Thursday, 20 October 2016

Sophia Flörsch

Sophia Flörsch is a German driver who began racing in the UK in 2015. She is one of the most talked-about and highly-rated female drivers of the past few years.

Her senior debut followed a six-year karting career, which included two championship wins: the ADAC Kart Bundeslauf Bambini B title in 2009, and the 2010 60cc Easykart European Grand Finals. She was picked up by the Red Bull talent scouts, and although she is not an official Red Bull junior team member, she is still associated with them.

She took part in the Ginetta Junior championship in 2015, and was one of the younger drivers in the series, aged fourteen. Despite her age and inexperience, she was one of the fastest drivers in the series, winning twice at Thruxton. She was the youngest driver to win a Ginetta Junior race. After Thruxton, she was second at Croft. Her season had built slowly, from a fifth at Brands Hatch. Observers from the media and teams sat up and took note.

 In a somewhat controversial decision, she left the championship after five rounds, in order to conserve money and to train for a season in Formula 4 in 2016. Single-seaters had always been her ultimate goal, but she was unable to start racing them until she was fifteen.

She returned to Germany, and duly entered the ADAC Formula 4 series, with the Motopark team. She was only just fifteen.

It was a tough year. The season started well enough, with a ninth place at Oschersleben, rising to fifth in the third race. After the first break of the season, Sophia’s lack of testing time started to show, and her results slipped. Other, older drivers working with better-funded teams were able to devote time to testing; Sophia had to take her final school exams instead. The team also had problems with strategy, often involving tyres, which were linked to the lack of testing time, and therefore experience of new tyres. She battled into the top ten on three more occasions, at Oschersleben, Red Bull Ring and the Nürburgring, but too many other races were marred by emergency pit stops, small accidents, poor starts and race plans that did not pay off.

Towards the end of the year, she adjusted her expectations to finishing the season, and learning as much as she could. F4 had been intended as a one-year springboard to Formula 3, but another season was needed for Sophia to prove what she was really capable of. She was 19th in the championship.

She intends to progress up the single-seater career ladder, with the ultimate aim of a Formula One race seat.

(Image copyright Alexander Trienitz)

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Female Single-Seater Drivers Around the World: Canada

Ashley Taws

Female drivers have been a feature of the Canadian single-seater scene since the 1970s. Formula Ford has been particularly popular.

Amy Castell – began racing Formula Ford 1600 in Canada in 2012, at the age of sixteen. She was the youngest driver on the grid, and she was instantly competitive, despite driving a 40-year-old Zink Z10 car. Her best finish of the season was third, at Calabogie Motorsports Park. Later that season, she had a big accident and had to take some time off, but she came back in 2013, about half-way through the season. Since then, she has raced a 1990 Reynard SF90. In 2014, she won her first race, at Honda Indy, and was third in the Toyo Tires FF1600 championship. In 2015, she competed in the B Class of the Canadian F1600 Championship Series. She managed four podium finishes – one second and three third – and was third in the championship.

Molly Elliott – Canadian driver who raced single-seaters in her home country in 1986. She competed in both Formula Ford and Formula Vee. Formula Ford 2000 was her most successful series, and she was ninth in the Canadian championship. Molly’s later activities are not well-documented, but she was still racing in Formula Ford in Canada in 1991. She was 20th in the championship, with a best finish of eighth, at Mosport. 

Caitlin Johnston – races in Formula Ford 1600 in Canada. Her first season was in 2007, after she won a senior karting championship.Her best year has probably been 2010, when she was third outright in the Formula Ford Ontario Championship, with two runner-up spots at Mosport as her best finishes. That year, she also competed in three rounds of the NASCAR Canadian Tyre Series. Periodically, she has raced in the US as well as Canada, and has tried 2000cc Formula Ford as well as 1600. After a couple of quieter years, she was fourth in the 2014 F1600 championship, earning one podium position and a start from pole. She has been much less active since then.

Louise Roberge - Canadian racer of the late 1960s and early 1970s. She was a contemporary and rival of Monique Proulx. She began racing in a Mini Cooper S, in 1968, and was fifth in her first race. In 1970, she started in Formula Vee. Her first single-seater car was a Lotus 61, which was replaced by a Lotus 69 later in the season. In 1971, driving the 69 in Canadian Formula B, she was sixth at Mont Tremblant. She may also have owned or raced a Lotus 51, although further race results have proved very hard to track down.

