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Sarah Whitmore – first woman to race an off road race in Malaysia – and win!

Published September 4th, 2013

The Orange Day Enduro Challenge – 2013 Malaysia – by Sarah Whitmore

The 2013 ODEC went very well!

But let me back up – this all came about back in June when Sel (from KTM) called and asked if I’d be interested in going to Malaysia to be the first woman to race in an off road motorcycle race.

There’s a lot of politics behind it that I don’t fully understand, but I was told the government in Malaysia is really trying to get away from the old stereotype of how Malaysian women are portrayed. Also KTM Malaysia is really trying to grow the sport, so there was so much more behind it than just going to a race. I was the first woman to ever race an off-road event in Malaysia so it was a very big deal and something I’m honored to have been a part of. Hopefully now more girls will start to pick it up.

There are so many women that ride scooters on the street in Malaysia, and let me tell you – the traffic is crazy! I was scared to ride on the street … it reverse of how we drive here in the USA – they drive on the left hand side.

Sel had warned me before that the race would be like an amateur race in the USA, only set back 10 years and for the most part he was right. It wasn’t much different competition-wise as a local race in northern Michigan. A few guys take it seriously, but for the most part just a bunch of guys who love riding and are there to have fun!

The course on the other hand was more difficult than a local event! They had an “easy” and a “hard” route. My first lap I was surprised by the difficulty of it. Nothing that wasn’t ridable of course but I was sure glad that I started to ride trials bikes for sure!

And the other riders were great, very competitive on the bike, as in when you are lapping them and rev your bike to let them know you are coming up on them, they don’t move over! But off the track they were so friendly and made me feel very welcome. I think I must have taken at least 30 pictures with the guy who got 2nd in my class, and my face hurt so bad by the end of the day from smiling in so many pictures.

For the ED2 class (250 class) I was leading the first lap until a tip over, when I went back to second. From there I caught the leader but had trouble making the pass as one side the track was very fast and dusty. It reminded me of a Hare and Hound event where you are blasting the side of a mountain in dust so thick you can’t see your front fender.

When we got to the bottom it was a lot of creek crossings and very, very tight through the jungle, … and hard to pass. I tried setting him up at the bottom of the hill that had two lines in the corner, except he put on his brakes much sooner than I anticipated … and I ran into the back of him! He dragged me and my bike to the bottom, banging up both my bike and me, and putting me back to third.

I tried my best to just stay calm and not pull a typical “Sarah move”, which is try too hard and crash : )

Why did I think this? Mostly because someone reminded me of the poor medical care of where we were racing. Finishing and going home healthy was my goal! And 3rd wasn’t so bad. But on the last lap, 2nd place had to pit and all of a sudden the leader was right in front of me!

I came up on him so fast I knew he didn’t hear me coming, so I took a tip from Nick Fahringer and shifted up a gear and didn’t over rev my engine. When we came to the same spot I crashed before I knew he was going to brake early so I waited for it then gassed it and snuck to the inside and into first!

I knew all I had to do was not crash the rest of the lap, because if it was too tight for me to pass, then I knew I could ride a “wide” enough bike so he couldn’t get back around me!

When I came to the finish, in first, it was such a great feeling. And people were going crazy! For a number of reasons – everyone was shocked to see me back in the lead, and that a girl had raced, and, won!

The race was only an hour plus one lap long, but with the heat matching that at Loretta’s it was plenty long enough and with no motor homes with air conditioning to cool off in. But we still had to do the super final which was the top ten of both classes combined on a new course that the designer said he made especially tough just because he heard I was coming.

I would describe it as over a mile long Endurocross course. Some of the gnarliest riding I’ve ever done! But the worst was that every body was already so worn out from our earlier races and the heat was brutal.

The people of Malaysia are so friendly. And, as I mentioned, they were amazed that a girl could not only ride, but do it well. It was a wonderful feeling to look around and see how half way around the world motorcycles are still bringing people together for the love of the sport. Such a great thing to be a part of, and even greater to be a part of KTM, as the things they are doing to grow the sport all over the world, but especially in Malaysia and other countries in the region is amazing.

I had a great time and would love to go back. The weather was tropical and the shopping a girls dream. The food was the hardest thing though, I am one of the pickiest eaters even here in the States – I annoy people with my eating habits. And I normally love “American Asian” food but obviously it’s different in Malaysia. Even dishes I normally would love that taste sweet here have so much chili in them that I could only eat a few bites. Plus most places in the smaller towns don’t have English menus so people try to order for me. I think if I go back I will bring my own P. B & J.!

Thanks again to Sel, KTM, and the people of Malaysia – I had a blast!

Sarah Whitmore

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