Sunday, 11 March 2018

Gisela Ponce

Gisela Ponce is a Mexican driver who has raced in both NASCAR and touring cars, and now competes in truck racing.

She is from a racing family: her brother Javier is a racing driver, her father (also Javier) raced for many years, and her grandfather was the president of his regional motorsport association.

After several seasons of karting, she took her first steps in senior motorsport in 2009, when she was nineteen. Her first racing season was in the VW Stock 1600 championship, driving an original Beetle. Her first outing ended with a third place at her local track, Aguascalientes. She was fourth overall, and second in the rookie standings.

In 2010, she worked with the Volkswagen team and undertook training with them, then competed in a VW Golf in the regional Aguascalientes Copa RC Racing series. She finished second after a very strong season, and won at least one race.

In 2011, she formed her own family team, and contested the 1600cc Mexican Touring Car Championship. She was third in the final standings, having led for part of the season. This run in a national series was accompanied by more races in the Central Mexican touring car series. She was the champion in the VW Sedan class, and second in the Chevy 1600 class.

Her NASCAR adventures began in 2012, when she entered the Mexican Stock V6 NASCAR series for the first time, driving a Chevrolet for the OAM Ramirez team. Her best finish was fifth, at Mexico City, and she was in the top ten for nine of the twelve races. Her finishes gradually improved over the season; her best result was in the last round. She was seventh overall.

As well as NASCAR, she found time for some Mexican touring car races, in another Chevrolet. She scored one podium in the 1800cc Mexican Touring Car Championship, and was seventh overall.  

For 2013, she had a lighter schedule, with only a couple of guest slots in NASCAR. This would become a pattern in her career: a strong year followed by one where she was less active, due to a lack of sponsorship. She only got to her local Aguascalientes rounds, but earned a pair of fourth places.

It was back to business in 2014, with a few races in NASCAR, yielding a fifth and eighth place, at Aguascalientes again. She raced for her family team in the Super Touring 1 Light series, in which she was back on form, finishing fourth.

In 2015, she made a move into truck racing, in the Campeonato Tractocamiones Freightliner. She was fifth overall, having been in contention for a championship win until quite late in the year. This was in addition to a season in the Mexican Super Touring 3 series, where she was sixth, with one podium place. Her car may have been a Chevrolet.

Most of 2016 was spent truck racing, in a Freightliner. She did not do quite as well as in 2015, despite running a full season, but was still ninth overall. Late in the year, she made a guest appearance in the Mexican V6 Series, and was eighth at Mexico City.

A limited season in Trucks followed in 2017. She made guest appearances in the Mikels Trucks and Freightliner one-make series, scoring one seventh place in the latter. She did not finish her Mikels Trucks race at Monterrey.

She also participated in the 24 Hours of Mexico, an endurance race for saloon cars held at Amozoc Puebla. This was her second attempt at the race.

Gisela also competes in triathlon.

(Image from

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Melinda Price

Melinda in 2017

Melinda Price is an Australian saloon car racer. She has completed five Bathurst 24 Hour races and jointly holds the record for the highest all-female team finish.

She was 12th in the 1997 event, driving a “Castrol Cougar” Holden Commodore with Kerryn Brewer. During the 1997 and 1998 seasons, the pair competed together on and off.

She has raced in a number of saloon championships in the 1990s, beginning in 1992. Her first major race was the 1992 Bathurst 12 Hours, the second running of the race. She had her first experience of an all-female team, driving a Nissan Pulsar run by Garry Rogers Motorsport with Michelle Callaghan and Tracey Taylor. They were fifth in Class B.

That year, she also contested the Sandown 500 with Steven Richards. They were driving a Garry Rogers Pulsar.  

Melinda was part of the Garry Rogers setup for another season, and drove the team’s Pulsar in the 1993 Sandown 6 Hour race. She was was 17th, sharing the car with Paul Fordham and Steven Richards.

She moved teams to Inspired Racing for 1994, driving their Toyota Corolla. The team entered her into that year’s Bathurst 1000, with Garry Jones and Andrew Reid. They did not finish.

Driving solo in 1995, she tackled the first rounds of the Australian Super Touring Championship in the Corolla, although she was unable to start one of her races. She was twelfth in one race at Calder Park. Earlier in the year, the team had run her in a couple of rounds of the Gold Coast Super Touring series. This yielded a thirteenth place and a DNF at Surfers’ Paradise.

