A symbol of will power and determination - Ana Carrasco wins at Misano
Kawasaki rider Ana Carrasco took a stunning victory in Italy, marking one of the greatest comeback stories after her spinal injury.
It's 2020: during testing, World SuperSport 300 champion Ana Carrasco crashed heavily at Autodromo do Estoril, Portugal, and picked up very serious injuries with fractures to the D4 and D6 vertebrae.
Soon after, the Spanish rider took to Instagram to comment on her situation and to reassure her fans: "I'm fine, I'm in the hospital in Portugal, I had a fall this morning." - she wrote.
"We'll see each other soon", she added at the end.
Covered in bruises, fortunately Carrasco was not in a dangerous condition and she did not have mobility issues.
Her team always supported her, including Jonathan Rea - a legend of the sport - who wore her famous t-shirt - 'Ride like a girl".
Ana started her long rehabilitation process and always believed that she would be back soon, fighting once again for podiums and victories. She stated that she had never thought of quitting after the crash. The rider frequently shared on her social media channels her daily battles aiming for that much-desired comeback.
Not too long after the crash and surgeries, she was able to walk again and resumed, step by step, her daily routines. Carrasco also received the Best Lap Award in 2020, despite not being able to complete the season.
She continued to work hard on her recovery, striving to come back on the racetracks as fast as she could.
And here we are in 2021.
In January, Carrasco informed that she would have to go through new surgery to remove all the plates and screws from her vertebrae; an operation that was an important part of her rehabilitation.
Later, she confirmed that the operation was successful and that soon she would be able to sit on a bike again.
Finally, in February, she was back: 5 months and 2 surgeries later.
At Circuit de Barcelona first, then at Navarra, Carrasco was back on the bike for testing and reunited with her team.
9 months after her injury, Carrasco showed up at MotorLand Aragon for the 2021 SuperSport300 and Superbike season-opener.
She finished her first free practice session in 14th place - then placed in the top ten already in the second session - an incredible comeback that stunned the paddock.
In race 1, she made a mistake and fell towards the back of the field, but charged back and made a comeback from P26 to P11. In race 2, she was fifth.
And the Misano round was supposed to be even better. The first race was a difficult one for the Spaniard, who finished in P15.
"We have the speed, we just need to improve a couple of things and we'll be ready to win", she said.
And she was right.
Ana took the start from the fifth row, 14th on the grid. Coppola couldn't take the start of the race due to a technical problem, while Offer was declared unfit.
Ana Carrasco had a really good start and brought herself up into the Top-10. On the first lap, Sabatucci and McManus fell - two more riders were down at the back of the pack. Ana was already up to eighth place.
Steeman had a great save but dropped to 8th place - which further promoted Carrasco.
Second-placed Ton Kawakami had an extremely dangerous crash at the last turn, as he landed in the middle of the track and was almost hit by the incoming riders - luckily it wasn't the case. Meanwhile, Booth-Amos lost his lead after a mistake and gave the opportunity to De Cancellis to fight for the top spot.
Ana Carrasco managed to move up to sixth, but then dropped to seventh due to a series of very heated battles on track that also saw her ninth at one point.
Positions changed by the second, with Gaggi going off, inigo Iglesias crashing and Vicente Perez Selfa reporting technical troubles.
The Kawasaki female rider made an incredible move that promoted her to fifth place, but temporarily back to eighth after contact with another rider.
With 2 laps to go, Ana Carrasco was sitting in P8: she was able to overtake and gain two positions when Steeman was pushed off.
At the start of the final lap, Carrasco was seventh but - following a series of impressive passes, she was back in contention for a podium position. Up to second, the final corners were full of drama and, almost like out of a screenplay, the leader Tom Booth-Amos crashed at the last corner. Ana Carrasco crossed the finish line and took an unbelievable victory in race 2, gaining 13 places to find herself on the top step of the podium.
The Provec Kawasaki Racing rider stated: “I don’t know how I won because today’s race was so crazy. I started well but when I was sixth or seventh it was difficult to pass the top riders because they had been faster all weekend, and I was a little bit on the limit. Today it was very hot and I was losing the front a little bit. This class is crazy… yesterday I was 15th and today I could win."
"I am happy for sure because the first round in Aragon was difficult and the weekend here was difficult for me. But the team worked well and I tried not to give up."
"To get back to the podium, winning, is the perfect present for me.”
After her first victory since her spinal injury, Ana Carrasco is hopefully back on her winning path. She is one of the top female figures and inspirations in motorsport, proving that women can compete and win at any level - and against any circumstances.