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Interview with Carolynn Sells

Carolynn SellsCarolynn was 12 years old when she started riding bikes.

Just over two decades later she became the first (and, to date, only) woman to win a solo Motorcycle race on the Internationally acclaimed Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) Mountain Course.

Carolynn made history in 2009 with her win – twenty years after the first woman was ever allowed to race.

She also landing herself a Guinness world record into the bargain.


My dad was my inspiration

He started racing when I was five years old and we would travel all around the UK in our old transit van going to race meetings. We would play with our other racing friends and then get a ‘backie’ on our dad’s race bikes afterwards. When I was 12, Dad entered his first Manx Grand Prix and that was my first taste of the Isle of Man event.

I’ve never believed that there is anything that I cannot do

I’ve always been a ‘tackle it head on‘ type of person. I had very little fear growing up. Maybe I was a little too outgoing, but that approach has got me quite far in life!

Women can do anything they set out to do

It is so important that we celebrate our achievements. Especially when you are the first person to do something. There’s a big difference between celebrating and gloating – don’t let fear of doing the latter make you afraid to be proud of the things you achieve. Many of the TT organisers and helpers are women. There are fewer female competitors, but hopefully those of us who have done it or are still doing it, can inspire others to have a go. It is important to show people that WOMEN CAN DO ANYTHING THEY PUT THEIR MINDS TO.

Success is a formula (so keep at it)

There are usually several people in the race who are capable of winning but TT is about more than capability. You need strength, perseverance, determination, respect for the circuit…and to be a little bit brave. I think we’re born with these traits but it helps to get road racing experience before you tackle the TT Course. It is also about endurance, timing and a big chunk of luck! You are looking to cover 150 miles in about an hour and 20 minutes and you need everything to fall into place. For a few years, I was there or thereabouts speed-wise but crashed out of 3rd place in 2008, so I have learned only too well how much can go wrong when racing a motorcycle. Everything has to line up.

My biggest crash was also my biggest gift

It certainly earned me a ride in a helicopter to hospital. I knew afterwards exactly why it happened: I had been in the wrong state of mind. In some ways, luckily,  I didn’t remember anything about the actual accident, due to a serious bang on the head. And the fact I couldn’t remember it actually made it an easier accident to get over than some of the others!

Stay focused on your goal when the pressure is on

The year that I actually won, had been a hard one – I had had to work to stay positive due to a difficult incident and pressure from a sponsor. But I just kept focusing on the goal.

I didn’t allow anything to get to me. I spent a lot of time working on the bike – and then getting away from everything when I needed to. I feel in some ways, that all the stars aligned for me that week; I had an unnerving and unwavering ability to rise above everything and stay focused. More so than usual. The crowd were also the most amazing source of support. Everyone was cheering me on and going mad when I passed by on the last lap. It was a fantastic feeling seeing everyone so excited!

And to all the young TT pioneers out there?

Get out there and reach for your dreams…anything is possible if we put our minds to it.

Find out More at www.iomtt.com

Follow Carolynn on Twitter at @carolynnsells

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