Sarah Whitmore Wins Malaysian Off-Road Race

By‘s Sarah Whitmore for

This all came about back in June, when Sel from KTM called and asked if I'd be interested in going to Malaysia to be the first woman to race in an off-road motorcycle race. 

There's a lot of politics behind it that I don't fully understand, but I was told the government in Malaysia is really trying to get away from the old stereotype of how Malaysian women are portrayed. Also, KTM Malaysia is really trying to grow the sport, so there was much more behind it than just going to a race. I was the first woman to ever race an off-road event in Malaysia, so it was a very big deal and something I'm honored to have been a part of. Hopefully now more girls will start to pick it up.

There are so many women that ride scooters on the street in Malaysia, and let me tell you, the traffic is crazy! I was scared to ride on the street since it reverse of how we drive here in the USA and they drive on the left-hand side.

Sel warned me the race would be like an amateur race in the USA, only set back 10 years. And for the most part, he was right. It wasn't much different competition-wise as a local race in northern Michigan; a few guys take it seriously, but for the most part just a bunch of guys who love riding and are there to have fun. The course, on the other hand, was more difficult than a local event! They had an "easy" and a "hard" route and on my first lap I was surprised by the difficulty of it. Nothing that wasn't ride-able, of course, but I was sure glad that I started to ride trials bikes!

The other riders were great and very competitive on the bike, as in when you are lapping them and rev your bike to let them know you are coming up on them, they don't move over! Off the track, they were so friendly and made me feel very welcome.

Sarah taking the checkered flag in the 250 class.

For the ED2 class (250 class), I was leading the first lap until a tip over and I went back to second. I caught the leader but had trouble making the pass as one side of the track was very fast and dusty. It reminded me of a Hare and Hound event where you are blasting on the side of a mountain in dust so thick you can't see your front fender.

When we got to the bottom, there were a lot of creek crossings and very tight lines through the jungle that made it hard to pass. I tried setting him up at the bottom of a hill that had two lines in the corner, except he put on his brakes much sooner than I anticipated … and I ran into the back of him! He dragged me and my bike to the bottom, banging up both, and putting me back to third.I tried my best to just stay calm and not pull a typical "Sarah move", which is trying too hard and crash!

Why did I think this? Well, mostly because someone reminded me of the poor medical care of where we were racing. Finishing and going home healthy was my goal, and third wasn't so bad! On the last lap, second place had to pit and all of a sudden, the leader was right in front of me! I came up on him so fast that I knew he didn't hear me coming, so I took a tip from Nick Fahringer by shifting up a gear and not over-revving my engine. When we came to the same spot I crashed before, I knew he was going to brake early so I waited, then gassed it and snuck to the inside for first! I knew all I had to do was not crash the rest of the lap, because if it was too tight for me to pass, then I knew I could ride a "wide" enough bike so he couldn't get back around me!

When I came to the finish, in first, it was such a great feeling and the people were going crazy for a number of reasons! Everyone was shocked to see me back in the lead, and that a girl had raced and won! I think I must have taken at least 30 pictures with the guy who got second in my class, and my face hurt so bad by the end of the day from smiling in so many pictures.

The race was only an hour plus one lap long, but with the heat matching Loretta's, it was plenty long enough and there were no motor homes with air conditioning to cool off in. But we still had to do the super final, which was the top-10 of both classes combined on a new course that the designer said he made especially tough just because he heard I was coming. I would describe it as over a mile long Endurocross course with some of the most intense riding I've ever done! The worst part was that everybody was already so worn out from our earlier races and the heat was brutal.

Sarah, Sel, and the KTM Malaysia crew.

The people of Malaysia are so friendly and as I mentioned, they were amazed that a girl could not only ride, but do it well. It was a wonderful feeling to look around and see that halfway around the world motorcycles are still bringing people together for the love of the sport. It was such a great thing to be a part of and even greater to be a part of KTM, as the things they are doing to grow the sport all over the world, especially in Malaysia and other countries in the region, is amazing.

I had a great time and would love to go back. The weather was tropical and the shopping was a girl's dream. The food was the hardest thing, though, and I am one of the pickiest eaters even here in the States; I annoy people with my eating habits. I normally love "American Asian" food, but obviously it's different in Malaysia. Even dishes I normally would love that taste sweet here have so much chili in them that I could only eat a few bites, and most places in the smaller towns don't have English menus so people had to order for me. I think if I go back I will bring my own P. B & J.!

Thanks again to Sel, KTM, and the people of Malaysia – I had a blast!