Monday, 21 April 2014

Liesette Braams

Liesette with the GT4 BMW

Motorsport has long been a big part of Liesette’s life, being married to racer Luc Braams and mother to racer Max Braams. The Las Moras team is run by the Braams family, with Liesette in a senior role. It is therefore not surprising that she took the wheel herself - more of a surprise that she waited so long (she was 36 when she began racing). Her first car was a BMW 120d, in which she did her first races in 2007. Luc started competing at the same time, with Max coming in a little later.
She joined up with the Verschuur team in 2008, who were working with Las Moras. They were competing in the Dutch Toerwagen Diesel Cup, still in a 120d. Her team-mate was Sacha Broer. She was 59th overall in what was effectively her debut year, but still ahead of her team-mate. In the off-season, she joined up with Sheila Verschuur and Luc Braams for the Dutch Winter Endurance Championship. She was 15th overall after five races, behind Sheila but ahead of Luc.
Liesette joined the satellite Mad and Darring team for 2009, still driving a 120d in the Diesel Cup. Her new partner was Gaby Uljee, another Diesel Cup returnee. This season, she was much faster, and closer to the pace of the leaders. The pair scored two podium finishes at Assen, two fastest laps, and were seventeenth and eighteenth overall (Liesette was 18th).
Another run in the Winter Endurance Championship gave her tenth overall, just behind team-mate Duncan Huisman. They were driving one of the Verschuur 120ds. For a change, she also drove a Volkswagen Golf in the VW Endurance Cup in the Netherlands, for three races. For the first time, Liesette, Luc and Max drove as “Team Braams”. They were 32nd overall.
Liesette returned to the Diesel Cup in 2010, a much improved driver. Driving a Verschuur BMW 123d, she achieved her first win, as well as an additional podium place, two pole positions and two fastest laps. She was sixth in the final standings. Her team-mate was Gaby Uljee once more.
After a couple of races in the Winter Endurance series, she started her fourth Diesel Cup season in 2011. Her car was still a BMW 123d, one of the Verschuur cars, but running as the “Techno Marine” team. She gained a new team-mate in Paulien Zwart, an experienced saloon racer who was returning from a year out due to pregnancy. Liesette was not at her 2010 race-winning pace, and she was thirteenth overall, with Paulien fourteenth.
During the 2011 season, Liesette took part in her first 24 hour race, the Toyo Tyres Series event at Barcelona. She shared a Verschuur 123d with Paulien, plus British drivers Paul Follet and Terry Flatt. They did not finish.
Early in 2012, she teamed up with Paulien, Gaby, Sandra van der Sloot and Sheila Verschuur as the "Dutch Racing Divas", for the Dubai 24 Hours. They were 39th and fourth in class, driving a Renault Clio. The team was the project of Sandra van der Sloot, and was supported by Las Moras.
For most of the year, Liesette drove a BMW 123d for Las Moras in the Burando Production Open championship. She and Sheila Verschuur were back to championship-challenging pace and were fourth overall, after winning three times. This year, Liesette tried out a few different cars: the 123d, the Clio, the 120d she was used to, and a Suzuki Swift. She used the 120d in a couple of rounds of the Dutch Supercar Challenge, and was seventh in class. In the Swift, she made two guest appearances in the Formido Swift Cup.
The Racing Divas reformed for the Dubai 24 Hours in 2013. They drove a BMW 320D supported by Team Schubert, with Liesette as the named lead driver. They were 26th overall, and won the A3T class. Despite this small success, they seriously struggled for sponsorship, and consequently track time, in 2013. Liesette left the team and pursued her own racing interests.
After the Dubai 24 Hours, Liesette drove for Las Moras in the Burando Production Open again, in the BMW. She was eighth overall. She did not manage to win this year, but put in two fastest laps, and ran quite close to the front. As a consolation, she won the Ladies’ award in the BMW Sports Trophy, which takes into account various racing series. She was seventh overall in the Trophy. This followed her most successful run in the Winter Endurance Championship, in which she was third. In a different BMW, she and her team-mates, Cor Euser, Hal Prewitt and Dirk Schulz, won their class at the Hungaroring 12 Hours. They were tenth overall.
Sticking with Eastern Europe, she also took part in the Lotus Ladies' Cup, finishing fourth behind her team-mate, Sheila Verschuur. Her best result was second, at the Hungaroring. The duo were running in Las Moras Elises, and led a small Dutch invasion of the hitherto Eastern European-dominated championship. Mid-season, she did a guest race in a Lotus for a Dutch GT4 championship, too.
For 2014, Liesette teamed up with Bonk Motorsport for the Dubai 24 Hours, driving a BMW M3. She and her team-mates were 40th overall, fourth in class. In the same series, Liesette was part of a team with Michael Bonk and Axel Burghardt for the 12 Hours of Italy, at Mugello. They were tenth overall in the BMW.
She is also registered for the European GT4 Championship in a Las Moras BMW M3, as well as tackling the Burando Open series again in the 123d. At the time of writing, she has already won two Burando races at Zandvoort, from pole position.
(Image from

