Just a decade ago, women in rally racing were a rare sight. Sure, we’ve all heard of Dakar legends like Laia Sanz or rally vets like Mirjam Pol and Patsy Quick, but mostly, the rally world is still largely dominated by men. Could this trend be finally changing? With impressive Dakar Rally debuts by Sara Garcia, Taye Perry, and Sandra Gomez followed by female classes doubling in size in most European races like Hellas Rally Raid and Dinaric Rally, it seems that the number of women in rally racing is indeed growing.
This time, we’re chatting with Ines Stanic, a young Croatian rider making a splash in the European rally scene – and dreaming of Dakar.
Meet the Dinaric Rally Star
Ines has been into sports since she was a kid, but it was motorcycles that won her heart. She began riding while still in high school, bought her first bike after graduating, and has stuck to two wheels ever since. Ines has done stunt riding, racing, adventure rides, rally races, and just about everything in between.
“Stunt riding was the first motorsport that won me over at the first jump and will always remain my first love. It was a great experience: together with another bike stuntman, we did more than a hundred stunt shows all over Europe for three seasons. I also performed as part of the Crazy Cars auto moto show, performed tricks independently on quads and trikes, in tandem on a motorcycle, and assisted in various tricks with cars and motorcycles becoming the first Croatian stunt girl”, Ines shares.
Along the way, she got into enduro riding – and soon, rally racing.
–Ines, how did you discover the rally racing world?
When I started riding enduro, I found it difficult to finance the sport while studying full-time and working part-time jobs, so for a while, I just rode in the mountains and forests for fun rather than racing. One of my riding buddies, Dex, who is a huge source of inspiration for me, once asked me if I’d be interested to compete in a rally race. “Croatia is organizing a rally race for the first time. Do you want to compete in the Dinaric Rally?”, he asked me. I immediately said yes, even though at the time, I had no idea what kind of a race is a rally and what sort of bike I would need for it. I knew it would be fun, though.
At the time, I had a two-stroke Beta 300, and a lot of people told me it wouldn’t survive a rally race. But guess what: I rode carefully so as not to overheat the engine, I’d go over the bike and maintain it after each stage, and I ended up finishing my first rally race – and winning first place in my class.
– What is it about rally racing that attracts you the most?
I would say it’s the people at the rallies that draw me the most. A rally race means a mass gathering of people with the same interests and love for motorcycles and the sport. Rallies are the place where I meet people who become very dear friends.
As for the racing, I love that you ride long distances through different terrain and beautiful scenery. Okay, so I don’t really have the time to enjoy the views and I’m fully focused on the race, but I enjoy the varied terrain and testing my limits. During a rally, you are left with nothing but yourself, the bike, your thoughts… and beautiful nature.
– How many rallies have you done so far?
I’ve done the Dinaric Rally 2020 (first place in my class). In 2021, I entered the Hispania Rally and raced for a few days but unfortunately, they canceled the event. In 2022, I took part in Bosnia Rally for Enduristan and entered the Dinaric Rally in the Malle Moto category to test my boundaries once again.
– How was Dinaric Rally 2022?
This year, I competed as an official Enduristan Croatia rider at the Dinaric Rally. To make it more fun, I entered the Malle Moto category as the only woman and won the 4th place. In total, we covered 1,800 km in 6 days with incredibly diverse terrain. I’d broken my elbow two months prior, so the entire rally race was painful (I needed lots of painkillers), but I got through it. I was racing on my partner’s 350cc bike, as my two-stroke Husky just wasn’t suitable for a rally.
Competing in the Malle Moto category was a tough but awesome experience, and I feel honored to have won 4th place. I think Malle Moto riders are a completely different breed: in this category, the rider isn’t allowed any outside help. You service your own bike, and only other Malle Moto riders can help you. You sleep in a tent, and all your tools, spares, and the like have to fit into an 80l box; most days, I would only go to sleep at around 2am and wake up again at 6am to line up at the start line.
Coming back to the bivouac after a full day of competition and thinking how you need to do ten things on your bike, then rushing to help your fellow riders (who are your competitors as well) so that they are ready for the race tomorrow is an indescribably rewarding experience. It may sound strange, but the happiness when you know at 2 in the morning that you are ready and can go to sleep is just fantastic.
In addition, I’d like to thank my amazing sponsors who continue to support me: Enduristan Croatia, Leatt, Moto Stop, and Cross Country ADV. Massive thanks to all of you!
– What are your rally plans for 2023?
I have many plans for 2023, and I’m hoping that at least some of them will come true. I hope to compete in some of the European rallies such as Olympia, Hellas, and Greece or Croatia rally, and go to one of the biggest rallies in the US. I would also love to do the entire cross-country championship, and there are a few other bigger projects in the pipeline.
My goal is to keep pushing my limits, and my dream is to be on the Rally Dakar start line someday.
– What’s your advice to women in rally racing who want to try a rally but feel hesitant?
Be yourself, set up your goals, and don’t be afraid to take risks and go out of your comfort zone.
Follow Ines and her racing on: Ines_Stunts