By Sarah DiMare | Photos by Matt Rice, Roman Borak & Julie Elko
March is just around the corner and for the women of motocross, and that means the fun is about to begin. This past weekend marked the first of six rounds for the FIM Women’s World Championship, which saw Meghan Rutledge take the first win of the year. The ladies of the World Championship are excited to be racing on the same day as the men in the series this year! After a two-year hiatus, during which the women have been racing on Sunday, the organizers have noticed the growing popularity of women in motocross and have moved the class back to Saturday. This year's gate will be filled with some of the best riders from around the world.
The names alone are enough to let you know this is going to be an exciting series. There are some you will recognize from time in the US, like Sara Petterso, who has been a participant in our series for the last couple of years, and global stars Chiara (Kiara) Fontanesi and Meghan Rutledge, both competitors at the 2013 X Games Women’s Moto X competition. Fontanesi is a two time World Champion, but Rutledge stayed her heels throughout last season in a bid for the title. Rutledge isn't the only one Fontanesi has to worry about, since the change in the series has brought back France's Livia Lancelot, another former champion who raced the 250 class last year. And we can’t forget Natalie Kane, who became well known during last year’s series. It looks like 2014 is going to be an exciting for the ladies of the World Championship.
The MXGP season opener was taken by Bud Racing Kawasaki's Meghan Rutledge, with the 19-year-old Australian winning both motos. Ireland's Natalie Kane took a distant second to Rutledge, finishing 13 seconds behind, while Netherland's Van De Ven, who made a good showing in the 2013 standings, scored third. Moto two's results were more of what was expected, as Lancelot took second place while Kane finished third just ahead of Fontanesi and Stephanie Laier. With a sweep of the day, Meghan Rutledge claimed the overall win, with Kane taking second and Lancelot third.
Here in the US, things are looking good too. March 9 and 10 marks the first round of the WMX series at Daytona Supercross and while the second round of the WMX Series finishes closes the month on March 22nd at the Freestone Spring Championship.
While the racers here are going through a completely different situation, including new tracks and not racing in conjunction with Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Series, the change presents the seasoned riders of the series as well as new additions with a challenge. Another plus is the increase from three rounds in 2013 to eight rounds in 2014. While last year's championship had exciting moments, three races were just not enough.
With Jessica Patterson opting to compete in the GNCC series in 2014, we see the increase of professional women stepping in with Sayaka Kaneshiro, Sarah Whitmore, Marissa Markelon, and Amanda Brown on the track. Mackenzie Tricker and Courtney Duncan, the two Australians who came in last year are back again, while newcomers Ashley Jones and Amanda Sokalski look to make their marks. With the continued growth in popularity of female racers in the US, the newbies are coming in stronger than ever before.
Another exciting aspect of the 2014 race season is the increase of purse races for women's classes around the country. Following the opening round of the WMX series, former FMX rider Kenny Yoho will start the first race of his new series, I4MX, with a Pro Women's race, sponsored by Blustarr. With a $1000 purse, 100% payback, and holeshot award from Dirty Grrl Dezigns, it shows us that promoters see the need for women racers and want them to be part of their series.