Patricia Smith – raced in Formula B in Canada for a part-season in 1973. Her car was a Ford-engined March. She was a rival of Linda Wilson. That year, she was 23rd in the championship. She scored at least one finish, a seventeenth place at the Sanair circuit in Quebec. Patricia was from Montreal herself, and was sponsored by PS Transport, which looks to have been a family firm.

Carol Soucy - Canadian driver from Quebec, who raced in Toyota Formula Atlantic in 1997. She was 33rd overall in the championship, having entered three races. Her best finish was thirteenth, at Trois-Rivieres. She did not finish the other two races. In 2002, she did at least a part-season in Formula Ford in Canada. Prior to her Atlantic exploits, she had also raced in Formula Ford in 1996.

Ashley Taws - successful young Canadian Formula Ford driver between 2000 and 2002, recognisable for her pink, "Barbie"-sponsored car. She was a race-winner at 1200cc level and scored seconds and thirds in her one season of 1600cc competition. In only her first season, she won two races, and she was second in the championship in 2001. She moved up to the more competitive 1600cc class in 2002. Her career was almost ended by a serious road traffic accident at the end of 2002. She only returned to motorsport full-time in 2007, in a BMW, and later, a CASCAR stock car. Although she showed promise, finishing second in only her third CASCAR race, she did not take to oval racing and quit in 2009. She is now pursuing a business career.

Linda Wilson – Canadian driver who raced in single-seaters in the 1970s. She took part in Formula B in 1972 and 1973, driving for the Fergusson-Wilson team. Her car was a Chevron B20. She scored at least one fifteenth place at the Sanair circuit in 1973, one of six races in Formula B that she did that year. She was seventeenth in the championship.

(Image from

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Monique Proulx

Monique with the BMW 2002

Monique Proulx was a Québécois driver who raced mostly in Canada in the 1970s.

She was born in 1947, and had a rather shaky start in life, contracting polio at the age of three, which meant that she had difficulty walking until she was a teenager. Initially, she worked as a teacher. This came to a temporary halt at the end of 1965, when she found herself with a baby son, Stéphane. As a single mother, she continued to work, but now as a model and actress. In 1971, she appeared in several Canadian TV adverts, including one for tights. She also owned a local chain of beauty salons.

She began racing in 1971, after becoming romantically involved with Jacques Fortin, who raced at club level. They shared a BMW 2002, and Monique also raced a Datsun 240Z. She started out in novice races, and often made the podium. She finished as runner-up in a Canadian Production endurance championship in the Datsun. Her start in motorsport apparently followed a court battle with the Canadian Auto Sports Club, which had vetoed her international license being awarded. Early in her career, she had a female rival, Louise Roberge. The press were keen to publicise their apparent dislike of one another.

In 1972, she bought her first single-seater, a second-hand 1600cc Formula Ford. This car was far more expensive to run than the BMW, so she continued to share her boyfriend’s car, making only a few appearances. In the BMW, she was eighth in the Sanair Trans-Am race.

Another run in the Sanair Trans-Am race in 1973, in the same car, led to a fourteenth place. She was the top Canadian finisher.

After some Formula Ford and Formula Vee races, she raised her single-seater game in 1974, and took the step up to Formula Atlantic. In her first season, she became the first woman to qualify for a race at the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, although it was a support race, rather than Formula One. This year, she raced Alan Karlberg’s car, with sponsorship from Kimberly-Clark.

Back in a saloon, she was the first, and still the only, woman to win a mixed race at Catamount Speedway. She was racing in Ministocks.

She competed in Formula Atlantic between 1974 and 1979, once scoring a pole position in 1976. Due to sponsorship pressures, she did not complete as full season during this time. In 1975, she was sponsored by New Freedom, a new brand of sanitary towels, which was somewhat shocking in the male-dominated world of motor racing. Driver and commentator David Hobbs is meant to have joked, “I’m only worried it will rain and the damn car will swell and not get between the guardrails!” 

Monique was quite successful in getting innovative sponsorship deals, albeit short-term ones. She was apparently the first female driver to be sponsored by a tobacco company, although the details of this are proving hard to find. This was probably due to her TV work, which included acting, stunts and being a “traffic girl” in a helicopter. In 1976, she appeared on the Canadian version of “Superstars”, but was not among the leading sportswomen.

Later, she also raced a Chevrolet Camaro. In 1979, she did at least one race in Trans-Am, at Trois-Rivières, finishing eighteenth.

Her son, Stéphane, was also a racing driver. She retired from the circuits in 1980, in order to support him in his own racing activities. He was a contemporary of Jacques Villeneuve and was tipped as one to watch. He died in 1993, from head injuries complicated by advanced HIV.

