It was love at first sight for Francie and racing bikes

FAMILY LINEUP: Steve Winteringham and daughter, Francie, who became interested in competitive motorcycling after watching the first Burt Munro Challenge in 2006.
FAMILY LINEUP: Steve Winteringham and daughter, Francie, who became interested in competitive motorcycling after watching the first Burt Munro Challenge in 2006.

Francie Winteringham's passion for competitive motorcycling was born at the inaugural Burt Munro Challenge in 2006.

The Southlander, one of only a handful of female riders to line up in the event's history, went along to catch the action as a spectator and was blown away by what she saw.

Captivated by the elegance, power and speed of the motorcycles, she decided to try the sport and instantly fell in love with it.

Winteringham has not looked back - competing in every Burt Munro Challenge since.

"I was pretty amazed by it. I couldn't believe this is actually a sport. I was really keen for it and went and tried it," she said.

The 21-year-old first competed on a Suzuki RG 150cc bike, but has since graduated up to a Suzuki GSX 400, which she will use at the Teretonga Sprints and Wyndham Street Race this weekend.

On Thursday, she took on boyfriend Anthony Stephens in the Classic pre-82 category of the Bluff Hill Climb.

She was unable to beat her time from the previous year, but said it was a fun afternoon of racing. Winteringham's father, Steve, who had an interest in classic motorcycles and vintage cars, was also inspired to race bikes after seeing his daughter matching it with the blokes.

He initially got nervous when he watched Francie compete but, after seeing how competent she was, Steve relaxed.

"I couldn't stand watching her race. I was getting hot sweats and and sweaty palms watching her. I thought ‘If you can't watch it, why don't you jump on a bike and have a go', so I did."

The Winteringhams will line up in the same post classic pre-82 class together at Wyndham tomorrow.

Steve said they always enjoyed a healthy rivalry on the track and expected to see some fierce racing.

"We have a golden rule, we shouldn't really race with each other, because we always push each other's buttons," he said.

Francie admitted she got a bit of a hard time from the male riders when she first started out in motorcycling, but said they all now respected her.

"Sometimes they do [give me a hard time], but they've all learned I don't put up with their crap. I don't let them get away with it. I've always had a great rapport with the guys. We all get along."

She was surprised more women did not get into motorcycling and said once you became comfortable with the bike and built up experience, it became easier.

"We haven't had any [other female riders in Southland] for a long time.

"Don't be scared of it. There's nothing to be scared of; you've just got to get in and do it."

Steve believed the key to getting more women into motorcycling was by holding demonstration days, where they could learn from experienced riders.

"It's about getting people out there, knowing that girls can compete against these guys," he said.

"[Women riders] do exceptionally well around the world."

Francie regularly races in club meetings at Teretonga and has also featured in the national series and several street race events around the country.

She will compete in the Teretonga and Timaru legs of the national motorcycling series this summer, where she will likely be racing in the clubmans or classics classes.

The Southland Times