In between top-line Australian Touring Car drives, Melinda took part in the Mazda 121 Challenge in 1996. This was a one-make series for female drivers. She was second in the championship, behind Tania Gulson. Her future team-mate Kerryn Brewer was one of her rivals.

The team that hosted the Castrol Cougars had been a feature of Australian racing for a few seasons before 1997, managed by Larry Perkins and usually running under the Perkins Engineering banner. The idea for an all-female team came from Castrol’s marketing department and Perkins, who usually raced for the team himself, got on board.

The Cougars car was a third Perkins Engineering entry for the Australian Touring Car Championship. It had won the 1995 Bathurst 1000, driven by Perkins and Russell Ingall.  

The Cougars were originally a four-woman team consisting of Melinda and Kerryn, plus Michelle Fielke, an international netballer, and Kim Watkins, a TV presenter. Michelle was prevented from racing by her prior sporting commitments and Kim also dropped out. Melinda and Kerryn alternated driving duties.

Melinda did six of the ATCC races, competing at Wanneroo and Oran Park. The latter was the better circuit for her, and she earned her best finish there: a thirteenth place.

The two Cougars drove together for the big V8 Supercar races. They were a twelfth at Bathurst, just behind former F1 world champion Alan Jones in a Ford. The pair were also 17th in the Sandown 500.

Melinda took on nine rounds of the ATCC in 1998, with Kerryn taking a small step back and doing six. Her best result was 18th at Melbourne, and she was 41st in the championship.

Again, she did better in the longer endurance races, sharing the car with Kerryn. They were fourteenth in the Sandown 500, and a career-best eleventh in the Bathurst 1000.

In 1999, she drove in the Production category of V8 Supercars, using a K-Mart-sponsored Holden Vectra. The Castrol Cougars team had now been disbanded, having run as “Castrol Perkins Racing” in 1998. Driving solo, she was second in Class D.

She also had a couple of runs in the main V8 Supercar draw, now running as the Shell Championship. She drove a Holden Commodore for Clive Wiseman Racing and partnered Dean Lindstrom for the two races, the Queensland 500 and the Bathurst 1000. They were 20th and 17th respectively.

Clive Wiseman’s team gave her another drive for the Bathurst 1000 in 2000. Her car was a Holden Commodore, shared with her 1999 team-mate, Dean Lindstrom. They were 20th overall.

Melinda also drove a Holden Vectra for Gibson Motorsport in the Production Car Championship. She was fourth in Class E. At one point, she shared Peter Boylan’s Honda Integra Type-R for the Supercheap Showroom Showdown 3 Hours. They were 32nd overall.

In 2002 and 2003, she entered the Bathurst 24 Hours, driving two different cars. She used a Honda S2000 in 2002, and was third in class, with Peter Hansen and Hermann Tilke. The Porsche 996 she drove in 2003, along with Tilke and Jonathan Rowland, did not get to the finish.

After 2003, she retired from the circuits for a long time. She became a mother in 2011 and was diagnosed with breast cancer during her pregnancy. This meant she had to prioritise her health and personal life for a long time.

In 2014, she made a comeback, after eleven years. She raced a classic Lotus 20/22 single-seater in the Phillip Island Classic series, finishing 21st in the championship.

She continued to race this car for a couple of seasons and was 21st in the 2016 Phillip Island Classic. The year before, she was thirteenth in the Australian Formula Junior championship.

Saloons were still on her agenda. At the 2016 Ken Leigh 4-Hour Classic Enduro, she joined Team Brock and raced a Holden HQ Kingswood, but did not finish.  

In 2017, she raced a Ford Falcon in the Touring Car Masters series and earned a third and fourth place. She picked up the same at Sandown in the GT Trophy Series, driving a Mazda 3 with Liam McLellan.

(Image copyright Dirk Klynsmith)

Friday, 2 March 2018

Tamara Molinaro

Tamara Molinaro won the 2017 European Ladies’ Rally Championship, driving an Opel Adam.

She was interested in rallying from a very early age, and apparently drove rally cars as early as 2008, when she was eleven years old. Her father, Giorgio, is involved in rallying.

