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Q&A: SA teen Savannah Woodward takes on Red Bull Rookie trials

2016-10-19 06:32

BORN TO RACE SA racing teen, Savannah Woodward, is participating in the Red Bull Rookies Cup trials in Spain. We find out more about this Benoni-born rider. Image: Eugene Liebenburg

Reynard Gelderbloem

Spain - Savannah Woodward is the first South African female motorcyclist to be invited to participate in Red Bull Rookies Cup trials in Spain from October 17-20.  

It’s same series that saw compatriot and newly crowned Moto3 champion Brad Binder make his mark internationally. 

Woodward started out competing in junior off-road MX and Enduro events before making the move to short-circuit racing. In 2015, she signed with Monroe Racing South Africa and soon progressed to circuit Superbikes. 

During 2016 she’s been competing in various regional and national events – including the Zimbabwean Superbike championship where she became the youngest competitor and first female to win a Superbike race. The fast-femme from Benoni has recently turned 16-years-old, but already has built-up a loyal fan base during her prolific season to date.

READ: Benoni teen heads to Spain for Red Bull Rookie Cup

Despite her successful year she still has her feet firmly placed on the ground and is one of the first to recognise the importance of constantly working hard to build a career. There’s certainly no lack of dedication on her part while balancing her dreams of competing at the top of the motorsport world with the importance of completing school as well. 

While she’s been preparing for her trip to Spain, she set aside a few minutes for a quick interview about her career, and her future should she be selected as one of 26 top youngsters from around the world to compete in the 2017 Red Bull Rookies Cup.

Have you always had a passion for motorcycles?
I could already ride a bicycle before I even learned to walk. When I was five years old my dad bought me a small 50cc Yamaha motorbike – but I wasn’t allowed to ride it until my feet could touch the ground.

That day came just prior to my sixth birthday. Suddenly our plot in Benoni became my MX-arena and even on my first day I was already trying to pull off some jumps. It didn’t take long for me to crash though and my parents thought I’d never get back onto the bike again but I got up, dusted myself off and carried on riding.

I racked up a few more crashes that day – the garden beds, some machines my dad worked on, fences and almost every tree became crash sites. One of my dad’s workers suggested that I should go to the track and on my first trip to there I was hooked for life.

Why transition from off-road to circuit racing?
I did quite well in the junior off-road classes and won a championship as well. Jason Wessels suggested that I try out for the Honda NSF100 series.

I did however first want to finish the 2011 off-road season – I guess I didn’t quite feel ready to make the switch at that stage yet. I had a few more trials at the end of the season and I started growing a love for circuit racing and suddenly making the switch didn’t seem like a bad idea anymore.
 
Being invited for the Red Bull Rookies Cup trials is a tremendous honour. How are you preparing for the trials in Spain?
I'm working out every day, to be fit is obviously very important. I’ve also started to boost my own confidence by speaking to people in the media industry and even any random stranger – upholding a confident and positive public profile is very important if you want to be successful in this sport. On weekends I’m riding non-stop – there’s no substitute for saddle-time to keep your confidence going.
 
The trip to Spain will take quite a bit of funding and as we understand there are some initiatives started by your parents and your local team to cover this. Can you provide us with some more details of this?
My parents had to take out loans to make this possible – especially due to the short time frame we have available to get everything in place. We are also sending out funding requests to the corporate business sector, but without any success as yet. Anyone who is interested in assisting can contact my parents.

Following the Red Bull Rookies Cup, if you're selected, what does the future hold for your career?
If I get selected, 2017 will see a lot of changes coming. For starters myself and my dad will probably be relocating to Europe during the season for the sake of saving on the costs of travelling back and forth. The Red Bull Rookies Cup shares the European MotoGP calendar so we’d be competing for seven weekends - their season usually starts around June. Of course while relocating the costs will still be very high.

Yes, the series does pay for all your kit, but travel to and accommodation at the venue is for your own account. It will certainly be a big sacrifice for my parents to make, but in return I’ll be aiming to award them with delivering some very good performances which will hopefully launce my career further from there.

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