Suzuki helps Billee Fuller take a fast track to the top of her sport
There's been so much to motivate Taupiri's Billee Fuller that it's not hard to see why she's become such a motivational force in her own right.
Looking into her background, it was a no-brainer that she'd one day find herself behind bars... Handlebars that is.
The just-turned 18-year-old from Taupiri comes from solid motorcycling pedigree, with her father Mark Fuller a well-respected figure on the cross-country and motocross scene in New Zealand, while her elder brother, Zak Fuller, is a rider who has very quickly developed from top-grade motocross rider to outstanding road-racer with championship potential after just a couple of short seasons on tarmac.
A product of Suzuki's inspirational GIXXER Cup competition, where he first learned the fine art of racing on the tar seal, Zak Fuller went on to become outright Formula Two (600cc) class winner around Whanganui's Cemetery Circuit public street circuit on Boxing Day in 2020 and he the progressed to finish third overall on debut in the Supersport 600 class in the New Zealand Superbike Championships in March 2021.
It is really not too hard to see then how accomplished motocross rider Billee was drawn into the heady, high-adrenaline, faster and greater horsepower world of road-racing and it is a motorcycling code she has quickly demonstrated an amazing aptitude for.
Billee Fuller says she was also influenced and inspired by the likes of talented female Kiwi international Avalon Biddle, the now Rangiora-based former Orewa woman who won the FIM European Women’s Cup overall in 2015 and again in 2016 and then, racing against the male elite, she was also New Zealand Supersport 600 class champion in 2019.
Like Biddle, Fuller has not been backward in going forwards, taking on the men and boys in a sporting environment that is typically dominated by the males.
Despite the obviously daunting task ahead of her and other females venturing into the sport for the first time, huge support from within the bike community, not least of all from the governing body here, Motorcycling New Zealand, and also the MNZ Women's Commission, means the journey ahead might not be so scary as it first appears.
"I started on dirt bikes just for fun, with my brother and my dad, and then my brother started on road bikes and I wanted to give it a go too. I always want to beat my brother and ended up doing really well at road racing.
"I've done two seasons of road-racing now. I wasn't very good in my first season because I didn't have much experience but my second season (in 2020, which was also her first full season after just dabbling in the sport in 2019) was really good. I had more confidence in 2020, plus believing in my tyres and that they were going to stick to the ground and not slide out from under me," she laughed.
"I have had a couple of crashes when I first started road-racing and that knocked my confidence a bit. But once I started going faster and improved, it all worked out.
"I'd advise other young women to give this a go. It's so much fun. Everyone involved in road-racing is so lovely and very supportive and encouraging.
"MNZ has encouraged me a lot and my brother has coached me a lot too."
Fuller won the GIXXER 150 class title in the pandemic-shortened 2021 New Zealand Superbike Championships ... not bad for a woman only part way into her third season and racing against the rising stars, male and female, of the sport.
As for the future and challenges ahead, Billee Fuller is keen to take any opportunity that arises.
"I want to do really well here in New Zealand and eventually get on a 600cc bike, but my short-term goal is to just be among the top five in the 300cc class.
"I hope I can one day be as good as Avalon Biddle and I've talked a lot with her. I was actually quite nervous talking to her at first, but she's so lovely and gave me some amazing tips. We're both quite short and she was giving me help with how to deal with moving my body around on the bike."
Fuller has just finished her year 13 at Hamilton Girls' High School and has moved into full employment in the farming industry, working on a beef and sheep farm.
As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic eases up, there's no doubt we'll learn more about this bright, ambitious and talented young woman, perhaps another Kiwi girl who, like Biddle before her, will take on the elite of the motorcycling world and challenge them.
First created by Suzuki New Zealand in December 2017 with the aim of providing a starting place and a pathway towards "growing future champions", the GIXXER Cup class was immediately slotted into the Suzuki International Series programme and this "nursery ground" for fledgling talent proved to be a runaway success.
It was later added into the New Zealand Superbike Championships and was perhaps the most competitive and fiercely-fought of all the bike classes in that series, with riders racing closely, handlebar-to-handlebar through every corner and down every straight.
In 2020 the GIXXER Cup series celebrated its fourth season within the Suzuki International Series and became well and truly established as the perfect competition for road-racing novices.
Many of the young men and women who had their first taste of motorcycle road-racing with the inaugural GIXXER Cup contest in 2017 are now out on the track and racing in some of the bigger bike classes, proving the merit of Suzuki's pioneering and innovative small-bike competition.
In addition to Fuller, some of the other rising star female racers who have immersed themselves in GIXXER Cup racing over the past few seasons include Madi Berry, Eve Scrivener, Angela Charlett, Olivia Goddard, Georgia Elvin, Sarah Humphrey, Emma Dowman, Lucy Dowman, Turiana Banks, Mihi Banks and Shari Johnson, to name a few, and no doubt many more will follow in their wheel tracks in the years to come.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com - article supplied by Suzuki NZ