Sunday, 27 December 2020

Anna Inotsume


Anna Inotsume is a Japanese driver who races touring cars and GTs.

She began her career in 2015 as part of a women’s motorsport initiative run by Mazda in Japan. She did some racing in an electric car that year. Her involvement continued through 2016 and incorporated her major on-track debut. She represented the women’s team in December’s Mazda Party Race, qualifying on pole and finishing fourth. 

She was selected to race in the 2018 Super Taikyu series in a Mazda Roadster as part of an all-female team picked from the scheme. “Love Drive Racing” was run by Keiko Ihara and Anna, along with Marie Iwaoka, ran the whole season, including a 24-hour race at Fuji. Their best result was sixth in class at Suzuka. Her first steps into Super Taikyu were the final rounds of the 2017 series, with the same team. She shared the car with Marie Iwaoka at Fuji and Okayama. They were eleventh and thirteenth in class. 

At the end of 2018, she made her debut in the Asian Le Mans Series, joining the all-female R24 team for the Fuji race alongside Marie Iwaoka and Stephane Kox. This team was also run by former Le Mans racer Keiko Ihara. They were seventh in the LMP3 class. 

Anna tried out for the 2020 W Series in September 2019 but was not selected, admitting later that she found the F3 car hard to drive due to her lack of single-seater experience. Her first single-seater races were later in the year in the club-level JAF F4 series. On her third race, she scored her first podium finish. Back in a tin-top, she was invited to take part in the Japanese round of the Asian Mini Challenge.

Mazdas had not been forgotten: having represented West Japan in the Mazda Party Race series in 2018, she joined the Mazda Fan Endurance Japan Tour and won. 

Her 2020 activities included a run in the three-round Kyojo Cup, a single-make sportscar series for women drivers. She was third overall, winning the last race of the season. She also participated in the mixed Vita series, which uses the same car. 

She also returned to Super Taikyu after a year away, competing in a Mazda Roadster run by students from Nihon Automobile College. Hiroko Komatsu joined her in the five-driver team for the Fuji 24 Hours. Later in the season, she joined the Natural Tuning/Cusco team in their Roadster for the third Super Taikyu race. She earned her first class podium, a second place at Autopolis, during the fifth round. 

Shortly before that, she tested an Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR car, with a view to participating in the series in future. 

(Image copyright Anna Inotsume)

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Monique Delannoy


Monique Delannoy became the first female driver to compete on the Dakar in the Car class, in 1980. She drove a Peugeot 504 with Catherine Bonnier, but they did not finish. 

Prominent among the car’s sponsors was the famous Moulin Rouge of Paris. 

This was the first of five runs in the desert classic. In 1981, she used a Mercedes 240 jeep and was 25th, with Bernadette Sacy. The following year, she drove a Volkswagen Iltis with Alain Bodard, but again did not finish. 

Another run in an Iltis in 1983, this time as a navigator to her husband, Jean, gave her a 38th place. Co-driving again, she assisted Nicole Maitrot, a former motorcycle competitor, to 16th place in the 1984 Dakar in a Mitsubishi Pajero run by two Ligier F1 team personnel. The two women formed the lightest team on the entry list at 90kg between them. They won the Ladies’ Cup and the diesel class. 

Jean Delannoy also competed that year in a separate Pajero.

The Delannoys may well have met through motorsport. They raced together in the first season of the Coupe de l’Avenir for Simca-derived small sportscars in 1976 and had been involved in sportscar racing since at least 1973.

Monique later raced in the Leyland Trophy in France, with Bernadette Sacy. This was a one-make series for British Leyland cars, in 1978.  

Monique made a brief return to the circuits in 1984, racing a Crossle in a non-championship French Formula Ford race. She was 19th in one race at Ledenon. 

(Image copyright

Friday, 18 December 2020

Jem Hepworth

Jem Hepworth is the winner of the 2020 Britcar Endurance Championship, driving a Praga R1T for Team Motorsport Woman.

