Sabine Holbrook and the racing bug. While everyone else is discussing how women are able to juggle both children and a career, Sabine Holbrook has long since found a way of combining both family and career as well as finding time for her passion.
The motorcyclist with the figure of a model is reaching superwoman status. Not even her major crash at Hungaroring can stop her. Right on time for the beginning of the season, she’s back on the grid on her BMW Double-R.
No one expected Sabine Holbrook to be back on the grid on her BMW S 1000 RR for the FIM Alpe Adria Road Racing European Championship season opener at Slovakia Ring. After her accident at Hungaroring last August, her racing career seemed to have reached the end of the road. Her right hand got caught under the motorcycle and was dragged across the asphalt.
The 36-year-old – who started motorcycling at the age of 29 – lost her little finger completely as well as most of her ring finger. “I thought that I would never be able to ride a motorcycle again,” said Holbrook, whose greatest concern was having to give up the thing she never wanted to do without: the feeling of absolute freedom at maximum speed on the race circuit.
Fighting to get back on the racetrack.
One could say that she had fortune in her misfortune. During the emergency operation in Hungary, she was treated by a competent hand specialist who was able to save what was left of her fingers. Back in Switzerland, she did everything she could to avoid an amputation. After some initial doubt, a surgeon agreed to take on her case and managed to reconstruct both of her fingers in four operations.
Her doctor will present his prototypes at the largest hand surgery conference in London at a later date. “My surgeon made the impossible, possible. I am eternally grateful to him,” said Holbrook, choked with emotion and brushing her long blonde hair out of her face. “I will never regain full strength in my hand. But it is truly unbelievable how the body is able to heal itself.”
Technology makes up for strength.
As the feeling in her hand returned, so did the hope of soon being able to ride her Double-R again. By January, it was time: a test in Spain which wasn’t easy. “I can only use my index and middle finger for braking. Gaining the strength it requires to handle a superbike is difficult. An average woman has a grip strength of 35 kilograms, I’m at around 14 now.” She has to compensate for the strength she is lacking by staying in peak condition and making technological changes.
She has tried various combinations of levers, disks and pads. And quite successfully: the test results from Valencia show that Holbrook is faster than she ever has been. In order to further improve her driving skills, she has secured the assistance of a riding coach: Roland Resch, last year’s Alpe Adria Superbike Champion. “Roland ended his career after his victory. At 30! That’s when I was just getting started,” said Holbrook with a laugh.
Really wanting it.
It’s certain now: Sabine Holbrook will tackle the entire Alpe Adria Cupon her Double-R. She is also planning to participate in several races in the classic motorcycling scene, including the famous classic race on the Isle of Man. One of her biggest dreams is competing in the Endurance World Championship. “There is nothing better or worse than that. I am an absolute team player and I miss the combination of being able to achieve something together while still fighting your own battle.” She will also be riding at the and Glemseck 101.
Toward the end of the season, she will be a guest starter in the Spanish Championship. “Next year I would like to compete the whole season in Spain. But it all depends on finances.” Holbrook did not buy a spot on a team. Together with her life partner, she runs the team sabine3racing.
He takes care of the technical and financial matters and she takes care of marketing, sponsorships and PR. “I can no longer imagine a life without racing,” she says. Especially now, when her racing career is taking off.
An unwelcome late start.
Although Holbrook had already begun dreaming of racing motorcycles in her youth, she could never find the right moment to live out her passion. “Wouldn’t you rather go dancing, dear?” asked her worried mother. After that came studying, a career and two children of her own. Her dream of motorcycle racing was put on ice. It wasn’t until she turned 29 that the now 36-year-old finally got her motorcycle license. “Because of my disposition, my riding instructor advised me to do a driver safety course at the Hockenheimring racing circuit,” Holbrook recalled. “In the afternoon, we were allowed to do a lap around the racetrack and I caught the racing bug in no time flat.”
Addicted to adrenaline.
She first appeared on the grid about three months later. A year after that, she celebrated her first victory. In 2014, she ended the season in the top ten of the supersport class in the Alpe Adria Cups – from a pool of 40 starters. Six years after her very first motorcycle ride, she had already risen to the highest possible superbike class. Racing from zero to one hundred. “I have always been quite ambitious and I am in my element on the racetrack. The adrenaline kick, the incredible speed and the precision necessary to keep the motorcycle racing lap after lap around the track – it fascinates me. Nothing compares to it. I need it. Mentally and physically.”
Sabine Holbrook fears nothing on the racetrack. She even has positive memories of the day of her terrible accident at Hungaroring. It was on that same day that she set the lap record. “I am not bitter about what happened. It wasn’t the worst day, but the best day of my life. Until the accident, everything was going wonderfully. For the first time, I felt like I was really riding a superbike.” Her passion for racing may not cause her any fear, but it does cause her some concern. Concern that the financial pressure might get too high.
And that she will no longer be able to fulfil expectations. As there is no separate class for women, her performance is often difficult to interpret for patrons and sponsors. “I am one of the top five racing drivers in the world but I still have to explain my achievements,” she said. Holbrook works unremittingly on her fitness level so she can not only keep up with her male competitors, but also defeat them. In between racing and training, she offers driver safety training courses, motorcycle tours and makes appearances as a keynote speaker.