By HOWARD SENZELL / Towns Correspondent
Shelina Moreda lives with her family on a dairy farm in Petaluma and attended a one-room elementary school. At 27, she is on the world stage as one of only three professional women competing on the American Motorcycle Association SuperSport circuit, the cycling equivalent of the NASCAR circuit.
While Moreda isn’t yet as famous as stock car darling Danica Patrick, she may just be the face of the AMA in a few years.
Early this month, she returned to Sonoma County to compete in the West Coast Moto Jam at Infineon Raceway, where aboard a bike for a new sponsor, she started in back of the pack on Saturday and made a steady gain to finish 30th. The next afternoon, she again made a strong late run to wind up 25th among 47 riders.
Before taking off for a video shoot in Los Angeles and then onto Texas where she’ll take part in an instructional clinic, she discussed her remarkable life-turn.
You really attended a one-room school?
Yes, it was called Laguna and is on the same road as my grandfather’s Moreda Valley Dairies, Chileno Valley Road. In fact, my parents changed a couple of letters and named me after the road.
I went to Laguna my first two or three years and from there I went to Two Rock School, then Petaluma Junior High and High School.
You turned pro in 2009. What are some of your memorable moments?
I’ve ridden the most famous speedways and courses in the world. I was the first woman to ride a motorcycle at the Indianapolis Speedway, and I also rode Le Mans (France). That’s where the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race will be held next month.
A month ago, you raced at Daytona Speedway. How did you do?
Great. I qualified No. 44 and finished 21st, so I passed a lot of riders. Most of ’em were guys, and they don’t like to be passed by a girl.
Have you encountered gender bias?
You better believe it. Motorcycle racing is a man’s world. I guess it’s partly because the women are so outnumbered. I’ve had to earn respect, and I did that by showing I’m serious about becoming the best rider on the circuit. I put my whole heart into training and not showing fear during races.
Other riders will test you, riding close and things like that. I never show weakness. I’m not doing this to prove a point, I’m here to succeed. As my times have improved, I think I’ve been accepted.
Most girls don’t aspire to be motorcycle racers. How did you get interested?
My dad (Don Jr.) raced cars and dirt bikes, and so did my grandfather (Don Sr.). I tagged along with him growing up and before I knew it, I was hooked. We used to go to Petaluma Speedway a lot, and my dad still races bikes on the District 36 circuit.
How did your mother react when you decided to make it your vocation?
She always wanted me to go into ballet, but now she’s all right with my decision. My father wasn’t for it, either. I’m a tomboy on the track, but I also enjoy being feminine. I wear dresses when I go out and like to look nice.
Your family has lived on a dairy farm all your life. Did you and your brother and sister have chores?
We sure did. My brother Travis, my sister Stephanie and I fed the calves every morning before school, and then we did other work around the farm on weekends and in the summer. That work ethic has helped me in my AMA career.
My parents are hard workers. They’re fifth-generation dairy farmers. They started with 26cows and now have two ranches, one with 250 milking cows that produce organic milk and one conventional dairy with 1,500 cows.
You recently signed with ESP Racing, one of the most successful teams on the AMA circuit. What will this mean to your career?
It’s huge. Evan Steele, the man behind ESP, has done very well and employs several of the top riders on the circuit. I just got the bike (Yamaha YZF-R6) a day before Infineon qualifying.
I wasn’t familiar with it and that’s why my qualifying times put me at the back of the pack. It ran great in the races, and we’re only going to do better from here out.
What’s on tap the remainder of 2012?
I’m going to ride Indianapolis again, this time on a Harley. I’m also entered in races in Italy and France. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that this is really happening.