Love of motorcycles drives female racerChoi Yul-lye stood out at last weekend’s Korea-Japan Super Race championship, and not just because her looks are good enough for the catwalk. She also raised eyebrows for the speed at which she raced her 1,000-cc Yamaha R1 motorcycle.
“My goal is to be the best,” said the 26-year-old, Korea’s first professional female motorcycle racer.
The Taebaek course was bumpy, slippery and packed with curves, and Ms. Choi dropped behind in the preliminary contest.
On the second day, however, she impressed the crowd by defying wet conditions and racing the 15 laps at an average 137 kilometers (82 miles) per hour to finish 12th among 28 racers.
“I couldn’t put on my best performance, but I’ll do better next time,” she said after the race.
Since motorcycling is in its infancy in Korea, prize money isn’t too fancy. Participants must possess a genuine passion for the speed and fame that the races deliver. Ms. Choi fits the bill. And because passion alone won’t cover the 20 million won ($17,376) a year needed to stay on the road, Ms. Choi works part-time as a stuntwoman and a model. To join the latest contest, she had to sell her other two motorcycles to buy spare tires.
Ms. Choi fell in love with motorcycles in 1995, after graduating high school. She couldn’t get the thrilling experience of riding in the back seat of her friend’s bike out of her mind.
“I was busy running a shop and holding many part-time jobs, but I still managed to buy a used bike and start riding.” Her free time was spent cruising the empty roads nearby.
Her family was not supportive. Some mornings, she woke up to find her motorbike damaged; her father had struck it with a hammer. “Those times, I would borrow [a bike] from my friend for a while, till I saved enough money to buy another.” She had to repeat this routine six or seven times before her family realized it was impossible to hold her back.
“My father even comes to see me race these days,” Ms. Choi said.
“The key to winning a race,” she says, “is knowing when to apply the brakes to make effective turns, as well as when to accelerate with the brake off. You can’t really think about it while you’re racing, though.”
by Choi Joon-ho