At the start of her career, she was mainly known as a co-driver, sitting beside Luca Maspoli and former Mitsubishi works driver, Gigi Galli. She partnered Galli in a Ford Fiesta WRC and helped him to ninth at the 2014 Monza Rally Show. He had seen her driving on an ice circuit at Livigno before she was old enough to enter rallies and supported her during the first part of her career. She was quickly picked up by Red Bull as one of their sponsored athletes.

In 2013 and 2014, she did her own first rallies in her native Italy in a Citroen C2. The best of these for her was a 42nd place in the Misano World Circuit Rally Event. She concentrated on rally show-type events, both as a driver and co-driver.

In 2016, she drove an Opel Adam as the course car in the Schneebergland Rallye in Austria, with Ilka Minor as her co-driver. This drive was the first of three course-car outings in the Adam, the other two being Rallye Wartburg and Rallye Deutschland.

Her first competitive outing of the year was the Skoda Rallye Liezen in Austria. Tamara drove the Adam, and was thirteenth overall. She was third in the Austrian Junior standings. Later in the year, she did another Austrian rally, the Waldviertel International event. She was 30th, and seventh in both the Junior and RC4 classes. In between, she entered the ADAC 3-Stadte Rallye in Germany, finishing second in the RC4 class and 23rd overall.

Next, she was 22nd in the Mikulas Rally, in Hungary. She won her class. Her final event of the year was the Rallye Ronde Prealpi Rally Show in Italy. She retired on SS2.

She took a big step forward in her career in 2017, entering the ERC3 category of the European Rally Championship. Her car was an Opel Adam again, but this time run by the Opel Junior team. The Austrian Ursula Mayrhofer, who had sat beside her in Hungary last year, was her regular co-driver for the first part of the season. They did three ERC rounds together, the best of these probably being the Azores Rally, in which Tamara was 24th overall and first lady, as well as fourth in the ERC3 and Junior classes. Their last rally together was the Rzezsowski Rally. Although Tamara was only 42nd overall, she was seventh in both the ERC3 and Junior Under 27 classes.

She repeated her 24th place and seventh in ERC3 in the Roma Capitale Rally, driving with Giovanni Bernacchini this time. This was another of her Coupe des Dames wins, and she was the sixth Under 27 driver. She entered six ERC rounds - the Azores, the Canary Islands, Rzezsowski, Barum Czech Rally Zlin, Roma Capitale and Liepaja - and was the top female driver in four of them. Away from the ERC, she competed in Austria and Eastern Europe again, and was sixth in the Austrian Junior championship.

At the end of the season, she even found some time for more co-driving. She sat beside Citroen WRC driver Craig Breen in a Citroen DS3 WRC for the Monza Rallyshow. They did not finish. She was dating Breen at the time.
She ended the year as the ERC Ladies' champion, tenth in ERC3 and seventh in Under 27s. She is the second-youngest champion after Catie Munnings, who was born a month after Tamara, but won her title a year earlier.  

In 2018, she is moving up again, to the World Championship. She is rallying a Ford Fiesta R5 in the WRC2 class.

(Image copyright Red Bull)

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Leilani Munter

Leilani Münter has raced in stock cars and the Indy Pro Series (Indy Lights). She is unusual in that she combines a career in motorsport with environmental and animal rights work. Most of her racing has been in the ARCA stock car series.

She has a Hawaiian mother and a German father. Her childhood was not spent at the karting track; she was academic as well as being interested in animals and nature. She was 26 before she got into a racing car, having earned a degree in biology and worked as a film stunt double. Her first races were in her home state of California in 2001, then she moved to North Carolina to be closer to NASCAR action. By 2003, she was taking part in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series. Her programmes took in Late Models and the occasional single-seater race.

Out of 39 races between 2001 and 2007, she finished in the top ten 19 times, and the top five, nine times. Her highest finish was fourth, at Texas Motor Speedway in 2006. The same year, she passed her Daytona rookie test.

She decided against a run in ARCA stock cars in favour of a part-season of the Indy Pro Series in 2007. She only did two races, finishing thirteenth in Chicago and retiring at Kentucky, despite qualifying fifth. This was due to picking up a puncture during a multi-car pile-up. She had been running in fourth place. Her funding dried up after this, and she looked towards stock cars again.

