Steffi Laier celebrates 15 years racing Women Motocross World Championship level heading into EMX Women Championship Final Round at Arnhem holding the Red Plate over up-coming talented riders this coming weekend.
It was in 2005, Steffi won the very first FIM Women’s Motocross World Cup, sole Round which set precedent for her outstanding MX career winning 3 consecutive Women MX World Championship Titles in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Pivotal in Laier’s career was the recognition of FIM Women MX World Championship status in 2008 within the World MX Championship Series, as prior to formal acknowledgement there was not one single race for Women in Europe.
With Laier intent on career racing Women’s MX Championship Series, the courageous German embarked on racing in America’s WMX in 2001, ’02, ’03 and 2011, forging new pathways for up-coming talented female racers to mix it with the best either side of the world.
Taken in context of 15 years competing, racing, winning, at the very top of Women MX Championship, Steffi epitomises the very best of Women’s pro-active mind-set to pursue a love of riding dirt at the highest possible level.
I caught up with Steffi heading into EMX Women Final Round this weekend, and asked her thoughts on what drives deep desire to race WMX over many years, to keep the hard juggle of work/train/race alive all the while gaining results standing on top of podium.
#110: ‘Actually there is a simple and quick answer to give without meaning it in an arrogant way: because I am still good at what I do. I mean, I know and feel that’s not as easy anymore for me, but my mind and desire is still up to race with the best’.
‘Meanwhile I also have a normal workday as well so THAT I can still race or allows me to race and that it not easy. Always when I raced a full WMX season I did finish within the top 5. That means with almost 15 years of riding the WMX World Championship I am still with the top 5 fastest Women in the world. So with these results it’s difficult to say it’s done, you know. For sure there will come a point for me and for erveryone that you need to say stop, it’s done and enough’.
From winning Women’s World Cup in 2005 to finishing 5th Overall 2018 WMX Championship, Steffi has to be admired for working with, adjusting to, taking on board and conquering all challenges that have come her way over such period of time.
Crucial decisions made by Riders often result in next-step scenarios- either postive or learning curve. Steffi has been bearer of both: podiums, wins, Titles, injuries, management, promoters re-schedule, sponsors, support and all out friends, family and fans there beside her on career journey.
#110: ‘Within my career, to be honest there was only one crucial bad decision. I made the mistake or did allow that another person manage my businesses and that almost cost me my career. That person did destroy a lot for me and I went down hard but I learnt from it, made changes and came back to the top’.
‘Maybe not to the very top but the best I could do for myself. Mistakes are human and you need to learn from them and don’t look back. That one stands above all my injuries and maybe lost titles because this was personal against me’.
‘Within WMX the most crucial change was in my opinion when the WMX class went from MX1 side program to the MX3 main program. Sponsors were not that interested anymore and spectators did not show up so much anymore and and and…
‘This was a big step down for the Women’s Series. Then the WMX series came back but it was like we needed to start again from zero. It took some years in my eyes and just now the series is back again how it was before. I don’t know what the future will bring but I hope for all young girls that they will get the chance to compete in the WMX Series one day’.
Having worked damn hard to get to where Steffi is today- successful MX career, personal and professional fulfilment, meeting expectations placed on her by herself, Brand, sponsors, endorsements and crew- there is unique character quality of fighting for what #110 believes in which goes under the radar.
At turn of 2000 there was no appreciation that Women could race in separate class at MX events, let alone WMX class at World MX Championships. Nor, were Women able to condure up financial support to race dirt at professional level.
When push comes to shove, and Women like Steffi Laier believe in what they are capable of, the worm turns, albeit slowly and for Steffi it doesn’t stop there, even today.
#110: ‘That there is still a very high series for Women is most pleasing. In some countries they try to push the Women’s Series out. I actually don’t understand that so well- why did they stop it in the USA?. The Women there are damn fast and it was a nice side program next to the AMA Outdoors. The spectators did love to see Women ride’.
‘Everybody can see that the Women are giving their best and as well being Professional. Respect for every women in motocross- it’s a very tough sport. Not everybody can do it and most of all the Women just desevere it’.
Having raced and beaten NZ’s Women MX World Cup and WMX Championship Title holder Katherine Prumm, those formative years of WMX set precedent on encouraging future Women riders to enter the WMX sport. SC: Do you think racing was as competitive against peers of Katherine, Livia and Kiara as it is today?
#110: ‘Back then it was the same competitive riding than it is now. It’s hard to compare because I think in the beginning when it started nobody did take it that seriously than they take it today’.
When I became the first World Champ in 2005 I thought ok I did win an International race, I am the fastest and yes up to the next one…but I didn’t actually realize that I just became officialy World Champ. Just to say in short- yes it was always competitive, doesn’t matter what time it was everybody did give their best’.
‘The big change over the years I think is that nowadays more and more girls are just Professional Motocross riders. Back then me and a lot of other girls went to school or study. Today I hear a lot take time off from school or even study at home completely. They put in way more effort than almost 15 years ago but its normal everything changes…’
Remaining with KTM her entire professional career, Steffi took on board the Brands mantra ‘ready to race’ embarking on competing in America’s AMA Outdoors WMX Series in 2001, ’02, ’03 and 2011. And the news hit USA Media headlines: Hangtown – Prairie City OHV Park
‘Jessica Patterson is the defending AMA Women’s National Motocross champion. Ashley Fiolek has won the championship the previous two years. And Steffi Laier is the Women’s World Champion the past two years. All three will be battling in their two motos today’.
As Steffi explains it was eye opener as the toughened female racer was used to long motos against the guys in Europe. #110: ‘In the beginning it was strange because I was used to riding with the guys in Europe. There was absolutely nothing for girls not one single women’s class and I was used to riding almost 30 minute races’.
‘When I came there they told me they have 4 lap races that were about 10 minutes. I still remember the first race at Glen Helen, I almost lapped everyone in a 4 lap race. Actually because of me they changed the race schedule to 20 minutes +2 laps the year after’.
‘When I was riding the German Championship races with the boys the tracks were always pretty rough so I gained my experience and strength on those tracks. In the USA it was similar because the Women’s races were still with the AMA National races so the tracks were pretty rough too but perfect for me’.
‘It was of course an awesome experience which I will never forget and with doing this I earned respect in the USA and people are still remembering that I was so fast’.
‘When I did my last races in the Series in 2011 a media guy did still remember that I had a perfect season in 2003 when I won the Series and I am till now the only one who did that. That moment I was humbled that people still remember that almost 10 years later. I am happy that I had that opportunity and of course it gave me a lot of life experience for my future way in life’.
For 2019, Steffi stands top of the table in EMX Women Championship with Final Round this weekend at Arnhem, Netherlands. In what has to be most illustrious, hard-working, challenging career racing professional Women’s Motocross at World Championship level, what is to look forward to in near future?
#110: First, the main goal to maybe win the EMX Women’s Championship Series. Then I can really say I have won every title, that would be a very great end of something. I try not to be too busy with this because like I always say it’s not over till it’s over. After that I don’t really know yet- but first of all I will take some time off because racing back to back far away isn’t that easy anymore for me’.
Special thanks to Steffi for her time, her effort on making heart-felt comments on her career so inspiring for any up-coming talented Women keen to make racing dirt a career.
Words: Sharon Cox.