Friday, 18 April 2014

Women's Races in the USA in the mid-20th century

Members of the WSCC with a Porsche 550

Women’s races have long been a part of American club and national-level motorsport, on both oval and road courses. This is in spite of some quite open prohibition on women’s participation in motor racing. For example, the American Automobile Association, the main motorsport body of its time, explicitly barred women from its sanctioned competitions in 1909. This was after the efforts of Joan Newton Cuneo to compete in its events, from 1905 onwards. Although Joan was not banned from entering, she was prevented from completing certain parts of race routes, for spurious safety reasons, thus disqualifying her from various awards, and was never invited to join the club itself, despite being an active and skilled driver.

The AAA’s influence over motorsport continued until 1955. Its rules about women were relaxed somewhat, but they were still prohibited from major competitions. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the most prominent US racing venue, did not even routinely allow women into the pit lane until the mid-1970s, let alone take part in races. Denise McCluggage, working as a journalist, did much to challenge that.

So, it is quite surprising to learn, that despite a backdrop of sometimes open hostility, women’s races were regularly organised in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of them were part of SCCA meetings, and they ran in various parts of the country, but mainly on the East and West coasts.
The women’s races at the Nassau Trophy, although not part of the SCCA, were entered by the same group of drivers.

At first, these races were very short, run as multi-class events and did not always have their entry lists published. They followed on from a longer tradition on short-track ovals, where such races were disparagingly referred to as “Powder Puff Derbies”. That name itself came from the unofficial title given to the 1929 Women’s Air Derby air race.

The drivers in these early-1950s events were normally the wives, partners or occasionally, daughters of male drivers taking part in the same meeting. For example, of the competitors in the Ladies’ Race at Elkhart Lake in July 1950, only one, Sally Chapin, the winner, was not driving her husband’s car. (It was a Healey Silverstone belonging to Jim Kimberly, who helped to start the circuit that year). This meant that the women drivers did not usually get the chance to run in the main events, as their cars were in use.

The cars themselves were usually small sportscars or saloons, with Porsches and Jaguars being quite common. The Porsche 356 and 550 were particularly popular. There were no single-seater (open wheel) races held for women, or not on any major circuits.

As time went on, a number of Ladies’ race entrants did so in their own cars. Margaret (Peggy) Wyllie sometimes competed in her husband’s Jaguar C-Type or XK140 in the early and middle 1950s, but at least as often, drove her own MG TC or XK120 in both Ladies’ and other events. Later on, she shared a Lotus IX with her husband, and eventually, they competed together in races such as the Sebring 12 Hours in 1956, in the Lotus.

In 1956, Betty Shutes appears on the scene. From the beginning, she owned her own Porsche 356, and raced it in Ladies’ races, and also SCCA Stock and Production races. In 1957, she upgraded the 356 to a 550, after trying one out belonging to Stan Sugarman. The following year, she started winning regularly in Ladies’ races, and she was almost unbeatable in them in 1959. She continued to win Ladies’ races until 1961, by then in a Porsche 718. If there had been an organised Ladies’ championship, she would have won at least two.

