Janine Mitchell Interview
Janine is one of the biker chicks that have been lighting up the national biking series over the last few years. She is one of the friendliest racers and she’s always willing to make time to talk to people trackside. She isn’t just one of the quickest girls you’ll meet, she has graced the pages of Sports Illustrated as one of their Beauties of Sport, and this is something she definitely is. She has also become a wonderful ambassador for Motorsport and expect to see more from her!
What are your plans for 2011?
Just to get back into racing after being out for an injury and having surgery on my kidney!
I have heard you’re on a Kawasaki? That’s a big change from the Honda, what has that been like?
It has definitely been a challenge for me as they are completely different. My riding style had to change to ride the kawa and I am using a quickshifter (which is put on race bikes to change gears quicker) so with both that and getting used to the bike it has been entertaining but been loving the Kawa! It has so much more aggression![pe2-gallery] [/pe2-gallery]
What has been the challenges as a girl racer?
I would say the biggest challenge has been that many of the male racers still don’t believe a women could be as good as them, a female has not won a national yet, but we’ll get there! 😉 Also a male is naturally stronger than a female so we have to work that much harder, other than that I haven’t experienced anything major!
Racing in nationals must be competitive and exciting, what for you was the biggest challenge when making the step up to racing at national level?
Well my first ever national was in Port Elizabeth in 2008, now the biggest challenge for me then firstly was trying to learn the new track without having been on the track before and I had only got my bike 2 weeks before the national. So the whole thing was a challenge but it was incredible! Also didn’t want to do anything stupid like crash or make a mistake, would have been so embarrassing there is such a great crowd in PE.
You’ve had quite a few big accidents, talk us through a few of these and what it was like getting back on the bike again?
A few, haha. Well I’ll talk you through the crashes that affected me the most! There have been many more, I have broken about 12 bones now. I had a serious crash in 2007 which put me in ICU and out of racing for about 4/5 months, suppose to have been 6 months but you how racers are coming back from that one was an emotional experience, words cannot describe that feeling. My first race back after the crash was on the same bike, we just fixed her, I managed to finish the race and had one awesome race as well. The nerves were definitely high for that race, I got so emotional because I finished, it was my proudest moment! You can’t give up after a crash, you will never know what would have been if you did.
My next two crashes were when I broke my foot at the last practise day at the national in 2008, I was so angry, at first didn’t realise I broke my foot my foot so I went out did a lap and realised hmmm that’s a bit sore! Haha, got a cast put on then five weeks later my dad and I took it off in the kitchen (with great difficulty) and raced the eight hour enduro with my team in Cape Town.
Then the one that happened last year in 2010, at the eight hour enduro funnily enough, it was the morning warm up session before the start of the race, and my team had already done their practice laps. I was the last to go, and my team mate said to all of us to ride carefully, it’s the laps that count. Well I wasn’t that lucky. A guy came past me made a mistake and I crashed into him. I honestly can’t remember if they finished the race, but let’s just say I felt bad! What I found really funny about this crash, I was chatting with some friends earlier that about crashing and how it feels, so while I was in pain lying on the track, I couldn’t help laughing because I was experiencing exactly what we were talking about, breaking a bone in December, sucks, but it’s all good now. Over the crash and racing hard!
You grew up in a sporting family, your dad John Mitchell being a well-known ex rugby player, did this help with becoming a national rider?
My Dad being a rugby player just made me more motivated to achieve my goal of being a National rider. The amount of people that comment on how great a rugby player he was for his time, made me want to be that woman for people who love motorbikes. I want to be someone that inspires people to do anything they believe they can, like my dad did for me.
What is next for you in motorsport?
Ah, well, I want to do everything! I love modified cars! So maybe that next or Supermoto! Hmm, not sure maybe I’ll do both.
Who are and were your inspirations?
I have a few. At the moment Danny Pedrosa, coming back from injury he is still on top form, that is not easy! It really motivates me!
Another is Danica Patrick, she has done so well in racing and for herself! She makes me believe you can make it! She won her races against the guys!
Two other people are friends of mine, my trainer Gaby, and personal friend JP. JP is a world champion surfer and after losing part of his leg in an accident he never gave up, he is still surfing today! He makes me believe that no matter what happens you can still do what you love! I look up to him for that!
And lastly Gaby, she is the most positive lady you could ever meet, even though she kills me when we train she keeps me positive and confident. She helped me through so much that I owe a lot to her for the last few years she’s been helping me! Everyone needs a friend like that, especially if you are a competitive athlete!
What has been your career highlights so far?
I could give you a list for this question. My top four would be:
- Having my first pole position on the track and getting holeshot that same race.
- Being in Sports Illustrated in 2009 for their Beauties of Sports article.
- Coming back from my major crash in 2007.
- The best so far is getting sponsored by EFC AFRICA it was honestly a dream come true!
Would you look at making the change over to racing cars or will you always be racing bikes?
Well like I said earlier I have a huge passion for modified cars, and here’s a little secret, I was actually into cars before I started racing bikes.. so I think it could be easy. I might just get bored, maybe I’ll go into drifting!
Why Bikes? What drew you to racing bikes over cars/etc?
Wow, um, there’s just something about feeling your knee scraping on the ground and the force of the wind pushing against your body that a car just can’t give you.
Please tell me about the ladies 600cc class that you rode in?
Well unfortunately the ladies class has been put on hold for 2011. They are planning on bringing the ladies’ class back next year. The ladies class was such an experience for me, it gave me the taste of being on the front row of the grid and once you had that you just want more, no matter if you’re racing with the boys and girls! The ladies class is brilliant for your women who feel uncomfortable racing with the men or just have started racing, and also great for the top girls to enjoy being in the lead! Not saying we can’t be there against the boys, just saying the ladies class gives you that experience you need!
It gives women of all ages and all levels of experience the opportunity to race against each other and improve on your own level.
The one disadvantage of the ladies class is we don’t want the men to feel that we can’t compete against them. Women’s equality is growing so much in South Africa, we mustn’t be afraid of them in this sport.
Ciao Caio for now #79