Superbikes at Laguna Seca: A visit from a pioneer in female racing

Mary McGee, 82, was a pioneer in motorcycle racing. (Bob Heathcote — Special to the Herald)

Mary McGee arrived on the Monterey Peninsula in 1962 ready to compete. With five friends including another rider, the group was also abruptly asked to leave a restaurant because they were “motorcycle people.”

McGee and her dining companions complied and ate elsewhere without issue. The Hall of Fame rider also competed and she continued to do for many decades around the country and in several disciplines

Mary McGee

A pioneer of women in motorsports, McGee, 82, is a guest this week at the World Superbike Championships at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

With her career of memories, McGee’s also carrying in her backpack two copies of black-and-white images of her race Laguna Seca race 57 years ago. It shows her negotiating the famous Corkscrew on Turn 8 with two other riders, both men, in the distance. It was the first motorcycle race held on the racetrack.

“I miss riding, but I miss the dirt bikes because it was what I liked best,” McGee said Saturday at the racetrack. “I was into my vintage motocross, but I stopped in 2013. I was 77.”

Severe arthritis in both hands ended her career, but McGee still appears fit. She said she’s shrunk some, but she competed at 6-foot-1 and 137 pounds, proportions she’s close to now. She walks with a purpose and often grins and laughs. She possessed a healthy supply of curly white hair.

Mary McGee, 82, was a pioneer in motorcycle racing. (Bob Heathcote — Special to the Herald)

Born in Juneau, Alaska, in 1936, McGee’s family settled in Phoenix in 1944. She married Don McGee in 1956. A mechanic, McGee introduced his new bride to car racing and she was hooked.

McGee bought her first motorcycle in 1957 and began competing in 1960, several years after she first raced automobiles. When she transitioned into motorcycles, the Hollister riot of 1947 was still vivid in the public consciousness.

The infamous event occurred at the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) sanctioned Gypsy Tour motorcycle rally and the legend of the event was the loosely the impetus for the 1953 movie “The Wild One” starring Marlin Brando.

Source: Monterey Herald