Betty Shutes was one of the early members of the WSCC - the Women’s Sports Car Club, which existed from at least 1958, and sought to promote female participation, both in actual competition, and through marshalling, timekeeping and other active support roles. It also provided a social network for women drivers, who were not always included in mainstream motor clubs.

For some, the ladies’ races put on by the SCCA were enough to keep them going. However, some drivers were far more ambitious, and set their sights on not only mixed SCCA competition, but higher levels, too. From her first season, Ruth Levy competed in both Ladies’ and mixed races, and qualified for the SCCA Nationals in 1955, in her own Porsche 356. By 1957, she was driving for John Edgar’s Porsche team alongside Carroll Shelby and entering endurance races at Road America and as far afield as Venezuela. In 1958, she drove a Fiat Abarth 750 Zagato in the Sebring 12 Hours.

Josie von Neumann, who raced alongside her father, John, was another driver who began in ladies’ races, but branched out. In 1959, she raced a Ferrari 250 TR in the main events of the Nassau Trophy, and at the 200 Mile endurance race at Riverside.

Evelyn Mull, Donna Mae Mims and Suzy Dietrich all started their careers in SCCA ladies’ races.

Suzy Dietrich

A recurring team-mate of Ruth Levy’s was Denise McCluggage. Denise’s motorsport achievements eclipsed Ruth’s fairly quickly, as her career was much longer. In her early days, she was a frequent competitor in ladies’ races, driving a Porsche 550, and won several. However, she admitted to not enjoying competing in them much, and claimed that she drove at her worst in them. Not all female drivers were enthusiastic advocates of single-sex racing.

As well as those who used ladies’ races as track practice, and those who were content to remain in them, a few other interesting drivers cropped up in the entry lists. One such was Louise Cano, who drove a Lancia Spyder and other cars in 1956 and 1957. She was never among the front-runners. She becomes much more prominent in motorsport a few years later, when, as Louise Bryden-Brown, she helped to get Dan Gurney started in international single-seater racing in her Lotus 18.

Also worth noting is LaRuth Bostic, who drove an Austin-Healey in a few races in 1957. LaRuth was the first African-American female racing driver.

Women-only races declined in popularity during the 1960s, perhaps due to the fact that many of their regular participants had branched out into mixed events. They remained a feature at short tracks, but slipped back into their “powder puff derby” afterthought stereotype. It was not until the Women’s Global GT championship in 1999 that a “serious” motorsport series for women drivers existed in the United States.

