Cycle News

Cycle News 2014 Issue 19 May 13

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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CN III ARCHIVES BY LARRY LAWRENCE I t could be a little awkward to be a female motor- cycle racer in the late 1950s, early '60s. Mary McGee found that out early on when she walked into Webco to be fitted for a set of racing leathers. Mary told the guys she was there to be measured for leathers, "And they just kind of looked at me and got really em- barrassed," McGee recalls. "The thought of measuring a woman… Neil Fergus [a racer who worked at Webco] had red hair and his face turned a brighter shade of red than his hair." McGee was a pioneering fe- male motorcycle racer who com- peted in everything from road rac- ing to desert to motocross from the 1960s to the mid-1970s and then again in vintage racing in the 2000s. McGee raced, not only in a time before sanction- ing bodies had racing classes for women, but in a time where it was considered controversial to even allow a woman to race at all. For years McGee's story had been lost to time, but recently her amaz- ing story has been "rediscovered" and in short or- der she was designated an FIM Woman Legend in 2012 and honored at the FIM Gala in Monaco and this March was inducted into the Traliblazer's Hall of Fame. McGee was born in Alaska but moved with her family to Phoenix, Arizona, during World War II when it was thought Alaska was under threat of being invaded by the Japanese. She married an auto-racing enthusiast and mechanic and by 1957 she began doing SCCA sports car racing. She was racing a Porsche Spyder for owner Vasek Polak. Polak had been a motorcycle-racing champion in Czechoslovakia and, according to McGee, his first love was motorcycles. "He and my ex-husband were down at one of the turns watch- ing me race and Vasek told my husband that I should road race motorcycles and I would be even more smooth in the car," McGee said. "At that time AFM motorcycles and the (SCCA) cars raced on many of the same weekends at tracks in Southern California. Everybody thought me racing a motorcycle was a good idea and I thought, 'Sure, why not?'" The only problem was the AFM leadership wasn't quite sure about letting a woman race. "I called up Wes Cooley, Sr., who was presi- dent of the AFM at the time," McGee remembers. "And he said, 'Oh… well we all know who you are because we see you racing cars, but I'm going to have to call you back.' " Cooley reached other leaders of the AFM like John McLaughlin, Buddy Parriott and Don Vesco to get their thoughts. They all agreed she could race as long as she passed a tryout. Her tryout was at Willow Springs. Not knowing exactly the format of her tryout, she went out in several practice sessions and followed the other riders around. "I wonder if I was going to have to run a spe- cial race or something," McGee said. "But when MARY IN MOTION P118

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