Fifty Years Of Women In Motocross

By Sarah DiMare/Photos by Jeff Kardas

The 70's: The Beginning

The women in the United States had their first national event in 1974, dubbed the "Powder Puff National Championship." This event brought out over 300 riders and over 9000 spectators, all eager to be a part of the rise and acceptance of women in the sport of motocross. The first national championship was won by Nancy Payne. The following year, the championship was renamed the Women's National Championship. By 1979, women's motocross had attracted enough attention it had caught the attention of ABC's Wide World of Sports who covered the national that year.

Champions By Year
1974 – Nancy Payne
1975 – Sue Fish
1976 – Sue Fish
1977 – Sue Fish
1978 – Carey Steiner
1979 – Sue Fish

Jessica Patterson was the most dominate rider of the last decade, taking the majority of National titles before retiring from motocross in 2013. She now focuses on the GNCC off-road racing circuit.

The 80's: Acceptance

By the 80's, women in motocross had created a stir and a flash of media coverage. So much so that, in 1981, the top 10 female pro riders were asked to do an exhibition run at a Supercross event at LA Coliseum. The race brought a crowd of 70,000 people to their feet. The event was such a hit, in 1983, the first ever women's Supercross invitational was help at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. This was the beginning of an amazing year for Women in motocross. Media outlets were all over the nationals that year from television to magazine coverage, it seemed women had finally gotten to a level playing ground. The women''s nationals even received media coverage from NBC. Things were really looking up for women in the sport. The nationals continued to be a once a year event (with the exception of 1982 and 1986, when no event took place.) In 1983, Motocross Magazine's Dean Bradley wrote an article titled "Women & Racing: Why They Do It." Not only did Dean highlight the growing presence of woman in the sport, he also highlighted some of the very best of the female racers, introducing them on an even larger scale. Just like today, many of the women he interviewed expressed doubt that women could conquer the sex barriers of the sport, and there were those optimistic ones who insisted that their presence in the sport needed to be recognized. It was also 1983 that the first women's class was offered at AMA Loretta Lynn Amateur National. In 1988, women's motocross lost one of their biggest supporters, Mickey Thompson. A well-known promoter, Thompson was known to frequently insist on women being included in motocross and supercross event when at that time, many promoters were happy to not include them. The loss of such an amazing believer took its toll on women's motocross.

Champions By Year
1980 – Dede Cates
1981 – Kathy Holman
1983 – Lisa Akin-Wagner
1984 – Mercedes Gonzalez
1985 – Mercedes Gonzalez
1987 – Mercedes Gonzalez
1988 – Mercedes Gonzalez
1989 – Mercedes Gonzalez

Courtney Duncan is next in line to become the sport’s biggest star, as the teenager from New Zealand had more than enough speed to best former champions at event last year before suffering an injury.

The 90's: Changes On The Horizon

Going into the 90's, the state of women's motocross changed very little. It wasn't until the WML took over the Women's Nationals in 1995 that it became a part of the AMA National Circuit. While there was still only one national event each year, the 90's also saw the Women's Motocross World Championship here in the United States. The WML, under founder Elaine Ruff, who would later be joined by Miki Keller, continued to promote the women's class and made great strides.

Champions By Year
1990 – Mercedes Gonzalez
1991 – Mercedes Gonzalez
1992 – Cindy Cole
1993 – Dee Wood
1994 – Dee Wood
1995 – Kristy Shealy
1996 - Shelly Cann
1997 – Tracy Fleming
1998 – Dee Wood
1999 - Stefy Bau

Ashley Fiolek was the face of WMX for a handful of years, thanks to her spot on Factory Honda, sponsorship from Red Bull, and her image to teenagers around the world. After claiming the 2012 title, Fiolek stepped away from professional racing.

The 00's: Gaining More Ground

In the early 2000s, things began to change for the better. Miki Keller took over as president of the WML in 2000. She continued to play a major role in women's motocross when founding the WMA in 2004. With Keller's background in business and marketing, along with her history working with the WML, she was able to get a five race series in conjunction with the AMA Pro Nationals. The women's motocross finally became an official part of the AMA Pro National series. Keller knew that in order to get women the attention they needed, the best way was to combine the women's series with the men's series. Her work with the AMA changed the face of Women's Motocross. From that point forward, the number of races in the women's pro motocross series has fluctuated on a yearly basis but efforts have always resulted in a series. Keller also held an annual event, the WMA Cup between 2003 and 2009. This race brought the best of women racers from around the world. The WMA series, which became the WMX Championship Series in 2009 after being purchased by the latest series promoter, MX Sports, has had as many as eight events and as few as three in 2013.

Champions By Year
2000- Jessica Patterson
2001- Tania Satchwell
2002-Stefy Bau
2003-Steffi Laier
2004-Jessica Patterson
2005-Jessica Patterson
2006-Jessica Patterson
2007-Jessica Patterson
2008-Ashley Fiolek
2009-Ashley Fiolek
2010-Jessica Patterson
2011-Ashley Fiolek
2012-Ashley Fiolek
2013-Jessica Patterson

Japan’s Sayaka Kaneshiro is currently based in Southern California, where she regularly competes in local event between following the WMX tour across the United States.

2014: 50 Years Later & Here To Stay

50 year later, women's motocross is going in yet another direction. The women are no longer a part of the AMA Men's Pro Circuit. There is an exciting eight-race series in the books. And while there isn't the stability that we'd like to see in the series, one thing is obvious: women are not giving up and not going away. Female racers continue to work tirelessly to show they are true athletes and are getting faster every year. Local tracks have seen the amateur women's classes grow at just about every event for the past decade, and amateur racers are the pro's of tomorrow. The gates in the classes at the prestigious Loretta Lynn's Amateur Championships are always full, with hundreds of entries not even making the final cut. There is no place for women's motocross to go from here but up.