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"My Dad said: it's a man's world, you need to earn respect"

Our latest #WomenInMotoGP details the story of Gresini Team coordinator Sandra Vilchez

"It’s my father’s fault that I love motorcycles. He is a motorhead and I have always watched every type of two or four-wheeled competition with him". Sandra Vilchez Lopez was born in Girona in 1987, after having spent her childhood between motorcycles, scooters and motor racing, she soon believed that her future would be in the MotoGP™ paddock. However, being able to become the coordinator of the Gresini Team, the only team competing in every category of the World Championship, was far from easy.

"If they asked me what job I wanted to do when I was a child, I wouldn’t have been able to respond with a specific profession but I was sure it would have been in this environment". Driven by her passion for the sport and by the uncontainable desire to create her own place in the paddock, Sandra started going to Grands Prix with the hope of meeting other enthusiastic women, like herself, in the paddock. “Among them, there was Nuria Ovejero, the then-fiancee, now wife, of Alex Baldolini," says Sandra. "Having this direct contact with a rider we had the opportunity to get some passes and every time I entered the paddock I asked several teams for a job until I got a positive answer".

Sandra’s first season in MotoGP™ was in 2008 when she joined the Aspar team’s hospitality. "It was an immensely satisfying to get that job," as he tells the story, she gets excited even after more than a decade. "I wanted to become part of this environment so much that I couldn’t sleep at night thinking about how I was going to do it." Enthusiastic about this first important step, Sandra was impatient to share the good news with those who had passed on this passion to her. "My father is a man of few words but I remember that when I told him I had finally got a job in MotoGP he replied: 'I am a man and I know how men think. If you want to work in this environment you will have to be respected because nobody will do it for you'." 

Keeping that advice from her father in mind, Sandra admits: "In the end, you often find yourself being the only woman on your team and you get used to traveling with your colleagues, who are all men, but as far as I’m concerned I can’t say I have ever received inappropriate comments." In addition, during these 12 years spent in the World Championship, Sandra has seen and experienced first hand how the paddock has changed, "When I started there were a few girls and they mostly worked in hospitality. Lately, however, there are more and more of them in the pit lane, not only as coordinators but also working telemetry and as engineers."

Sandra has always been aware that getting a role in this environment wasn’t going to be easy and that it wasn’t even going to be all fun, since she spends most of her time between circuits and airports around the world. “I fought so hard to get this job that I don’t worry about the distances or many of the difficulties that are part of this lifestyle. It’s true, I miss many moments with my family or my friends but I’m doing what I like best and, thanks to technology, I can always stay in touch with my loved ones."

Since 2018, Sandra has held one of the key roles in a team, a job that, as she herself tells us, has no timetables but is greatly rewarding, “I take care of booking flights, cars and hotels for all members of the team. Once at the circuit, I make sure everything is fine and in case one of my colleagues needs something I try to get them what they need in the shortest time possible.” Being the coordinator of teams in Moto3™, Moto2™, MotoE™ and MotoGP™, as well as the Italian ​​Championship, requires a great deal of effort and the days at the circuits always start very early and end very late for Sandra who, in addition to worrying that everything works properly for the riders, mechanics and press officers, takes care of the sponsors attending the Grand Prix. “I welcome guests and organise tours for them because we try to have them enjoy the most complete and exciting experience possible by bringing them to the track, in the garage and in the various areas of the paddock,” explains Sandra. “So that they can see the work I do during a weekend of competitions."

Today, Sandra is a reference not only for the team she works for but also for other young girls who, like her, wish to become one of the #WomenInMotoGP. If Sandra could go back and speak to her younger self, what would she say? "I would tell her to stay calm because her stubbornness will take her where she wants and she will feel great satisfaction when she succeeds because she will know that everything she has achieved, she will have conquered alone, relying only on her own strength."

The determination, the courage and the desire to break the mould are characteristics common to all the #WomenInMotoGP who have so far shared their story with us at Sandra is certainly no exception and on July 8th we will publish the experience of another woman who has grown professionally in the paddock.

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