Twenty-four-year-old Gold Coast racer Sarah Fairbrother’s passion for road racing was recognised by her club - The Motorcycle Sportsmen - early this year when she was chosen to be the beneficiary of the Sporties Club Pilot Project, a supported ride on the club’s Yamaha R3, backed by an assortment of generous sponsors.
For 2019, Sarah will be racing a national series for the first time in her senior career as she chases the ASBK Supersport 300 class, while also racing the Southern Downs series at Morgan Park.
We caught up with her to find out a little bit about her motorcycle racing life.
Hey Sarah, let’s get work out the way first. What do you do for a crust?
I work for a land-clearing company, running the office and driving some of the excavators and the mega mulchers.
Awesome! And how’d you find your way to road racing?
Family friends of ours had sons around my age doing pocket bikes. I came and watched a few times and got to have a go, and I started racing as well. Then when they moved up to the junior road racing bikes I moved up as well and went from there.
Obviously, you’re reasonably attracted to it, mate. Why?
I just love it. It’s hard to explain. There’s nothing as exciting and fun as road racing.
It looks like a hell of a rush. That speed factor, both with the track surrounds whizzing past, and the surrounding riders coming at you or away from you at speed, it must stimulate a lot of adrenaline?
It sure does, it makes things so much fun, especially when you have that competition around you, pushing you, it makes you want to go faster.
How does this Club Pilot Project work?
So everyone could put in applications at the end of last year. I put one in too and hoped for the best, and I was awarded it for the year, so I’ve got the bike to race for the year in the club rounds, but also in the ASBK. I’ve also been given some gear from all the other sponsors that are on board with this program. Joe from Ride dynamics will be taking care of most of the bike work during the year to the best of my knowledge
So was that like Christmas for you?
I was over the moon. I didn’t think I was going to get it so it was just the best news. I’d actually woken up to go take a colleague of mine to the airport at 3am, and I checked my emails and oh my God, I couldn’t believe it.
So will this be the first time as a senior that you’re doing a national series?
Do you work with any particular coaches or is there anybody in particular involved in your development?
Yeah, there are lots of people around that like to help out and every little bit of helpful advice really helps – especially at the tracks that I am unfamiliar with. It’s a really good help.
Obviously the better known female member of your club would be Tayla Relph, who has been doing an amazing job taking on the boys and really promoting women in road racing. Is she a rival or a mentor, or, what’s your relationship with her?
She’s a really good friend of mine, we’ve known each other since back in juniors. I’d like her to be a rival! She’s a little bit quicker than me (laughs), but she’s a really good mentor, she helps out a lot. Like at Philip Island I was having some troubles learning my lines around there and I went and spoke to her and she gave me some really good advice.
Yeah Phillip Island looks like the kind of place you’d need a really big-picture view to get the lines right because of the big radius corners. It’d be hard to find the line straight up I’d imagine.
Absolutely, it’s a very fast track, and yeah. Once you get it in your head it’s good, and then you can go faster and faster.
So how do you find it? Is it just a case of – one, finding your turn-in point, and then two, knowing where to look to find your apex point, so you can kind of line it up?
Exactly, and then what speed that corner is or if it’s a double-apex, you’ve got to adjust to suit that. But yeah, the tipping-in point and the apex point are the bits you need to find.
So let’s talk about getting high on road racing for a little while. What are the biggest thrills you’ve had?
Every time I can beat a personal best time of mine, it’s a thrill. Regardless of what track, or how I finished in the race, I’m just over the moon.
What about whizzing around a turn at 200kph with your knee on the deck? is that thrill still current, or is it passé because you’ve done it for years?
I’m used to it, but no, that thrill is definitely still current! Explaining to people that don’t know much about racing and going, “that’s how you do it” and just blows them away. It’s normal once you do it and that’s just how it’s done - but it’s still amazing. Like I said, nothing else compares to this, it’s just such an amazing sport and I’m so lucky to be a part of it.
Now tell us about your relationship with this bike. What do you think of it?