(Images from 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Molly Taylor

Molly Taylor in 2013

Molly is an Australian driver from an established rallying family: her father is Mark Taylor, a driver, and her mother is Coral Taylor, a co-driver with four Australian championships to her name. Despite her background, Molly’s initial sporting passion was for horses, and as a teenager, she competed in cross-country. She only took up motorsport at 17, after working at her father’s rally driving school and then finishing well in some motorkhana events. Her first competition car was a Holden Gemini.
She began her stage rallying career in 2006, supported by the Australian motorsport authority’s Women’s Driver Development programme. Straight away, she won the Rally Des Femmes in Canberra, a women-only event, five minutes ahead of her nearest competitor. In her first season, she won the NSW 2WD and 2-litre titles.
Having proved her worth at state-level competition, she set the bar higher in 2007 and entered the Australian championship. This turned into two top-ten finishes in major Australian rallies in 2007, and an outright win in the F1600 class of the Australian championship, driving a Holden Gemini.
She repeated her achievement in 2008, driving a Mitsubishi Mirage. Her first big result was ninth, in the Coates Rally Queensland., followed by eleventh in the Canberra Rally.  She was 19th in the South Australia Rally, despite a spin and a puncture. During the Great Lakes Rally, she secured enough points to claim the S1600 championship on the first day, despite rolling the car and crashing out later. She then retired from the Melbourne Rally. 
Away from the official Australian championship, she scored her first win on the Myall Lakes Rally, in the multi-club class. Late in the European season, in September, she travelled to the UK for the Yorkshire International Rally, driving a Suzuki Swift. She was 28th overall, and seventh in class.
A move to England full-time followed in 2009, in order to further her rally career. Her British co-driver was Jemma Bellingham. She narrowly missed winning the Suzuki Swift Sport Cup after a fuel pump failure on the Yorkshire Rally. She was runner-up and British Ladies’ Champion as a consolation. Her best finish was 20th on the Pirelli Rally, which second of her two Swift Cup wins. The first came during the Bulldog Rally of North Wales, in which she was 24th. Her other events were the Jim Clark, Manx and Ulster Rallies. She crashed out in the Isle of Man, but finished the other two.
The following year, it was time for a new car. She exchanged the Swift for a Citroen C2, and contested the C2 Trophy in the UK. She also had a new co-driver: Phil Clarke sat alongside her for most of the year, apart from two rallies, where she was navigated by her mother, Coral. This year, Molly did not fare quite as well in her class, but her overall results were better, and more consistent. Her best overall finished were two fourteenth places, in the Manx and Trackrod Rallies, and she stayed in the top twenty for every rally she finished. Her best class finish was third, again, in the Trackrod Rally. Her performances were enough for her to defend her Ladies’ title.
She won a place in the WRC Academy for 2011, the replacement for the Junior WRC. Competing in six World Championship rallies across Europe in a Ford Fiesta,  her best result was fifth in class, achieved in the Alsace Rally France and Wales Rally GB. Academy drivers were not part of the main classification. She was eighth in Portugal, , did not finish in Italy, was ninth in Finland and fourteenth in Germany. This left her eleventh in the Academy standings.  Away from the WRC Academy, she did most of the British championship, in the Fiesta. Her best result was fourteenth, in the Pirelli Rally, but she retired from her other three British events: the Sunseeker, Bulldog and Scottish Rallies. Mid-season, she travelled to Estonia for the Rally of Estonia, and was 71st overall, eighth in class.
In 2012, she was active across Europe, and competed in two WRC events at the end of her season: Wales Rally GB, where she was 20th, and Finland, which she did not finish. Her car was a Citroen DS3 R3T. For her first rally of the year, the Bulldog, she used the Fiesta, but retired. Her first event in the Citroen was the Ypres Rally, where she was 35th. Her next outing in it was the Casentino International Rally in Italy, running as the course car. Molly was now working with an Italian sports management company, and spending quite a lot of time there. Her next rally was also in Italy, the Coppa Città di Lucca. She was 23rd, alongside Sebastian Marshall, who was her regular co-driver this season.
In 2013, she continued with the Citroen DS3, based in Italy and mostly following the ERC circuit. Her year started in the Portuguese Azores islands,  with a class win in the Açores City Rally Show, and 21st overall. Unfortunately, she retired from the Açores Rally proper, after an accident. Her next ERC Rally, the Tour de Corse, gave her another class win, which counted towards the championship this time. She was fourteenth overall and first lady driver, in front of the experienced Ekaterina Stratieva. A second visit to the Ypres Rally ended in retirement, but a first trip to Romania, for the Sibiu Rally Romania, gave her 25th, and seventh in class. This was another Ladies’ win over Stratieva. The Barum Czech Rally Zlín ended similarly: 26th and sixth in class. In addition to this, Molly was running in the Citroen Racing Trophy class, and was second in that. A third in the Citroen racing Trophy followed in Poland, in the Rajd Polski, in which she was 23rd. She was also 23rd in the Croatia Rally. A non-ERC outing in the Ronde della Val d'Orcia in Italy followed, and she achieved her best overall finish of the year: twelfth, with a class win. Her last event was the Wales Rally GB, in which she was 23rd again, fourth in class. She ended the year as the European Ladies’ Rally Champion, replacing Ekaterina Stratieva.
Australian rallying had not been completely forgotten. Mid-season, she travelled back to her home country for the Scouts Rally. Driving the Ford Fiesta, she was eighth in one heat, with a class win, and 20th in another.
Away from the rally stages, she is involved with the FIA’s Women in Motorsport Commission, which supports female involvement in motorsport, having been supported by its Australian equivalent.
In 2014, Molly is contesting the Junior World Rally Championship in the Citroen. Having let her regular co-driver Sebastian Marshall go due to commercial pressures, she is competing alongside her mother, Coral.

