Motoette -in forward motion

Melissa Paris- Ready to play hard-ball for 2010

Melissa Paris and her Yamaha R6

 

Becoming one of the most popular and fastest women racers in North America to date, Melissa Paris didn’t arrive there by it simply being something she was born to do, but more about learning she had a natural talent by happenstance as a student while attending San Diego State University.

 As one of the newest entrants to the AMA Pro Daytona Sportbike and World Supersport classes, Melissa is making her mark by consistently becoming a powerful force to contend with on the track. Not just as a female racer, but as a professional International racer in every sense of the word.

Moto Race Reports contributing editor, Cindi Servante takes a closer look into the intriguing life of Melissa Paris, both personally and professionally, and what her goals are for this 2010 season on her  # 13 Yamaha YZF R6. 

  

 

MRRFirst off, where did you grow up, what was it like growing up in the “Paris” household?

Melissa Paris– I grew up in Northern California, with my four older brothers. You can imagine I was into sports and a tomboy from a very young age! I played a lot of traditional sports like baseball and swim team. I also rode BMX bikes a bit with my brother Chris. We had a lot of fun because we were always really active and competitive with each other… I did get beat up a lot though, being the youngest!

MRR- With a family background of 4 older brothers and a childhood dream of one day playing professional baseball, what was your fascination with motorcycles and when did it all happen?

Melissa Paris– I always thought sportbikes were pretty cool, but no one in my family rode. Before my Dad was married he was into fast cars so I think I had a bit of that in me… When I got to college my boyfriend had a sportbike and he taught me to ride. I think it went from fascination to addiction VERY quickly!

MRR- And what was the first bike you owned?

Melissa Paris- The first bike I rode was a Kawasaki EX-250. It was cheap and not so intimidating… but I got bored of it very quickly and squandered a student loan on a Yamaha FZR-600. All of my friends had nice new sportbikes, and mine was 10 years old, but I didn’t care because I loved it SO much!

MRR- When did you start racing and what have been your career highlights from start to present day?

 Melissa Paris- I started racing only about a year after I learned to ride. All of my friends were doing track days so I think it was only natural to try racing. I was hooked right away. I really struggled the first few years that I was racing. I was still trying to figure out the right way to go about things and I was doing it on a VERY tight budget.

Although I was building my skills, I feel like things really started to come together for me racing wise in 2008 when I started riding a 250GP bike. I picked up a few pole positions and then a win in USGPRU and my confidence started to grow. I won my first championship that year in Lightweight GP too, which was pretty awesome.

Last year racing my first AMA races was a BIG step. My goal at Daytona was to finish top 20, so to finish 21st was close… but not enough. I think the highlight of last year was racing as a wild card in the world supersport event at Miller Motorsports Park. To be on the race track with the best of the best is very motivating! I look back at 2009 as a real learning year on the 600. I definitely expect better results this year!

MRR- Can you describe how you felt and what was going through your head in your very first race at Streets of Willow Springs?

Melissa Paris- I was SO nervous at my first race. I really had no idea what to expect… where I would end up finishing. But that was the first time that I realized, as soon as the green flag waves, all of those nerves just go away. It was really cool to see that I could race and that I actually responded well to the pressure and went faster than I had before. I knew instantly that I wanted to do it again and again.

 

MRR- What is the story behind why you contended your first race on a CBR600RR and then went to the 125GP class?

Miller Sport park World Superbike competition '09

 

Melissa Paris When I first started racing, my budget dictated that I use the bike I already owned. And I use the term “owned” very loosely because I was still making payments on that bike! I did ok as a novice, but when I turned expert it was a whole different ball game. I wasn’t content to ride around and call it racing.

I wanted to be racing at the front. I kind of hit this plateau and wasn’t getting any faster. Some of my friends convinced me that the way to get better was to switch to a 125. Although it might not be as fast in a straight line, you can’t get away with some of the mistakes you make on bigger bikes. You learn to carry corner speed and choose good lines much faster! I think it was definitely the right step!

MRR- It’s obvious the Daytona 200 has been bittersweet for you for 2009 and as recently as this past March in 2010, in reference to your husband, Josh Hayes, your history making finish and most recently, the injury to your pinkie finger. Can you elaborate on how it all affected you?

