A female detective who only started riding three years ago and has already won a national road racing championship hopes to become the fastest woman in Australia.
Detective Sergeant Ashlee De Bakker of Sydney says she got into racing “by accident”.
“I only started riding in September 2014,” Ashlee says.
“On one occasion I ran wide and nearly ran into a rock face. I thought to myself ‘if I don’t get some training I’ll die’.
“So I booked myself into a motoDNA course and fell in love with it.”
Before she knew it, Ashlee was signing up for more and more track days and coaching.
“I did every track day I could get my hands on and had one-on-one coaching with (superbike racer and World Endurance Champion) Alex Cudlin.”
At one of the motoDNA days, she met Kawasaki Factory Team owner Kelvin Reilly who eventually built her first race bike, a Kawasaki Ninja 300. It was Reilly who encouraged her to give racing a try.
“I really jumped in at the deep end,” she says.
“I had one race in the 300s, crashed, broke my pelvis and came back on a superbike.”
Ashlee has since won two D grade championships in the Formula Oz category of the Australian Formula Extreme Championships (AFX) Australasian Superbike Championship (ASC) on her Kawasaki ZX-10R.
“My ultimate ambition is to be the first woman on the podium in a 1000cc superbike race and become the fastest woman in Australia.
“But there is a lot of work to put in between now and then.”
She says she knows of few other females racers, especially at a national level.
“We’re all on equal terms out there and no quarter is given I can assure you,” she says.
“Women might have a little bit more finesse and ride smarter, but we’re not as aggressive; that’s the hard part.
“It’s taken me a while to get my head into the space to race aggressively. I’d get up into the front group and find it’s pretty rough in the first part of the race and give way to other riders.
“But now I think ‘get out of my way, it’s my track’!”
Ashlee says she has never received any negative comments from her male racing opponents.
“Although some of them get a ribbing by the other guys if I beat them,” she says.
“I think it’s fun and I tease them as well. But they are all very supportive. My experience has been positive; nothing negative has ever been said to me. They are all very encouraging.
“I’ve been lining up on the grid and they will give me a backslap or thumbs up as they ride past.
“I speak to them a lot outside of racing and they always offer support, advice and contacts.
Words of advice
Ashlee also has some words of support and advice for other novice and female riders.
“The key thing is I had some really good riders teaching me and lots of training early on before falling into any bad habits,” she says.
“I’m a big advocate of training. Rider training should be a lifelong commitment. I think it should be a licensing requirement to do more training.
“I’ve been to a lot of horrible motorcycle accidents and have seen a lot of riders killed and that’s the thing that made me get some training.”
She also encourages other women to try racing as an “outlet”.
“The hardest part is taking that first step, having the courage to race that first time. I was terrified. But I knew that if I didn’t do it, I’d regret it for the rest of my life. It may not be about wining initially, but participation is key. We all have our own goals or milestones,” she says.
“If my presence on the track encourages other girls to have a serious go, that’s meant something for women in motorsport. It’s time that we made our mark.”
Unlike many racers who don’t ride on the road because they think it is too dangerous, Ashlee still does.
“I still ride, but I do it for the social aspect, not for the buzz,” she says.
“Riders all speak a common language and it is easy to strike up a conversation with another rider.
“I ride for the places it takes you and the people you meet rather than the thrill on the road. If you want thrills, do a track day.
“The closest friends I’ve made are those who I meet at the track. You extend your circle of friends and also stay safe.”
Fundraising and sponsorship
In 2016, Ashlee helped raise funds for Bear Cottage at the Westmead Children’s Hospital and will be involved in larger charity projects this year.
“Motorcyclists love a great cause and are always eager to be involved in fundraising. It speaks volumes about the community as a whole,” she says.
She will contest the 2017 Australasian Superbike Championship (ASC) in the superbike category as a privateer racer, but needs sponsorship support. To help, check out her website.
“Racing is not a sport for those with tight purse strings,” she says. “It has been financially difficult and requires sacrifices on my part. But that’s what you do to chase your dreams.”
Ashlee wishes to thank and acknowledge her sponsors JPM Cranes, BC Performance and MCA Motorcycle Accessories Supermarket and Ricondi Leathers.