Last week, Ana Carrasco of Spain became the first woman to win a world championship in motorcycle racing. She is just 20 years old.
The race took place in Portimao, Portugal. Carrasco rode a Kawasaki to victory on September 17th and thus made history by less than a tenth of a second. The race is part of a lower-tier series that was created to provide opportunities for up-and-coming racers.
Ana herself sent out a tweet in Spanish, and then translated it to English: “Sentimientos que no se pueden explicar con palabras… ¡Gracias a todos!… Feelings that can’t be explained with words… Thanks to all!”
The New York Times reports that Carrasco has been riding in international competitions since 2013, and started riding when she was just three years old. When she was 16, she became the first woman in 12 years to score points in an international championship race. However, in the competition, which was dubbed Moto3, she finished mostly outside the top 20 and left the competitions after three years.
Carrasco’s historic win came with a new series of races called Supersport 300. She finished in slots ranging from seventh to fourteenth in the first six races of the season but made her breakthrough most recently.
“I am very happy about this result,” Carrasco told World SBK. “We have worked very hard and we have been making progress in each race.” With this race, her standing has improved to seventh overall, leaving only two more races in the series.
The participation of women in motorsports has been spotty, as trailblazing and record-breaking women in racing never seem to inspire a lasting presence for fellow women.
In 1977, Janet Guthrie raced in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, becoming the first women to qualify for both races, and yet her outstanding achievement did not lead to regular participation by other women. Danica Patrick, perhaps the best-known woman racer in the United States, won an IndyCar race in 2008 and moved on to Nascar, standing currently as the most prominent woman racer.
“Women will never be a majority, this is clear,” said Carrasco. “I suppose there will be more women in the entry list, but ultimately what is hoped for is that we all have the same opportunities and that the world championships are the best.”
All in all, it must have been a sparkling moment for women racers everywhere to see 20-year-old Ana Carrasco cross the finish line surrounded by a plethora of firsts for her sport, for history, and for other women.
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