(Image from 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Female Rally Drivers After 1950: Belgium

Vicky van de Walle and navigator Michelle Demeestere with the Mini Cooper in 2013

Belgium's most successful female driver, Melissa Debackere, has her own profile here.

Daisy Cols - former Belgian driver. She competed in the Belgian Division Two Championship in a Fiat Punto in 2003, as part of a team with her brother, Larry. In 2004, she continued in the Fiat and won the Coupe des Dames and Class A7 in the Boucles de Spa. She repeated her A7 win in the Rallye de Wallonie. Her career began in 1999, driving a Citroen Saxo.

Valina Dechamps - driver and  co-driver who usually competes in rallysprint and Belgian club events. She was her club’s female champion in 2011 and 2012. In recent years, she has driven a Peugeot 206 and 306. In 2006 and 2007, she competed in some major Belgian rallies, in a Toyota Yaris. She was 39th in the 2007 East Belgian Rally and 104th in the 2006 Rallye Condroz-Huy. Her club activities often seem to be in the Hannut region. On the navigation side, she sat with Sebastien Honnay in the Micky Rallysprint in 2013.

Julie Devalet - won the Citroen Racing Junior Trophy in Belgium in 2013. She won her class in the three rounds that she entered: the Ypres Rally, Rallye du Condroz and East Belgian Rally. Her car was a Citroen Ds3 R1. She also drove in the Luxembourg Rally, and was 30th overall. Her usual navigator, Jennifer Thielen, is Luxembourgish. Previously, she did some Belgian rallies in 2006, in a Skoda Fabia. She also navigated from 2004 onwards, and helped her partner Caren Burton to second overall in the 2013 Rallye des Trois-Ponts.

Christelle Fameree - has competed on and off in Belgium since at least 2000. She has driven or co-driven in at least 16 runnings of the Rallye du Condroz, in cars including an Opel/Vauxhall Astra and a Peugeot 106. In 2013, she was 77th, in a Peugeot 207. Apart from major rallies, she is a regular in club and lower-level events, including rallysprints. She has entered the Micky Rallysprint on several occasions, and was 41st in 2013. She is from a rallying family: her father and partner prepare her cars, and she is navigated by her mother, Arlette Faniel. 

Patricia Nijs - driver and co-driver who has moved between the two roles. She first appears in the Belgian championship in 2004, navigating for Phil Nijs. In 2006, she had a season as a driver, competing in the Belgian championship and the Ypres Westhoek Rally, a round of the IRC and European Championship. In this rally, she drove a Ford Fiesta, and was 60th overall. Her best result was 19th, seventh in class, in the Rally of Haspengouw, in a Subaru Impreza WRX. In 2013, she returned to the stages in a different Impreza, and was 22nd in the Shortrally of Suikerstreek and 19th in the Rally van Sint-Truiden.

Vicky van de Walle - long-time navigator who has recently switched to the driver’s seat. She has been co-driving since at least 1999, and was Hans Vancampenhoudt’s regular navigator in 2000. She also co-drove Melissa Debackere, and did a one-off rally with her in 2013. She had her first driving experience in a Mini in 2011, in the Tour of Flanders, with a Mini. She did not finish. In 2013, in another Mini Cooper, she did four rounds of the Belgian championship, plus the Rally of Luxembourg. Her best finish was 29th, in the ORC Canal Rally, which was won by Melissa Debackere.

(Image from


Monday, 17 March 2014

Jill Robinson

Jill in the Alpine-Renault, in the 1972 RAC Rally

Jill was one of Britain's leading lady drivers in the 1970s. She was a regular entrant in the major British rallies, and also competed quite extensively abroad, particularly in Finland. Although she never achieved the stellar results of Pat Moss or Rosemary Smith, whose careers overlapped with hers, she was capable of holding her own on a special stage, and was able to draw upon considerable resources and contacts to support her motorsport activities.

