Jenny Tinmouth is making me feel utterly inadequate. We’re sitting at the top of Honda’s crazy toy-box stand at FoS, chatting about how, aged 36 (same age as me, damn it), she has become the first female rider in British Superbikes (BSB) and is the current female lap holder of the Isle of Man TT. These are the headline achievements, but there’s far, far more. I think about telling her about my limited riding experience on a Harley Sportster and Kawasaki ER-6f, but decide she’ll be too polite to tell me to shut up, so stay focussed on the main event.
First things first: what’s it like to race in BSB? This year is Jenny’s fourth season in the championship but her first with Honda Racing. ‘It’s ace,’ she tells me gleefully. ‘I’ve always wanted to do it. I used to watch from the side of the track. It’s the ultimate.’
Jenny completed her first BSB season in 2010 as a privateer after she left the team she began in due to a string of mechanical failures with the bike. She then ran her own CBR600 Supersport. That must have been tough, I remark, totally in awe of this softly spoken blonde by now. ‘Yeah, you’re responsible for the logistics, packing the truck, setting up the garage, taking it all down and going to work Monday morning (she works as a bike mechanic).’ She even painted her bike herself. Still, nothing seems to faze her.
In 2011 she began running her own British Superbike Race Team – Two Wheel Racing – running a Honda under the name of her main sponsors Hardinge and Sorrymate.com, making her the first ever female British Superbike Team owner.
How has the world of BSB reacted to a woman in its midst, I wonder. ‘BSB is really friendly,’ she says. ‘You talk to each other. It’s competitive, but in a jokey kind of way. Everyone looks out for each other. They definitely don’t treat me any differently on the track.’
And what of the bonkers Isle of Man TT race, where she isn’t the only female rider (Maria Costello races there, and there are more women on the way up) but does hold the lap record. She broke the record during her first ever TT in 2009, for which she got a Guinness World Record, she then broke it during her second TT in 2010 taking the record to an average lap speed of 119.945mph, and pocketing another Guinness World Record in the process.
The TT is a mad road course, set on closed roads full of inconvenient things like lamp-posts, kerbs, postboxes and spectators. How does she manage the course? ‘Knowing exactly where you’re going is the secret to going fast,’ she says. ‘You’ve got to have it in your mind’s eye. Pretty much every corner is blind.’ Rather her than us.
This year has been Jenny’s first visit to Goodwood; I grabbed her between her two hillclimbs on her British Superbike-specification CBR1000RR Fireblade. What does she make of it? ‘It’s brilliant,’ she smiles. Then she’s off to get back on the bike for the second batch up the hill. What a woman.