Motoette -in forward motion

Maria Costello~ Catching up at Donington Park

 

Maria Costello~Donington Park

This past weekend at the round 2 WSBK race at Donington Park in dusky England, the Girlracer team was honored with an exclusive interview with the veteran TT racer, Maria Costello. A soft spoken, petite fair-haired lass from Northampton, who has proven her worth as a female racer by her abundant Manx Grand Prix and Isle of Man TT wins since 1995.

Maria talks candidly about her personal aspirations past and present and her infinite love for the two-wheeled sport.

Girlracer- Let’s first start off with your newly released autobiography book, Queen of Bikers. What inspired you to write it and how is it doing?

Maria Costello MBE- Well, it all started when I was approached by a man by the name of Steven Pitts, he is the editor of the local news paper where I live in Northampton. He remembered me when I did work experience for the same paper years ago and they had followed my racing career. He had just done a book on a famous footballer called 30 Days of Gazza and it had done really well. He was looking for a new project and he approached me about doing a book. I hadn’t really thought about doing a book myself, but everybody has a story to tell, so I accepted his offer. We went ahead and started it. It was quite a cathartic process, but interesting. I had kept diaries all throughout my racing career and it was interesting to see a lot of my old scrapbooks that I had forgotten about. We wanted to get it out before the Isle of Man TT in May/ June of 2010, so it was a bit rushed at the end, but we did it.

When we first started talking about doing this book, I wasn’t very keen on putting myself out there publicly. Just before the book was to be published I started to backtrack; I said to Steve, I don’t know if I’m ready to do this. Obviously, there are people that don’t always like you when you are known to the public and I didn’t know if I was ready for it. I can be very sensitive to this and I wasn’t sure I could cope with the negative press. Steve was absolutely brilliant and said you don’t have to do the book if it doesn’t feel right. Something told me to go ahead and do it and I’m glad I did because it was another thing that my dad saw me do right before he passed away. I wanted him to be proud.

Now we are talking about doing a revised version, more of an update to this first book.. After this last year, I feel I could write another book.

The sales are trickling along, I’m not pushing the book too much, but I’m happy with the sales and take them along with me when I race. It’s been fun having the positive feed back from people saying how much they didn’t know about me.

Girlracer– This year looks like its going to be a busy race season. You have two races coming up that are back to back the NW200 and the isle of Man TT. Is that a problem for you?

Maria Costello MBE– No, its always been like that and a lot of racers use the NW200 as a great shake-down to the TT. Its the closest thing to the TT in regards to road racing. I will be doing some other road races, such as Cookstown at the end of April. We have been building a super twin ER 650 Kawasaki, which has become a popular class that’s based on a commuter bike. We call it the pizza bike! My sponsor bought this bike that was originally going to become a pizza delivery bike, so we nicked named the project the Pizza Race Bike.

I’m also going to be building this bike. I’m actually going to be overseen by my boyfriend, Tim McGiven, who is a mechanic and engineer. It’s been brilliant, we are now close to having the project finished.

Girlracer– Last year your close friend and sponsor, Tony Morris bought you a BMW S1000RR, how did it go and will you be racing the same bike this season?

Maria Costello MBE– No, we sold the bike. I didn’t get on with it very well. The original plan was to test it by doing some endurance and short circuits and then take it to the NW200 and then on to the TT.

It was just too powerful for me and we just couldn’t get it ready in time. We took it to the NW and did a couple of laps and then parked it. For me, it just wasn’t ideal and I think a lot of the other boys were having problems. I think the only rider that was getting on with it was Keith Amor.

I had put a lot of pressure on myself and it was just too fast for me, getting the handling right and all that horse power. The technical guys from BMW in Germany came over to try and help set it up, but there just wasn’t enough time.

Girlracer– Any new projects on the horizon?

Maria Costello MBE– Actually, yes, I haven’t told anybody this yet, but I will be racing for Padgetts on a Superstock Honda Fireblade at the TT this year. I will still be racing my Yamaha R6, but the real exciting thing is that Mick Grant will be helping me with the TT race. He was a great help to me this last January at the South African Classic TT, where I raced a Suzuki XR69 owned by one of my sponsors, Steve Wheatman. Its been a long time since he raced the TT, but he’s a legend and has a lot of great knowledge and he’s really good at sorting out my head for racing, so it’s really good.

I just want to concentrate on relaxing and having a great time.

Girlracer– You mentioned racing the South African Classic TT. What is this race exactly?

Maria Costello MBE– Oh yeah, its a great race and I was invited down by the 7 time Isle of Man TT winner, Mick Grant. Its racing classic motorbikes in three different rounds on three different tracks in South Africa with the locals. There were a lot of legends that came out, not necessarily to race but to ride, like Steven Plater.

Girlracer– I’ve heard rumours of you possibly riding for Zero Electric Motorbikes in the TTXGP this year, is this rumour true?

Maria Costello MBE– I would love to and have wanted to since they first came out at the TT, but no, not at this moment. I did have an opportunity the first year they came out, but I missed out because they only wanted me to ride an electric bike and I still had another race to do at the Manx circuit. I had another chance to race for the TTXGP last year, but lost out at the last minute, but I have let the team organizers know that I am very interested.