Born Jill (Margaret) Simpson, she was part of the Simpson family who were the “Simpson” in “Clarke & Simpson”, an upmarket Ford dealership in London. Her sister, Judy, was also a rally driver, although she took it up some years after Jill. Jill herself seems to have started competing some time after her first marriage, and the birth of at least one child, a daughter.

On the international stage, she competed in the RAC Rally seven times. Her first RAC Rally was in 1969, and she drove a BMW 2002 TI with Audrey Scott. They were 58th overall and won the Ladies’ Cup. In 1970, she entered again, this time in a Ford Escort RS 1600. She would continue to drive Escorts of various kinds throughout her career. In this particular one, she is not recorded as a finisher. Her navigator was Frances Cobb. They renewed their partnership in 1971’s RAC Rally, in a similar car, but again, did not finish. The duo also did the Ypres Rally together, in an Escort RS1600 run by Clarke & Simpson. They also drove in the Dukeries Rally, finishing 49th in the Escort. That year, Jill, with local co-driver Leila Loukimo alongside, entered her first 1000 Lakes Rally, in a Twin Cam Escort. They were 42nd overall, and second female crew, behind the experienced and local Eeva Heinonen.

In 1972, Jill started her season back in Finland, for the Arctic Rally. She and Kirsti Pätiälä retired in their Twin Cam Escort. For a change, Jill drove an Alpine-Renault A110 in the Daily Mirror RAC Rally, alongside Dilys Rodgers. They do not appear to have finished.

Jill’s most famous rallying exploit came in 1973, during the Daily Mirror RAC Rally. In a Ford Escort Mexico, she was roped into driving alongside the now-disgraced DJ Jimmy Savile, which did not end well. They dropped out very early on, after performing quite poorly. That year, she also teamed up with Frances Cobb again for the Avon Tour of Britain, a Tour de France style combination of rally sections and circuit races. They drove a Ford Cortina and do not appear to have finished.

The following year, she returned to the RAC Rally with a more skilled navigator, Dilys Rodgers. They drove a Ford Escort RS1600, and were 52nd overall. Later in the year, Jill moved away from Ford power temporarily, and drove an Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV in the 1000 Lakes Rally. Her navigator was Kirsti Airikkala, a British-based Finn who was married to Pentti Airikkala, another entrant into the rally. Pentti was sponsored by Clarke & Simpson, and both Jill and Kirsti would drive under Castrol sponsorship. Jill and Kirsti were 80th overall, but third in the one-litre class. They was also third in the ladies’ standings, behind her regular rival, Eeva Heinonen, and Trine Jensen.
Another attempt at the RAC Rally in 1975, assisted by Dilys Rodgers and in a Ford Escort RS1800 this time, ended in retirement again. She was part of an Avon Tyres-backed team with Russell Close. The following year, she had her best RAC Rally result of her career: 28th, and winner of the Coupe des Dames. She was driving an RS1800 with Pauline Gullick. During the summer, she made another trip to Finland, for the Hankiralli this time, driving an RS2000. She did not finish.
Her programme was similar in 1977. This time, she finished the Hankirally in 39th place, driving an RS2000 with Ian Parry. She was 47th in that year’s RAC Rally, in another Escort, with Dorothy Selby-Boothroyd. This year, she was also active in British rallies, and was part of Team Castrol in the British championship, driving an RS1600 with Dilys Rodgers.
By 1978, her career was winding down, and she only appears to have driven in one major rally this year. She was 40th in the Safari Rally in an Escort RS2000, co-driven by another experienced local, Yvonne Pratt.
In 1979, she did her last big international events. One was her debut visit to the Rally of Madeira, which she does not appear to have finished. Another was the Sunriser Forest Rally in the USA. Jill drove an ex-Rod Millen Datsun 510, with Pauline Gullick. They did not finish. This deal was partly arranged by Jill’s partner, David Sutton, a rally driver and preparation expert. Some time after this, the couple married. Jill and David sometimes competed together, and David, a former sales manager at Clarke & Simpson, was instrumental in brokering some of Jill’s drives. He took over Clarke & Simpson in 1975, which became David Sutton Cars.
In 1979, Jill’s daughter, whose name is not forthcoming, attempted to start her own rally career in the Fabergé Fiesta Challenge. She was eliminated in the preliminary rounds.Jill and David are still together, and live in Northamptonshire.

