Women of MotoAmerica: Melissa Paris, Seven Corners M4 Racing

Fifth in a series profiling women who are racing in the MotoAmerica championship

Melissa Paris race action
XX versus XY: Seven Corners M4 Racing's Melissa Paris (13) seen at Barber Motorsports Park sandwiched between M4 SportbikeTrackGear.com Suzuki teammates Valentin Debise (53) and Xavier Zayat (34).Brian J. Nelson

Ask Melissa Paris what it’s like to be a woman who races motorcycles and you’ll get a perfectly politically correct answer. But you’ll practically hear the eyeballs rolling back in her head.

After a decade and change of racing, Paris, one of the most familiar female faces in powersports, is “having a blast” racing motorcycles right now but admits to being weary of the whole “girl-power” meme.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Paris, who appreciates that being female in a male-dominated sport is an attractive quality for sponsors that comes at the cost of having your accomplishments continually framed in the context of being one. As in, “Nice job…for a girl.”

Acknowledging the physiology that should give females a competitive advantage in the sport, she references the nature-versus-nurture theory to explain why it doesn’t. “If you look at the champions in our sport, they’ve all been racing since they were five years old,” Paris said. “Women come to this sport as adults.”

Melissa Paris headshot
Melissa Paris.Brian J. Nelson

In fact, four of the five women competing full-time in MotoAmerica this year didn’t swing their leg over a motorcycle (let alone race one) until their late teens. Paris hopes to change that by personally mentoring a young phenom and downplays her role thus far as any kind of pioneer.

Instead of asking Melissa Paris what it’s like to be a woman who races motorcycles, ask her how racing in Spain compares to racing in the US. Ask her how the Daytona 200 differs from the 24 Hours of Le Mans, or how gassing a near-stock sportbike down the Corkscrew at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca compares to opening the throttle on a $2 million MotoGP bike at Valencia.

You’ll soon forget you’re talking to a…professional racer who didn’t start riding until she was a grown-up.

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