“They see me with the monkey and the nails of the mechanics, so I think they stop seeing me as a woman”
LAURA RODRÍGUEZ – Initially, the motor world seems like a world of men. But only at the beginning. More and more women are engaged in this sector occupying different positions. Mara Soto (24) is the only mechanic in the Spanish Motocross Championship. A girl from Malaga settled in Barcelona, where she starts her third season in the Kawasaki Prodecom team. / Photos: Diego Villalba
How did you decide to enter the world of bikes?
Because I got addicted to the MotoGP races and I was bitten by the bug of knowing how this world works. Also, since I was a little girl I was fan of F1 and so curious about the mechanic world.
So, is it a vocation?
Quite. If I remember correctly it was at twelve when I was clear that the mechanic was mine. I started to study Engineering but I left because that was not what I was looking for, it was not the job of a mechanic. So I started a mechanic course on competition in Málaga.
What do you like about racing?
There are many people who like ‘the circus’ … I also like the paddock and the racing atmosphere! But, certainly, what caught my attention was the functioning of the bike.
Did you find fast your job at the end of your studies?
Yes, in 2015 I went to practice with Prodecom, last year I came to Barcelona and this is my third season with them.
For job and passion you moved to Barcelona.
Definitely. I knew that to continue with this in the end I would have to leave Málaga and come to Barcelona. I didn’t know if it would be with this team or another, but it was clear that the motorcycle competition is all there. So now I live in Barcelona, where Jordi Soriano’s team is based. If I can tell you the truth, when I was proposed I didn’t thought of it. It was all, literally, from week to week.
Now, after a year and a half of the change, do you still think that it was the right decision?
Of course! I’m delighted. On weekends I travel with them to the races and during the week I work in the street workshop of the team.
Did you thought yourself working in a workshop?
No, not initially. I studied the course thinking about dedicating myself to the competition, but over time I realized that where else you learn about bike failures, running and all the mechanics in general is in the street shop. While in competition we carry out such a thorough maintenance of the bike that it is very rare that it fails.
Have you always been involved in Motocross?
No, the first thing I did was the Kawasaki Z-Cup FIM CEV in 2014. There, I was working on a team with my cousin. We were both mechanics! Then, in 2015, I did several races of the Mediterranean Speed Championship and the Andalusian.
Is there much difference between disciplines at the level of mechanic?
Not much. In Speed many more changes of tire are made and in Motocross it plays to wash the motorcycle a lot. The big difference that I have seen is that on off-road the work is more previous, ie leave the bike ready in the workshop so that when you go to the circuit you are ready to go on track. Instead, in Speed, I have seen teams that stayed in the box until three in the morning disassembling the bike, changing the clutch, checking telemetry, etc. The work on the circuit is much more.
So, the demand and pressure in Speed is higher?
At least from my experience, yes. I suffered more pressure in Speed than now in Motocross, that there is also! Because in the end they are races and everything has to go well. Either way, there is always a rider on the bike.
Does it give you respect to know that there is a person running with a bike that you have configured and reviewed?
Definitely. When I go out on track I am really respectful, although I already follow my methodology and I’m convinced of what I do on the bike, but obviously I would not let it go!
You are very professional, but to work at ease is also essential to surround yourself with a suitable environment. Don’t you think?
It is clear. Here, I am very comfortable and with my pilot I have a great relationship. Also, returning to the comparisons, the off-road environment is very different. Everything here is much closer. The public, the teams, even the riders … everything is more familiar.
How is your day to day racing?
First things is to get up early! On Saturdays we get checks, control the bike and trainings. Also, on off-road, every time they go out on the track, we have to wash everything. Sunday is the race day and with it, the nerves.
You have a pilot by yourself?
Yes, every pilot has his mechanic, although obviously if at some point we need help, we are all outstanding. The team is very close and there are good vibes.
Does the pilot choose the mechanic he wants?
No, that’s what the team chooses.
Are you the only girl on the team?
Yes, and also the only one working with a team in the paddock, I think.
In Speed you start to see more women, but in Motocross no.
No, have you seen any? Because I have not yet the pleasure to meet anyone. In fact, people from other teams have told me that even in the MXGP World Championship there are no women mechanic.
And that gives you respect or happiness to know that you are unique and pioneering?
Maybe more happiness … Although no one favors. Here I am one more.
Is not there any healthy hubris for being the only woman?
A lot! Although later they see me with the monkey and the fingernails of the mechanics, and I think even I am not seen as a women -laughing- … there are times that I even have to remember that I am a girl.
Do you think a girl can bring something different to a team?
Women are said to be more orderly, but I am not, for example! Although perhaps yes a little more responsible. I get overwhelmed faster and I worry more.
Is it harmful for you to be a woman?
The figure of mechanic has always been masculine. I think on the contrary. There are very few in this world and, as mechanical, there is not even one. So it is something that draws much attention and there may be teams who are interested in having a girl for the sake of selling a good image.
And the level of conditions? Can a mechanical girl have any weakness?
No one. I raise the bikes as they lift it.
On the other hand, at the pilot level, there is the Women category. On the subject of physical conditions, are girls easier on these disciplines?
I could not tell you. For the jumps you must have an inhuman force! I do not think the conditions for the off-road are less than Speed. Even so, it is true that there are many more girls here, but maybe it is because in Speed everything is much more expensive.
Do you see yourself on the bike?
I have to confess, I am not able to ride. Incredible, but true! Although I want to start with Motocross. Looks like lots of fun!