Hannah revving up for success on Australian road racing circuit

Just over 9000 miles away, in Western Australia, a former Borders woman is making it big in the world of motorcycling and road racing.

Hannah in high-speed action (picture by Russell Colvin)
Hannah in high-speed action (picture by Russell Colvin)

Hannah Stewart is still only 16 but, since arriving Down Under nine years ago, she has made a big impression in motocross and hopes to hit the front rank in road racing and superbiking.

Melrose-born Hannah was a pupil at Newtown St Boswells Primary School until the family emigrated in 2011.

Mum Tabatha Jones explained: “One of the main reasons I chose to bring my children here was for a better outdoor life without the worry of rain!”

Hannah Stewart (picture by Andrew Gosling)

They live in the small suburb of Two Rocks, around 40 miles north of Perth.

Just months after clambering on board a two-wheeler bike for the first time, at the end of 2017, Hannah found herself sitting in second place in the Western Australian Girls’ Championship, which was a remarkable accomplishment.

Having ridden quads around the countryside and the beaches near home, she decided she’d like to try riding a two-wheeler and joined a local club.

She achieved a second-paced podium finish in the Western Australia state round and continued to perform well in the main tournament – which indicated her abundance of talent and skill.

Hannah was recently asked in an interview about her first bike, how old she was, and when/where she started road racing.

“I started road racing in July 2019. I was 15. I just jumped on a 150 in July last year. Then, in December, on to a Yamaha 300,” she said. “My first round was at Barbagallo and my first time at Philip Island was for the first round of the ASBK in February.”

The ‘ASBK’ is the mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship, presented by Motul.

Hannah is taking part in the YMI Supersport 300 class, although the event is in suspended animation at present because of the global Covid-19 crisis.

She also has committed support from her stepdad and trainer Craig Heard.

He is from Selkirk but has lived Down Under for 14 years and his passion for MX helps Hannah achieve brilliant results, said Tabatha.

“My parents, Glynn and Anne Jones, are still in Galashiels,” she added. “They love to hear about Hannah and her antics over here!”

Hannah boxes and does cardio training, as well as cycling to keep her fit.

“She still also rides motocross but road racing is definitely her passion,” continued Tabatha.

“She’s only been on a road bike a handful times and podiumed at the last WA state round in November.

“We hope that, once coronavirus is over, she will be able to compete again in October and, next season, do all the Australian championships.

“Then she hopes to get picked up by a team and go on to world superbikes in Europe in 2021.

“She has a true talent and already is an ambassador for Penrite Oil in Australia.

“She has some great sponsors on board who make it possible for her to compete at these events.”

Hannah also works full time as a trainee mechanic so, eventually, she can fix her own bikes.

“She really is a credit to her mum and is great sister to her brother Ryan,” said Tabatha.

“Her plan for the next few months is to continue with fitness off the track and train on her motocross bike until she can get back on the track.

“She plans on doing WA state rounds in road and dirt later in the year.”

Hannah was profiled recently in a three-part online interview, along with four other leading female Australian riders who are also taking part in the ASBK.

The ladies, said the article, were not only hoping for championship victory but also keen to inspire the next generation of female riders to get on track.

With more than 40 competitors, the YMI Supersport 300 class produces “spectacular bar to bar racing from the drop of the green flag to the chequered”.

After the first round of ASBK at Phillip Island, as part of the Superbike World Championship earlier this year, Hannah said: “I loved the track and, as I’m new to road racing, this was the only track I’ve been on. My first round at Philip Island was a great experience and it gave me an insight into what I have to do to run with the top riders.”

She added: “It’s good to see five women in ASBK. It shows there is room for us chicks showing the boys what we are made of.”

The sport was very male-dominated but Hannah added: “I’m happy to compete against the men. I interact with them, earn their respect and I don’t get easily offended.

“I like to be challenged when I ride with them. It makes you a better rider.”

Hannah was asked which advantages and disadvantages she reckoned she had.

“I’m new to the sport, so I have advantages in my racing skill and I haven’t picked up bad habits,” she said. “Disadvantages? I’d say only one, which is I haven’t had the chance to ride all the tracks over east.

“I’m the youngest female in the ASBK. This is an advantage, as I have youth on my side and I don’t lose my stamina. I train hard and ride motocross, which keeps me extra fit.

How would Hannah encourage young girls to join road racing?

“I’d tell young girls to have a go and get into the sport,” she said. “The thrill of road racing is the best.

“It keeps you focused and motivated and pushes you to be a better person. You also get to meet some great people in the same frame of mind.”