Melissa Paris- It’s a really interesting dynamic, having your spouse with you at the racetrack. Emotionally you truly are tied in to that person and you want the best for them. But I think Josh would agree, that when it’s time to put the helmet on, you kind of have to put that in its compartment and do your own thing.

Last year I went into the 200 with relatively little pressure. This year I put a LOT of pressure on myself. I knew what I was capable of last year, and I knew that I was a more experienced racer this year, so naturally the expectations were raised. Given the way that the 200 often goes, I knew I should be able to finish well, as long as I finished.

When I saw my pit board showing P10 at one point in the race, I was pretty excited. I often say that it’s my goal to have one of my accomplishments not include the word “female” because it’s always, highest finishing female, or first female, or whatever… It’s cool I guess, but I’m not just trying to be the fastest girl. To finish top 10 in the Daytona 200 is pretty cool for anyone, not just a girl…. So I wanted it REALLY bad. The crash was so frustrating because it happened so fast… I had absolutely no warning. It was really heart-breaking even without getting hurt. I think it took a week or so for the pain of the shattered finger to catch up with my heart break!

MRR- How is your recovery coming along on your surgery and when do you expect to be back on the grid?

Melissa Paris- The recovery is never fast enough. I hate when you have to just let nature do its thing, because it’s so slow. We’re just waiting to see if the bone grows and fills in where I lost some pieces. Maybe we might have to go back and trim the tip of my finger off. I’m going to miss Fontana which is so annoying, but I’ll be back for Road Atlanta.

MRR- As a successful professional woman racer, competing in a predominately male sport, what, in your estimation, does it take to achieve a certain level of confidence and a “no fear” factor?

Melissa Paris- I’m not sure that there is a single rider out there with a “no fear” attitude. That will just end up getting you hurt! I think it’s a lot of calculated risk and toeing the line of your skill level. The only way to figure out how to go faster is to overstep your boundaries here and there. Sometimes you get away with it and sometimes you end up with a scratched up motorcycle. Honestly, in my heart, I don’t think it has anything to do with male or female. I know lots of women who are so confident and brave and plenty of men who are neither. It’s just a matter of picking something you’re passionate about and willing to take a little risk towards achieving.

 
 

We wish Melissa a quick recovery to fulfill her quest to achieve her Road Atlanta goal as her next race this coming April 14-16, and all the success in the interim, in her provisional racing calendar season for 2010. Cheers Melissa!

WERA racing event

Please check out Melissa’s Press Release for Road Altanta and Infineon Raceway:

MPH Racing to Run Special Iron Man 2 Livery for Road Atlanta and Infineon AMA Rounds
 
MPH Racing is very excited to announce plans to deck out Melissa Paris’ RM Racing Yamaha R6 with special livery promoting Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures’ new film, Iron Man 2, starring Robert Downey Jr. and due out in theaters May 7.
 
Through a unique partnership with Royal Purple Lubricants and Marvel Studios, fans will be able to see Melissa and her R6 donning an Iron Man paint scheme designed by Concept 5 in the two rounds following Fontana.  In addition, she will also be wearing a specially designed set of one-off leathers from Joe Rocket and custom exhaust pipes provided by Leo Vince, all of which will coincide with the release of what is sure to be one of this summer’s biggest blockbusters.
 
“This is really a great opportunity for me,” said Paris, “It is a real honor to be associated with Royal Purple Lubricants and this film and to have them as a part of my racing program this year.”
 
Catch a sneak peak of the new livery at Concept Five’s Facebook fan page as well as the new leathers at Joe Rocket’s Facebook fan page. Learn more about Royal Purple and the Star Motor Racing team at www.starkmotorracing.com.
 
For more information about Melissa Paris and how to get involved with her race efforts check out www.melissaparis.com

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March 26, 2010 - Posted by | American Motorcycle Association, daytona 200, melissa paris, miller sports park, Moto Race Reports, motorcycle racing, motorcycles, Road Atlanta, superbike, supersport, yamaha YZF R6

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