by Shelina Moreda
Le Mans. I know of it as a famous racetrack, a dream of a place to race at. The 24 Heures du Mans. To race there? “Yes” in a heartbeat, given the opportunity… and along came CRP. Innovative, on the cutting edge, of course they would be at the Le Mans races.
Arriving at Le Mans, I could only hope it was all I have imagined it would be. The weekend started with a flight into Paris, sitting next to Tom Drewer, a pro American Le Mans race car driver (quite an ironic coincidence) for the first leg of my flight. He had noticed the Arai sticker on my cell phone and it sparked up conversation. The next stage of the adventure came when I arrived in Paris. I was to catch the TGV (fast train to Le Mans). When you don’t speak French, this isn’t as easy as it sounds! On the train I loved watching all the landscapes go by, Paris has some awesome old buildings and houses.
The entire CRP Team picked me up from my hotel. There I was, in France, submerged in Italian conversation! LoL. It was cool to meet my mechanic, Gerry, our driver Leo, and CRP’s other racer, Alex Battistini. It was great to catch up with Livia, Giampi, Alessandro Brannetti and Simone. We went to the track, Alessandro and I rode the track on bicycles and he showed me some lines. Then to dinner in down town Le Mans, the restaurant we picked had racing memorabilia everywhere, quite perfect. I learned that night that in France, ordering your steak Medium Rare means “Still Mooing”, as in, barely seared. They like raw meat in France. Noted for future orders.
Friday morning came early. 7 a.m. is 10 p.m. California time. Practice at Le Mans that morning and qualifying that evening! My times in practice were just enough to qualify me for the race at 2:13, but since only the fastest teams showed up for the race, it still put me behind the Chinese rider in 5th by about five seconds. I had to pick up the pace quickly at an event like this. I was pleased that I had at least learned the track enough in that one short session to make the show. Electric bike practices are not like sportbike practices where we have 50 minutes to ride. With electric bikes, you have to consider the longevity of the battery and how long it will take to recharge before qualifying, so we got about 20 minutes for this one. Learn Quickly Shelina! We used the GoPro videos we had captured to compare Alessandro’s lines with mine and we sat and he explained different corners to me with Livia as our translator. We used track maps and I made my notes to study and improve on. Qualifying came and I dropped more time, down to 2:11s and then qualifying Friday morning I got to 2:08! I was on a roll and had passed the Chinese rider by nearly a second per lap by the completion of Friday’s qualifying! The race was fast approaching and I needed to drop more time to be comfortably in front of him, with my sights on the racers in front of me. As the fans packed in, and comments were made about the weight of this event, I had to focus on how comfortable I was on the bike and getting around this amazing track.
That night we watched the practice for the 24 Hour race and I developed another goal for my racing, I want to race the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. The night racing was intense, amazing, beautiful, they have to be so focused. I am hooked, I want to do it.
Friday. Race time. We rode the bikes through the crowds, turning heads along the way. As I pulled up to the gate before the hot pits, one man in uniform started to speak in an elevated, excited voice, he informed me that they would like to interview me on the grid, I of course agreed and hoped that I would be able to understand the questions through my helmet and his heavily accented English. I rolled the bike onto the grid and set up, stretched a bit and sat on the bike. Up came the man along with a girl holding a microphone, both with big smiles, and to my surprise, not from her mouth, but from over the loud speaker boomed the question, something like “Shelina, what do you think of racing here at Le Mans in France?” You can imagine my answer, starting with “Well, this is Le Mans, it is absolutely amazing…” and I heard my own voice echo through the grand stands around the track as I relayed my excitement for racing Le Mans. I thanked CRP for having me. The show here is huge. Absolutely impressive in every way.
