Fairy stories don’t come along all that often in sport. The law of averages state that ninety-nine times out of every hundred, it’s the big boys who come out on top. The underdog is so-called for a reason, after all. But every so often, in flagrant defiance of conventional logic, a ‘Steven Bradbury moment’ comes along out of the blue. These moments are the stuff of dreams that we, the general public, can identify with and aspire to.
And sometimes, like the proverbial buses, two can come at once.
Indeed, amid the clamour surrounding humble League One outfit Bradford City’s shock FA Cup win over Jose Mourinho’s big-spending Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, it would have been easy to overlook the news that stalwart privateer Jenny Tinmouth had been signed by the factory Honda Racing Team to campaign a full season in the British Superbike (BSB) championship.
It goes without saying that the 36-year old’s appointment is an enormous step forward for women in motorsport and by her own admission, the news came as something of a shock, although perhaps it shouldn’t have been have given her reputation as a trailblazer in motorcycle racing. In 2010, Tinmouth broke her own record as the fastest female ever to lap the fearsome Isle of Man TT at an average speed of 119.945 mph and became the first woman to score a BSB point at Snetterton in 2013. She is not one to be content with merely making up the numbers.
As anyone who has seen the epic final lap battle between Tommy Hill and John Hopkins at Brands Hatch to decide the 2011 title will tell you, BSB is a hidden gem of British sport where risk truly does equal reward. Tinmouth knows all about that; the first and so far only female competitor in the series, having run her own bike since 2011, Tinmouth embodies the endearing underdog spirit and richly deserves her opportunity in the 2013 championship-winning outfit, which returns after a year away with Jason O’Halloran and Dan Linfoot also on its roster.
Having always had to ride within herself, knowing that any accident could prove enormously costly, Tinmouth has been rewarded for her efforts with a seat at the top table and the weight of a fully-fledged manufacturer behind her.
Ahead of the biggest opportunity of her career, which she described to the BBC as ‘the ultimate dream come true’, Tinmouth faces a steep learning curve. With the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade still unproven in a race environment and Tinmouth not slated to test until March, it is far too early to make any predictions as to where she will end up.
But in a sport where men and women can and do compete together on track, the underdog now has the chance to show what she’s truly capable of.