‘Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid’ - Superteens Champion, Hand

| | BSB Support

Katie Hand became the first female rider to lift the Thundersport GB GP3 Superteens trophy in 2021 after just three years of competition.

Successfully stepping into racing in 2019, the now 16-year-old secured the Darley Moor Junior Championship in her debut season on track before completing her first year in Thundersport GB fifth overall despite the disrupting pandemic. Returning for 2021, the Lincolnshire rider initially staked her claim on the championship by winning the inaugural race of the year before going on to take the title with seven victories and nine additional podiums from the 26 races - despite being out of action for almost a month recovering from Covid-19.

“To be called the Superteen Champion in the first place for me is an honour, so to be the first female [winner] is just really amazing in all honesty,” Hand admitted to Bikesportnews.com on her recent success.

“However I am a huge believer in the fact that a racer is a racer, no matter what gender. We all have the same level of capability and can do whatever if we really want it. It’s only really when someone reminds me of my achievements that I sit and really think about it,” she admitted humbly.

“This season has been a big one for me really because it’s the first full season I have had at a higher level,” the teenager explained, having chosen to compete in both Superteens and the Hel British Junior Supersport Championship for 2021. The latter saw Hand record a best finish of 16th and is where she will return for the coming year.

“My first season was in 2019 where I did the full season at Darley and managed to come away with the championship, so my first year of road racing was a pretty incredible achievement! But this year we had set out to do a full Thundersport Championship with a hope of finishing in the top 5, and to dip my toe in at BSB.

“My first round was at Snetterton and it started out well, getting my first win in terrible conditions, but I was over the moon because it was only my second ever podium in Thundersport and it was a win. This obviously set quite a high bar for me throughout the season and then we went on to race at Cadwell which was a disaster. I crashed three times in the same weekend which turned out to be quite a setback on my confidence that I hadn’t realised. For the next few rounds I picked up a few podiums, stayed on the bike and continued to learn a lot.

“In this time I also competed in my first ever BSB [Hel Junior Supersport] at Thruxton where I was thrown in at the deep end. It was a brand new circuit to me and it was appalling weather with bike issues. That weekend I had learnt a lot about how quick the BSB runners were and what I was going to have to deal with.

“I then had another up and down weekend at Anglesey where I rode my best but unfortunately had another 2 crashes with one writing my bike off. This is the stage where I properly knuckled down because I was within the chance of taking the title home. My last BSB round was at Donington GP where the weather was horrendous but I managed to come away with my best result of 16th place which I was over the moon with.

“The last round of Thundersport at Cadwell Park didn’t go to plan on the first race day because I wasn’t riding to my full potential and let the team down. However I was happy to wake up to rain on Sunday morning and came back after warm up more confident than ever. Going into this race the leader had a three second gap on me, which was who I was in the running for the championship for but I managed to pull this back and win the race. This was the best feeling in the world, to come into the holding area to everyone jumping about with pure joy and it was the biggest relief that all the hard work had paid off over the year.”

Growing up around bikes, Katie got the racing bug from her father, Manx TT racer Michael, before being ‘thrown in’ to her first beach race to test her skills. “I can thank my dad for getting me into racing because it’s all he ever knew so I was brought up within it,” she admitted.

“When I was younger I had a Yamaha PW50 but I never used to ride it because I didn’t have a proper interest in racing, however I loved going with my dad all over when he raced, especially going to the Isle of Man. We went to a trials event near my house and it was from then on I really wanted to try riding a bike again. We already had a Honda CRF100 in the garage so every Sunday we would go up into the fields and just ride, until I got thrown into my first beach race where I was out of my depth with bike capacity but I absolutely loved it. It was from then I got my first proper motocross bike, a Husky 85.

“Racing is my life and it’s all I want to do,” she continued. “My dream would be to race as a career and to help other people get started racing. I would also love to race at the TT and experience it all because it truly looks amazing and the adrenaline levels must be insane.”

While the path for young British racers is not an easy one, Hand is confident of her abilities and dismissive of the gender roles often at play.

“Me being on that grid is no different to anyone else being on the grid. Whether you are male or female, you both have the same chances and capabilities as each other. I mostly come across people being amazed that females are racing motorbikes but that’s just because it’s not very common. They don’t say that you can’t do it, because everyone I come across has been very supportive.

“The biggest key to being successful within this sport is to believe in yourself and not be afraid. If you want to do it, you just have to get on with it or too much time will pass you by and it’ll be nearly too late. It’s never too late to start racing, however it’s better to start early. Racing is the best thing that has ever happened to me because you can meet so many new people who will become your best friends and family.

“From a child I have always been the biggest supporter of Valentino Rossi,” she reflected on her early race inspirations. “It just went hand in hand with the fact his colours are blue and yellow, [as are Katie’s] but I think my biggest inspiration would be my dad, racing all his life and he’s never given up once. We’ve been back to the Isle of Man every year because he had a goal and if he didn’t reach it we went back, and in 2018 he smashed it by over 3mph!

“My biggest supporters are definitely my parents, because with everything they have both been beside me and supported me. They have never doubted me once and I hope to make them proud with whatever I do.” Michael Hand is also key to Katie’s racing on track as much as off, as team boss and chief mechanic. “My dad does every single thing to do with my bike, always to the best of his ability and it has never once broken down on me,” she said proudly.

With the BSB paddock beckoning, Hand is focused on becoming the best she can.

“I try to do at least an hour of exercise each day whether that’s skipping, weights or plyometrics but my main forms of training are cycling and running. Throughout the off season I do a lot of flat track racing and pitbiking, with a bit of motocross. Keeping on a bike throughout the off season is really important because it keeps your head in the game and you will be able to get straight back into the season. I am going to Cartagena in Spain testing for a week and I cannot wait to finally get some time in the seat on my new bike.

“Next year I will be doing a solid season of BSB in the Junior Supersport class, which will be on my new bike, the 2021 Yamaha R3. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to ride this top running bike. I can’t wait to do a full season in the BSB paddock next year, I am ready to give it my all and see where I can finish now that I’m on a level playing field.”