As a child, she would watch the Grands Prix and then tell her father, who often travelled for business, what was happening on the track. Years later, Milena Koerner is one of the paddock's best-known female faces, a reference, a model of professionalism and determination that from 2019 sees her driving the MV Agusta Forward Racing team, a team competing in the Moto2™ World Championship.
Raised in a family that was passionate about motorcycle racing, in 1998 her grandparents took her to the Sachsenring, when it hosted the German GP for the first time. “I’m from a town 20km from Sachsenring,” says Milena. “This is a particular track because to get to the box the rider has to go through a public area where fans can see them up close. For me it was the first time in that environment and honestly I would never have imagined being here again after so many years”.
Follow that formative experience at the German Grand Prix, Milena began to discover other tracks around Europe, getting to know the environment and the people involved in the paddock better and better.
Becoming a regular at the circuits, Milena received her first job offer. “Some people that I had met from hanging out at the circuits suggested that I look for a job in a team so that I wouldn’t have to pay to go to competitions, but would actually be paid to go. I refused the first offer because I was still in high school and hadn’t even taken the exams. But the next Grand Prix I went to in Jerez they offered me the job again and that time couldn’t refuse.”
And that’s how in 1998 Milena joined the world of MotoGP™. “After working as a model, my first real job in the paddock was in hospitality with Team Scott". The World Championship started as a fun and useful job to pay for her studies: “I started working in the paddock even before I started university and I thought that for a while this lifestyle would be nice and then, over time, I would have been looking for a serious job but I found it right here,” says the team manager with a smile.
"When I started working in hospitality I followed the advice of Stefano Bedon, who taught me many things and gave me new responsibilities each year". After the experience with Team Scott in 125cc and 250cc, Milena joined the newly-formed Forward Racing team, dealing with logistics before making the jump to MotoGP™ with Team Tech 3 as the Marketing Communication Manger, a role she held for five years before returning to Forward to lead the team in Moto2™.
Milena tells us that out of the many roles that she covered in the paddock, each job had interesting peculiarities, but what unites them all are the relationships they develop. "I like to follow the riders in their professional growth. For example, I worked with Cal Crutchlow for some time,” she says, recalling the peculiarities of her relationship. “The day after we were no longer members of the same team, Cal said to me: ‘Finally we can be friends’. When you work with a rider, you have to tell him to do things he doesn't want to. For this there cannot be too much friendliness, it takes a level of detachment because he respects what you tell him. That's why I think every rider is very special.” Adding, “but, at the same time, it is inevitable that you create human relationships with your colleagues, this is an unusual job, you spend most of your time with them."
In 2019 Milena began a new stage in her paddock career and this time she found herself managing a team and two riders with very different characters and ages; Dominique Aegerter and Stefano Manzi. “Stefano has made a very important step. If I think about how he behaved when he took the first tests with us and how he behaves now, he looks like another person. So when you see these transformations and you know that you have contributed, albeit in a minimal way, to that growing up, it is really nice. This is the part that is most rewarding about my work.”
Having joined the paddock when she was just a teenager, Milena has also noticed an evolution in her work environment where there are more and more women engaged in different areas, although she notes: "We are still a minority." And there could be various reasons which Milena explains, "from a business point of view it can be an extra cost for a small team with a limited budget to have a girl because you have to get clothes made for just one person, plus you have to book a single room when traveling.” But these limits have been constantly broken by competent and professional women like Milena who become a real resource for their teams.
“Aside from these issues, I think that if a girl wants to work in the paddock, she has to go all out. Because if something is difficult, it does not mean that you have to give up - on the contrary it can be extra motivation.”
In addition, Milena's advice is to study, to know as much as possible even the most technical aspects of the bikes by sharing what her experience has been. “To be respected and to be able to take charge. It is important that your team are aware of the fact that you keep an eye on them and that they can’t take advantage of your being a woman.”
“Furthermore, having covered different roles within the paddock has helped me because it allows me to know where and what to look at to make sure that everything works at its best. After all, I have spent more than half of my life in this world.”
To conclude, we asked Milena how she would describe herself. “I am a nuisance, a workaholic, determined.” Qualities that have allowed her to make great steps forward in her professional career, but for her it is still not enough, “Are they are qualities that pay off? Time will tell. When the bike is more competitive and when the riders are happy. This is our current goal.”
While waiting to see Milena Koerner, MV Agusta Forward Racing and the Moto2™ World Championship back on track, don't miss the story of the next #WomenInMotoGP.