Inès at Le Mans
Inès Taittinger is best known for her appearance at Le Mans in 2016. She mostly races sportscars in her native France.
She made her debut in 2009, driving a Ligier prototype in the VdeV championship, at Magny-Cours. This was her only race of the year, and she was 22nd, driving the car with her father, Hugues. They were sixteenth in class. She had been encouraged by her godfather, Philippe Alliot, who had let her drive a Ferrari a few years earlier.
She continued in this car in 2010, supported by the Blue One team, and scored her first points at Aragon. She entered five races that year. In the first race, at Jarama, she and Hugues finished, but were unclassified. Inès did not race at Mugello, but was eleventh overall at Aragon, tenth in class. Another non-classified finish followed at Lédenon, then a line-up change for the Paul Ricard race gave her a fourteenth place. Olivier Dupard partnered her instead of Hugues. Back together with her father, she did not finish at Dijon. Blue One entered two Ligiers at Magny-Cours, and Inès was seventeenth, with Philippe Alliot and David Tuchbant. The last round, at Estoril, led to another DNF.
In 2011, she remained in VdeV, driving another Ligier JS51 for two rounds, for Springbox Concept this time. She and Amandine Foulard were nineteenth overall at Dijon, seventh in the Open class. At Magny-Cours they were tenth and third in class, one above Hugues in a similar car.
Driving for a different team, she also raced a Formula Renault in the VdeV series’ Monoplace (single-seater) Challenge, at Magny-Cours. She took part in three races, with a best finish of seventeenth.
Away from VdeV, she drove in the SPEED Euroseries for Springbox, partnering Amandine Foulard in a Ligier again for four rounds, at Paul Ricard and Silverstone. Their best finish was seventh, at Paul Ricard, and they were 49th in the championship.
2012 proceeded in a similar manner, with Springbox, although the car had been updated to a Ligier JS53. She raced at Dijon and Paul Ricard, sharing the car with Amandine Foulard and Jonathan Cochet respectively. She and Amandine were twentieth, but Inès and Jonathan Cochet did not finish. In the SPEED Euroseries, she entered the Paul Ricard and Spa races, four in all. She was eighth at Paul Ricard and ninth at Spa, leaving her in 37th in the championship.
For 2013, she returned to VdeV full-time, in the modern Endurance Challenge. Her car was a Norma prototype, run by CD Sport, and her team-mate was Kvin Bole-Besancon. She started well, qualifying second at Catalunya, and finishing in eighth place. Despite qualifying quite well at Mugello and Paul Ricard, she did not finish at either circuit. She and her team-mates were then sixth at Dijon, and an impressive third in the Aragon 12-hour race. Inès finished the season with a sixth at Magny-Cours and a fifteenth place at Estoril. She and Kvin Bole-Besancon were eighth in the championship.
As well as a full season in VdeV, she took part in the TTE touring car series, which confusingly has a prototype class. She won one race at Albi in the Norma, and was third in a six-hour race at Magny-Cours. Proving that she had a taste for real endurance, she drove in the Fun Cup 25 Hours at Spa, as part of a six-driver Kronos Racing team that included Margot Laffite.
She drove the CD Sport Norma in VdeV again, in 2014. Her season started well enough with ninth at Barcelona. By the fourth round, at Dijon, she was really getting into her stride, and was third overall. She was then a disappointing 23rd at Aragon, where she had run so well the year before. A little later, she was back on the podium at Magny-Cours, with second place. Her inconsistent but not bad season was enough for thirteenth in the championship.
2015 was the year that she started setting her career sights higher. She stated her aim to race at Le Mans in 2016. For the past few seasons, she had been working on her fitness and stamina, which had paid off in VdeV. Grabbing any chance she could for a Le Mans race seat, she signed up for a racing reality TV show called “Race to 24”, where the prize for the winning driver was to compete at the Sarthe classic. The show never made it into production, but Inès used the publicity generated to raise her public profile, with several TV appearances. This made her a more attractive prospect for sponsors, especially when public reaction to her was very positive.
She did do some racing in 2015, competing for CD Sport in VdeV, in the Norma again. Barcelona was a forgettable race for her and her team-mates, and Mugello was slightly more encouraging, despite being far from what Inès was capable of doing. Things improved at Dijon with an eighth place, but then she did not finish at Paul Ricard. The season ended well, with sixth place at Magny-Cours and tenth at Estoril. She was 23rd in the championship.
Everything changed at the start of the 2016 season. Inès left the CD Sport set-up and joined Pegasus Racing. Her former team-mate, Amandine Foulard, had been part of the team for some time a few seasons ago. She would be racing a Nissan-engined Morgan in the LMP2 class, both in the European Le Mans Series and at Le Mans itself. Her team-mates were Léo Roussel and Rémy Striebig. In interviews, she stated that her aim for 2016 was to learn, and it was certainly a tough beginning to the season, when the car only lasted 90 laps at Silverstone, after setting some strong times. She was twelfth at Imola, again setting very competitive lap times. The Austrian round was another disappointment, retiring after 123 laps. A seventeenth place at Paul Ricard was a little more promising.
Inès’s individual performance at Le Mans itself was barely criticised, but during one of her stints, the Morgan caught fire, meaning a risky trip back to the pits and instant retirement. Still, she was the only Frenchwoman to race that year, and her profile was higher than ever, which bodes well for future sponsorship.
Throughout her racing career, she has supported the French charity, Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque, which helps children born with heart defects. This is a cause close to her own heart, as she was born with cardiac problems herself. This has not stopped her from pursuing a sporting career at the highest level.
(Image copyright Frédéric Veille)