AMA Motocross Profile
Motocross and girlie girl don’t usually show up in the same sentence, but Kawasaki’s Sara Price wasn’t sent from Central Casting to fill the role of tomboy who rides dirt bikes.
She may have taken a well-worn path, following her older brother onto an off-road motorcycle, but her focus on the sport has long-since overtaken his, and Price has plans to make a career out of motocross racing.
Signed by Kawasaki in 2009, she pits her KX250F alongside top names like Christophe Pourcel and Chad Reed at the Monster Energy Kawasaki rig, receiving support and guidance from one of the winningest teams in motocross – not a bad place to be for a female rider as the Women’s Motocross Championship series comes into its own.
It has been a long, though not particularly arduous, 10 years getting to this position. Price’s dad bought her a Honda XR50 when she was eight and they went to the track every Tuesday while her older brother, Dean – who was racing amateur with Mike Alessi and Josh Grant – was practicing. Price would ride the pee -wee track and it didn’t take long before Dean brought his father’s attention to his sister’s natural talent, telling him to check her out, "Sara’s going really fast!"
Price begin racing the same year she learned to ride, and developed an early taste for winning by easily beating the competition in her first race at Perris Raceway in Southern California.
She went on to get nine out of ten hole shots in one series. Racking up a lot of wins–against both boys and girls–built a confidence and expectation, making it particularly hard to deal with losing. Price recalls, "I was really, really upset if I didn’t win every race."
When Price transitioned to an 85cc bike in 2004, racing friends suggested she find out how she would stand up against nationally ranked riders. This prompted a family trip to the Lake Whitney Spring Classic in Texas, where she continued her wining ways. Price went on to win four years in a row and was not particularly challenged during this time, frequently winning races by more than a minute.
For the next four years, Price raced in amateur classes, both locally (against the boys) and nationally (typically against girls). The boys were a bigger challenge, as they weren’t afraid to throw an elbow and be more aggressive, and Price had no problem dishing it right back.
Perhaps this is why the riders she looked up to were guys such as Ricky Carmichael and Josh Grant; she is stubborn and she wanted to keep it on the guy’s pace and level. Eventually, she realized if she was going to make anything happen, it was going to be against the women. Even so, it wasn’t until she turned pro at 16 that she found serious competition.
Women have had a national title to race for since 1974, though the "series" was sometimes limited to a single race. In 1996, a multi-round professional series was established, giving women more opportunities to compete at a high level.
However, it wasn’t until 2004, when the Women’s Motorcycle Association (WMA) took over the series, that it received full sanctioning from the AMA. Finally, the women raced on the same circuit, on the same weekend, with the men. Still, their races were limited to six rounds and they raced one moto on Saturday during the men’s qualifying races, with their second moto between the men’s premier and Lites races on Sunday.
Just as Price was turning pro, women’s motocross took another important step forward. The WMA became the WMX as MX Sports took over as promoter of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, fully integrating the women into the series.
Though still racing an abbreviated schedule (8 of the men’s 12 rounds), they have the same sponsors and rules and both motos are a part of the Saturday-only racing program.
Price’s timing is good. The women’s pro class had been static for a number of years, and the same few names kept winning. When Ashley Fiolek moved up in 2008–with the first woman’s full factory ride–she woke everyone up, bringing a new level to the sport. Jessica Patterson had won four years in a row, yet Ashley knocked her off the top of the podium in her first year. In 2009, Price moved up, along with fellow amateur competitors Vicki Golden and Alexah Pearson, and more fast girls are following.
Sara Price recounts, "I had my rookie year, which was completely a rookie year." The tracks on the professional circuit are much tougher and the competition is fierce. "You can’t practice on anything like you race on here. So that was a whole other game for me," Price reveals. In the amateur class there were just one or two girls who she really battled with, but all the pro women riders are fast. "Now I have to be on top of my game no matter what–go faster and longer," the Kawasaki rider says.
She is not dissuaded by the challenge, however. She knows she has the speed, but she needs to mature as a racer. Price nabbed the holeshot over Fiolek and Tara Geiger while racing Women’s Moto X Super X at the 2010 X Games, and just missed second place when she bobbled on the last lap battling with Geiger in the whoops. Still, she walked away with a bronze medal–not bad for her first X Games competition.
Kawasaki mechanic Eric Gould and trainer Randy Lawrence are at the Kawasaki factory track in Corona every day that Price trains, letting her know what she can do to go faster.
After each race she receives valuable feedback from both, along with input from former WMA champ Tania Satchwell, who has accompanied Price to all the WMX races this year. Her ultimate goal is to become the first woman to race in an AMA main event alongside the guys.
Price started the year out injured, tearing her rotator cuff the day before the first race at Hangtown. Price is philosophical about injuries: "There comes a time in a motocrosser’s career where you get hurt and you either back off or you’re able to move forward, and that’s the wall that you have to get past to see if you’re going to make it in this sport."
An illustrative example of Price’s outlook comes when she describes an error she made the first time she rode a freestyle ramp. She followed a friend right up a 75-foot ramp, overshot it and landed hard on the flat ground, smacking down on the handlebars, riding it out a bit, then sliding out.
Sara Price recalls, "I hopped right up and raised my hands, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t die!’ and I was so pumped on that!"
Racing through the recovering shoulder injury, and then hampered by energy draining mononucleosis in the second half of the season, Price still managed top five finishes in six of the eight rounds, finishing the series in 6th place. She will take a month off to fully recover, then plans to start training for next season, sharpening up with REM races at Glen Helen in January.
Fans of Price who see her flying around the track in her Thor and Alpinestars riding gear are sometimes surprised by her off-track persona. The photo on the bio page of her website is feminine, and photos on her Facebook page show a stylish young woman who would sooner pass for a model than a motocross racer, or an equestrian show jumper–something she competed in statewide prior to racing motorcycles.
But whether she’s jumping her horse, Garnet, or squaring off into the first turn of a moto on her Kawasaki Monster Energy KX250F, what Price enjoys most about jumping high and riding fast is that it’s not easy and not everyone can do it. When Price mentions she has plans for her own high fashion clothing line, there’s no reason to be doubt this tough girlie girl will get it done.
Photography by Don Williams