The atmosphere was charged with both tension and warmth at Brainerd International Raceway. I was there amidst the various peaks and valleys of emotions unfolding within the pits of The Royal Enfield Build. Train. Race. round 5 at Brainerd International Raceway, Minnesota.
Build. Train. Race. is an initiative from Royal Enfield to showcase the brand, particularly the retro-inspired Continental GT 650, and how it can perform. With clip-on handlebars and a bump stop seat that recalls the glory days of British café racers, the GT 650 reflects an idealized era from earlier times. The Continental GT 650 is about making a statement and the culture of expressing your style through your own motorcycle.
The Build. Train. Race. program facilitates the realization of aspirations to race for lady riders. Participants are handpicked by a panel of judges to compete for a position on the grid. Criteria for entry—female motorcycle rider. Potential candidates undergo a thorough vetting process. Twelve women advance with the chance to compete for victory. In addition to USA Road Racing, there are two other Build. Train. Race teams—USA Flat Track and Brazil Flat Track.
Build. Train. Race. Coordinator Manager Alexandra Catti is involved in the selection of the racers. Catti explains that previous race experience and age are not part of the selection criteria. The women will be learning skills and testing their nerve, and an important factor is personalities. The ladies hail from diverse backgrounds and places, and the program nurtures the riders throughout their journeys to becoming skilled racers.
Each racer is allocated a Royal Enfield Continental GT 650. They have three months to design and build race-ready motorcycles. They undergo rider training from three-time GP World Champion and FIM Grand Prix Legend Freddie Spencer, who remains on hand for honing-in technique with ongoing tips and pointers.
During the race weekends, each entrant prepares and irons out finer issues on her own Continental GT 650, with direction from Royal Enfield Head Mechanic Brian Robertson.
The culmination of all their work is seen on the track. After training, the riders have the necessary skills to get out on the track and compete in the four-round series as part of the MotoAmerica series. Although racing to win is an individual endeavor, Royal Enfield and its partners support each lady throughout their journey.
The opening day at Brainerd, the fifth of seven rounds, involved a free practice session in the morning and timed laps in the afternoon for qualifying. For the first time this season, Sonya Lloyd took pole position, ending Mikayla Moore’s run of four poles to open the season.
The next day was more of a breather for the ladies, as there was no on-track time. It was a good chance for extra track advice from Spencer, and additional time to make any necessary tweaks to their machines.
Some competitors were touching up battle blemishes on their paintwork—they chose their race colors and numbers. Even on a quieter day, the drive to win is clearly within each competitor as they spend their time busy with motorcycle preparations.
On race day, anticipation ran high. Though these competitors are amicable, the ultimate goal of each woman is to emerge victorious.
Polesitter Lloyd led the first lap around 2.5-mile Brainerd International Raceway. However, series leader Moore took over on lap 2, leading to the finish line. Lloyd finished in P2, her best finish of the season. It moved Lloyd into P2 in the championship, ahead of defending Build. Train. Race. champion Kayleigh Buyck, who won Brainerd last year, but did not compete this year for health reasons. Crystal Martinez started in P4 on the grid, but moved up to round out the podium and claim P3 in the standings.
“It was such a blast to see everyone giving it their all this weekend,” Spencer observed. “This is not an easy sport, and these riders have grown so much since the first race this season. Their commitment to racing and supporting one another has made this BTR season so special.”
By offering these opportunities, Royal Enfield provides women with a pathway to fulfilling a dream. These ladies have stepped into the frantic and gutsy world of road racing, an adrenaline-fueled battle of speed. Royal Enfield encourages women to try out racing, find their confidence, and be race-competitive.
The Royal Enfield Build. Train. Race. Championship Series concludes on August 18-20 with a doubleheader at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, Pennsylvania.
Follow along the entire Build. Train. Race program on its Instagram page and the Build. Train. Race. Road Racing playlist on Royal Enfield North America’s YouTube channel.
Hear interviews and recordings from this Build. Train. Race round on our Motos & Friends Podcast in Episode 120 on August 16.
Photography by Teejay Adams and Arthur Coldwells