Maria Costello at the Barry Sheene Classic2


Maria Costello  joined women from New Zealand and Australia on track at Hampton Downs in a celebration of women in motorcycling at the Barry Sheene Motorcycle Classic.


The Northamptonshire racer returned to the southern hemisphere after a successful Australian debut in the first leg of the Trans-Tasman Trophy at the Barry Sheene Festival at Eastern Creek in March.

Costello again competed on a Honda VFR400, provided by Australian Rob Francis, and for the first time on a McIntosh Manx Norton owned by New Zealander Bruce Verdon, of TT Industries.

Costello claimed 7th and 8th places on the right-foot gear change Norton before switching to the Honda 400, which has left-foot gear change, to claim 4th and 5th places.


Sunday saw her take further 5th and 4th places on the VFR400, while she took 6th place on the Norton from the back for the grid. The results combined to place her 4th overall in the Factory 500 class (Norton) and 3rd overall in the pre-’89 Formula 3 class (Honda 400).

“It’s not just a dream come true to race here, this meeting is close to my heart because we are celebrating women’s involvement in our sport,” said Costello.

“A wonderful group of current and former female competitors were brought together to race classic machinery, some for the first time, against the guys. I feel very honoured to have been the special guest.’


The men faced tough competition from all the women racing at the event and Avalon Biddle, making her classic bike debut, beat a full grid of men to claim first place on the Ginger Molloy Bultaco TSS 250. Other successes came from Sophie Lovett on the Kevin Grant Ducati 851 and Leanne Nelson on her own Honda RS125.

Scout Fletcher, New Zealand’s youngest street motorcycle racer, wasn’t able to show her full potential when mechanical problems held her back on both a Honda RS125 and Bimota TZ400.

Fifteen-year-old Amy Vaculik-Hamilton took to the track as the youngest female rider at the event, while 17-year-old Mihi Banks enjoyed her debut on classic machinery, competing on both 250 and 350 Jawas. Brigit Woodcock raced an Aermacchi 250, Philipa Beck was on a Benelli 250 and Triumph 350 and Debbie Bridge rode a Ducati TT2 600 replica.

Sarah Elliot was plagued with mechanical problems from her Yamaha Anderson XJ600 while Pro-Twin racer Nicki Smith raced classics for the first time and enjoyed some great battles on both a Moto Morini 500 and Yamaha XJ550.

Female sidecar racing was also celebrated, with Tracey Bryan taking the win in the John Anderson Trophy as passenger to her brother on a classic Triumph Trident and also winning the Lawrence Bros Trophy with Aaron Lovell on a modern LCR GSXR1100.

Other sidecar passengers included Wendy Ploeg on a Honda CBR1000, Tina McKeown on a BMW 90s and Aida Gulbrasen on a Motobuilt 85 Suzuki 1073cc.

The event also include a parade for former racer Karel Pavich, the first woman to win a road race title in NZ in 2006 and Janet Wilson, the first woman to win a NZ Classic Motorcycle Racing Register title.

The event concluded with a trophy presentation and, as an honorary Aussie, Costello presented the trophies and was awarded the Trans-Tasman Trophy as a member of the winning Australian team.

An invitation to race the following weekend at the Manfeild Spring Classic extended Maria’s New Zealand racing adventure and gave her another opportunity to race the Bruce Verdon – TT industries, McIntosh Manx Norton, this time at the southern end of the North Island at Manfeild Park Raceway.

Maria’s ability to learn the track helped her take third place in class in each of the Factory 500 championship races on the Norton and she improved her lap times by more than 9 seconds over the two days claiming a rewarding 2nd place in the Sunday scratch race.

‘I’ve felt so welcome here in NZ and I’ve had the most awesome time racing Bruce Verdon’s Manx Norton and Rob Francis’ VFR400, massive thanks to them both for two bikes that never missed a beat. Huge thanks also go to everyone who helped make this dream come true, especially Peter Lodge, Peter MacMillan, Dave Kenah, Dave & Phil Morely, Tracey & Steve Bryan, the ACU, the McIntosh family and the Gourlay family.’

For further details on Maria’s racing and other activities, please visit her website:

Maria Costello at the Barry Sheene Classic1

From right to left: Tracey Bryan, Mihi Banks, Scout Fletcher, Phillipa Beck, Nicki Smith, Sarah Elliot, Sophie Lovett, Avalon Biddle, Maria Costello MBE, Leanne Nelson (behind Maria), Julie Loveridge, Amy Vaculik-Hamilton & Tina McKeown. By Doug Cornes Photography.

Tony Carter

Does this get you revved up? Tell us why...

Bikes for sale

Subscribe to MoreBikes Newspaper

Get MoreBikes delivered through your letterbox every month. 12 issues for £15. Click here for more information.

Get Updates

Enter your e-mail address below and you will receive biking news straight into your inbox...

You can unsubscribe at any time.