The high-speed, adrenaline-pumping sport of road racing is, so most people think, a man’s world. But then there are ladies like Maria Costello from the UK, who frequently competes against today’s IoM TT legends on ‘The Island’ and other tough road courses. While her BMW S 1000 RR is her racing weapon of choice, her road bike is the modern classic that is the R nineT.
Petite and bubbly is not what you expect a road racer to be. Try 1.80 m, all muscle and sinew with chin stubble and a being a real man’s man by taking blind bends on open roads at seriously fast speed... But Maria Costello isn’t at all like this. She is a lady – a lady who happens to be pretty, intelligent and friendly. Above all she is as determined to win on a motorcycle as her male road racing compatriots. Every centimetre of her 1.65 m height is toned to compete on and wrestle a 200+HP motorcycle through villages and along country roads.
There is also another form of motorcycle racing that Maria is getting to grips with. The annual Glemseck 101 event – this year’s edition is being held from 4-6 September – arguably the best café racer festival on the planet and this year is its tenth anniversary. Glemseck 101 is also famous for its sprint races at a nearby former airfield, and Maria has been invited to take part in these close-run races on a customised R nineT and possibly a tuned version. The event is a first time affair for Maria but she hopes to once again show the men the way home to the checked flag.
Maria Costello has also earned herself a Guinness World Record when she achieved the status of fastest female at the 2004 IoM TT with an incredible lap speed of 114.73 mph (184.64 km/h), a record that stood for five years. More recently Maria has been competing astride her BMW S 1000 RR with equal success. At this year’s Ulster GP, Maria once again set the lap record for fastest female with 116.79 mph (187.95 km/h) at the 7.4 mile (11.91 km) Dundrod road circuit – the fastest road racing circuit in the world!
Along with her love for motorcycle racing, Maria also instructs fellow ladies on how to ride safely at speed with her female-only track days. With many other ongoing projects that involve Maria and motorcycles then it will come as no surprise to learn she has the official ‘honour’ title of MBE to her name. The Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) is awarded for a significant achievement or outstanding service to the community, in this case the motorcycle community.
It goes without saying, then, that Maria’s down time also heavily involves motorcycles. “Out of work” she still loves to ride a bike on the open road. Her steed of choice is a BMW R nineT, a roadster motorcycle that offers up so many lifestyle opportunities. One day it can be a competent, retro-styled motorcycle capable of delivering biking pleasure at a sedate pace; the next it can easily give a rider’s heart a good workout on his or her favourite stretch of road. It also easily offers up a multitude of different routes to personal customisation. This can be done with official Motorrad accessories or the owner’s imagination.
“I love the R nineT,” says Maria about the bike supplied by BMW Motorrad dealer Wollaston Motors. “It actually makes you want to get out and ride for the same reasons we wanted to pass our bike tests in the first place. I now do a lot more ride-outs in my own time because the bike is so pleasurable to ride on the road.”
One of Maria’s recent ride-outs involved riding from her Northamptonshire home and south to the hustle and bustle of London to take part in another two world records. This time it was to help achieve the biggest gathering of female riders and their bikes in one location and all-female ride out. The venue was the Ace Cafe London, one of the few remaining original truckstops of the 1930s, biker haunt from the ‘60s and a major league petrol-head hangout today. Maria wasn’t the only lady to turn up on an R nineT and the day was a complete success.
“l looked at my phone today and saw there was another bike meet coming up and thought ‘why not?’, so I’ll go to that one, too,” she says with enthusiasm. “It’s a real good looking bike, turns heads and is comfortable, too, with lots of character. My friend was on the design team and I remember him telling me about the 9T. So when I saw one in the flesh I just knew this was a proper riding bike, you know, full of the old-school riding charm but very modern at the same time.”
Being svelte of build hasn’t caused Maria any problems with riding – so many females are put off specific models because of their apparent bulk or height, but this is evidently not the case with the R nineT. “A lot of people say ‘Oh that’s a big bike,’ but they’re wrong. I haven’t got the longest legs in the world and I can safely touch the floor with both feet. The bike’s weight at standstill doesn’t bother me because it’s such a balanced machine.” As for other models in the BMW Motorrad range, seat height doesn’t have to be an issue because of the available official factory lowering kits.
“The R nineT is surprisingly quick and nimble... and this comes from a person that races a very fast S 1000 RR. I love the character of the Boxer engine; that slight rock of the chassis when blipping the throttle makes anyone smile. The shaft drive is brilliant, no mess and perfected for everyday use. Add the light action of the clutch and other components into the mix and it makes a great bike for anyone who loves to place rider input through the bars, seat and pegs to make a fulfilling road ride.”
Maria has no plans to feature a major tour, mostly because of a dairy full of commitments. However, she believes big mileage wouldn’t be a problem for her on board the 9T. “The longest I’ve ridden the bike is just over three hours with no feeling of discomfort whatsoever, not bad considering the minimalist wind protection. If a riding holiday should appear on the horizon I see absolutely no reason why I wouldn’t pack my bags and take the 9T.”
There’s also a growing thought within Maria about customisation of the R nineT. At the moment her eyes have been drawn to the official accessory solo-seat pod and the bare aluminium petrol tank. This is not to say there aren’t more ideas floating within her head. “I’ve seen so many customised 9Ts that it definitely makes you think more about doing ‘your own thing’. I’m not talking about mechanically changing the bike, just the cosmetic side of it to make it even more personal. Wollaston Motors has a 9T with the accessory polished aluminium tank and that alone makes it look a completely different bike. Dressed in old-school BMW sport tri-colours makes it very appealing...”
With a smile and hand wave, Maria then dresses to ride her 9T. Looking as if the bike was designed specifically for her, she thumbs the electric starter button, blips the throttle with a bigger smile and then toes first gear. Seconds later she’s heading out into traffic and on her way home. If any gentlemen happen to read this then you’ve hopefully realised that a way to a girl’s heart isn’t just with diamonds. Try an R nineT instead – at least you could borrow it. Possibly. Maybe. Hopefully...
Stop press: watch this space for a story on Maria’s first experience at the Glemseck 101 event – coming soon!