Success came young for Jem. As a karter, she represented the UK in the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission’s first “Girls on Track” finals at Le Mans. She competed at Le Mans but was not one of the girls selected for FIA WIM support.

Overlapping with this, she began her senior career in 2019. Her first race was the Citroen C1 24 Hours at Silverstone, as part of Team Motorsport Woman with Katie Milner, Alice Hughes and Sami Bowler. The team was fifth overall, having run as high as second. Despite being the least experienced member, she set the fastest laps of the four. 

Jem later drove a Motorsport Woman-backed Fiesta in the Ford Fiesta championship at Silverstone. She was ninth in her first race but could not finish the second due to a faulty wheel bearing. 

Her performances in the Citroen C1 helped to get her into the Motorsport Woman Praga for Britcar. She was paired with the slightly more experienced Danny Harrison and the two formed a strong partnership. When Jem was unable to start the first round due to a knee injury, Danny presented her with his trophy following his win. When she returned for the next round, she was down on testing time and not quite as fast as Danny, but she still managed to steer the car to a pair of wins at Brands Hatch, despite technical problems and the car almost running out of fuel. A DNF at Silverstone allowed their Praga rivals Jack Fabby and Garry Townshend to close the gap. Silverstone International led to a win and a frustrating DNF three laps from home, then Fabby and Townshend took one of the wins at Snetterton, with Jem and Danny second. They won the first race. Another win at the second Snetterton meeting put them in a strong position and they only needed second place to secure the championship, which they did in spite of a crash. 

Having raced karts at Le Mans, Jem’s long-term aim is a run in the Le Mans 24 Hours. She is continuing to work with Team Motorsport Woman in 2021.

(Image copyright Alan Quick)

Monday, 14 December 2020

Abbi Pulling


Abbi Pulling is a British single-seater driver who raced in F4 and the Formula 3-based Euroformula Open championship in 2020.

Prior to her step up to cars, she was one of Britain’s most successful karters of 2017. She won the Super 1 Junior TKM championship and the British ‘O’ Plate championship outright. She had been runner up in Super 1 Junior TKM in 2016. 

She made her car racing debut at the start of 2018 in Ginetta Juniors in the UK. Her first race was shortly after her fifteenth birthday and she proved herself capable of top-ten finishes, including a ninth place at Brands Hatch, but she only did a part-season. For the other half of the season she got back into a kart and trained further. 

She became supported by Motorsport UK in both competition and studies, and made her step up to senior competition in 2019. The season in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge got going a little slowly, but she became more and more confident and scored her best finish right at the end of the season: sixth at Donington.

In 2020 she switched to single-seaters, which had always been her aim. She raced in British F4 with the JHR Developments team. She had a cautious start to the season at Donington with a fifteenth and then a sixth place, then a disappointing non-finish, but she made up for it with her first podium at Brands Hatch. She posted three more podium finishes: thirds at Croft and Brands and a season’s-best second at Thruxton. The second place was particularly welcome after a nightmare meeting at Knockhill with two non-finishes, one from pole.

The Brands third place was one of the most impressive of the year. Abbi led after a lengthy caution period, having steered her way through a multi-car off. She was reeled in by Zak O’Sullivan and Christian Mansell, but it was a strong performance nevertheless.

She also had her first international race in 2020, when she was invited to take up a guest spot in the Formula Renault Eurocup F3 championship with Fernando Alonso’s FA Racing team. She joined the grid at Imola and finished both races in fifteenth and 16th place. 

(Image copyright Abbi Pulling)

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Jasmin Preisig


Jasmin Preisig is a Swiss saloon racer whose speciality is endurance events.

She began her senior career in 2012 with a guest spot in the Chevrolet Cruze Cup, before taking on the 2013 Opel Astra OPC Cup season in Germany. Her most noteworthy result was a sixth place in the 6-Hour race that was part of that series. She also competed in hillclimbs in a KTM X-Bow. 

