Many 10-year-old girls write letters to themselves as adults. Few say that when they are older they will be the team manager of Italian motorcycle rider Valentino Rossi.
Almost 20 years later, mechanical engineer Emilie Weaving is still chasing her dream, fingers tightly wrapped around the throttle. Her journey has taken her on unexpected roads and through the tight corners of life.
Emilie grew up in a motorsport family. His grandfather raced grand prix motorcycles and has a corner named after him on the iconic Isle of Man circuit. His mother drove a Ducati Monster and introduced his father to the lifestyle. At 17, Emilie was on her own motorbike. She reportedly bought a scooter the year before, but her parents won a tough round of negotiations. There was always MotoGP (and its most famous champion, Rossi) on TV, and the garage at their Shropshire home was always full of bikes.
At school, Emilie is drawn to math and science. And engineering. She loved to build catapults and castles and unleash each other. In no time she had a Yamaha FZR400, friends to ride with and a part-time job at a Ducati dealership. She learned her trade there and even visited the famous Ducati factory in Italy. When the store was quiet, she and the others dismantled the motorbikes for fun.
But the dream of getting closer to the racetrack roared in the background, louder and louder. Eventually, Emilie sat down to write dozens of emails to any British superbike team she could reach, asking them to let her join the crew.
She was passionate but lacked experience. Five teams responded. We decided to give him a chance. The team, CN Racing, was led by a woman who loved Emilie’s daring. She invited her to a team event this weekend. But there was a problem. Emilie was posted to the Ducati dealership and her boss refused to give her time off. The notice was too short. If she wanted to go, he said, she would have to quit.
“So I slept on it and handed over my review the next day,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘Fuck you, I’m going to go while I can.’ I knew what I wanted to do. I knew it was the right thing.
The bet is won. Emilie has spent four blissful years in the racing paddocks of the British Superbike Championship, working on 600cc supersport and 1000cc superstock motorcycles (which are more suitable for the road and are allowed with fewer race modifications). As the motorcycles cranked up to 150 or 200 mph, she helped change tires, tune engines, and fix those that fell in an accident. She met her heroes, traveled, and turned a part-time passion into a full-time job. She also met a JCB engineer who told her about an apprenticeship program her company was running.
It was time to leave the circuit and Emilie applied for the apprenticeship. There were only a handful of positions and they had all been filled. But, incredibly, an apprentice pulled out at the last minute and Emilie intervened. For six years she studied and worked at JCB, developing and testing diesel engines.
It was at JCB that she became a Stem ambassador. With the right support, she became comfortable talking to strangers, often young people, about engineering. She realized how little awareness there was of the wide and fascinating spectrum of jobs in the field.
“You Google ‘engineering’ and you get a picture of a white guy with a hard hat,” she explains. “But engineering is so inclusive and so rewarding. We have the opportunity to shape the future. To find solutions to the world’s biggest problems. And to change stereotypes along the way.
This year, Emilie joined Ruroc, a “super ambitious” company that manufactures motorcycle helmets. His work ranges from safety testing of helmets (dropping them onto steel anvils or pulling them with hooks) to developing an internal wind tunnel for more sophisticated aerodynamic, thermal and acoustic testing. She once again enjoys being close to motorcycles – doing “what makes you tick” – and the freedom to tinker and create.
Emilie runs The blog of women engineers, rides two motorcycles (a 1990’s FZR400 is his’ special bike ‘while the other, a Suzuki GS500, is the reliable shuttle) and attends as many concerts as Covid-19 allows (think Guns N’ Roses , Alter Bridge, Metallica). She also plays baseball and goes outside as often as she can.
And Emilie still has the letter she wrote when she was 10 years old.
“I’m never going to settle down unless I want to work as an engineer in a MotoGP paddock,” she said, jokingly noting that Valentino Rossi still runs a racing team.
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