Chinese New Year special series:
Spirits of Young Talents Motivate You to Go Further
The Parallel Lines in Life – Exclusive Interview with Kim Chen
The Pianist on Two Wheels – Exclusive Interview with Rui Jia
© All photos, including featured cover, provided by Olivia Jia
We continue with the Year of the Tiger Chinese New Year special series. Today we give you the story of Qianying Zhang, Kawasaki Racing Team China rider.
As a small child, it seemed almost impossible that one-day Qianying Zhang’s life would be revolving around racing on a motorcycle. A motorcycle was something she slightly feared back then as she had a collision with a car on the road when riding a motorcycle with others. But at 18 years of age, when she saw friends practicing, something hit her inside and she decided to try it herself. “All my friends riding were guys, I was wondering why there were no girls on the bike. So I decided to try. I was really curious about the sport.”
After trying a motorcycle for the first time, Qianying started riding on the road. Within a year, she went through many different models, and finally ended up on the racing circuit. “At first, it wasn’t about racing, I was just riding to go hanging out with friends. I had a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 636cc, a Ducati 848, a BMW S1000RR, a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 599cc. Every bike was with me for just 2 to 3 months. I was going through them for fun. Then one day a friend asked me whether I’d like to try it out on the circuit. So I went.”
The first circuit Qianying went to was in Chengdu, Sichuan Province (about 500km from her hometown Chongqing), which now has been demolished and turned to something else. Riding on a circuit gave Qianying a completely new sensation, and naturally, she signed up for racing events to get more serious about the sport. “It was completely different from riding on the street. I got way more interested in it. After about 6 months, I signed up for my first race in Chengdu. In my first race, I was racing with 30 other riders, and I was the only female rider. At the end of the race, I was so exhausted I was barely hanging on to the bike. I finished 2nd in my class. I was screaming inside my helmet, I felt like my tears would run down. It was such an exciting and exhilarating moment, I never thought I’d experience something like that. ”
Unlike the circuit that ignited the spark for racing in Qianying’s heart, her passion for racing sure lived on. As she participated in more events in Chengdu, soon it was time to step onto the national stage. “A more experienced rider suggested that I go to some national racing events to see the real competition. They helped me sign up for a Honda CB190R one-make race. There are so many strong riders at the national level. It’s great to learn from them.”
Her performance on the national stage drew the attention of Kawasaki Racing Team in China. In 2018, Qianying got the dream call to go testing in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province. “Kawasaki Racing Team was my favorite team in China. I never thought they’d be interested in me. When they called me and asked whether I’d be interested to go testing in Zhuhai, I was so thrilled. They were pretty happy with my testing, and they needed a female rider, so they asked me whether I’d like to join the team. Of course, I said yes. I felt so lucky. I’m still very grateful that they found me.”
In her first few years with the team, Qianying was still living in Chongqing, and flying in to Zhuhai or other circuits whenever there was a race. A few months ago, Qianying moved to Zhuhai to spend more time training and riding. She now also has the opportunity to catch up on some of the basic skills she neglected at the beginning. In her training, of course, there would be some ups and downs, but Qianying always tries to pull through the difficult times. “I feel like I wasted some time in the past few years, not having a good plan for training and riding. Now I want to get to proper training with the team so I moved to Zhuhai. I’m still adjusting. I would always get really pumped when first getting out on track. But sometimes I would feel like I’m not improving. That’s when I may get upset. I always try to adjust, getting used to the better or worse days. You can’t always be the fastest in every session.”
Your mindset in a race is different from when you are training. You race for the win, you go all in. It’s a real motivation. But even if I get a DNF, as long as I was pushing to get a better result when I crashed out, it would still be an impressive race.
The ups and downs can be in training, and they can be in the races too. For Qianying, sometimes a difficult race can also be a great opportunity to learn. “I remember I was fighting for the podium in ZIC, four bikes tangled together. Then behind me there was another bike from another class, he made a mistake and went wide, he also took me out so I dropped to the last. But I didn’t want to just give up. I was still overtaking people to get back to that podium spot. However, in the penultimate lap, I crashed. I was too eager to get to the front. It was a shame, but I really fought for it.”
One small thing Qianying misses now in Zhuhai is her gear for motocross. She used to ride motocross for training, and to ‘get in a different mood’. But now in Zhuhai, she hasn’t figured out where she can do that. “When I was living in Chongqing, sometimes when I want to ride a bike but couldn’t go to a race, I’d go ride motocross with my friends. It helps with my control of the bike, and it’s also a different kind of fun! Now I don’t have a motocross bike with me here in Zhuhai, and I don’t have the gear either. I’d like to practice again if I get the opportunity!”
In the end, we asked Qianying to give some advice for people who are interested in motorcycling, and here is what she said. “I really encourage people to try it during track days. People think motorcycling is dangerous, but at least at the circuit, it’s much safer than on the street. You get proper protection and proper training.”
In Year of the Tiger, we wish Qianying all the best in her training and racing!
On Feb. 15th, which is the Lantern Festival, we wrap up this year’s Chinese New Year sepcial series with the story of Jackie Hope Tam, manager and rider of HRT – Happy Racing Team.