While most of the country is home watching baseball or football, teams of hardcore competitors meet at dusty racetracks to risk it all in a sport you’ve probably never heard of: sidecar racing.
The only two-person motorcycle racing sport in the world, sidecar racing consists of a driver and a sidecar “monkey,” a daredevil cross between a co-pilot and a jockey who must maintain the balance of the vehicle while it’s in motion. The monkey does this by literally throwing their weight around, sometimes even standing up in the sidecar and leaning back and forth across the motorcycle as it travels upwards of 100 miles per hour.
Traditionally, men have dominated the sport of sidecar racing, but one team in Portland is challenging that. Meet “Steady Betty” Herlocker and her monkey Kendra “Red Fury” McDonald, America’s first all-women sidecar racing team. Both members of the Flying Fifteen Motorcycle Racing Club, Herlocker and McDonald joined forces for the 2015 racing season.
In their bulky sidecar, “Dixie,” the two women began the season in last place and battled their way up. Oregon filmmaker Ned Thanhouser, himself a motorcycle enthusiast, documented Herlocker and McDonald’s race season in his documentary “The Monkey and Her Driver.”
Thanhouser says he was especially impressed by the way the racing community embraced and supported Herlocker and McDonald, providing them with gear and helping to cover travel expenses. As he told OPB, “The community support for their racing venture has been outstanding.”
Herlocker and McDonald show no fear as they race Dixie around the track, though they both know the dangers of their sport all too well. Like all sidecar racers, they’ve seen many teammates get hurt during competitions and have sustained a few injuries themselves along the way. They love what they do, but they know it’s not for everyone. And thanks to “The Monkey and Her Driver,” the rest of the world can watch them compete in one of the riskiest sports around without ever setting foot in a sidecar.
OPB is pleased to present “The Monkey and Her Driver” as part of the 2016 Oregon Lens Film Festival, which showcases some of the best independent films in the Pacific Northwest.