The Brands at #1 spot for Women in Motorsport 2023 – Bike category. From the well known and established bike manufacturer’s of Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, and Sherco, to the sister lines of Husqvarna and GASGAS, to the new entrants of Hero, Fantic, and latest new comer Kove in Rally, Brands compete for podium wins with rider’s equal in stature, boosting market sales in the process.
For women, racing in association with specific Brands not only provides the machine to achieve best possible results, but also forms reciprocal arrangement whereby a rider pursues career pathway under the umbrella of selected manufacturer and corresponding Team while at the same time increasing awareness of Brand identity and calibre of bike – on either dirt or road.
The symbiotic relationship between rider and Brand holds plenty of room for maneuver from one season to the next. As the rider develops, refines, and perfects performances on the bike – which amount to wins – in doing so, elevating negotiating power for greater financial endorsement to remain with one specific Brand.
Equally, manufacturer’s gain distinct advantage on retaining a rider whose results offer direct correlation to increased exposure and ultimately sales in the market place. What wins on Sunday still holds sway with those watching – influencing next possible purchase albeit for leisure, sport, or racing.
Then, a third tier in the partnership between Brand and rider – forming sustainable relations for the future development of off-road and road racing which includes all electric as witnessed in the inaugural FIM E-Xplorer Series 2023. The opportunity for a rider to race with a specific Brand cross disciplines – as in the case of WMX 6x Champion Kiara Fontanesi competing in WMX and E-Xplorer – extends future career pathways for rider, and manufacturer.
So, how did Brands fair in 2023, with women competing in varying FIM Motorsport disciplines? Take Women Motocross World Championship which records that only 3 Brands have attained manufacturer’s status from the founding year in 2005 to present day. KTM cemented first honours with rider – Steffi Laier in 2005, 2009, 2010, and 2011, followed by Yamaha claiming record number of 7x WMX Championship victories with Kiara Fontanesi and Nancy van de Ven in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2022.
Kawasaki have raised the bar even further with unprecedented 8x WMX Championships, with Katherine Prumm (now Oberlin-Brown) in 2006 and 2007, Livia Lancelot in 2008 and 2016, and Courtney Duncan in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2023. Confirming the swings and round-abouts of whether to stay or switch Brands, 2023 WMX rider Lotte van Drunen (Kawasaki) who gained P3 overall in rookie year, has recently switched to Yamaha.
Within the race disciplines of America’s GNCC WXC class and ISDE Women World Trophy, manufacturer’s spread was notable amongst female rider’s this season. The Austrian manufacturer of KTM, GASGAS, and Husqvarna confirmed 15 entries from 18, with Yamaha and overall winner – Rachael Archer – completing remaining 3 rider/Brand line-up in GNCC WXC Championship of 12 Rounds.
2023 FIM ISDE in Argentina held further opportunities for Brands to showcase their bike’s Enduro capabilities on variable terrain – from sand/dust, to rocky, to dirt. The women Team rider’s put their partnered bike Brands through the rigors of racing 6 consecutive days, including having to complete all bike maintenance themselves. This fact, not only highlights how women have selected bikes whose performance sustains career goals, but also dove-tails with rider expectation that the machine remains versatile, durable, and within the realms of maintaining pre-during and post racing.
Team United States claimed top honours on board KTM for Brandy Richards and Korie Steede, and GASGAS for Rachel Gutish. Team Australia shared P2 overall on board Yamaha for Jessica Gardiner and rookie Danielle McDonald, along with Tayla Jones on Husqvarna. Team Latin America were the only trio to race Honda, with Brands of Sherco, Beta, and Rieju completing 8 Team’s line-up of the event.
Women competing in Rally, Hard Enduro, Moto3, and MotoE have remained steadfast on consolidating Brand partnership from one race season to the next. Dakar Rally rider Mirjam Pol holds unprecedented status on her Husqvarna Rally Raid bike, as does Kirsten Landman on KTM – with both women finishing 2023 Dakar after 12 days racing. Spanish rider Sandra Gomez continues to defy odds lining up to race Red Bull Romaniacs and Red Bull Erzberg on KTM/GASGAS, along with competing in 2023 Dakar Rally on Rieju. Fellow female rider’s from Spain – Ana Carrasco and Maria Herrera stay on top of their Moto3 and MotoE racing with KTM and Ducati respectively.
Completing rider-Brand snap-shot of who peaked at #1 spot, goes to British rider Emma Bristow who achieved her ninth Women’s Trial World Championship with Sherco – winning in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022, and 2023.
Header photo: Courtney Duncan competing in 2023 WMX Championship with Kawasaki. Image: Team.
Words: Sharon Cox.