We are pleased to have Shelina Moreda writing Asphalt & Rubber’s newest column, “She’z Racing at Suzuka”, which will follow her and Melissa Paris’ venture into racing at the Suzuka 4-Hour endurance race later this month.
The American Duo made the first all-female race team at the Suzuka 4-Hour, and campaigned a Honda CBR600RR with the Synergy Force Moriwaki Club team. We hope that you will enjoy the unique perspective that Shelina will be sharing with us. -JB
“So How was Japan, Suzuka, Moriwaki?!” is the question of the week.
“Everything you think it should be and more” is the answer of the week. I’m still in awe of the week I have just had. The most amazing race I’ve done to date. Intensity like you wouldn’t believe.
I was practically in tears at the weight of the thing after the Le Mans-style start and then the most challenging, and coolest race I’ve had the privilege of competing in. I keep thanking SynergyForce, Moriwaki, and the FIM Women’s Commission for all they have done to make it happen.
My week started with a day in Tokyo, where I got to visit my Japanese family. We had an exchange student when I was a kid, and Miyuki is now grown up with kids of her own. This is the third time I’ve gotten to visit them. Last time was when I lived in Japan, right before I started racing.
Japan is really close to my heart. I lived in Okinawa for a year, and living away from home, and everything I knew, helped me decide that I really could go after anything I wanted to do in life. Japan helped me realize I could make anything I wanted out of life.
I got my racing license only one month after I moved home to California and set out to race professionally. Then it was just a dream people thought I was crazy for.
The opportunity to race in Japan is really special to me, especially because of this. Pair that with the legendary circuit of Suzuka, the distinguished team of Moriwaki, and my first endurance race ever taking place during the famous weekend of Suzuka 8-Hour: the whole thing is a dream come true.
Day 1 at Suzuka
The first day at the track we set up, got situated, said hello to the team, checked out our bike and it’s new paint job, a SynergyForce Lion! Moriwaki, Motul, Dunlop, Honda, FIM Women’s Commission logos. It was awesome. Mine and Melissa’s names on the front fairing on either side of the windscreen were the final touch that made it ours.
We also got to practice some pit stops, which was very helpful, as I’ve never done a pit stop in my life. I got to see how the team worked, where I was supposed to be, how fast I should come in to the pit, and how I knew when to get off the motorcycle or back on.
It’s high speed, and may sound like it should be simple, but you have to turn the power switch off then back on while you are hauling in to the pit, then hop off the bike as soon as the stand is on (and the stand is short so it’s hard to feel it kick up), and then get away from the bike.
The person getting back on the bike has to watch to make sure the power switch got turned back on, and hop on smoothly at the same second the fuel is finished filling, and in that same second you have to hit the power button and get out to race! The practice did me good.
The other big thing on the schedule for the day was our doctor’s appointment. We had to meet with the doctor and the physical trainer to make sure we were both fit for the strenuous race ahead.
We drove a ways to the doctors office and got our blood checked, joints checked, and met with the trainer who would be at the track with us. This doctor’s office had a former Moriwaki GP bike in the window!! Coolest doctors office I’ve ever been to.
Next stop was Moriwaki Factory where the entire team, including everyone working at the factory to get this project together, was there for a BBQ, along with some of the FIM folks. We had real Japanese food, Yaki Soba, Somen, Yakitori, Japanese pizza and all kinds of other tasty stuff.
We also got to climb all over Yuki Takahashi’s Moto2 racebike and I wanted to take it home. Midori’s mother, father and grandmother were also at the BBQ.
It is really incredible to be in the presence of such a powerful racing family and to see how involved the women in this family are in their racing heritage. I got a photo with the three-generations of racing females, it was an honor to spend time with them.
We were all looking forward to the first day of riding. It would be important since we hadn’t had much time on the bike or track, and what time we had was largely in rainy weather.
During our test there was a typhoon warning and our last day of testing actually got rained out. While I enjoy riding in the rain (and I wasn’t too far off my dry times in the rain there) it’s not as beneficial for real track time and setup. So we had our work cut out for us.
Day 2 at Suzuka
There is not much practice for the 4-Hours racers, and on our practice day we only had 40 minutes between the two of us to get on track and remember where it goes and how the bike feels — 20 minutes each. We were all planning and working to make the most of the little time we had. Melissa would ride first and we would practice a pit stop when we swapped spots on the bike.
Melissa had a gnarly highside in the first laps of practice and luckily she was ok, but the bike was unrideable and she wasn’t able to get it back to the pits, so we couldn’t continue practice.
It was a bummer since practice time is so important, but I was so happy to see my teammate was unhurt. When the bike came back, I had to give Melissa a hard time though because she broke off my side of the front fairing in the crash and hers was fine. We had a good laugh over it.
The team got to work putting the bike back together and we practiced pit stops and Le Mans starts some more. Kevin Schwantz came over and talked with me and gave me some pointers about the track. It was cool to meet him and having him stop by through the weekend. Very cool guy.
Shelina Moreda is an FIM eRoadracing rider for Team Parker Brammo, an AMA Pro Harley Davidson Vance & Hines rider with Chilipepper Racing, a competitor in the Qatar LARRS road race series with QMMF Racing Team, and the first female to have raced a motorcycle at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway.