The number of women who work tirelessly in the MotoGP™ paddock is ever-growing and with it being International Women’s Day on Sunday 8th March – and the start of the new decade of racing – every 8th of the month in 2020 will champion a woman's story and role in the paddock.
Maria Herrera (Aspar Team) is the first we speak to. She represents women in the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup in 2020, just as she did in 2019. Born in 1996, Maria has spent her entire life on a motorbike, a passion that her father passed on to her. But unlike her brother and sister, she clearly understood since childhood that competing was a vocation for her.
“When I was seven I started doing the first races, I liked to win and I worked to make my hobby my job," Maria recalls thinking about the first steps taken on the path that then took her to the World Championship.
Like all children and teenagers who want to compete, Maria found herself combining duty, that is, studying, with pleasure – racing bikes. “My mother has always been very strict on this aspect was essential: after training, I had to do my homework and then I could play.”
Herrera's career began when she was 12-years-old. Her parents accompanied her around Spain to get to the track where she participated in the national championship. “Sometimes to participate in the competitions I didn't go to school on Friday and then I caught up with exams and questions later, often it was a Saturday when I could have stayed at home but I was in class alone with the teacher to catch up because I didn't I want to and couldn't stay behind with the school curriculum.”
Together with the Saturday mornings spent at school, Maria missed moments and parties with friends to train but it was thanks to the many hours of training that the opportunity came that changed her life.
In 2013, Monlau Competicion hired Herrera to participate in the Spanish Championship: “I was 17 when I moved to Barcelona to live close to my team. I used to see my parents at the races but I spent most of the time on the track or in Barcelona to train.” Studying Catalan in order to go to school, seeing loved ones for a few hours from time to time, afternoons spent in the gym training, but all this was the indispensable path to win a place in that elite of riders who are part of the World Championship.
Behind every great conquest, hundreds of sacrifices are hidden and Herrera reveals to us the reason why she never gave up: “When you travel for racing it's nice because you are living your passion, it's what you have fought so hard for. Sometimes it's hard to spend time away from home, friends, family, but then I remember that I'm doing what I want most." To make your dream a reality it takes work and commitment but then that much-desired life becomes the real reward for many sacrifices.
Years later Herrera is still excited when she talks about her first participation as a wildcard in the Moto3™ World Championship at the Aragon Grand Prix in 2013: “I presented myself as the person leading the Spanish championship and sharing the track with riders like Luis Salom, Sandro Cortese and Alex Rins seemed incredible to me, I was riding the bike on cloud nine.”
In a seven year career in the World Championship, Herrera has witnessed first-hand how the paddock is welcoming more and more women even if, even today, she is the only rider to race in one of the of the MotoGP™ World Championship categories. "For years, both in the Spanish championship and in the world championship, I was the only girl on the team, instead I see that every year there are more and more girls engaged in different tasks but most of them take care of the coordination within the teams."
“We girls put ourselves forward in the paddock. Suffice it to see how many girls today work on telemetry or are engineers, and if they are there it is thanks to their skills and nothing to do with gender.” points out Maria, who has both lived and continues to lives this with challenge. "I don't want to be where I am only because I am a girl. I am part of this environment because I am worthy. If I weren’t I would do something else.” Maria specifies excluding any kind of compliment simply linked to being the only girl who competes in a grid made up of only men. "I think we are getting more and more used to seeing women engaged in the box, even though I would like to see an increasing number of them, especially in the field of engineering and telemetry."
For her part, Maria Herrera is increasing representation in the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup, an adventure that began in 2019 together with the curiosity of riders and spectators. “When I was told that the bike weighed 260 kilos, I got scared and thought, ‘how can I ride such a heavy bike?’ Instead, it was an amazing experience that we lived to the fullest, both riders and fans who had a lot of fun watching our races."
The inaugural round of the MotoE™ World Cup was at the German Grand Prix and, together with the emotion that accompanies Maria at each race, that time there was even more curiosity and anticipation since it was a totally new competition, “I found a lot strange: the moment at the start of the race because, strangely, silence reigns. Until you start, you feel nothing but your heart. And then you start opening the gas and you start having fun with the bike."
In 2020 we will see Maria Herrera once again defending the colours of the Aspar Team in the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup. After the test at the Circuito de Jerez - Angel Nieto, scheduled from 10-12 April, the first round for the electric class will be at the Red Bull Spanish Grand Prix from the 1-3 May, 2020.