Petite Vicky is no racing light-weight
On motorcycling websites she is described as New Zealand’s fastest woman and in Rotorua this week, Vicki Streifler will have a crack at another record.
In November 2008, at an invitation- only speed record meet near Carterton, the Stokes Valley resident tore up the quarter mile track from a standing start to reach just under 300kmh. Her record time from the average of two runs was just over 10 seconds.
That’s even more impressive given that was her first day on the 1000cc MV Augusta, which had only arrived from Christchurch the night before.
But Vicki’s most treasured racing moment came a few months later on the Ruapuna circuit, Christchurch, when she took the checkered flag in the BEARS Sound of Thunder ‘ B’ bracket opening race, and went on to third place overall.
As is so often the case in many of the events she enters, Vicki was the only female competing.
Though she has throttled off her racing career recently because of the expense, she competed in a number of national series meetings earlier this year and in November locals cheered as she gave a speed demonstration at the Port Road Drags. She has earned her stripes. ‘‘Being a female, I had to earn [ some male riders’] respect maybe. There was a battle of wills with some of them.
‘‘There’s always a bit of bike bashing on the track, especially off the [starting] grid and looking for the best line into the corner.’’
Vicki says she is not an aggressive person by nature, but ‘‘you have to switch out of placid mode in racing. Out on the grid, a bit of a red mist comes down.’’
Those who haven’t raced would be surprised at how much contact there is, she says. Back wheels are nudged, bikes and bodies thump into each other.
‘‘You grit your teeth and you go for it.’’
As she became better known, 99 per cent of male riders just treat her as part of the fraternity, and show her the same encouragement and support anyone on the scene earns by their deeds.
Yes, it’s dangerous – Vicki considers herself fortunate she’s experienced only three ‘‘ offs’’, though one of the spills left her with a chipped elbow, a crack in an arm bone and a blow to the head that ‘‘destroyed’’ her helmet.
‘‘You’ve got to believe in what you do, take a few risks. Each race I have a word to the man upstairs, ask him to let me finish the day safe.’’
Her size has its pros and cons. At less than 60kg, her bike has less to carry than heavier male riders. But hauling large motorcycles around corners takes strength and fitness. She runs, power walks and does sit ups to stay in shape. And in full leathers in hot weather, you need stamina.
Vicki grew up on farms in Waikato. She was riding a 90cc bike around the paddocks by age 10 and had her licence at 15.
Her first race outings were in clubman series at Manfeild. She had a 1000cc production Aprilia but her eyes were opened when a flatmate, Craig Frethy, trusted her to take out his racetuned, slick-tyred Ducati. She was hooked.
With backing from the likes of KTL Motorcycles and the Anglo American Motorcycle Club there have been plenty of podium finishes on her journey.
Avalon Biddle, another Kiwi female rider, is doing well overseas, but Vicki is the only female consistently winning on the local BEARS ( British, European, American Racing bikes) scene. She has ridden Japanese marques but they aren’t for her.
She used to dream about being a spectator at a Sound of Thunder event. It’s not hard to imagine how she felt when she was invited to race in it.
‘‘It was pretty daunting too, with 52 bikes on the grid when up here the maximum is 35.’’
Vicki rues taking a break from the sport because it proved hard to regain sponsors.
With a decent Aprilia or Ducati costing $ 20,000 plus, another $5000 to ‘‘trick it up’’ , a set of race tyres for each meeting, entry fees, and transport – the bank balance takes a hiding without support.
When Vicki moved to Wellington it came down to using her savings for a house deposit, getting into a business, or funding more racing.
‘‘I decided to give it another shot and live life. It’s been worth it; I have so many fantastic memories.’’
It’s also a great social scene, where she has many friends.
She is grateful to Wellington Aprilia agents Motorrad, who will be supporting her with gear and transport when she heads to Rotorua on February 8. Continental Tyres is another supporter.
On a quarter mile track, and as the sole female racer, she’ll be aiming for top speed in rolling and standing start events.
‘‘I never really go out to beat others. I’m competing against myself. The aim is to ride better than I did the previous outing.
‘‘Records or podium finishes . . . that’s just icing on the cake.’’