By Colin MacGillivray
Hidden Valley motorcyclist Grace Poutch is refusing to let the COVID-19 pandemic derail her dream of representing her adopted homeland of Australia on the international stage.
The Irish-born 37-year-old last week flew to Italy to compete alongside teammate Sharni Pinfold at the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme, FIM, Women’s European Cup.
The cup, a new addition to the FIM racing calendar that was put on hold due to the pandemic, drew top female motorcycle riders from around the world.
After a lengthy hiatus, round two of the cup will be in San Marino, Italy, later this month, with rounds three and four in Imola and Vallelunga in September and October.
While Italy was hit hard at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, Poutch said she was unfazed by the prospect of travelling to the country.
“It hasn’t been easy organising flights out of Australia due to COVID, however with the help of Motorcycling Australia I was able to apply for an exemption to fly out of Melbourne,” she said.
“It was a little nerve-racking as I had been warned it wouldn’t be an easy run to Italy. I was fully expecting drama with border control somewhere along the way but I wouldn’t let that stop me from getting there.
“I’m not nervous about being away at this uncertain time. I think as long as I’m careful [and] follow any rules and regulations given that things will work out just fine.”
Poutch said she began riding after managing a motorcycle rental company while living in Ireland, but only started riding competitively after moving to Australia.
After her first track experience she said she was ‘hooked’.
“The track really opened my eyes about how little I knew about riding, even on the road,” she said.
“Racing has taught me so much. My reaction time is quicker, my peripheral vision is wider and I’m more smooth and fluid in my riding style.”
Poutch became involved in the FIM Women’s European Cup after receiving a call from the technical director of the 2018 Women’s World Championship in Mexico.
She thought her dream of competing in the cup was dashed after breaking her leg in several places and requiring three operations during 2019.
However, the pandemic-induced delay gave her enough time to recover.
Poutch said she was aiming for a top-10 finish at the cup and a return to the Women’s World Championship.
She said she was thrilled to represent her adopted country on the international stage.
“To say that I am honoured and humbled [to represent Australia] is an understatement. It is hard to believe I will be wearing the green and gold and I hope I can do the Australian racing community proud,” she said.
Poutch said she was also proud to be a trailblazer for women’s sport.
“We have an excellent breed of women racers in Australia and we are every bit as competitive as the boys,” she said.
“I’m sure the other women will agree that when we are on track or in the paddock we are not seen as women, we are seen as competitors and I love that about our sport.
“It’s one of the few sports where gender simply does not matter or play any part.
“Motorcycling is so special and unique, and I sincerely hope more women come into the racing scene.
“If anyone happens to be reading this wondering where or how to start, feel free to contact me as I am always willing to help and advise where I can.”