Japanese teenage daredevil Maya Sato says she shed her long hair, her cellphone and - almost - a few tears as she took on and beat the boys in a tough version of motorcycle racing.
At age 19, Sato last month won her first "Auto Race" contest, where riders speed around an asphalt circuit, sparks flying off their steel-capped boots, at up to 150 kilometres per hour on bikes without brakes.
The newcomer's victory has made Sato - the first woman to join the sport in 44 years - the bright new hope for revitalising Japan's version of speedway racing, where audiences place bets and riders compete for prize money.
Racing is in Sato's blood - she first rode a moto-cross bike at age six.
All for racing
When Auto Race, or Oto Resu, opened its doors to women a few years ago for the first time since the 1960s, she quit school and joined a riders' boot camp that is so selective it takes only about one in every 50 applicants.
The switch to the gruelling, military-style training centre took some getting used to, says Sato - mobile phones and TVs are banned, and the young racers must finish their meals within five minutes.
"I'd be lying if I said I never felt like crying," Sato told, recounting how she used to love fashion and shopping with her friends.
"But I hate to lose. I had my hair cropped short to build up my fighting spirit."