Ahead of next week’s Ulster Grand Prix, Stephanie Bell gets up to speed with Kate Martin, the only female mechanic in UK motorbike racing, who keeps brother Guy’s machine in tune
When world race ace Guy Martin bids for another victory at this year’s Ulster Grand Prix, few will realise the crucial role his younger sister will have played in his performance.
For 21-year-old Kate is not only a huge fan of her famous brother but also a mechanic on his Hydrex Bike Animal Honda Team.
Kate enjoys the unique honour of being the only female mechanic in the world of motorbike racing in the United Kingdom.
What might not appear an obvious choice of career for many women has been a dream come true for the girl who grew up with bike racing in her blood.
“My dad was also a racer and so I was dragged to motorbike racing since I was a nipper,” recalls Kate.
“I rode bikes from I was no age and did my test as soon as I could when I turned 17. My first bike was a GSXR 400 Suzuki.
“For me working with a motorbike team was a dream job but I didn’t think it was a possibility and so I studied to be a fitness instructor which I then worked at for two years.”
Kate’s passion for racing meant she rarely missed any of Guy’s races and being close to the team in the pitts, she was very much a hands-on fan, always offering to help out.
Her dedication paid off three years ago when she was offered a job to train as a mechanic with the AIM Yamaha team.
She recalls: “I was thrilled and gave up my job as a fitness instructor without a second thought.
“I started at the bottom as a tyre technician and just learned on the job. Travelling the country as part of a motorbike racing team has always been my dream job and I couldn’t believe that I was living that dream.”
Kate joined her brother’s Hydrax Honda team this year after the team’s boss Sean Muir approached her with the offer of a job.
She says: “It was very exciting joining the team, especially as Guy was a member. We have always got on well and it was really quite nice to be working with him and going to all his races as a professional in my own right.”
Preparing bikes that her brother would be pushing to speeds of up to 200mph has not daunted Kate, despite the dangers involved.
She says: “When working on a bike for a race you just have to have a procedure which has to be followed very carefully and very slowly to ensure everything is tightened and there are no mistakes.
“I am pretty confident in what I do and I guess that helps when I see Guy or the other team members racing.
“You just have to put the risks to the back of your mind. I get a real buzz from watching the races and being part of it and you couldn’t do it, if you spent your time worrying about the danger.”
As for being the only female mechanic in the British Superbike circuit, Kate says: “When I am introduced to someone for the first time and I tell them what I do, the most common reaction is that they laugh and don’t believe me.
“Then they are fascinated, especially because I am a woman. I know it probably sounds cheesy but motorbike racing is my life and to get paid to do something you love is pretty special.”
Kate is looking forward to accompanying her brother to the Ulster Grand Prix where he has chalked up an impressive record. In 2006 he won five of the six races he competed in.