She achieved 23 championship points in 1989 with a 17th overall finish out 44 point winning men. Undoubtedly Taru is the official “First Lady” of motorcycle road racing.
Taru Rinne started her racing career in 1988 competing in the 125cc class on her Honda. Her next season, 1989 qualified her for an astounding 2nd place start at venue Hockenheim where she led the race for a majority of the laps, taking a most exceptional 7th place out of 36 starters, 27 finishers—all men! This race bettered her previous 8th place winning at my former home circuit, Assen, The Netherlands.
Former Karting Champion
Taru began her love of the track on four wheels as an avid karting “competitor-ess”. She won the 1979 Finnish 85 cc karting championship, ahead of the likes of now renowned Mika Häkkinen who went on to race in Formula One. She battled often with Häkkinen – in 1981 finished second in the series with Häkkinen as the champion. The next year Taru won the series again and Häkkinen had to settle for second place. In 1983 she took first place again leaving Häkkinen with second, however, her title was removed and she was banned from racing for one year for using illegal fuel! This eventually ended her promising karting career.
Taru then decided to go for two-wheel competition and made her début in what was then called the Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix — today’s MotoGP; in 1988 in the 125cc class. It was a promising career where she achieved 23 championship points in 1989 with a 17th overall finish out of over 44 point winning fellas—most undoubtedly she is the official “First Lady” of Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix!
A bad crash occurred during her July 21, 1991 race at Paul Ricard venue in France-Taru badly broke both her ankles. She aimed to recover and continue racing as soon as possible, yet a letter received from Bernie Ecclestone, who at that time, decided which riders were allowed to compete in the series, stated she was not qualified to compete but would be allowed to race again in 1992. It’s been said that this letter was the biggest disappointment of her life. This ended her career yet it seems in what information we’ve sourced, that she competed again, nationally, and in the 1993 German championship.
Taru and Katja Poensgen have been the only two women at this level of motorcycling racing, the MotoGP as we know it today to achieve points since its birth in 1949. The point system is used as a measure of motorcycling’s top achievements in Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix. This top level of motorcycle road racing, near 60 years later, is still dominated by men.
Pictured here with famed Agostini on guess who’s race bike? That would be Eddie Lawson.
Photo permissions granted by: Stefan Pejer