At the beginning of 2014, she was one of a small number of drivers selected for a scholarship drive in the Volkswagen Scirocco-R Cup. It was a difficult learning year for her, but her results did improve, and her best was an eleventh place at the Nürburgring. Towards the end of the season, she was getting closer to the top ten and was 18th overall. 

In 2015, she took part again in the OPC Astra Cup, a one-make championship within the VLN. She was third overall with one second place. 

She continued to race the Astra in 2016 in some rounds of the ADAC TCR touring car series. Her best finish was a twelfth place at Hockenheim, from four races. 

She did a full TCR season in 2017, driving the Astra, and earned her first TCR top-ten: a tenth place at the Nürburgring. She was 31st in the championship. At the end of the season she had a dramatic accident at Hockenheim and had to be cut from her car, but she escaped serious injury.

She drove a similar car for Steibel Motorsport in 2018 and the Nürburgring was her best track once again and the scene of her best finish, an eleventh place. She bounced back from her 2017 accident to finish 22nd in the championship. 

Her links with the Lubner team, with whom she had competed since 2016, continued in the 2018 VLN. She drove their Astra for one round in the TCR class. 

In 2019, she was part of Carrie Schreiner's all-female "Girls Only" team for the VLN, driving a VW Golf. She did two rounds of the championship, finishing second and fifth in the SP3T class with Carrie Schreiner and Ronja Assmann. The same team entered the Nurburgring 24 Hours but did not finish. 

Jasmin then left Girls Only and joined up with Max Kruse Racing for the rest of the season. She and her team-mates finished four of their six races in their Golf, with every finish being on the podium in their class: three seconds and one third. Jasmin was eighth in the TCR drivers’ standings.

She rejoined the team for two rounds of the 2020 championship. The Golf was now running in the SP3T class for VLN specials up to 2000cc. Jasmin and her team-mates, Benjamin Leuchter and Andreas Gulden won their class twice. They were fifth overall.

For the rest of the year, she moved to the Creventic 24H Series Continents with the Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power team. Their car was a TCR-spec Golf. Jasmin did not finish the Portimao 12 Hours, but she was second in the first part of the Hockenheim race and won the second leg. She also recorded two third places in the two Mugello races. The Number 1 car which she raced in was third in the TCE teams’ standings and Jasmin was crowned 24H Series ladies’ champion. 

She is set to race in the 24H Series again in 2021.

(Image copyright Jasmin Preisig)

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Bernadette Sacy


Bernadette Sacy competed in both stage rallies and rally raids in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as racing on the circuits in the Gordini Cup and Leyland Trophy. 

She came from a motorsport family and had a father who raced, although he did not consider it suitable for girls and did not encourage her to compete herself. Her first steps in motorsport were rallies in northern France, driving an NSU in 1972 and a  Simca Rallye in 1973. 

For several years she switched to circuit-based competition and took part in several one-make racing championships. Her first one was the 1974 Gordini Cup, which used the Gordini-engined Renault 12, although she only had enough budget for some of the rounds. Another part-season in 1975 was based around a Ford Escort championship in Belgium.

Her next plan was to race in the Trophee Leyland, which used Innocenti-badged British Leyland cars. Her car was a Mini and although she was not one of the overall winners, she was one of the best of several female drivers entered. She raced the Innocenti Mini between 1976 and 1978. 

Her return to rallying was with the all-female Aseptogyl team. The team’s director Bob Neyret had seen her on-track in the Mini and offered her a seat in another small car, the Fiat 127. The team was mainly focused on the Italian rally championship by then, but Bernadette was part of a multi-car French team. Her best result seems to have been a 35th place in the Rallye de Lorraine, with a fourth place in class. 

