18 September 2007


This past Sunday after watching Valentino Rossi battle it out with Dani Pedrosa; where in the 2nd final lap Rossi took lead and positioned his win (4th podium of the year)--I decided to stay tuned and observe the next TV program, the final AMA Superbike series race at Laguna Seca.

During the supersport race a bad crash by Hayes sent out the red flag. While waiting for the situation to be cleaned up the broadcaster attempted to entertain us, the viewers, and fill the air time. One of the features hyped even before the commercial break was that Ben Bostrom (a former favourite of mine back in his Ducati Superbike riding days) would be demonstrating the how-to skills of being an umbrella girl.
When cameras brought us back to track side, we were at Ben Bostrom's pit where he initiated the segment by saying 3 times that not only do umbrella girls look good (1), then some words..., "look good" (2), more words..., "look good" (3), "but they do help to keep the sun off the rider while waiting on the grid in his leathers" --referring to how the rider can become quite warm waiting on the start grid. He then asked his girlfriend Nicki (not pictured here) to help out by demonstrating how to hold the umbrella and shade the rider, all while Ben continues to narrate. The camera moves over to show us the rider Nicki is shading, who happens to be the famous romance novel cover star Fabio! I guess in California you never know who you'll find in a race venues' paddock!

Fabio Lanzoni, a rather big fellow, is sitting on Ben's racer while Nicki attempts to shade him from the sun. Fabio gets off the bike and Nicki attempts to keep up to him and shade him. Nicki, not an official umbrella girl, had normal, smart stylish attire on. Ben, in the concluding wrap up, stated that umbrella girls look good, are useful to the rider and "they look good".

As women continue to populate within all levels of
motor sport they too decided —what's "good for the goose is good for the gander" and often sport their own version of the umbrella girl--the guy. I was guilty as well and often had umbrella boys, actually "pit studs" I called them as the umbrella association to me was not a masculine reference.

And one woman, the only woman to ever achieved MOTOGP points, Katja Poensgen did us all justice by employing an "umbrella boy" during her 2003 MOTOGP race in Sachsenring — of which I was fortunate enough to be in attendance. She readied herself on the grid, accompanied by (perhaps for the first time in history) a fit, handsome, umbrella boy (actually it was her dentist who filled the role -- brains too!) who most charmingly garnished her start position.

In the many race venues throughout Europe, UK and North America I've attended as a racer or spectator, sunshine or not-- when it's cold, raining, whatever conditions, nearly naked umbrella girls are out there, with their trusty umbrellas. What will it take to alter not only this "look good" aspect of racing but the way women see their own roles. As we continue to liken ourselves to that of umbrella girls, the assumption remains--when an attractive women appears within a race paddock the furthest thought is that of her being the pilot of a race bike.
Yet in all reality, so many women have and continue to indeed exchange their umbrella's for race bike handle grips.

Without an umbrella girl a rider will still win races, will still enjoy good starts and still fight all elements to be on the podium because we know at the end of the day, the umbrella girls exist just because they--look good.

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1 comment:

Peter Marcelli said...

Hey Vicki,
Good point.. you know if racing had a fleet of beautiful woman racers, the marketing value there would be huge! bigger than Nascar! let's see.. watch a bunch fat men drive around in circles or a handfull of sexy women in semi tight leathers doing 180 mph on motorcycles? I'm in! We should make a TV show about it!!!