Monique died in 2012, aged 65.

(Image from

Friday, 7 October 2016

Roxie Lott

Roxie raced a Toyota-engined Ralt RT3 like this one in 1984, in pink!

Roxie Lott was an American driver who was probably most famous for her efforts in the British Formula 3 Championship in 1984.

She was born in Indianapolis in 1961. She attended her first Indy 500 at the age of three, and announced to her mother that she was building a racing car engine when she was six, as soapbox carts were not fast enough for her.

When she was twelve, she began racing in junior Quarter Midget events, in a car her mother bought on hire purchase. While still at school, she spent a lot of time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, sometimes missing classes to do so. She apparently became friends with both Mario Andretti and Al Unser. When she was there, she helped various teams out, polishing and cleaning cars and doing odd jobs.

She achieved some success as a midget racer. Between 1976 and 1978, she won fifteen races, and went to Grand National meetings twice. After spending some time learning about full-size midget cars, she became more interested in road racing, and enrolled at the Skip Barber driving school. In 1979, she got to race a Formula Ford at Mid-Ohio as part of her training. At around that time, she travelled to England for the first time, and drove a Formula Ford there. Apparently, she raced once “in Europe”, probably in the UK, and came third. This drive was arranged by Teddy Yip of Theodore Racing, for whom Roxie was working at the time.

In 1982, she went on record saying that her biggest ambition was to race in the Indy 500, in an interview with the Indianapolis Star. However, despite her friends in high places and enterprising nature, she struggled for sponsorship.

That year, she raced in Formula Super Vee in the States. She did at least one race for Bill Scott Racing, but no results are forthcoming.

1984 was meant to be a breakthrough year for Roxie. She returned to England to race in Formula 3, with RD Motorsport. Speaking afterwards, she said that this should have been a good experience, but it was not. She only got to start one race, the Marlboro International Trophy at Silverstone, in April. This race ended after four laps, when she was unable to continue after a spin. Her pink Ralt RT3 gained some media attention, but by and large, it was not a positive experience for its driver.

After her British disappointment, it seems to have been increasingly difficult for Roxie to gain sponsorship, and she only raced sporadically. As she was never in a championship long enough to learn the car and understand her opponents, she struggled for pace. In 1986, she managed to score a point in the Formula Super Vee championship in the States, driving for Arciero Racing.

In 1988, after another couple of guest appearances in support races, Roxie called time on her racing career. She was twenty-eight years old. Some sources claim that she tried to take the Indy rookie test, but nothing official says that she did. Her ambition to race in the Indy 500 was put on hold indefinitely.

After turning her back on motorsport, she proved herself in another high-speed arena: flight. She worked as a commercial pilot for several years and racked up enough flight time to be promoted to Captain very quickly. In aviation, she was known as Roxie Lott Strish, having married Larry Strish. She retired after his death in 1995.

Later in life, she gave driving tours of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. She died of ovarian cancer in April 2007, and was mourned by the Indianapolis racing community.

(Image from

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Tomiko Yoshikawa

Tomiko in 1993

Tomiko Yoshikawa raced sportscars in both Europe and Japan in the 1990s, including at Le Mans. She also competed in single-seaters up to Formula 3 level in Japan, from 1980 onwards.

She was born in Nagoya in 1954. Her first involvement with motorsport seems to have been a couple of races in Japanese Formula 3, in 1980. She made another guest appearance in the series in 1981, before committing to a bigger race programme in 1982.

1983 was her best season in Japanese F3. She was tenth overall. In 1984, she scored more points, but was eleventh. Both times, she was driving a Japanese-built Hayashi-Toyota.

It was in about 1985 that she switched to sportscars. Initially, she raced at her home circuit of Fuji, in the Fuji Grand Champion Series. Her car was a BMW-engined MCS 5, run by Maribu Motorsport. She entered three of the four rounds, with a best finish of sixteenth in the opening round, the 300km race in March. In 1986, she entered the first round of the FGC again in the MCS, but did not finish. Unfortunately, she was involved in a multi-car crash on the sixth lap, which brought out a red flag. She does not appear to have raced again for quite a while afterwards. There is little easily accessible information about this accident, although Tomiko may have been injured, causing her absence.

She returned to the circuits in 1988. This year, she drove in her first Suzuka 1000km. Her car was a Hiro HRS3, shared with Kouzou Okumura. They did not finish.