Girlracer- How are you feeling this race season mentally and physically?

Maria Costello MBE– Good, I think I’m in a good place. I’ve been doing a lot of fitness workouts, including cycling, I love all my fitness workouts and I just feel good in general. Getting the pizza bike done and getting to Cookstown and making it to Ireland for the first part of the season.

I love racing the TT and its like going home for me, everyone has adopted me. After my dad passed away last year after the TT, my mum asked me not to race anymore and I wanted to do that for her. But the organizers of Ulster contacted me and asked me to come. My sponsor Tony and I went back and forth and finally with my mum’s blessings, I went and had a fantastic time.

Girlracer– Being that this is the first year that you are actually mechanically working on your bike set-up. How does it feel?

Maria Costello MBE- It feels fantastic! When I first started racing on 250cc I used to work on my own bikes, but then when the bikes got bigger and I started racing other peoples bikes it got less and less. I went off to Killalane last year and went off on my own with my Honda RF 400 and my sponsor seemed to be okay with it.

The ER 650 Kawasaki is the first bike I have ever built and we wanted to make it the best it could be, by trying new and different angles.

Tim has been doing the sub-frame and the electrics and I have done the rest.

Girlracer– Do you find it difficult to get sponsorship?

Maria Costello MBE– I had sponsorship from day one. I really don’t know how, whether is was the local news paper that got involved or not? But, definitely being female helps. I get a lot of comments on being a girl motorcycle racer. But it has worked against me too; I actually had someone say to me that they couldn’t sponsor me because they didn’t want to see me get hurt!

But, this is society and I don’t want to use racing for a gender battle ground. I want to be a positive role model and as a female rider, you do find a way.

Without sponsorship, I don’t go racing. I don’t get a paycheck from racing and all my money goes into racing, so without sponsorship, there is no racing for me. It seems the more money I raise, the more I spend, so its very easy to use up my budget.

Girlracer– As a female racer in a predominately male sport, do you experience any gender stereotypical comments about your racing abilities?

Maria Costello MBE– In the beginning it was much harder and it was more a comment from a father perspective, like “ I wouldn’t want my daughter doing that.” I had a good friend Jane, who used to come to the meetings with me as a race marshal. She would say to me; just smile and nod. She could tell some people were just trying to wind me up, so she was a great mentor for me. I now just know that its going to come up being a female racer and I just deal with it as it comes along. I started out in the media room helping out and then into the pits helping the racers out, so it feels good to be on the track meeting some wonderful people along the way.

Girlracer- What do you do to keep yourself relaxed in between races?

Maria Costello MBE– I used to be known for carrying around a walkman and playing music all the time at the Isle of Man TT. The reason I did this was because people were coming up and talking to me all the time and with the earplugs in my ears, I could just point to my ears and I wouldn’t have to talk to them. My mechanics got used to me with the walkman and would say; “oh yeah, there’s Maria going around singing again!”

I also will bring my laptop and watch movies. At the Wednesday TT Supersport race last year, we got rained out and I had time to actually watch the entire film Avatar while waiting in my leathers.

Me and Maria Costello

 

 

On a personal note; I would like to thank Maria Costello for taking the time to give this interview and to my very special www.Girlracer.co.uk team memebers, Matt Paines, Shirley Hughes and Jen Watson, Without them, this interview would not have been possible.

Race Dates – Provisional Dates For 2011

SOUTH AFRICAN CLASSIC TT
DATE EVENT
22-23 January East London
29-30 January Zwartkops
5-6 February Killarney
HOTTRAX ENDURANCE
DATE EVENT
11/12/13 March Brands Hatch
15/16/17 April Mallory Park
REAL ROAD RACING
DATE EVENT
May 21 International North West 200
May 30- June 10 Isle of Man TT
8/9/10 July Festival of 1000 Bikes – Mallory Park
22/23/24 July Silverstone Classic
August 7 – August 13 Ulster Grand Prix
20 August – 4 September Manx Grand Prix
AMERICAN HISTORIC MOTORCYCLE ASSOCIATION
DATE EVENT
October 7-9 AHRMA Barber
October 14-16 AHRMA Daytona
IRISH SUPERTWIN CHAMPIONSHIP – PIZZA RACE BIKE
DATE EVENT
Apr 29/30 Cookstown
May 6/7 Tandragee
May 17/19/21 NW 200
June 24/25 Bush
June 25/26 Athea
July 1/2 Skerries
July 9/10 Walderstown
July 16/17 Kells
July 23/24 Faugheen
July 29/30 Armoy
Aug 5/6 Mid Antrim
Aug 10/11/13 Dundrod 150/UGP
Aug 20/21 Munster
Sept 10/11 Killalane

This is Maria’s ‘wish-list’ of race dates. She will be aiming to do as many as possible – funds permitting. Keep an eye on her website for any changes.

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March 30, 2011 - Posted by | donington Park, girlracer, Isle of Man TT, Manx Grand Prix, Maria Costello, motorcycle racing, motorcycles, NW 200, queen of bikers, supersport, Superstock, WSBK, yamaha YZF R6

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