Canadian Toni Sharpless One of the First Women to Finish the Daytona 200
Toni Sharpless was only six years old when a minibike appeared under the family Christmas tree. With that kind of encouragement, it’s not surprising she grew up to be the first woman to win a Canadian Motorcycle Association championship.
Newmarket’s Ontario (Canada) Toni Sharpless was one of the first two women to qualify for and finish the prestigious Daytona 200 race in 1987. She began ice racing when she was 10, eventually becoming national junior class ice-racing champion. At age 16 she took to flat track, rising to senior level with a series of wins and podium finishes. And after her first taste of road racing—placing 5th in Gratton, MI—it became an all-consuming passion.
Then at 22 Toni attended a road race where she found the excitement of speed irresistible. She had to try it. Staying up all night to prepare her new motorcycle before her racing debut at Grattan, Mich., taught her perseverance but she was rewarded with a fifth-place finish. It was the beginning of an all-consuming passion for the next 10 years. Toni’s day job was as a sales rep for a national motorcycle parts distributor, but her weekends were spent racing and any spare moments maintaining and improving her bike for the next event.
The next year she received the British Empire Motor Club’s historic Kaye Don Trophy, awarded for “the most meritorious high-speed performance on a motorcycle.” In 1984 Toni received the RACE amateur of the year award along with seventh overall in the amateur 600 production class of the Castrol road race series. On the dirt she placed second in the CMA half-mile at Woodstock, on ice she won the senior indoor title and she placed second in the Cycle Canada indoor short track series.
It was onward and upward in 1985 as Toni moved to the 750 cc class, gaining podium finishes in amateur superbike at Mosport and Shannonville as well as 10th overall in the AMA CCS race of champions at Daytona. The following year she moved to the RACE pro class and earned three top-10 finishes.
In 1987 Toni and Kathleen Coburn became the first women to qualify for and finish the prestigious Daytona 200, Toni finishing 47th and Kathleen 33rd. They were spotted by scouts from the Yamaha Motor Co. and next they knew they were flying to Japan, where they were offered sponsorship to race in the Suzuka 8-hour world endurance series event. It was an arrangement that lasted five years and also extended to rides in the historic Bol d’Or and LeMans 24-hour races in France. Competition from other established teams was very tough but their best finish was a 10th place at LeMans.
Since her retirement from road racing in 1991, Toni has continued to ride in events with her husband, Jamie Pikor, as well as fill volunteer positions promoting and operating off-road events.
*Source 2011 Press Release/CMHF/