The following year, she did some more endurance racing in the All-Japan Sports Prototype Championship, in the Fuji race this time. She got to the finish in her Group C Mazda 757, but was not classified. Her team-mates were Kazuhiko Oda and Keiichi Mizutani.

After another break in 1990, she returned to the All-Japan Prototype series in a Spice SE90C. This was the start of quite a lengthy associated between Gordon Spice’s team and Tomiko. She narrowly missed out on a Le Mans start with the Euro Racing setup, which was running an all-female Spice team in a pink car. Tomiko practised, but Desiré Wilson, Cathy Muller and Lyn St. James were chosen for the race itself. The team’s race ended quite abruptly anyway, in a crash.

Back in Japan, she drove the same car for the Aoshima Tsunemasa team in the Fuji 1000km. She and her team-mates, Hideshi Matsuda and Hideo Fukuyama, did not finish, due to an engine problem.

Tomiko raced at Le Mans three times, in 1992, 1993 and 1994. Her best result was in 1992, when she finished 15th in a Chamberlain Spice SE88C, although she had not driven enough laps for official classification. The all-female team had originally been built around her, and as she did not get to drive in 1991, she was placed in a mixed team for 1992, with Kenta Shimamura and Jun Harada.
In 1993, she had to retire in a Courage C30 after an accident, and in 1994, she was unclassified again, in a Porsche, in 22nd place.

At the same time, she did secure some successes in other events. She was seventh in the 1992 Suzuka 1000km, the second of her thirteen runs in the Japanese classic. Again, she was driving the Chamberlain Spice, and her co-drivers were Divina Galica and Jun Harada.

Chamberlain gave her another drive in the Suzuka 1000km in 1993, in a Lotus Esprit, but she did not finish due to the car overheating. She and her team-mates had qualified eleventh. Earlier in the year, she had raced a Tom Gloy Racing Ford Mustang in the Daytona 24 Hours. This was another mixed team, with Desiré Wilson, Ron Fellows and Peter Baljet. They were classified 47th, but did not finish.

In 1994, she had a run in the Suzuka 1000km in a Ferrari F40, with Anders Olofsson and Luciano della Noce. They were disqualified for an illegal overtaking manoeuvre.

1995 saw her have a final chance at Le Mans, driving a Toyota-engined SARD MC8-R with Kenny Acheson and Alain Ferté. However, it was not to be. Tomiko did not qualify, and as in 1991, the team did not last long anyway, succumbing to clutch failure after 14 laps. Unfortunately, the Suzuka 1000km went the same way. Tomiko was listed as a driver alongside Fabien Giroix and Jean-Denis Delétraz, but did not make the start. The team also did not finish.

After that, she did not race in Europe again. She continued to make appearances in the Suzuka 1000km, driving for a number of teams, including Roock Racing in 1996 and 1999, in Porsches both times. Other cars she raced included another McLaren F1 (1997) and a Nissan Skyline (2002 and 2003).

Her best result in this race was ninth, which she achieved in 2004, driving a Porsche 996 for the Arktech team. Her team-mates were Shigemitsu Haga and Tamon Saitou.

She retired from motorsport in 2005. Language barriers have prevented more detailed research about Tomiko’s life and career.

(Image from

Friday, 30 September 2016

Gabriel Konig

Gabriel with her Modsports MG

Gabriel Konig (not Gabrielle) was a much-travelled Irish driver who competed off and on from 1962. She was most successful in MG Midgets and a Chevrolet Camaro, winning 18 races in different series, at club and National level mostly.

Living at her mother’s Beaulieu House near Drogheda, she learned to drive very young; at ten, she was able to drive a tractor. She was a regular spectator at motor races with her mother, attending events at Dundrod and Curragh. She earned her driving license at seventeen, then four years later, began racing. By this time, she was married to Mark Konig, another racing driver and car builder, and living in London. Her first racing car was a Lotus Elite. A Lotus Elan soon followed. She rarely raced in her home country, but was a regular face on the scene in England, and also in continental Europe. In 1964, she was twelfth in the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood, in the Elan. The following year, she shared the Elan with Mark for the Nürburgring 1000km, driving for the WJ Moss team. They did not finish due to gearbox problems. That year, 1965, she entered the Autosport Championship in the Elan. Later in the year, she raced a much more powerful Ferrari 250 GTO at Silverstone, but crashed out.

In 1966, she took her first race win, driving a Hillman Imp. This was a National-level race. This year, she returned to smaller cars, and was rewarded with results that went with her level of experience.

