year, riding like a girl enabled the 21-year-old native of Cehegín (Murcia, Spain) to bag the 2018 FIM Supersport 300 World Championship title in a very authoritative way, after taking the lead of the championship early in the season aboard her Kawasaki Ninja 400 run by the DS Junior Team.
Her title is also a historic one since she is the first woman to win an outright FIM track racing championship; nonetheless, she makes light of this with those assembled in the room: “You people wouldn’t be here today if I was a guy. The only reason I’m running from interview to interview is because I’m a woman who’s won a World Championship; otherwise I’d already be back home enjoying some down time!”
During the press conference preceding our interview, Carrasco reflected on her historic title and its implications for her, as well as for the sport in general. Although for next season she intends to stay within the SSP (Supersport) 300 category to defend—and renew, if possible—her title, albeit with a full factory rider status, she does acknowledge that this title will make it easier for her in the future to find good rides in top-level teams.
Surprisingly, Carrasco doesn’t seem too concerned about finding a team in MotoGP in the future.
“Honestly, the level of racing is just as high in the World Superbike Championship as it is in MotoGP; there are some great riders in the championship and I’d enjoy racing against them,” she said, adding, “Of course, I wouldn’t rule it out or turn down a good offer.”
I asked her if she would eventually consider having a go at the AMA Superbike championship, like her countryman Toni Elías, but it seems that a transatlantic adventure is not in the cards for her at this time. “I’m still young, and for the moment my priority is to continue racing at World Championship level”, she replied with steely determination, offset by her trademark cheeky grin. “Perhaps in a few years’ time, I don’t know.” So, racing fans in the U.S. shouldn’t hold their breath.
As talk moved on to the bikes themselves, Carrasco noted that Moto3 and Supersport 300 machines have a few similarities, not least the fact that riders are obliged to carry massive amounts of corner speed. “What’s more, I think that having spent three years in Moto3 really is a plus for me because it gives me so much more racecraft compared to the other riders on the grid.”
However, a rule change in the course of the season did unsettle her a bit, as did the fact of having to carry extra weight on the bike. At this point, her Team Principal, David Salom (an ex-racer himself ), commented, “It definitely was a problem for us, because the Ninja 400 is a fairly diminutive bike, so we really had to rack our brains to find a way to accommodate 30 lbs. of ballast on the bike without having too much effect on balance, road holding, and acceleration.”
After the 45-minute group Q&A, I was able to spend some time asking her a few questions one-on-one.
Marc Michon/MotoSpirit: First of all, I want to congratulate you on your championship win, which is historical in many respects. Now, being the first woman to win a Superbike world championship, how important is this to you? Does it drive you to go further?
Ana Carrasco: Firstly, of course, it’s something that makes me very happy on a competitive level: winning this championship is a dream come true, and now all I want to do is to keep on winning in the future! But I think that the most important aspect is that it’s going to open doors for other young women to enter the sport and make it easier for them to establish themselves.
MS: At which point during the championship did you have the intuition that you were going to win the title?
AC: Well, right at the beginning of the championship I told myself ‘we’ve got this’, because the first two races went great and we finished 6th and 4th, with some pretty fierce fighting for the top step of the podium. Then, in Italy and at Donington Park (U.K.) we got pole position and won both rounds. But then there was the modification to the regulations, which was a bit of a curveball for everybody; we weren’t sure how we were going to adapt the bike, and this resulted in a lot of doubt and irregular performances. This was halfway through the season, so from that point onwards it was more like we had our possibilities but it wasn’t going to be so easy.
MS: Yeah, it is true that, towards the latter part of the season, there seemed to be a couple of rounds where you and the whole team looked to be floundering a bit—you were all flat out, but the bike seemed to be stuck in a rut
AC: Absolutely, that was particularly true of the last two rounds, where we just couldn’t get what we wanted out of the bike. I felt that I was standing still out on the track and back in the pits the team were also at a loss as to why the bike wasn’t as sharp as it had been previously. And this really got me nervous, because my direct rivals weren’t that far behind me!
MS: Taking your racing career to date, as a whole, you— like all racers—have been confronted with some major
challenges at times. Which has been the greatest of these obstacles?
AC: Without a doubt, the hardest thing has been trying to find people to get behind me 100 percent and support me in my racing career. I mean, I knew I could win and that I had what it takes, but it was difficult to convince backers, sponsors, teams and the like that I was serious and to get them to give me a chance. I’m convinced that I’d have got further and had better results in other championships if people had simply trusted me and given me a chance to show what I knew I could do.
MS: Do you still get “mansplained” at all since you’ve won the Supersport 300 World Championship, or have all the machos considered that discretion is the better part of valor?
AC: [chuckling] Do I get what? What’s ‘mansplaining’?
MS: Well, it’s when guys feel that they have to explain everything and anything to women because ‘hey, you’re a girl, so you don’t know stuff,’ that sort of thing…
AC: Oh right, OK [more laughter]! Seriously, though, I’ve never really paid too much attention to that sort of thing or any other negative comments and attitudes; I just get my head down and do what I have to do. Anyway, I’m well-surrounded by a group of people I can trust and also by my family, who are a rampart against negative comments and attitudes like that and who have always been my main source of strength and support. Without them supporting me every step of the way I wouldn’t be here where I am today.
MS: Finally, to round off this interview, what advice and encouragement would you give to young girls and women who would like to start a career as motorcycle racers, or who simply would love to get out on the road and ride?
AC: I think that they should go for it and not be influenced by people who are going to try to tell them that they can’t do it, that it isn’t a woman’s world and stuff like that. If it’s really what you want to do, you’ve got to get your head down and do everything you can to achieve your goal.
MS: One final question: do you ride on the road and if so, what’s your choice of ride?
AC: I don’t often ride on the road, to be honest. I have my license, but I prefer riding on a racetrack because riding on the road or in town can be pretty dangerous!
MS: Well, thank you so much, Ana, for taking time to talk to MotoSpirit and, once again, our congratulations on your World Championship title!
Hailing from a racing family, Carrasco first climbed aboard a motorcycle when she was 3. At age 16, she made her debut in international competitions on the Moto3 circuit. That was 2013 when she became the first female to score points in a world championship race since Katja Poensgen back in 2001. In 2017, she became the first woman to win an individual world championship motorcycle race after scoring a victory in Portugal at the FIM 300. Throughout all this, she’s broken numerous bones along the way.
These days the Queen of the Pink Warriors is halfway through a four-year law degree, her “Plan B” in life, and still finds time to workout six hours a day between the gym and dirt bikes. And since her electrifying win on September 30, which was dedicated to good friend and fellow Spaniard Luis Salom, a racer who lost his life in a deadly practice run in 2016, she has been busy, busy, busy. Besides countless press tours and public appearances, she’s gotten a commemorative tattoo, copped an invite to the Royal Palace in Madrid, met German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, received a number of prestigious awards, and flown to Milan to watch FC Barcelona in a match as the guest of Pirelli Moto, among other whirlwind adventures.
At the tender age of 21, she’s already experienced a number of record-setting firsts in motorcycle racing, and it’s a fair guess to say there will be many more to come.
For more information on Ana – AnaCarrasco.es
Photos courtesy of Kawasaki Spain