It was 2010 before Leilani got back in a car. She drove Mark Gibson’s Dodge in two ARCA races: Daytona and Kansas. She did not finish either and retired very early on both times. In the case of the Daytona race, after a crash.

She took a break from the track and concentrated on environmental campaigning for a while. In 2012, she intended to compete for the whole ARCA series, in a Dodge Charger. Unfortunately, she only managed the first round, and was 36th. The Tony Marks-owned car was promoting the anti-dolphin hunting film, The Cove.

In 2014, she made a limited return to ARCA, beginning with a 28th place, at Daytona. She was driving an alternative-fuel car, and survived a crash early on. Later in the season, she managed two twelfth places, at Talladega and Kansas, driving a car promoting another protest film, Blackfish. This is about killer whales.

In 2015, she did one race, the Daytona ARCA round. She qualified tenth, but crashed out on the 53rd lap of 80. This was her first time driving for Bill Venturini, who would give her rides for the next couple of seasons.

In 2017, she started racing under the "Veganpower" banner, and entered two ARCA races, at Daytona and Talladega. She was 19th at Daytona but did not finish at Talladega.

The Veganpower team came back in 2018 and Leilani finished eighth in the Daytona 500. Shortly afterwards, it was announced that she would contest eight rounds of the ARCA series. Bill Venturini will be running her car.

(Image from

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Jessica Hawkins

Jessica (centre) on the winner's podium in 2017

Jessica Hawkins was second in the John Cooper Mini Challenge in 2017. She was a multiple race-winner in her first really successful season, finally displaying the talent she showed in a kart.

As a junior, she won several karting championships, and featured strongly in some major ones.

In the face of a series of difficult sponsorship situations, she got onto the grid for the 2014 Renault Clio Cup. This was in part thanks to winning a testing shootout organised by the BWRDC, and was helped by some further experience in the car in the 2013 Autumn Trophy. In the end, she only seems to have driven in two rounds, at Brands Hatch, but she was third and fourth. Her team-mate was Jodie Hemming, recently returned to competitive action. Jodie was acting as her driver coach too.

Later in the season, she raced in the British Formula Ford Championship, at Silverstone, scoring two tenths, and an eleventh place. She was team-mate to Michael O’Brien, a fellow youngster.

In 2015, she chose the single-seater route, and entered the MSA Formula series. This was a transitional formula between Formula Ford and Formula 4, as it would become in 2016. It was a difficult season, and she just missed out on a top-ten spot at Rockingham and Snetterton. She was 23rd overall, after competing for just over half a season. She was part of a strong field, including Lando Norris, Dan Ticktum and Enaam Ahmed.

During the winter season, she raced in the MRF Challenge in the Middle East. She managed two fifteenth places at Bahrain. These were her only two races in the championship.

Part-way through 2016, she joined Team HARD Racing for the VW Racing Cup, and was ninth and eighth at Brands Hatch, driving a Golf. She did enter the third race at Brands but did not finish. This experience put her back on her original track of saloon racing, which would pay off.

Jessica’s first race in the 2017 Mini Challenge ended in a win from pole. She followed that up with another win from the front. She aimed for a clean sweep of the Snetterton meeting, but had to settle for third in the third race. She repeated this exactly at Silverstone: two wins, two poles, then a third. She won one more race at Rockingham and earned a further six podium places from eleven races. She could have won the championship if her early momentum had lasted, but she was still a strong second in what was her first full season of competition.

Her sights are now set on a career in tin-tops and she has completed the first year of a three-year plan, which will take her into the BTCC.

(Image from

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Sarah Moore

Sarah with the John Cooper Mini

Sarah Moore made history in 2009 by winning the Ginetta Junior championship outright. She was the under-17 series’s first female champion. She has since gone on to race saloons and sportscars in the UK and Europe.

She completed her first season of the Ginetta Junior series in 2008. She managed to finish in the top ten six times, with a best result of sixth. This followed a part-season in 2007, when she was fourteen. As well as full-size cars, Sarah also raced karts.

Her championship-winning season included five wins, making her the first female driver to secure victory in a TOCA-sanctioned race. She was awarded a BRDC Rising Star at the end of the year.

She returned to the series in 2010 for a final year, but did not manage another win. She was seventh overall. This year, she moved from her family’s team, Tockwith Motorsport, to Eurotech.