After a quiet 1967, during which she may have raced an Austin-Healey Sebring Sprite, she was taken on by John Brittan’s team in 1968. The car she was given was an MG Midget, and she raced in the Modsports series. This style of competition suited her well, and she ended the year with fifteen class wins. One of her best overall results was fourth at Mallory Park, with a win in the 1150cc class. The year before, she had been a member of the Ring Free Oil “Motor Maids” team in the USA, and had travelled to America for the Daytona and Sebring sportscar races. However, she seems to have been a reserve driver, and did not get to race. Her winning year in 1968 must have gone some way to making up for that.

Her first international win came in 1969. She was first at Fassberg in Germany, driving an Austin-Healey Sprite. The Brittan MG was still competitive, and she travelled to Italy to race in the Mugello Grand Prix, with Garo Nigogosian. They were 31st, fifth in class, from 65 finishers. Also in Italy, Gabriel and Mark did the Targa Florio together, in the Nomad MkII. This car had been designed and built by Mark, and was powered by a BRM F1 engine. Sadly, an accident caused by a puncture put them out of the event on their third lap.

1970 was another year affected by accidents. Gabriel did not do much racing at all this year, as she suffered broken vertebrae in an accident in Brazil. She had been driving in a Formula Ford race at Sao Paulo, and crashed when the steering on her car failed. Later in the year, she returned to UK club racing as part of the “Carmen Curls”, an all-female team who raced a Royale in Formula 100. They were sponsored by Carmen hairstyling products, and Tina Lanfranchi was the team manager.

1972 saw her career go international again, with her first attempt at the Spa 24 Hours. She drove a Chevrolet Camaro with Marie-Claude Beaumont, a driver with considerable experience of both Chevrolet power and endurance racing. Sadly, they did not finish, due to a loss of oil pressure.

Despite her experience, Gabriel liked the car, and bought it to race for the 1972 season. She competed in the Irish Group 2 championship, now that motor racing had grown in her home country. At the end of 1972, she had it shipped to Guyana, where she would live and race for the next twenty years.

One of her first sporting appointments was joining the BOAC Speedbird team, which took British-based racers to the Caribbean, in partnership with the Guyana Motor Racing Club. Gordon Spice was one of her team-mates. She won at least two races in the Camaro at the South Dakota track in Guyana, and was second at Bushy Park in Barbados.

Among the cars that she raced during her Caribbean years was a Byldenstein Vauxhall Viva, built as a sister car to Gerry Marshall’s famous “Old Nail”. In this car, she won at least one race at Waller Field in Trinidad, in 1976.

During her time in Guyana, she raced again in Barbados. She was part of the group of enthusiasts initially responsible for bringing UK-based drivers to Barbados for its annual rally, something which continues to this day.

Gabriel was one of the founder members of the British Women Racing Drivers’ Club, one of the first group of drivers to be invited to join. In 1968 and 1972, she received awards from the BWRDC for being the highest-achieving female driver in the British Isles.

She also rallied in the UK more recently, doing some classic events in a Ford Escort, among other cars, including a Hillman Imp and an Austin A40. In 1997, she entered the Tour Auto in France, driving a Vauxhall GT. Latterly, she owned her own motor museum at Beaulieu, based around a collection of her own racing cars.

She died in January 2013.

(Image from

Monday, 19 September 2016

Women Drivers in the 12 Hours of Reims

Isabelle Haskell and Annie Bousquet with their Porsche in 1956

The 12 Hours of Reims was a major sportscar race that ran, on and off, between 1953 and 1967. It was held at the Reims-Gueux circuit in France, and was a round of the World Sportscar Championship (or the World Championship for Makes) between 1953 and 1965.

It is significant for the 1956 edition, during which Annie Bousquet was killed in a crash early on. This accident, and the negative publicity that stemmed from it, was the cause of women drivers being banned from major circuit races in France until the early 1970s, although the ban at Reims itself was lifted much earlier.

Yvonne Simon/Jean Hémard (Panhard Monopole) – 14th

Gilberte Thirion/Olivier Gendebien (Gordini T15S) – 14th

Race cancelled

Gilberte Thirion/Roger Loyer (Gordini T15S) – DNF
Gilberte Thirion/Roger Loyer (Gordini T15S) – DNF
Annie Bousquet/Isabelle Haskell (Porsche 550) – DNF

No female entries

No female entries

No race held

Annie Soisbault/Claude Dubois (Porsche 904) – 13th

Annie Soisbault/Gérard Langlois van Ophem (Ferrari 250 LM) – DNF

No race held

No female entries

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