Maria Costello is the only female competitor racing at this year’s North West 200.
She has been attending the event since 2005, standing on the rostrum once having finished third in the supersport 400cc class, ran concurrently with the 125cc class that same year finishing the race in seventh position overall.
However, it has not always gone according to plan and this is only her third year competing, as she explains: “When I raced in 2005 it was my first year.
“Then in 2006 I came as a spectator, 2007 I was injured, 2008 I was deemed injured and not allowed to start following a practice crash and then last year my bike blew up and I didn’t get to race.
“You would wonder why I keep coming back, but I love Northern Ireland and the people are so passionate about the sport, plus they certainly know how to enjoy themselves.”
So what attracts Maria to the world of racing, which is predominantly a male dominated sport?
“Simple,” she says, “I love going fast and there are no faster circuits than the North West, TT and Ulster Grand Prix.
“I am a determined lady and I know there will be no allowances made to me just because I am a woman — and rightly so because I don’t ask for any. I also love motorcycling in general as a mode of transport and the freedom that it gives you.”
There have been a few knocks and broken bones along the way but Maria says, “They are all part and parcel of the game.
“I’m just a girl who loves racing motorcycles fast and you have to accept the risks that go along with that.”
Maria, a journalist from Northampton, has achieved quite a lot in the tough, uncompromising world of motorcycle racing.
“I was the fastest woman at the TT for five years and I was the first woman to stand on the rostrum at the Manx Grand Prix in 2005, so what have I left to do?” she said.
“Well, to go out and regain the fastest TT woman title would be nice.
“I believe I am the third fastest woman around the North West (behind Anita Buxton and Kate Parkinson) and it would be nice to make it to the top of that table.”
Another major honour came her way in 2009 when she was awarded the MBE for services to motorcycling, receiving the honour from the Prince of Wales.
Maria, who has an autobiography entitled Queen of Bikers due on the shelves from May 25, always finds her racing exploits attracting huge attention.
Today she goes in the Supersport 600cc races alongside team mate Davy Morgan from Saintfield and she says a good result for her would be “to see the chequered flag in a good safe race.”
Having qualified her number 12 CSC Racing R6 Yamaha in 50th position for this afternoons two Supersport races, after going through the speed trap at well over 160mph, Maria will certainly be looking for two finishes to put past disappointments behind her.