They have never been as fond of motorcycling, yet few of them compete on the circuits. In a sport that is theoretically mixed but almost exclusively male, women are trying to assert themselves, supported by initiatives aimed at breaking the glass ceiling between drivers and their dreams.

“I thought at the time that I was going to pave the way for other women”: now aged 74, the American Gina Bovaird remains to this day the only woman to have started a Grand Prize in premier category – in 1982 during the 500cc French GP, the ancestor of MotoGP.

In 2024, the pinnacle of the discipline, the Speed ​​Grands Prix, the season of which resumes this weekend in Qatar, will not have any women among the drivers, whether in MotoGP, Moto2 or Moto3. The Spaniard Maria Herrera will be the only woman to compete in the MotoE (electric) world championship.

For Ana Carrasco, a Moto3 rider until last year, this virtual absence is mainly explained by the low presence of girls at the base: “Arriving in the elite remains difficult for everyone, but if it is There aren’t many girls at the start, it’s difficult to see them at the highest level.

The Spaniard remains to this day the only woman to have won a motorcycling world title – in 2018 in Supersport 300, a championship using motorcycles close to the series.

100% women’s world championship

Motocross – which already has its own women’s championship – is currently a model since 10% of licensees were women in 2023 when, on the circuits, they were only 1.5% last year, according to figures from the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM).

“There are no obstacles or reasons” which could justify this low rate – except that the environment remains “still very male”, recalls Janika Judeika, director of the Women’s Commission at the FIM.

To increase their visibility – and their chances of building a viable professional career, the FIM and the promoter of the MotoGP championship are launching this year the first women’s motorcycle speed championship. In the running: 24 professional drivers – including Ana Carrasco – who will compete for the title of world champion.

“The idea is to offer women opportunities so that they can grow to perhaps one day go to Moto3 or Moto2,” also defends the director of the commission, set up in 2006.

Sometimes considered a false good idea, the principle of a 100% female championship has never been completely unanimous in the world of motor sports, where women can generally compete against men unlike other sports.

In single-seaters, the German Sophia Floersch, Formula 3 driver, appears to be one of the main dissidents on the subject.

“At university, women and men study together because it’s normal. In our sport, this should also be the case… why make a series only for women? », she wondered last year about the F1 Academy, the latest single-seater competition dedicated to women.

On a medical level, “the regulations make no difference between men and women,” explains David MacManus, chief doctor at the FIM.

“It’s a fact: women are not as physically strong as men,” he also emphasizes. “Men, due to their genetic heritage, tend to be stronger and have greater physical endurance. Thus, in competition, women are potentially at a disadvantage, but some of them participate in various championships without problem,” he also recalls.

A point of view that Pierre Ortega, president of the Medical Committee at the FFM, the French Motorcycling Federation, does not entirely share: “where things get bad is when we move to a higher category with larger engine sizes ( …) it requires more testosterone.” Motorcycling is therefore a mixed sport but “up to a certain level of practice”, for the Frenchman.

If the question has never been resolved by science, Gina Bovaird explains to AFP that she was confronted with this lack of power: “I didn’t have the strength to turn the bike around in a tight chicane” – remembers – her, “but I was lighter than most of the other drivers, which gave me an advantage.”