Petrol running through her veins
Riding across the terrain at more than 50 hp, you would cut a very athletic figure. But it takes much more than that to race over hills and tackle steep curves on a motocross bike like Kärcher employee Vanessa Helpert: with a great deal of discipline, skill and perseverance, the enthusiastic motorcyclist has been doing laps on the racetrack since the age of three.
Putting her foot down
Many routines become second nature to the extent you are no longer aware of them: speeding up at the right moment, slowing down, accelerating to the maximum, barely losing balance or nerves … for as long as Vanessa Helpert can remember, motocross has been a part of her. The jumps are the hardest, but also very impressive. “You always have to be 100 % fit, both mentally and physically; every muscle is active,” says the passionate sportswoman. Vanessa is three years old when she sits on a motorbike for the first time. While her peers are learning to ride a bicycle, the Esslingen-born girl is already taking part in regular race meetings. At six years of age she competes in the Supercross in Stuttgart – against eight boys, some of whom are two years older. The audience in the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer Hall go crazy as she fearlessly races around bends.
Vanessa is unstoppable, and the number of championships is increasing. She is able to train two days a week during school time. She mostly does her laps on the Rudersberg racetrack in the Rems-Murr district, but she also pursues her passion on other tracks. To this day she spends every spare minute practising the sport. “Petrol runs through my veins. I am totally fascinated by vehicles,” she says laughing. Her parents recognise early on that, in addition to driving skills, physical fitness is also very important for safe fun on the racetrack.
Get off to a clean start and leave nothing to chance
At five years old the young driver attends Taekwondo classes two to three times a week. She also practises this sport with a lot of ambition and discipline. Vanessa still trains regularly today. She has held a black belt since 2020, thus achieving the master grade. “Sometimes it is not so easy to juggle a job and hobbies,” she says.
The time for motocross and Taekwondo has decreased steadily since finishing school; then came university, various internships, a master’s in communication management and finally entering working life. When she starts working in Kärcher’s Corporate Communications department in 2018, it feels like a happy coincidence. “During my childhood I always cleaned my motorbikes enthusiastically using a high-pressure cleaner from Kärcher.” (Pictured here is a Kärcher HD 5/15 C Plus.)
An off-road bike is exposed to tough conditions and must be thoroughly cleaned after every trip. “In dry weather sand and clay leave their mark and depending on the soil condition and precipitation, sometimes you have to ride through the mud,” explains Vanessa, who also gladly performs the technical checks herself. “Only when my motorbike is clean am I able to ensure that everything is OK and I will be able to enjoy it for a long time.”
Motocross racetracks are full of bumps, steep curves, bike ramps and hollows. The drivers jump as far as 30 metres, often at frequent intervals. A race is over after 20 or 25 minutes and two laps, and each competition consists of two races. It is not without reason that motocross is considered one of the toughest sports in the world. “After a race day you are completely exhausted, but incredibly satisfied”, she adds. The most strained areas are the arms, shoulders and legs. “The aching muscles are persistent, often lasting several days.”
With backing to success
“The most important thing is to enjoy the sport,” says the experienced racer with confidence. “Otherwise, you won’t survive.” And because of the constant risk, training rides are also only completed in full gear: with helmet, goggles, neck guard, chest protector, back protector, knee pads, elbow protectors, gloves and boots.
Rituals also provide support. Before a race many people say a quick prayer or put on their lucky charm. Vanessa needs the start number 7, “her” number. And family. Father Hans-Peter gives his daughter a “high-five” when she goes on the track. It has always been like this, and the two continue the ritual to this day. “You cannot practise the sport without the support of family, without a team,” highlights Vanessa. She knows that it has also placed tremendous demands on her parents to support her motocross career over the years and to nurture her talent. Both financially and emotionally.
Motocross is a man’s world. For a long time Vanessa is the only girl on the track and races alongside the boys. Later on she also competes at national and international level with other, sometimes older female riders. In 2019 she is runner-up in the Baden-Württemberg Motocross Ladies Cup. But she still prefers competing with the men. Before every race her heart is racing. It beats at record speed beside the competing at the starting gates during the countdown to zero – each second a small eternity for Vanessa. Finally the engines are turned on and the adrenaline pumps through her body.
Now it’s time to step on the gas and speed away … The communications expert also works at full speed in her job. At the Kärcher headquarters in Winnenden, she not only creates cross-media content for various media and manages international projects but also works creatively. Just like in motocross, she also has to be flexible here and never lose sight of the objective.
Vanessa embodies her aspiration to motivate herself to achieve top performances and by enjoying what she does and excelling to the extent that she also meets every challenge at Kärcher full of ambition.