 (Photo by, and copyright of, Tony Gardiner) 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Ramona Karlsson

Ramona and Miriam (left) after their Uppsala win

Ramona is Sweden’s most successful modern female driver, emulating and surpassing the triumphs of Ewy Rosqvist in the 1960s.
She was interested in motorsport from a very early age, and competed in motocross, kart-cross and rallycross as a junior driver. She won championships in both junior rallycross, and kart-cross, before commencing her rally career in 2001. In addition to her motorsport activities, she was also a junior champion in pistol shooting in Sweden.
She was fairly young when she started stage rallying seriously, 23 years old, and her first rallies were completed in a Saab 900, as were those of many Swedish drivers of the last twenty years or so. In 2004, she was 60th in the Kullingstrofén with Henrik Darius.
The Saab was exchanged for a newer Volkswagen Golf in 2005, although it did not prove to be much faster. Her second attempt at the Kullingstrofén gave her 70th place this time. She retired from the Silverratten rally.An Audi 90 Quattro, a prophetic but not particularly well-suited rally car, also proved rather fragile, and she retired from the 2006 Kullingstrofén rally. A year on the sidelines followed.
By 2008, Ramona had managed to invest in a more powerful car, a Subaru Impreza. By now, she was running her own rally team. She was also supported by Subaru Sweden for some of her events, including the South Swedish Rally, in which she was 30th, and her first WRC event, Rally Sweden. She was 40th, and 29th in her class. In between these two events, she drove in the Kvarnturen Rally, and was a career-best tenth. This year, she also developed a partnership with Miriam Walfridsson, her new co-driver and a member of the Walfridsson rallying clan.
In 2009, she drove for Pelle Palmqvist’s team in a Mitusbishi Lancer Evo 5 and 9, competing in Group N. She won her class in at least one round of the KMK Trofen, in the Evo 5. Her only big rally of the year seems to have been the South Swedish Rally, from which she retired.
In 2010, she picked up sponsorship from Mattel's Barbie brand, and competed in the Swedish championship once more, as well as making a visit to the UK for the Trackrod Rally, and Norway for the Rally Sorland. Unfortunately, she did not finish either. Driving a Lancer Evo 9, her best result was fourth, in the Gastabudstrofen. Her next rally, the Kvarnturen rally, gave her a seventh place. Later, she was twelfth in the KMK Trofen.
The Lancer was upgraded to an Evo X model for 2011. Ramona was immediately on the pace, finishing fifth in the Vinterpokalen. After a retirement from the Rally Sweden SM round, she was also sixth on the snow, in the Fäviken Winter Rally. After another retirement from the South Swedish Rally, she scored her third top ten of the season, finishing tenth in the AM-Tryck Snapphanerally. Fourteenth in the East Swedish Rally followed, and then two trips abroad: the Rally of Poland and the Lausitz Rally in Germany. She finished the Polish event in 23rd, third in class.
Encouraged by her improving form and the sponsorship and exposure it brought,  she contested the Production WRC in 2012, driving a Mitsubishi Evo X, run by her own team. She managed four rounds: Mexico, Argentina, New Zealand and Germany. She started quite well, with 18th place in Mexico (sixth in the PWRC standings), but did not finish in Argentina, due to car trouble. In New Zealand, she became the first female driver to record a PWRC stage win, and was running in a consistent 18th/19th place, but her car caught fire, forcing her and Miriam to evacuate it and run away during stage 15. Neither was hurt. They had a functional car again for Germany, but went out on the second stage with a mechanical problem.
In 2013, she acquired a Skoda Fabia WRC car, which, after she got used to it, was used to great effect in Swedish rallies. Her first two events, the Tractive Rallysprint and the Vinterpokalen, were distinctly underwhelming in terms of results, but by the time the Östersund Winter Rally came around, Ramona had got to grips with the Fabia, and was ninth overall. Over the season, she just kept getting better, finishing sixth in the South Swedish Rally, fifth in the Snapphanerallyt and third in the East Sweden Rally. Her season culminated in her first win, in the Uppsala Rally. She was runner-up in the Swedish championship.
For 2014, Ramona has decided to move away from rallying, despite her success in 2013. She will compete in the World Rallycross Championship, as its first female driver. As a way to raise funds for this, she offered her services as a taxi driver to Swedish marketing people in December 2013.

