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The Grid Girl debate: Seeing it from both sides

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Extra extra, read all about it: Formula 1 will stop using grid girls from now on.

They have decided to ignore the glaringly obvious problems (what’s up with those grid penalties?) and focus on what really matters; first the logo, now the grid girls.

The use of promotional girls, grid girls, umbrella girls or whatever you want to call them always has people talking. I, like many motorsport fans, am sat firmly on the fence. There’s two sides to this story, and it’s important to examine both sides before forming a judgement.

These girls are paid to turn up at events wearing tight fitting clothes which bear the names of sponsors. Some hang around the paddock handing out freebies to fans at races, some hold the name plates on the grid and some hold the brollies. The jobs they do on an average race weekend are harmless and nobody forces them to do it, but for me they don’t particularly add anything, so why bother taking it away?

At the end of the day, grid girls are doing what they’re doing for one of two reasons: 1) to get closer to the racing they love or 2) to earn money.

Putting on their high heels and strutting onto the race track is comparable to me working at the local coffee shop;  I was earning money to help make University a little easier on the bank account – admittedly, I didn’t get to hang around with racers and emptying bins is nowhere near as glamorous – but the concept is still the same.

However, there is that flip side that I can almost certainly understand too.

This is the 21st century, and the argument that the whole notion of a grid girl is completely outdated does make sense. If a company relies heavily on pretty women promoting them, then maybe they need to rethink their brand.

That being said, with pretty women comes attention, and with attention comes possible new sales and clients to the brand they are promoting. Motorsport is highly competitive in many areas – sponsorship included, so why shouldn’t they pay for attractive women to aid in the promotion of their brand and to help them stand out from the rest?

Some promo girls use the opportunity to get their foot in the door of other jobs within the industry and to an extent I say fair play to them, but on the other hand I can’t help but disagree with that approach.

I have worked – and continue to work – tirelessly to try and get into the industry, but most of my advances fall on deaf ears. I’m fully aware that I am not pretty enough or skinny enough to be a grid girl, which means I can’t get into the paddock and meet people like they can –  like they say, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’

Then again, if I was able to be a grid girl, I would probably take advantage of the ‘foot in the door’ and almost certainly do the same thing.

But rather than singling out the women who do this as a job and potentially make a portion of them unemployed, perhaps we should be encouraging equality and encouraging more women to get involved in all levels of the sport?

Maybe if more women could get involved with promotional modelling at race tracks, there’d be a bit more respect for the women who currently do it.

Why don’t we change those unwritten rules and open up the criteria that women have to meet in order to become a grid girl? That way any kind of woman can have a go, and they might just love it. Would we see the same kind of objections to that sort of move?

One thing is for certain, we should absolutely be encouraging women to get involved in the racing side of things; instead of pushing this silly theory that there should be a female only championship.

Many women have thrived in racing – and many more should… We don’t need a separate competition, we just need better opportunities to compete.

And then perhaps more female racers would mean grid boys too (remember Ana Carrasco’s hunky umbrella guy?) and maybe then there wouldn’t be such an outcry.

Even after collating all of my thoughts, I still sit on the fence.

With a few tweaks, the idea of the grid girl can still continue to thrive into the coming years and I can’t see the motorcycle racing industry getting rid of them anytime soon. But for it to thrive, attitudes need to change.

Are you ready for an anecdote? Because I’m sure as hell going to give you one.

I was working an event as a journalist and it was great fun. I was enjoying myself but learning too and speaking to lots of people in the process. I felt like I was finally starting to get somewhere, until I heard a bloke turn to his equally ignorant friend and say; “why are there girls working as journalists? Shouldn’t they be holding the brollies?”

It took everything in me not to turn around and clock the guy and for a while it really knocked my confidence. People like him are the ones that need to change their attitudes, and the only way that can happen is through inclusion.

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One Year On: Remembering Nicky Hayden

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The news that Nicky Hayden passed away was devastating to the whole of the motorsport family.


This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.


Nicky was a champion to his core; from the way he raced to his fierce devotion to his family and the way he made time for everyone. He fought for every single position on every lap of every race and never once gave up. He was firm, leaving no room for doubt on track, but he was always fair and he was one of the hardest workers you’ll ever know, even in a world that includes nothing but riders who push themselves to the limit constantly.

In every way, Nicky was a shining star; images of his tear-stained face when he won his championship in 2006 will forever be ingrained in the collective MotoGP memory, his joy was so tangible that you could have wrapped yourself up in it. And that was Nicky, always inclusive. Whether it was a quick-witted remark in that wonderful Kentucky drawl that we’ll miss so much, his easy manner that made him a friend of everyone who knew him or the way he never turned someone away when they wanted a photo or an autograph. Nicky came from a racing family and he became an integral part of an even larger one.

