Brazil female rally drivers undeterred by naysayers

By Jon Martin Cullell

Petrolina, Brazil, Aug 17 (EFE).- Between rally racing and ballet, Moara Sacilotti went against her grandmother’s wishes and chose the former.

Between rally and a boyfriend who complained when she didn’t respond to his messages, Helena Deyama also didn’t hesitate and opted for that motorsport.

Those two Brazilian rally racers are leading the way in efforts to boost female participation in a discipline that is almost exclusively practiced by men.

They are two of just 10 women competing this week in the Rally dos Sertões, a Brazilian competition featuring a total of 307 participants that covers 3,793 kilometers (2,350 miles) between Aug. 11 and Aug. 19 and is the largest rally raid event in Latin America.

Sacilotti spoke to Efe upon returning to her base camp after a 375-km dirt-road stage in which she posted a good time on her motorbike.

“I like this type of terrain, with small loose rocks. You go fast, but you have to pay attention to the obstacles in your path. You don’t have time even to drink water,” she said.

Sacilotti said she has participated in the Sertões since the age of 18 (she is now 43) and that the experience has marked her life.

“I became a woman with this championship,” the Brazilian rally competitor added.

The daughter of a professional motorcyclist, Sacilotti said she always liked to explore and discover new corners of her vast homeland.

Even so, she was not precisely welcomed with open arms.

When she arrived for her first competition, a motorcycling champion told her she would not be able to complete a single stage. As it turned out, she completed the first stage and all the ones that followed.

“For me, more than prejudices, they’re challenges,” she said.

Deyama, the driver of a purple UTV (a small, all-terrain vehicle), also was met with doubters, especially because she came from a family with no auto racing history.

“The first thing they tell you is you’re not capable. The biggest difficulty was overcoming that, so they’d treat me as an equal,” the 63-year-old with a fine arts background said.

Both Sacilotti and Deyama earned respect by winning.

The former won the Sertões last year in the over-40 category, while the latter was the first woman to win a Brazilian rally championship.


Although she has sponsors, Deyama personally covers around 30 percent of the tens of thousands of dollars it takes to put together a rally team.

“I ended two relationships because they said I liked rally more than them, and it was true. I also decided not to have kids so I could devote myself to this,” she added.

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