 (Image from

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Female Rally Drivers Around the World: Switzerland

Stéphanie le Coultre and Sonia Boi

Circuit racing is illegal in Switzerland, but it has some rallies, and an active rally championship based mainly in France and Italy. Swiss drivers also compete in other championships.

Stéphanie le Coultre - Swiss driver, active in major rallies since 2007. Her first car was a Citroen Saxo VTS, which she used in events in Switzerland itself and France. Her first finish in a major rally came in 2008, when she was 37th in the International Rallye du Valais, in Switzerland. In 2009, she entered the Valais rally again, but could not drive because her navigator, Sarah Dussex, was ill. After this, she exchanged the Citroen for a Fiat Abarth 500. When she shifted the focus of her rally activities to Italy, her results really started improving. In 2011, her best result was 19th, in the Rallye Antibes Côte d’Azur in France. She was also 34th in the Rally Appenino Reggiano. Mid-season, she entered her first IRC rally, the San Remo Rally, but did not finish. After a quiet season in 2012, where she changed car again, to a Suzuki Swift, and gained a new navigator, Sonia Boi, They attacked the Italian Suzuki Rally Cup together in 2013, driving partly for Team Nyonnais and partly for Butterfly Motorsport. Stéphanie’s best result was 17th in the Mille Miglia National Rally, fifth in class and ninth in the Suzuki Cup. Her best Suzuki Cup finish was eighth, in the Sanremo Leggende Rally. She was 34th overall. As well as rallying, she also competes in hillclimbs occasionally. 

Maude Crepin - Swiss rallyist active as a driver in French rallies since 2009. She began as a slalom driver, before entering rallying as a navigator in 2008. In 2009, she competed in four French national rallies in a Citroen Saxo, as well as hillclimbs, slaloms and even circuit racing. The following year, her programme extended to six rallies, still in the Citroen. She managed to finish some rallies, although she was still learning, and had problems with tyres. In 2011, she entered the Saxo into both gravel and tarmac events, with tarmac giving her a best finish of 37th in the Rallye du Gard. Her best gravel finish was 77th, in the Terre des Causes rally. In 2012, she was less active, but drove a Peugeot 106 in some French rallies, including the Rallye des Vins du Gard. She seems to have done some navigation in 2013. 

Michela (Micky) Martinelli - Swiss driver active in the 1970s and 1980s. She often drove an Opel Kadett or an Alfa Romeo. One of her most famous drives was her 27th place in the 1981 Targa Florio, in the Kadett. She competed in the Italian championship that year and appears to have won the Ladies’ prize, ahead of Pierangela Riva. At some point prior to this, she won the Swiss championship as well. She is now active again in historic events, often in Italy.

Iris Thurnherr – Swiss driver with single-seater and rallying experience. She raced in the German junior formulae in 2002 and 2003, before taking up rallying with the Suzuki Ignis Cup. A season in the Swiss championship followed. She changed to a Swift in 2007, for the Suzuki Rallye Cup. She scored some good class podium places in European rallies as part of the Cup and was usually the fastest woman. Her class-winning ways in the Ignis continued into 2008, with an N2 win on the Rallye Pays du Gier, and she was first in class, second in group and 15th overall on the Rallye Oberehe. This time, she was driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 instead of the Ignis. In 2009, she continued with the Lancer, competing in German rallies, rallysprints, and the occasional circuit race. The situation was the same in 2010. Her best finish was third in the ADAC Rallye Oberehe.She drove in the Swiss championship in 2011, in an Evo VIII run by Emil Frey Motorsport. She was tenth overall, fourth in class, with a best finish of seventh, in the Rallye delle Valle Cuneesi.

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