If you have been following Australian road racing there is an excellent chance you would have heard of Tayla Relph, an extremely gutsy and talented young lady from Queensland, and arguably Australia’s finest and fastest lady racer.
For a number of years, Tayla has been a regular in the paddock, first in the Moto3 category, and more recently during the last two seasons contesting the Yamaha R3 Cup and Australia Supersport 300 Championship on a Yamaha.
You may also know that she is one of the toughest competitors that one could meet. Over the seasons, Tayla has had some monumental accidents but is known for a determination to bounce back and get straight back on the horse, more often than not for the very next race.
Tayla is one very tough nut in a very tough game.
This came to the fore again at the start of last season during the opening round at Phillip Island. During a normal close proximity, shoulder-to-shoulder battle for the lead, hooking through Turn One a front brake rotor on a competitor’s bike tore through the leathers and flesh of her left leg, tearing a massive deep gash just above her knee.
Medical advice was to sit out the next race and take time to recuperate before the next round a few weeks later. Not Tayla. Heavily bandaged, and completely undaunted, she was out the next morning in the helter-skelter class for the final race of the weekend.
Tayla is just as competitive as every rider out there and is another of the fairer sex (can I write that anymore), that proves that the race track is a level playing field for both genders, as once you don the helmet and riding kit, you are just another rider!
In her first year in the Yamaha R3 Proddie ranks in 2017 she finished sixth, and last year ended up seventh, coincidentally scoring the same amount of points in both seasons – mirroring how close the completion is. Last season Relph also raced in the even more competitive Supersport 300cc class and finished a very impressive equal seventh with another rapidly rising youngster, Harry Khouri.
If you haven’t heard of Tayla, keep an eye out for as she enters her third year in the production-based class. This year she will have the support and guidance of the Kawasaki BCPerformance Team, for whom she will ride alongside fast young gun Callum O’Brien in the same class.
MCNews.com.au had a quick chat with Tayla Relph at the recent ASBK official pre-season test.
Tayla Relph Interview
MCNews.com.au: Well Tayla, how was the test now that you’re with the Kawasaki BCPerformance Team?
Tayla Relph: “It’s definitely a different feeling being backed by a factory team, so being on the Kawasaki BCPerformance team for 2019 is definitely a good feeling. It gives you an automatic confidence boost coming into the championship.
“We just finished our first official weekend with the team, it was just a weekend spent just getting used to the bike, adapting to it, and all the changes. Obviously it’s a lot different to riding the R3, I’ll have to get used to riding the Dunlop tyres, as well as the stock suspension, as well as all the other restrictions.”
MCNews.com.au: I presume the bike has more power but with the stock suspension, how does it handle when it gets hot after hard riding for a few laps?
Tayla Relph: “It’s hard to really say as we’re still at the early development stages, Obviously there’s nothing we can do about it, so we have to just… adapt to it.
“If you look at all the times, the R3s are still very competitive with the 400s. I think most of the riders up the top were still on the R3s, so clearly there isn’t too much of a speed comparison between the two. Obviously the restrictions do make it a little bit harder for us, but in saying that, it also makes it another challenge.”
MCNews.com.au: How much harder do you need to ride, to get the same performance out of the Ninja 400, that you were getting out of the R3 last year?
Tayla Relph: “Without a doubt you do need to ride the Ninja 400 a lot harder, but in saying that the Kawasaki is a much nicer bike to ride than what the R3 was. The Kawasaki is just so smooth and consistent with the power, where with the R3 we had a lot of issues with it last year. We had a lot of issues with the engine. It’s good to be on a bike now where you can trust the engine, trust everything about the bike and it gives you a lot more confidence when you’re out on track.”
MCNews.com.au: This is now your third year in the 300s.
Tayla Relph: “Obviously the championship is quite competitive, it’s pretty much any rider in the top 15 could get it, it’s very easy to come 15th with just a small mistake. So that’s something we were working on [last year]. We did end up finishing the last race of the season in second place, so that was really good for us, and just another confidence boost. It is hard to get a podium.
“The injury in my leg was definitely a large set back for the beginning of last year, obviously I did a little bit more damage because I raced a lot sooner than what the doctors said I was allowed to. We just made sure we did a lot of physio and a lot of good physio on it to make sure even though I was riding a little earlier than I was supposed to be, it still wasn’t doing much more extra damage to my leg.
“It was more just having the confidence in myself and I did crash the first time I got back on the bike, after surgery, so that was a little bit scary, and did a little more damage to my leg. But obviously towards the end of the season we were getting there and it didn’t take too long.”
MCNews.com.au: Coming off the Moto3 and jumping onto the R3, it’s slower, doesn’t handle like Moto3, how can you quantify how much your racecraft has improved? In Moto3 you weren’t really learning racecraft. Here you have to learn it.
Tayla Relph: “Something that I definitely had to learn very quickly was racecraft because I definitely didn’t learn it in the Moto3, just because we went from having four riders in the whole field, and then we’d go over there and my first years in the Supersport 300s we were battling about 35 riders in the field. It was definitely different and that’s why I believe my results weren’t exactly the best in my first year, in the production class.”
“I wasn’t an aggressive rider and if someone showed me the front wheel I’d let them have it, just because I wasn’t used to racing in such a competitive class. Now that we are used to it I’ve definitely gotten a lot more aggressive with my riding style and everything else, and I think I’ve grown a lot as a rider since being in the production class. Jumping off the Moto3 and onto the production bike was definitely the best decision I’ve ever made in my whole career. I just wish, knowing what I know now, I just wish I did it a lot sooner, instead of wasting my money on the Moto3. I could have just been developing the production class a year earlier.”
MCNews.com.au: So what has that done to your tenacity level?
“Tayla Relph: It’s definitely made me a lot more aggressive as a rider, but that’s really the only way you can get a podium in the 300 class. If you’re aggressive and you get your elbows out and pretty much show no mercy out on track, you can’t have any friends when you’re out there.
“Obviously all the moves have to be safe, but you have to have a lot of confidence in yourself and your own ability, as well as your bike, which I think that’s something we can take as a positive for this year. I have already on my first day on the Kawasaki, I have a lot more confidence on the bike, just from riding it for two days, than I ever did from the R3 for the whole year.”
MCNews.com.au: On the other side of the coin, you’re a lady in the field, you’re getting more aggressive, how much has the respect for you gone up on the track?
Tayla Relph: “I’ve been racing in the ASBK field for quite some time and I’ve always just set out not to be known as a female out on track. I just want everyone to be the same and that’s what I love most about racing, they don’t treat me any differently. They’ll do just as much of an aggressive move on me as they will on everyone else, if not even more aggressive, as no one really wants a female beating them *laughs*.
“It’s hard to say though, I don’t know what it’s like to be on the other end though, but I’ll always be an aggressive rider, because obviously I want to be on a podium just as much as the next guy.”
2019 ASBK Calendar
Official ASBK Test – Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, VIC February 2 – 3
Round 1- WSBK – Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, VIC February 21 – 24
Round 2- Wakefield Park Raceway – Goulburn NSW March 22 – 24
Round 3- The Bend Motorsport Park – Tailem Bend, SA April 26 – 28
Round 4- Morgan Park Raceway – Warwick, QLD July 5 – 7
Round 5- Winton Motor Raceway – Benalla, VIC September 6 – 8
Round 6- Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, VIC October 4 – 6
Round 7- Sydney Motorsport Park – Eastern Creek, NSW November 1 – 3
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.