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.

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 | Leave a comment

Maria Costello ~ Paving the road for women and racing

Maria Costello

Maria Costello was born in Northampton England on June 9, 1977, and even though she’s not quite 33 years old, she retains a racing career that dates back to 1995. In her 15 years, she has diligently set the bar for female racers who have preceded her, especially when it comes to the Isle of Man TT road race.  

Becoming one of the first female solo racers to stand on the podium at the Isle of Man TT and the Manx Grand Prix, Maria has had an unprecedented historical racing career and continues to strive for excellence as a professional racer for 2010.  

Maria has a lot to prove this year. With a two-year span of setbacks due to injury and a 5 year standing TT record that was broken by Jenny Tinmouth; a fellow British racer and contending rival, means Maria will be even more competitive than ever. To add to the adventure, Maria has opted to race a BMW, a bike that hasn’t been seen on the TT grid in over 30 years.  

Her fans affectionately call her “Elvis”, making it obvious that Maria has a radiant charisma about her that shows in her style and successes as an established professional racer.  

Moto Race Reports contributing editor, Cindi Servante visits with Maria to unveil the many layers of her multi-faceted life and career.  

MRR- What inspired you to become a motorcyclist, when did you start and what was your first motorbike?  

Maria Costello MBE – Does a Honda Melody 50cc scooter count as a motorbike? I was 16/17 years old and needed transport to get to work, training to be a Veterinary nurse. So, I bought the moped with some money I’d earned from looking after peoples pets. It didn’t give me any street credibility, just independence. I would say that my first proper motorbike came a year or so later when I got a Yamaha TZR125, it was derestricted pretty soon after I got it.  

MRR- With a racing career that dates back to 1995, can you give a brief summery of your racing career?  

Maria Costello MBE – Started short-circuit racing on a Suzuki RGV50 in 95’, I loved this bike. The following year I was approached by Sandra Barnet, a former female TT lap record holder and joined her and another lady Bridget McManus in 1996 in an all-girl team. That team took me to the Manx Grand prix for the first time. Since then, I’ve been hooked on road racing and have raced at the Manx Grand Prix pretty much every year. I think my race history is listed on my website until 1999 when I went to the TT.  

I continued to do short-circuit racing on very meager budget, but raced in some fantastic one-make series, such as the Honda CB500 Cup and Honda Hornet Cup.  I also competed on a Fireblade in the British Superstock Championship in 2000.   

In 2004 I became the fastest woman to lap the TT course and in 2005 I was the first woman to stand on the TT podium, 3rd in Ultra lightweight race, MGP.  

In 2006 I broke my leg at Keppel Gate (MGP) and it took until last year for me to regain my confidence. In 2009 I was awarded an MBE for services to motorcycling and I realized then that I’d become a role model in the sport and particularly to women. I am now proactive in supporting my fellow female competitors. I want to do more to encourage women everywhere that they can succeed in a sport, work or life in general, despite the odds, even if the arena is male dominated.  

This year I’m returning to the TT, in attempt to regain my 1995 title!  

MRR- Becoming the first female solo racer to stand on the podium at the Isle of Man TT and the Manx GP, can you describe how the experience was for you?  

Maria Costello MBE – Euphoric! It remains one of the best days of my career. I can pretty much remember every detail about that day and the race. The best part was crossing the finish line and then as I rode up the return road I was waved into the winners’ enclosure. I only wish I’d ridden a 400 at the MGP earlier on in my career, as it was so much fun.  

The podium finish made all the work, money and effort in getting to the Manx, all worth while.  

It gave something back to all my sponsors & supporters and it showed what women can accomplish in a man’s world. I hope my achievements have inspired some women to take up riding and even racing, to have the opportunity to experience the feeling. I was high on cloud nine for months and months!!  

MRR- In holding the record as the fastest female solo racer for 5 years, how do you feel about competing against Jenny Tinmouth this May at the Isle of Man TT and how confident are you in beating her 116.8mph aver. lap record?  

