Husqvarna rider Maria Herrera can hardly wait to be riding right up front in the Moto3 World Championship. However there is the need for one or other lessons to be learned by her male competitors.
It was at the Grand Prix in Assen few weeks ago that Maria Herrera got the feeling that some of the boys around her were making it difficult. And this was with the 18-year-old girl who – at least occasionally – rides faster than they do.
Herrera had just nudged her way past Niccolò Antonelli and that was a move that did not sit well with the Italian. No, not Herrera! Please! Antonelli went so far as to counterattack but his braking point was way beyond good and evil. He made contact with Herrera – and she crashed off the track. It was an abrupt end to Herrera’s by far best appearance in her debut season in the motorcycle World Championship. But instead of place eight, she ended in the gravel.
“Always these male egos….” Said Idalio Gavira, Sports Manager of Herrera’s Laglisse team, and shook his head. We’re sitting in the trailer of the team truck in the paddock of the Sachsenring. Herrera has brought in Gavira as a translator because her English is not yet good enough for interviews. During her three years in the Spanish Moto3 championship, Herrera says, the boys had got used to the fact that she was fast on the bike. She had quasi educated them in this. But in the World Championship this education process has only just begun. And naturally this needs elbows. “And I’ve got those,” she said.
Herrera is someone who cannot sit often enough on a motorcycle. Rid, ride, ride. On anything that has two wheels, and best of all wherever she can. In football one would say: Street Footballer. How could it be any other way with the father she has? Antonio Herrera occasionally rides himself in the Spanish Kawasaki Z-Cup,and in addition he also owns a gas station and a dirt track circuit at home in Toledo, south of Madrid. It was here that Maria put in her laps from when she was little. Sometimes on a motocross bike, sometimes a Supermoto bike. What she was riding was relatively unimportant to Maria: the only thing that mattered was that she was riding.
The two years ago she moved to Barcelona, in the C.A.R, an academy for Spain’s top sportspeople. Maria Herrera, far away from the family and her dad’s racetrack, daily fitness training instead of dirt track racing?
Yes, she admits, there was something missing for her in Barcelona. Now she lives back at home in Toledo and four days a week she rages around papa’s track.
Sometimes she has Aprilia MotoGP rider Álvaro Bautista for company. He lives just around the corner and it was Maria’s dad who taught the young Bautista about racing, on his own track, of course. Today the regular MotoGP rider pays it back by giving Maria tips. And Bautista’s Manager Simone Battistella also looks after Maria’s career.
Maria Herrera was 15-years old when she entered the Spanish Moto3 championship with the team of Emilio Alzamora. As the one who also discovered MotoGP World Champion Marc Márquez, he brought her within a hair of winning the title in her second season – had she not crashed in the final in Jerez. In the same year, 2013, she attracted some raised eyebrows when she raced as a wild card at the World Championship in Aragón: with a tenth place in the opening practice. It was clear that soon this girl would contest a complete season in the Moto3 World Championship.
And this is happening in 2015. But Herrera has had to fight under difficult conditions. Almost all the Grand Prix circuits are new to her. In addition, Herrera must find her way in a new team, the Husqvarna Laglisse Team. Her race engineer is also new: André Laugier, a Frenchman that everyone calls “Dede”. “In motorcycle racing very many things rely on whether the understanding between the rider and the engineer works well,” said Idalio Gavira. Herrera and Dédé understand each other extremely well. “He is the best technician in the paddock,”she says enthusiastically. Herrera is on a fast learning curve. Whereas at the beginning of the season in Qatar, Austin and Argentina she was on the grid at 32, 31 und 24 stand, meanwhile she is qualifying in the front of the middle of the field. P11 in Le Mans, P14 in Barcelona, P13 in Assen. Gavira, himself also a racer, often observes his rider from the edge of the circuit. He recognizes improvement. “She is much faster on the bike today than she was in Qatar. And one sees from here body language that she feels better on the bike.”
Here at the Sachsenring, Herrera must naturally put the setback behind her. She grabs the sheet with the qualifying times and sees her name near the bottom: 28th place. “That’s all about the circuit,” she ways. “Too narrow, too many slow corners.” Herrera likes fast corners, where she can race her laps better because of her soft riding style. What she doesn’t mention: after the crash in morning’s FP3 she had dislocated her left shoulder. One day later in the race, this happened again. And at full speed, she managed to put the shoulder joint back in place by hitting it very hard with her right hand.
If you ask Herrera about her relationship with Ana Carrasco, the second woman in the Moto3 field and also a Spaniard, she looks to Gavira for help. It looks like it is a difficult topic. Carrasco is riding in her third World Championship season, but mostly she is slower than Herrera. Gavira thinks about the question for a long time, then says: “Ana wants to be faster than Maria. But Maria wants to be faster than the boys.”
What Gavira doesn’t mention: there was a bumpy encounter between the two women in the race. Tired of riding behind her and annoyed by her shoulder problem, it is Herrera who goes on the attack against Carrasco. But she crashes and brings down Maria with her. The ambulance takes them to the Medical Center, Herrera in the passenger seat and Carrasco in the back on a stretcher. Herrera has grazed her back; Carrasco has broken her upper arm.
For Herrera it is a painful end to a difficult weekend. Nevertheless, without a doubt: the Husqvarna rider is very fast – soon certainly also on slow circuits with tight corners, also without enemy contact and without popping a shoulder joint.
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