When Baidyn Matthews took off on her first speedway race in regional Western Australia, things didn’t quite go to plan.
- Baidyn Matthews, 10, is pushing for more girls to join speedway
- Females make up just 13 per cent of adult competitive licence holders, but 41 per cent of those at junior levels
- A former competitor says attitudes towards women in the sport have improved drastically since the 1980s
“I didn’t have enough power so I stopped in the middle of the track,” she said.
“I was like, ‘What’s going on? Is my car broken?'”
The 10-year-old needed help just to keep the car moving.
But four months and 15 races later, Baidyn has discovered her passion.
The Northam girl now travels all over the state competing in junior speedway events, visiting race tracks across a radius of 1,500km.
“I’ve been to Ellenbrook, Moora, Mount Barker, Newman, Kwinana, Kellerberrin and Narrogin,” she said.
“I like racing in different places and trying new stuff.”
She is clocking speeds as fast as 65kph in her Daihatsu Charade — and wants more girls to give the sport a go.
“It’s my favourite thing to do. It’s what I like to do most,” she said.
“Some people say it’s just a boys’ sport, but different genders can do whatever they want. Girls can do the same things that boys can.”
While Baidyn has been welcomed by her peers since she joined the sport in September, it has not always been a safe space for women.
Former junior racer and speedway organiser Louise Kingston was first introduced in the early 1980s.
She turned out to be a natural.
“My first boyfriend took me to speedway and I just absolutely loved it,” she said.
“I had the opportunity to race, no women were racing at that stage … I thought it was a great opportunity to show other women that it can be done.
“I raced in four meetings and won a few races which was awesome.”
Ms Kingston remembered her male competitors not taking too kindly to her success.
“The boys used to do things like sandwich me, run up the back of me, slam on the breaks in front of me and push me into the fence,” she said.
“Some very disparaging comments in the pits about where I actually should be rather than racing, to which I answered one day, ‘Didn’t I just beat you?’
“That really stopped them in their tracks. I think I gained a lot of respect from that comment.”
Ms Kingston has since held organisational roles in the sport and says there has been a significant jump in female participation.
Her voice breaks as she describes how things have changed since her first race in the 1980s.
“It’s increased at least tenfold … over the years it was exciting to watch those women come forward,” she said.
“Why should it be any different for a girl than it is for a boy? I’ve never understood that.”
Junior girls leading charge
Figures provided by Speedway Australia showed of the nearly 5,000 competitors who currently hold a racing licence, just 13 per cent were female.
But at the junior level it was a different story, with girls making up 41 per cent of licensed competitors.
Ms Kingston, like Baidyn, still wants more girls to hit the track.
“A lot of girls who started after me said if I hadn’t done it they wouldn’t have started themselves,” she said.