Duncan Bishop

Rosell return reignites female debate

Duncan Bishop

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Elena Rosell gets another chance on the
Aspar Moto2 bike this weekend at Aragon in Spain.

It is a second opportunity after a disastrous
debut appearance at Assen earlier this season - as a stand-in for Julian Simon -
and will be a lower-key affair for both parties, although the Spaniard's latest
appearance in the World Championship brings the subject of female riders back
into the spotlight.

The 25-year-old is not by any means the
first female participant in grand prix racing, but Jorge Martinez's choice of
substitute earlier this season raised eyebrows in the paddock. Decades spent
covering racing does tend to instill a certain degree of cynicism towards such novelties,
but also the intuition to know when something isn't quite right.

It did not match 'Simoncelli v Pedrosa' in
the controversy stakes, but Rosell's first chance on the world stage divided opinions
amongst those covering the series.

"Marketing stunt," some said. One
journalist, who shall remain nameless to save her blushes, went ever so slightly
over the top in sticking up for Rosell, tweeting: "She certainly has the
pedigree: she's participated in the CEV in Stock Extreme."

Taking part in the Spanish national
championship is not enough of a background for grand prix racing. Sure, some of
the top talents of the past have emerged from the series - but as regular race winners
in one of the main categories, not occasional points scorers.

That is not to say that riders are not
often placed prematurely in the World Championship, and there is an overlap in
talent levels at the bottom rung of the grid with the best of the national
series riders. Money and marketing interests have always played a part in
promoting competitors into rides which are perhaps beyond their abilities.

Rosell's case is different because of the
novelty factor. She was, after all, being given a place with one of the top
Moto2 teams on the grid - a far cry from the basic Honda 125cc privateer effort
used by last female entrant Nikolett Kovacs as she attempted to qualify for the
2007 Turkish Grand Prix. The end result, however, was the same: DNS on raceday.

Being a girl in grand prix racing is a
double-edged sword in many ways. The same attention that can lead to new
opportunities can turn into excessive pressure that distracts from the task at
hand. It can also lead to heavier scrutiny of results.

Should there be more female riders in the
World Championship? First of all, there needs to be an increase in numbers in
the various national championships and at grass-roots level. There should be no
positive discrimination or quota-filling though, and top racers all have the
same belief that the cream rises to the top. If you're good enough, then you'll
make it.

It would be unfair to write anyone off
after only a couple of grands prix, and few competitors battle for a win in
their first races. But qualification has to be a minimum requirement. Anything
that happens on the Sunday is a bonus after making the 107 per cent cut.

Martinez is a fair man and one of the great
man-managers in motor racing - and has shown this by learning the lessons of
Rosell's first GP experience. He has contributed to a new project to allow the
Spanish rider the chance to participate in the national Moto2 series for the
last five races of the season (she finished 35th in Albacete this past weekend) and immediately
promised to give her another opportunity in the World Championship.

That chance comes at Aragon, following a
series of summer Moto2 tests for the rider at various tracks. The hope is that
she makes the most of it with a performance that isn't just 'not bad, for a
girl' - but rather 'not bad, for a second Moto2 appearance'.

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