Game time. Warm up lap and set back up on the grid, same start as always; red flag is walked off the track, red light on, red light goes off and off we go! I shot out in front of both of the Chinese riders and one other bike, entering turn 1 in a hurry, they had more power and passed me back, but I held tight behind them and followed them around the track for some time. I held one bike behind me and began dropping times and putting distance between him and I. Part way through the race I noticed that I was gaining on one rider, it turned out it was Alex; my teammate had some troubles and had lost some speed. He became a carrot for me. I was working hard to be smooth, get on the gas early, braking markers, keep my concentration and drop times. I finished the race behind Alex and in front of the Chinese rider by 11 seconds by the end of the race! I finished in 5th place and I had dropped my times down to 2:06 (my lap timer said 2:05.9o on the last lap), I was ecstatic to see my improvement and Livia gave me a big high five as I rolled into the hot pits under the podium ceremony. I was also greeted with huge smiles and hugs from the rest of the team as well as others I had met through the weekend. We celebrated, as Alessandro Brannetti had finished 2nd in the race and 2nd overall in the FIM and TTXGP Championships! Champagne was spraying everywhere! It was a fantastic weekend for CRP altogether. And it wasn’t even over yet. We had an autograph signing for 2 hours while the public was able to walk along the hot pits. There were gates set up between us and the public, and while I thought that was strange at first, I realized quickly that it was more than necessary… it was absolutely overwhelming the crowds of people that came to see us! I signed more autographs in those two hours, and took more photos than I ever thought I could! People had us signing hats, shirts, arms, cheeks, tickets, our posters, our stickers, anything they could have us sign! Photos were a hit, I don’t know how many languages were spoken to me or how many ways I heard “Thank You”, Merci, Grazie, Gracias, Thank you, Danka shin. Simply fantastic, overwhelming, and I really loved it. To be surrounded by such an amazing team as CRP was everything I could ask for. The entire team stayed through the whole autograph signing, bringing more posters (we ran out three times), water, and taking photos with us. Every time I would turn around, Livia would give me a supportive ear to ear grin. When it was time to go, the security guards were literally having to push people out of the hot pits. I cannot believe the enthusiasm of the European race fans. It was heaven to be there in the middle of this wonderful mess.
That night was dinner with Charles and my Australian friends Ben and Mark who had come to see me at Le Mans. It was a typical French dinner, complete with Foie Gras and French wine. Lovely. A man was walking on the street with a huge basket full of roses and as he passed me outside the restaurant, handed me one, “For the lady” Wow, I do love it here.
The next day we would have “Promotion laps” where we get to do a few laps at speed around the track just before the start of the 24 Hours race. The stands were PACKED like I have not ever seen at an American track. I took photos, I made sure to put a GoPro camera on my helmet so that when I looked around during the laps, it could show just how big an event it was. People cheered so loud for us! We waved and I just soaked it all up. The start of the 24 Hours race was intense. 55 grid girls lined the front straight in red dresses, holding their riders grid number. The bikes were lined along the wall and the riders stood ready to run to their bikes from the other side of the track, what an intense way to start a race! They ran and hopped on their bikes, one rider went off in the grass and right back onto the track, the stands were roaring with cheers, we hurried to the other side of the stands and watched them race into the last few turns and back to the front straight, and 24 Hours had begun! The rest of my day consisted of sparkling water in the FIM Hospitality building and packing up for our drive to Italy. CRP has a long week planned for me, and it is better than any week after the races that I have had so far. I cannot thank CRP enough for making me a part of their team and their adventures. Their bikes are progressing at a fantastic rate, and I am so excited to see what the future holds in store. My mechanic Gerry made my weekend completely seamless, he is wonderful! I want to thank my newest sponsor, Gearzy, for their support in this race, I look forward to working with them in the future and utilizing their data recording systems to get faster and faster on track, along with all of the sponsors who have helped me get to where I am this season, CRP, REC, Idea FV, the FIM Women in Motorcycling Commission, AXO, GoPro, Arai, Gearzy, She’z Racing, MotoGloss, G&B Motorsports, Sea Sick Marketing and Keigwins. It has been the most amazing season. The grand finale of Le Mans and Italy, we could not wrap this season up better. I cannot wait to see what next season has in store, as I know we have some exciting things in the works. The “off season” will be full, that is guaranteed, starting with a photo shoot for a fashion brand “Yell!” in Rome this week and then riding the track Autodromo di Modena on Friday. There is no rest for this racer and I love it!
Do Not Go Where The Path May Lead, Go Instead Where There Is No Path, And Leave A Trail.
Check out more photos below as well as on CRP’s Facebook. Photo Credits and copyright: Stan Perec
Check out my “Shelina Moreda Racing” Facebook for all of my racing updates. If you want to see what it’s Really like on these high tech sportbikes, we have some live On Board Video from the race that we caught on GoPro cameras. The FIM made us a sweet compilation. You will even get to ride on my bike for a couple turns! Thats me with the Red White and Blue Arai helmet. Check it out here: http://youtu.be/MK_lw1Wl6c4