1980 was a year without regular competition, but Bernadette was busy opening her own British Leyland dealership and planning new adventures. The Leyland Trophee had put her in touch both with the British car company itself and with Monique Delannoy, a former actress who also raced in the championship. Monique would become the first woman to enter the Paris-Dakar Rally in the car class. She drove a Peugeot 504 in the 1980 Dakar and recruited Bernadette as her navigator for the 1981 event. Their car was a Mercedes 240 jeep and they were 25th overall, winning both the Coupe des Dames and the diesel class.  

For the 1982 Dakar she moved over to the driving seat herself in a Range Rover. Christine “Kiki” Caron, a former Olympic swimmer who had done some rallying with Team Aseptogyl, was her navigator. Christine’s husband J-C Lagniez was Bernadette’s main sponsor at the time and was the main instigator of the partnership.

They got to the finish in 35th place. The same driver pairing in the same car tackled the 1983 Dakar, but did not finish. They became lost for three days during a sandstorm in Niger and were found by a rescue Range Rover along with another car crew and two motorcyclists. 

She returned to stage rallying in France and Europe quite extensively in 1984, driving for the Citroen team after the Aseptogyl stable wound down. In 1984, she was one of the finalists for the Citroen Trophée Féminin, representing the Lille region, and was eighth overall. Her results were more modest than they could have been, as she had to sit out part of the season due to injury after hitting a tree during the Terre de Provence Rallye.

After recovering from her injuries, she returned to rally raids. She has taken part in the Pharaons, Atlas and Optic 2000 rallies. As late as 1999, she was navigating for Estelle Hallyday in the Optic 2000 Rally in Tunisia. 

She and Estelle also competed together in the Andros Trophy in 1993 and 1994, driving a Venturi with Julien Beltoise. They raced together on ice again in the Chamonix 24 Hours, driving an Opel Astra to 29th place. Bernadette apparently returned to Chamonix a few times, although the results are hard to find.

After retiring from active competition, she moved into the administration and organisation side of rally raids. She still comes out of retirement occasionally for classic rallies.

This post was made with the help of the following sources:

(Image copyright Innocenti Motors Club)

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Veronica Valverde


Veronica Valverde is a single-seater driver from Costa Rica. She has competed most recently in Costa Rican Touring Cars. 

She began racing in 2010, in Formula 2000, aged sixteen. Her best results in the four-round Formula Renault-based championship were two second places. All races were held at La Guácima, her home track, and she was fourth and sixth in the other two. This debut season was combined with karting, in which she was still eligible for the junior classes. She returned to karting in 2011, having been given a “Most Promising Driver” award  for her region by the FIA.

In 2012 she raced in the Formula Abarth class of Panam GP, for Team Costa Rica, and was ninth overall. Fourth at Ibarra was her best finish of the year. Her team-mates in this national squad-based series were Carlos Fonseca and Andre Solano. She was the highest-scoring member of her team.

In 2013, she competed in Formula Panam GP, now running under Formula 3 regulations. She had her best result at the start of the season: fifth at Monterrey after missing the first two rounds. This was one of eight top-ten finishes for her this year. She was eleventh in the championship. Earlier in the year, she had raced at Palm Beach as part of the Panam winter series, earning two ninth places. 

Between then and 2016, she did not do much senior-level racing, although she was active in karting.

In 2016, she contested the Costa Rican Touring Car Championship, for the GreatWall team. She was eleventh overall. It was a new experience for her as she had never raced a saloon car before, and she was up against her former team-mates, Carlos Fonseca and Andre Solano. 

Another lengthy period away from the circuits followed. Veronica returned to the Costa Rican karting championship, with some success. In 2019, she was offered a guest drive in the Toyota Yaris Cup which supported the CRTCC. She did one round in September, at Costa Rica’s Parque Viva circuit. Although she was fast in practice and set the third-fastest time, she was not among the top five in the race itself.

She has expanded her karting experience to esports in 2020, taking part in kart sim races.

(Image copyright Veronica Valverde)