Maria Costello MBE – I have total respect for Jenny, she is a highly talented racer and a lovely person to know. I think that our rivalry will be used a lot in the run up to the event. I only see it as a positive and the TT is surely all the better for having more women compete there! I look forward to the challenge!  

It has given me a boost and I will be attempting to regain the female lap record in the forthcoming TT.  

MRR- Can you expand on what you and your team are doing in preparation for the TT race this year?  

Maria Costello MBE – The plan is to get as much track time as possible before we hit the main International events of the NW200 and TT. The team tested in Portugal at the start of the year at the fantastic Parkalgar circuit. Then some other test sessions have followed at various tracks including Pembrey and Rockingham in the UK.  

I have competed in two short-circuit events and my teammate, Davy Morgan competed at Scarborough. We both contended in the Cookstown 100 in North Ireland at the end of April, where I raced my CMS Honda RVF400. On my return, I commenced testing the S1000RR BMW. I was also able to race the Yamaha R6 at Snetterton before we, as a team, head back to North Ireland for the International North West 200 and then on to the TT.  

MRR- Can you explain your involvement with BMW and the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy?   

Maria Costello MBE – I have an amazing personal sponsor and good friend by the name of Tony Morris. He bought the BMW for me to race at the NW200 and Isle of Man TT races.  

It was a magnificent gesture by Tony to buy this bike for me and I fully intend to repay his faith in me. The BMW S1000RR has had fantastic reviews and BMW WSBK racers Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus have proved this bike is competitive. I think it will make a great TT bike.  

MRR- Is there a person(s) that you consider to be an idol or mentor to you?  

Maria Costello MBE – My idols in this sport are no longer with us, David Jefferies and Steve Hislop. I have admiration for many others, especially those who compete at the TT. I have a small group of people who I consider as my ‘team’ and they include Tony Morris my personal sponsor and the head of CSC Racing – Steve Caffyn My team-mate Davy Morgan and performance coach David Sutton. Between them all, they keep me on track – in more ways than one!  

MRR- This past year, you were appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire by Prince Charles. What did this mean for you and is it true you arrived by motorbike?  

Maria Costello MBE – I’ve always loved riding and racing and pushing boundaries, in particular becoming the fastest woman in the UK to lap the TT course. Getting the MBE made me realize that I have a larger role to play in this world of motorcycling, it has made me even more determined to achieve more for all women.  

If it wasn’t for my friend Damian Rowley, who works for Virgin limo bikes, I probably would have missed the ceremony. Thankfully he rescued me from a terrible traffic jam, on the back of his motorbike! So, yes, it’s true!  

MRR- What is the story behind why your fans call you “Elvis?”  

Maria Costello MBE- It’s a nick name that was given to me when I was about 9 years old by my friend Eve Jones. It’s all down to my surname. Like the famous singer Evis Costello! I guess it got around and the nick-name took off with the fans.  

  

It’s hard to believe it’s been over thirty years since the official BMW team has made its presence known at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race when German racers, Helmut Dahne and Hans Otto Butenuth last represented BMW in the late 70’s. For this race season, Maria Costello has been given the honor of piloting the BMW S1000RR in three key races, Superstock, Superbike and Senior TT races, thanks to her personal sponsor and close friend, Tony Morris.   

With the aide of her team, sponsors and BMW and an extraordinary talent for the two-wheeled machines, its obvious Maria has a prodigious edge to her competitors for 2010.  

To stay up to date with Maria, don’t forget to check out her Website Maria Costello racing and her Facebook fan page.

May 26, 2010 Posted by | BMW motorcycles, BMW S1000RR, Honda CB500 cup, Isle of Man TT, jenny tinmouth, Manx Grand Prix, Maria Costello, Moto Race Reports, motorcycle racing, motorcycles, NW 200, Ruben Xaus, Superstock, Tony Morris -CSC Racing, Troy Corser | Leave a comment