Losing anyone is always heartbreaking but the loss of a rider when they were out training, doing something as everyday as cycling, makes Nicky’s death at just 35 years old even harder to comprehend.

Nicky holds a place in the MotoGP Hall of Fame, his status as a Legend firmly cemented long before he left for World Superbikes. But he holds something even more valuable; a spot in the collective heart of the entire motorcycle racing family.

His accent will forever raise a smile, at least for me, and his own superstar grin will now bring with it an indescribable sadness. But remember Nicky as he would’ve wanted; that fierce big-hearted champion who pushed himself and everyone around him to be their very best and as that young man who brought so much joy and who left us far too soon.

My thoughts are, of course, with all of the Hayden family, Nicky’s fiancee Jackie, his friends and his teams both past and present.

Now, I’m going to wipe away the tears and watch Valencia 2006 again. I hope you join me to remember Nicky Hayden; a champion, a gentleman and a star that can never truly be extinguished.


This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.

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Custom of the week: ‘V09’ BMW R80 by Vagabund Moto

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BMW AIRHEAD CUSTOMS are like AC/DC songs: after a while, it’s hard to tell them all apart. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the style is usually pleasing to the eye.

But no one could ever accuse Vagabund Moto of following a conventional formula. Their approach is unique and their bikes buck the mainstream trend. So it’s ironic to learn that the owner of this razor-sharp R80 asked Vagabund to replicate the style of a custom R80 they finished two years ago.

Not surprisingly, builders Paul Brauchart and Philipp Rabl weren’t keen on the idea. “We don’t like to remake bikes we’ve done before,” Paul tells us. “So we suggested sketching out a concept that related to the V05—while adding some special parts.”

Paul and Philipp do their wrenching in a workshop in Graz, Austria, and do as much work as possible themselves. “We’re trying to stay a two-man operation for as long as possible,” says Paul. “We’re good friends and perfectionists. It’s hard to think about trusting someone else, or giving up our awesome workshop relationship.”

The pair started out with a relatively fresh classic tourer: a 1992 R80 RT with only 25,000 km on the dial. And thanks to BMW’s historically good build quality, there wasn’t much engine work needed.

“We took apart the engine and carbs, checked everything, and replaced the not so good parts. And then blasted and painted it.”

Getting the striking Vagabund ‘look’ meant ditching the bodywork though, apart from the fuel tank—but even that’s not quite original. The back end of the tunnel has been closed off, where the gap would normally be blocked by the bulky OEM seat.

Just behind it is a svelte new perch. Vagabund designed the tail hump digitally, then got it 3D printed. It means they could pack a ton of detail into a small space—from the multi-faceted upholstery by Christian Wahl, to the sculpted recess under the tail that hides an LED back light.

Everything sits on top of a custom-made subframe, and the main frame’s been liberated of any unneeded mounts. The rear’s now propped up by a new YSS shock. The wheels are stock, but the rear’s clad in a pair of glass fiber-reinforced plastic covers.

Up front, Vagabund shortened the forks by 60 mm, milled and powder coated the lower legs, and added a pair of fork boots. There’s a custom-made top triple clamp too, playing host to an integrated Motogadget speedo.

The handlebars are from LSL, and have been trimmed down. They wear a Grimeca master brake cylinder, a Domino clutch lever, and custom switches in a 3D-printed housing. There’s a small headlight out front, and a pair of Motogadget bar-end turn signals.

The rest of the bike’s been treated with equal consideration. It’s sporting a set of Continental ContiRoadAttack tires, K&N filters, and a Supertrapp muffler attached to the modified stock headers. And then there’s that striking livery, quite unlike any other we’ve seen, and expertly applied by Graz neighbors i-flow.

But it’s what’s missing that’s just as important: there’s no mess of wires vying for your eye’s attention. The bike’s been totally rewired, with a new diode board and two tiny Ultrabatt lithium-ion batteries, hiding under the tank.

“It’s very important to take care of every cable and braking line, and so on,” says Paul. “Even the handlebars are as clean as possible. It’s one of our biggest jobs to do a totally minimalist wiring setup, and we put a lot of work into parts that nobody ever sees.”

Despite the sano approach, this BMW is completely street legal in Austria. On top of the usual lighting, there’s a license plate bracket at the back that holds a pair of tiny Motogadget turn signals—with just the right amount of visibility to check legal boxes.

“It’s really difficult,” says Paul. “Every light has to be ECE-approved, and has to be mounted at the right angle and position. We have to examine all our builds and every point of customization with a civil engineer before we‘re able to (hopefully) pass the vehicle license authority.”

Titled ‘V09,’ this BMW leaves us thunderstuck. It hits the mark with its stance, proportions and finishes—so we’re counting it as another win for the Austrian duo.


This article first appeared on Bike Exif; It’s republished here with permission.

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