Title: Maria Costello “Change is good but I love the classic bikes”

Author: Sienna Wedes

We all know her as one of the fastest women to complete a lap of the Isle of Man TT course and the first woman in history to stand on the podium when she took 3rd at the Isle of Man Manx Grand Prix. Maria Costello is not only a recording breaking female in the motorsport world; she is a continuous believer in educating society and influencing women to always ride motorbikes. She embodies the old school motorcycle world and continues to try and understand and adapt to todays technology. At the QBE International Festival of Speed Maria Costello discussed the pivotal moments in her career, her favourite classical bikes at the event and what it means to be a female role model in motorcycle racing.

Q: Maria, what are your thoughts on returning to the International Festival of Speed?  

Maria: It’s my 4th time. I love it here. It’s good to be back.

Q: What’s it like being a female ambassador in two-wheel motorsport? 

Maria: I’ve never been male *laughs*. I’ve been racing for 20 years and I’m now in a position where I can give something back and I do feel like much more of a role model than just a racer. I feel very fortunate to be in that position. But I also feel that it is important that I do give something back so I love doing my women only track days back at home. I’m on the FIM women and motorcycle commission, I’ve mentored other championships where there are women competing and I just want to do anything that I can to help other women ride motorbikes, stay riding motorbikes and go racing. I’ve had such an amazing life from motorcycling; I want everyone else to at least experience a little bit of that.

Q: Do you feel like the stigma of women in competitive racing is slowly bridging the gap?

Maria: It’s not really about stigma; it’s about a whole society changing the way that women are perceived in sport in general. So, again it’s about educating. When I started I use to feel slightly patronised maybe by some of the comments but it’s people not knowing, it’s not their fault, they don’t know that women ride and race motorcycles and that they actually ride and race big motorcycles. So, when somebody says to me “do you ride that big bike” I go “yeah and so do lots of other women”. Lots of other women are really successful too.

Q: Throughout your career is there a moment that really stands out for you? 

Maria: Yes, but there’s more than one because it’s been 20 years of it. I mean, I could probably pull something out from every year but standing on the podium when I became the first woman to stand on the podium in race around the TT course at the Manx Grand Prix that was super special and then repeating that, I’ve been on the podium a few times. But last year getting on the podium at the Classic TT along side John McGuiness who is my hero who has won 23 TT’s was very special and it’s really nice to be in a paddock where there are classic racers and lots of people are congratulating me still. I still feel like I am on cloud nine from that. Obviously getting awarded an MBE for services to motorcycling and that was very important, not just for me but for the sport, for women in sport, for women in general and for my family because I think they thought “what on earth is our daughter doing” and when royalty said it’s ok, they were like “oh it’s ok!” That kind of means more to me each additional year. It means more and more.

Q: Can you explain what it’s like racing in an event like the TT?  

Maria: People see it on the TV and they see photographs and they get a taste of it but the TV always flattens it out. So, what you really need to do is go there and stand at the bottom of Bray Hill and realise how steep that hill is and how fast the riders come down it. It will make your eyes pop out of your head, I am not kidding. I can’t stand and watch, I don’t watch very often because that’s what I do, I see it from my perspective and that’s how I need to see it *laughs*. Definitely start at the bottom of Bray Hill, as you’ll fall over.

Q: When you’re in the mode of racing, what do you think about? Does it ever wander?  

Maria: Racing hopefully, but that’s the thing with Isle of Man, because the laps are nearly 40 miles long that’s one of the key points. You have to stay focused and really work on staying focused rather than, if you are me thinking about what you are going to be eating later because I always think about food. Other thoughts can creep in and they can be thoughts of ‘is my foot slipping off the peg’, ‘am I leaking oil’, ‘is that a noise from the engine’ or something. When you are in that moment and it all feels good and it’s all going right, you are just racing.

Q: Is it second nature or a conscious state of thinking?

Maria: It’s a bit of both I think. Conscious obviously is very important when riding a motorbike at speed but there is a bit of both.

Q: What are your thoughts on the MotoGP field with new comers and general competition?

Maria: Younger versus older, bring it on. It’s always been like that. Last year Freddie Spencer was here and he did it all before Marquez did it. So, he was the youngest kid on the block and held all those records. It’s always going to happen, but it’s good that a new generation is seeing it happen with Marquez. He has stirred it up again, but the old guys are still hanging in there.

Q: What is your favorite classical bike?

Maria: I’ve got to say the Paton, I was really spoilt last year, and they flew that in from Switzerland. I don’t normally test on it because it’s in Switzerland, it gets brought to the Isle of Man and set off down Bray Hill and practice and that’s how we make friends again. But because I got to ride it here I think it played a big part cause I’ve never ridden it on a circuit. We got to actually get some new data, we don’t have any telemetry on it but it was good to try out some different suspension settings and just spend some more time on it and I did quite well here. I enjoyed it. When I got to the Isle of Man my first lap out was a PB so I was like “mm this feels good”. But that I’ve had just amazing times on it and getting on the podium last year at the Classic TT, that was so, so special! I keep saying the words special, it needs another world. It’s almost like a pinnacle in my career. 

Q: Finally, what are your thoughts on bike technology 20 years ago to where it is today?

Maria: I don’t ride a lot of bikes with loads of technology. I suppose my BMW S1000RR had the most on it with traction and all of that. I’m a bit old school I suppose. My 20 years of racing has been before all of that, so it’s a lot of re-learning and giving it your all and knowing it’s not going to high-side you off is a whole reprogramming of your brain. It’s all good, change is good but I love the classic bikes.


Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes


About The Author

Sienna Wedes
PR Communications

Sienna manages all FORMULA Magazine social media platforms covering news on a daily basis with higher emphasis during MotoGP rounds. She coordinates specific interviews with race engineers and chief mechanics. Growing up in a motorsport family Sienna understands the sport and what the supporters and fans enjoy.