Twenty questions with...Maria Costello

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MOTORCYCLE racing ace and Spratton resident Maria Costello is best known for her prowess on the motorcycle track, having held the Guinness World Record for being the fastest woman to lap the Isle of Man TT course at an average speed of 114.73mph until 2009 and winning countless racing accolades.

But soon the “Queen of the Bikers,” who has also penned an autobiography, will be turning her hand to a new talent. Maria is set to join 16 couples going head-to-head on the dance floor in the Chronicle & Echo’s Strictly Chron Dancing competition later this year.

Run in association with the Chronicle & Echo, Step By Step Dance school,

BBC Radio Northampton and Barclaycard, the dance event will take place at the Royal & Derngate on November 26 and will raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support’s campaign to build a new haematology unit at Northampton General Hospital. For more information visit: www.royalandderngate.co.uk

1) What made you decide to take up dancing for Strictly Northampton?

I seem to say yes to almost anything. I would love to learn to dance properly. It sounded like fun and it’s for a great cause. How could I say no?

2) Have you done much dancing before?

My parents were great dancers, not professional just socially and my sister has a degree in performing arts. I’m probably the least likely to be seen as a dancer in my family, but I love dancing on a night out or at a party. I listen to music before I race and I’ve been known to do a bit of a wiggle to get myself relaxed before I set off.

3) What races have you taken part in recently?

The Isle of Man TT was a huge event for me recently and I came away having improved my personal best, finished in 39th place and I collected a TT bronze replica in the process. I’ve also been racing a Kawasaki ER650 Supertwin that I built myself (with the help of my boyfriend) in the Irish Supertwin Championship. I finished second on it at the Cookstown 100 and I had a ninth at Skerries. These are all road race events. My next big one, if I can find a mechanic (as my boyfriend is in the RAF and he’s been posted to Afghanistan) is the Ulster Grand Prix followed soon after by the Manx Grand Prix, where I will be racing for local bike collector Steve Wheatman.

4) Racing is often perceived as a male-dominated sport, so what drew you into it?

Speed. I love going fast and nothing beats going fast on a motorbike.

5) What advice would you give to young women who want to get into motorcycle racing?

Go for it. But make sure you know as much as possible, as this sport is fast, thrilling and exciting, but it’s also expensive and dangerous. Know what you’re getting in to and then if you still want to compete, go for it.

6) What was your worst crash?

I’ve had a few but I believe my worst to be in 2006 when I crashed during practice at the Manx Grand Prix. I broke my shoulder blade and the neck of my femur. It took a long time to recover, physically and mentally.

7) What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Follow your goal and never give up.

8) What does your perfect day involve?

Racing motorbikes.

9) What book did you last read?

I’d be lying if I said it was the Queen of Bikers (my autobiography), as I’ve never read the finished article (shameless plug). It was Russell Brand’s Booky Wook 2, closely followed by one of the Larsson trilogy. I’m about to start reading Mick Grant’s autobiography – Taking the Mick.

10) What meal do you most like to cook at home?

I’m never home. I’ve been promising my boyfriend a roast dinner since the start of the year. Italian is often on the menu and I do like to bake he odd cup cake . . . not that I’d ever eat any being an athlete [cough].

11) What has been your proudest moment?

Having my family see me being award an MBE by Prince Charles, for services to motorcycling, at Buckingham Palace.

12) What is your worst habit?

I don’t have any.

13) What are your pet hates?

Liars and false promises.

14) What do you drive?

I’ve a Ford Focus.

15) What is your most treasured possession?

My MBE and some scrap books of press cuttings about my racing that my dad kept.

16) What has been your best moment?

Becoming the fastest woman to lap the Isle of Man TT in 2004 and becoming the first female solo racer to stand on the podium at a race around the TT course in 2005.

17) What has been your worst moment?

Not having my dad around, otherwise my worst moments are all things I’ve overcome and in the huge scheme of things they are insignificant.

18) What makes you laugh?

My Dad used to make me cry with laughter . . . at the most stupid and silly things. I miss his daftness and chats about nothing in particular. I’m usually giggling or smiling . . . I’m easily amused.

19) Who has most inspired you in your life?

Many, many people have inspired me. My mum is my greatest inspiration.

20) What ambition would you most like to fulfil?

My ambition is to continue racing and riding motorcycles forever and to stay happy.