In 2011, after turning seventeen, she switched to single-seaters and raced in the Intersteps Formula, supported by Tockwith again. Her best finish was fourth, achieved twice at Silverstone, and she was sixth overall. Later, she described her foray into single-seaters as “difficult”.

She also did four races in the Smart 4Two championship, scoring two podium finishes. This was a new championship for the UK, based on the unlikely Brabus-prepared Smart micro-car.

She continued in the 4Two series in 2012, and scored a second at Spa and a two thirds at Snetterton. Her team-mate was her younger brother, David. They have another brother, Nigel, and all three pair up at various times.

A career hiatus followed. For a season, Sarah concentrated on her work as a driver coach, and only competed in karting. Even then, it was to help develop her student drivers.

In 2014, she was ready to race again. Alongside her brother Nigel, she travelled to Germany, to compete in the VLN, held on the legendary Nordschleife of the Nürburgring. She was racing in the Toyota GT86 Cup class. They won the class twice.

The pair aimed to return to the VLN in 2015, but it was not to be. Sarah kept her hand in by racing in kart enduros. She was the European ProKart Endurance Champion, with her team-mate Matthew Greenwood.

After another year spent mostly on the sidelines, Tockwith Motorsport entered Sarah into six rounds of the LMP3 Cup. She was driving a championship-standard Nissan-engined Ligier. If she had been able to complete the season, she would have been in line for a good position: she and co-driver Richard Dean were third at Donington and second at Spa.

As well as sampling prototype racing, Sarah continued to gain experience in different saloons. She entered five rounds of the UK Mini Challenge, all at Brands Hatch. She drove in both the Cooper Pro and JCW classes. Her best finish was fourth in the JCW car, in August.

Minis were a theme during her 2017 season. The intention had been for her to run a full season of the Mighty Mini championship. This was restricted to four rounds, but she won two of them.

The other cars she raced were a Smart ForFour, which she used for some rounds of the Britcar championship, and a Ginetta G50. The latter car she used in the BWRDC’s Ladies’ Handicap in November. She was the runaway winner on scratch, lapping almost all of the field twice. However, she was given a very low handicap, and was tenth in the final results.

Her future plans are in the sportscar direction, with Le Mans a career goal.

(Image copyright Marc Waller)

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Manuela Gostner

Manuela Gostner raced in the 2017 European GT4 Championship, driving a Maserati. She is best known for driving a Ferrari. Unusually, she was almost 30 when she started competing.

She is the elder sister of Corinna Gostner, who races in the Coppa Shell Ferrari Challenge with Manuela and their father, Thomas. Their brother, David, also races. It was he who encouraged Manuela to take the wheel of his Ferrari at a test day in 2014.

She started racing only a few months later, at Brno. Her sister Corinna made her debut at the same time. Corinna finished just above Manuela in the first race, in tenth, and they swapped places for the second. Manuela returned for the season finale in Abu Dhabi. She was 20th in the championship.

In 2015, she enjoyed a bigger racing programme and contested the entire Coppa Shell Ferrari Challenge. Her car was a Ferrari 458 run by Ineco-MP Racing, who ran her in her first races. She started slowly but soon learned the car. By the third round at Mugello, she was into the top ten. In September, she broke into the top five for the first time, at Imola, and repeated this at Valencia. She was twelfth in the championship.

In 2016, she raced both with and against Corinna: in the Ferrari Challenge, she was not quite as competitive, earning two top tens, the best of these being a ninth at Monza. She finished 21st overall. She and her sister shared the Ferrari in two Italian GT Championship rounds at Mugello, and were eighth and sixth in the GT Cup class. They were racing against their brother and father in another MP Racing Ferrari.

She made a move into the European GT4 championship in 2017. Her Maserati Gran Turismo  MC was run by Villorba Corse. She was third in the Am category, just in front of her Villorba team-mates, Romy Dall’Antonia and Giuseppe Fascicola. She won her class at Brands Hatch and Zandvoort and was third at the Red Bull Ring.

The Coppa Shell had not been forgotten. Back with the Ineco-MP team, she did most of the European Ferrari Challenge, and had a best finish of sixth at Paul Ricard. She was also sixth in the World Final at Mugello.

Her GT4 success has earned her a first FIA driver classification of Bronze.

Away from the circuits, she competed internationally at both indoor and beach volleyball before having her two daughters.

(Image from