Paris Disappointment in Utah

Henny Ray Abrams | June 3, 2009

Melissa Paris had just run her fastest lap when the engine on her Yamaha R6 expired on the seventh lap of the World Supersport race at Miller Motorsports Park. It was a deeply disappointing outcome to a very expensive weekend of racing that she hoped would better showcase her talents.Paris and Canadian Marie-Josee Boucher became the first two women to take part in a World Championship Supersport race when they lined up at MMP. (German Katja Poengsen had raced in Supersport in 1998 before it was a World Championship). But Paris wasn’t measuring herself against Boucher. Rather she noted that former MotoGP rider Anthony West was on the grid one row in front of her. “What do you say about that?” she asked the day after the race. “It says all the way to the back of the pack are top-level riders. So that was pretty crazy.”Paris is an accomplished racer who’s more accustomed to being at the front of the pack than the back. But on the first day of practice “we really missed the set-up,” she said and her time of 2:01.059 put her 30th out of 33 riders and in the top half of the wild cards.Mark Rozema, of Markbilt Racebikes, sorted out the R6 overnight and “when I woke up Saturday morning I had a new motorcycle it felt like. We went a lot faster.” Paris took four seconds out of her lap on Saturday and she qualified at 1:57.079, a time she felt should have been faster. “It was frustrating because I was on a faster lap and I got blocked, so I knew I could do even better. I was anxious for the race.”By now she was aware of the depth of the field. “The guys in the front I would say are as fast as the guys in front of an AMA race, but the field is so much deeper,” she said. “It goes back so far. On the row in front of me on the grid was Anthony West.”Kawasaki’s Jamie Hacking found a vast difference between his riding style and that many in the World Superbike field. It made for exciting entries into turn one. Paris said the Supersport riders had more of a 250cc riding style, much like hers.Paris got a good start-“I was actually ahead of a few people I shouldn’t have been ahead of”-when another of the wild cards went straight at the apex to turn five, a hairpin right. “Just punted me. There was nowhere for him to go and I was on the outside, unfortunately. I got knocked nearly off the motorcycle and by the time the dust settled I was way far back. So I was just trying to run them down, put my head down and then my bike was starting to make some funny noises.”When the engine started making noises she thought it might have something to do with the impact she’d taken, but that wasn’t the case. “Apparently it dropped a valve after that. It had nothing to do with the crash at all.” Her day was done.And as much as she enjoyed the experience, it will be difficult to return for next year’s race without additional sponsorship.”It was incredibly expensive,” she said. The entry fee was 1000 Euros/$1418 and the control Pirelli tires were 2900 Euros/$4113. Then came the cost of building two race engines, plus the travel costs. “It was really good experience. It’s a pretty hard financial toll. Paying all that money and then get five laps into the race, that’s pretty rough. Especially when I knew I could’ve run with some of the people up front. I knew I had in me, so I was really disappointed that I didn’t get to show it to everyone.”

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.