Motorsports The Girl on a Bike in the Media

CarAndDriver: Michèle Mouton, Joyrides, and Fire-Resistant Underpants at the 2024 Dirtfish Women in Motorsports Summit

As seen in The CarAndDriver: For all would-be racers, the yearly Dirtfish WIM event is both entertainment and education.

The most important conversation I had during the 2024 Women in Motorsports (WIM) Summit at Dirtfish Rally School in Snoqualmie, Washington, was not with guest of honor Michèle Mouton about her incredible Pikes Peak triumph in 1985, or how she doesn’t drink alcohol unless it’s champagne.

Nor was it with WRC commentator Becs Williams about how she discovered motorsports at a relatively late age and made a stunning career out of reporting on it. The conversation that really stuck with me was about underpants. Don’t get weird about it.

The girl on a bike 024 Dirtfish Women in Motorsports Summit 1

Dirtfish Rally School is famous for its dirt-clod-flinging driving classes and founder Steve Rimmer’s envy-inducing Group B Rally car collection, but the company also promotes rally racing with a team of photographers and writers and hosts a yearly meet-up to celebrate and support women in racing. The WIM event was Josie Rimmer’s idea. Dirtfish’s head of strategy, she felt that while there were plenty of women involved in rally racing, they weren’t often in spotlight.

“I’d grown up around rally and have seen countless women in the service park occupying all sorts of roles,” she said. “It became quite clear quite quickly that those women weren’t being written about or invited to sit on podcasts. No one was shouting their names from the rooftop the way they should have been.

We wanted to be the ones shouting from the rooftops, ‘Hey! You really can do this too!'” Rimmer thought it might appeal to a few folks if she put together a panel of speakers and some hot-lap ride-alongs and invited some local women-run companies to get together at Dirtfish for a day-long event.

The girl on a bike 024 Dirtfish Women in Motorsports Summit 4

In 2022, Dirtfish hosted around 100 rally fans (men and women) to talk about racing and listen to Rhianon Gelsomino, Lia and Lucy Block, Emma Gilmour, and Sara Price talk about their experiences behind the wheel or in the co-drivers seat. In 2023, Rimmer brought even more women to the table, including the only female driver to win a World Rally Car victory, Michèle Mouton.

Some 400 people attended that year, including me, and despite being nearly struck mute with hero worship (Mouton is . . . wow), I noticed how the audience responded, eager to hear the details of these women’s experiences and to ask questions about starting their own motorsports journeys.

For 2023, Mouton returned, along with Pernilla Solberg, recently named president of the World Rally Championship Commission, and journalist Becs Williams, as well as a trio of younger racers, FIA Top Fuel dragster driver Jndia Erbacher, Trans Am Mustang driver Michele Abbate, and motorcycle endurance rider Vanessa Ruck. It was at dinner with these three that conversation turned to the subject of skivvies.

They were chatting about crashes and fires and all the things race-car drivers casually talk about while the rest of us think about how the height of our own bravery was removing the gopher that the dog brought in and put on the couch. (Hey, it was not initially clear that it was dead, so I do think I deserve a medal.)

Unlike me, race-car drivers are actually brave, and they do dangerous things, like deal with brake failure at high speed in a road race or engine explosions in nitro dragsters. Both of those things came up as Erbacher and Abbate shared stories with Ruck. When Abbate got to the part in her tale of a 2023 crash at Road America where the car caught on fire and the suppression system didn’t work, Erbacher and Ruck were all sympathy and no small amount of horror.

The girl on a bike 024 Dirtfish Women in Motorsports Summit 3

This led to a discussion about fireproof underlayers, which caught Ruck’s attention. As a motorcyclist who recently has been exploring four-wheel motorsports as a Bowler Works driver in the U.K. Defender Rally series, she was less familiar with the options for women’s safety gear—bike riders generally worrying less about fire than impact. “I had no idea there were fireproof sports bras and knickers,” she said. “Oh, it’s really new,” Erbacher told her, describing the somewhat itchy process of developing a workable sports bra with her safety gear sponsor.

Abbate and I jumped in with horror stories of what synthetic fibers and underwires can do in a fire (you do not want hot metal and melted plastic next to your skin). Ruck was taking notes, and not even a week later posted on her Instagram account about being fitted with new fire-resistant layers.

For the rest of The CarAndDriver article see here.

If you’re new to my page – it’s more than just dirt bike riding, Harleys and racing, I’m on a mission to prove that nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough. See more about my story plus read about my life-changing accident, which started it all.

You can find me Vanessa, The Girl On A Bike over on  InstagramFacebook, Tiktok and YouTube, and www.thegirlonabike.com.

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