I’m really enjoying it. I’m slowly building up my speed, but I’m absolutely loving it. That technology that some of my other bikes haven’t had, it’s incredible and learning that it will hold on and that I can trust it, is the biggest part of it.
I imagine the other part that would test the courage is braking at the markers when your brain would be screaming “shut the throttle” 100 metres earlier?
Exactly, you’ve just got to fight through those voices, and when you do go a bit further you go, “I could have gone that bit later”, but it’s just training your brain to get in to that mindset.
Where you go "I mustn’t have overdone it, because I didn’t over-run the apex-"
…and I’m not on the deck.
(laughs) also a good marker! So, you’ve had one Southern Downs round and one ASBK race on this bike. What are the goals in those two series?
I just really want to get my lap times down, and if I can finish up the order that’s great. But lap times are the biggest point of focus for me.
Do you race with many women in the Southern Downs racing?
I think there’d generally be three or four, but this round of the ASBK there was six of us in the class of around 36, which was a huge amount compared to usual.
What’s the difference between racing at Morgan Park and racing at Phillip Island?
The speed. Morgan Park is very much about focusing on your corners, but Phillip Island has a lot of high-speed corners, with bigger run-off areas. It’s just the size difference really. I actually love Morgan Park. The other thing about Phillip Island is the amount of slip-streaming. I’d done a little bit at Morgan Park, trying to get over the finish line or something, but at Phillip Island you’re doing it in a lot more places, but you have to do it down the straight I’ve noticed.
And what was it like the first time you lined somebody up from however many metres you do, and went up that hole in the airflow and whipped out at the last millisecond to overtake them?
It was a lot of fun. I stuck in behind and got them before turn one, so it was a lot of fun. But then you’ve got to be careful that they don’t do it right back to you.
Do you have to consciously think about your tuck on the straight? Do you ask yourself, “are my knees in, are my elbows in, is my head down far enough?”
Well you’ve definitely got to keep that head down, but I’m pretty short so my knees and elbows all fit in the bike quite well (laughs). But yeah, if you’re sticking out, or sticking up, you’re going to get all that drag that you don’t want.
What are your strengths on the race track? Where do you say, I can nail this person here because I’m good at this.
I get out-braked sometimes, but I enjoy trying to get that mid-corner speed and exit speed right.
Beautiful. Yeah starting the next straight before everybody else always counts for something, doesn’t it?
Tell me about women in road racing from your perspective. Do you encounter misconception, and what would you say to people who like the look of it but aren’t game to try it?
I’d say there are misconceptions. People that aren’t in road racing would tend to ask, “do you race with the boys, is it mixed?” And I say yeah, because there’s no disadvantage to being a female out there. Once you’ve got the helmet and gear on, everyone’s all the same, it’s just that there are more men currently, but there is no reason why there couldn’t be just as many females out there.
Do you have any advice for women on how to make the step into road racing easier or more successful?
You just have to give it a go. Coming to the track days is best - you don’t have to dive head-first into racing. At Morgan Park the Motorcycle Sportsmen have a Ladies Day at the Raceway that’s a ladies-only track day, with a few of us racers out there as mentors and accredited coaches as well. It’s a really good day for women to get out there and have a lot less of the fear. And once you’ve been on track you won’t be able to go back.
Is there a long-term goal for you, apart from the enjoyment?
Not entirely. I know I’ll never make it to GP level. But just having fun with it for as long as I can afford it and I keep enjoying it. That’s the plan.
Well it’s been great to talk to you Sarah, thanks very much for your time.
Sarah's sponsors for this Sporties Club Pilot Program are;
The Motorcycle Sportsmen of QLD
Race Art Australia
Buddha's Motorcycle Spray Painting
Ricondi Motorcycle Apparel
Ricondi Race and Road
ART Advanced Rider Training
Kabuto／OGK KABUTO Co.,Ltd.
TCX Focus on Boots
Five Advanced Gloves
Mick's Fix Leather Repairs
Ferodo Racing BRAKE + Clutch
RK Racing Chain
Vortex Racing Fan Page