Friday, 23 October 2020

Esmee Hawkey

 


Esmée Hawkey is a versatile British driver who has had her best results in the Porsche Carrera Cup.


Her motorsport career started early. After several seasons of karting she raced in Ginetta Juniors in 2014, after becoming a finalist in the Ginetta Junior Scholarship at the end of 2013. This led to a development deal with AmDTuning. As well as karting, she raced in the last three Ginetta Junior rounds of 2014, at Rockingham, Silverstone and Brands Hatch. Her best results were two 15th places, at Rockingham and Brands Hatch. She was 22nd overall. 


She also tested an AmDTuning BTCC car, driving the team’s Honda Civic during a tyre test at Snetterton.


In 2015, she drove for JHR Developments in Ginetta Juniors. Her best overall finishes were two fourteenth places, at Oulton Park, but she did well among the Rookie drivers. She was 25th in the championship. 


2016 was the year she graduated to senior competition in the form of the GT Cup, racing a Porsche Cayman for the GT Marques team.  She was runner-up in the GTA class and had a best overall finish of eighth at Donington. 


In 2017, she was nominated for the Carrera Cup GB Junior Scholarship and continued to race in the GT Cup.


She did her first full season of the Carrera Cup in 2018, still  with GT Marques, earning two podium finishes in the Pro-Am class at Monza and Brands Hatch. 


In 2019, the Carrera Cup was combined with a season in the all-female W Series, where she was fifteenth in the championship. She did better in the Carrera Cup, with three wins in the Pro-Am class at Thruxton and Oulton Park and a third on the class leaderboard. 


Her final position in the W Series standings was fifteenth and she was let go by the championship, which was cancelled in 2020 anyway. This proved to be a very minor setback in her career, as she signed with Team Parker Racing for the Carrera Cup and was instantly the Pro-Am class driver to beat. She won the Pro-Am class in her first four races and at the time of writing, has won nine out of twelve Pro-Am battles. Her best overall finishes have been two third places, at Donington and Brands Hatch. These were her first series podiums.


At the end of the 2019 season she was named as a test driver for the MB Motorsport BTCC team. She had her first test in the Honda Civic at Snetterton in July 2020.


(Image copyright Esmee Hawkey)

Monday, 5 October 2020

Isabella Bignardi

 


Isabella Bignardi is a driver and co-driver from Italy who has competed since 1978. She was Italian ladies’ rally champion in 1980 and 1981.


Born in Piacenza but growing up in Turin, Isabella’s family were motorsport fans and she grew up around rallies and the drivers who were among her family friends.


During the early part of her career she was an on-off member of the all-female Team Aseptogyl. Her first major outing as a driver was the 1979 Rally della Lana, as part of a three-car Fiat 127 team with Maurizia Baresi and Betty Tognana. She finished 62nd, the first Aseptogyl car home. Earlier that year, she had joined the team as navigator to Maurizia. 


1980 was devoted to driving rather than co-driving. Isabella’s father had helped her to buy an Opel Kadett, which was run by the Astigiana Corse team. It was in this car that she scored her first top-ten, finishing seventh in the Valli Piacentine Rally on her way to her first national womens’ title.


The Kadett was exchanged for a powerful Lancia Stratos in 1981. Her best result in this car was a fifth place in the Rally di Alba e delle Langhi. The car was run by Brunik Squadra, which was enjoying some success in Italy at the time. Isabella’s second Italian ladies’ championship was a welcome addition. 


The same car tackled the Italian championship again in 1982, with the same crew of Isabella and Luisa Zumelli, although it was now being run by Tre Gazzelle. The Stratos was generally a somewhat fragile car and Isabella’s showed little reliability throughout the year, only finishing four rallies. The only notable result was a 19th place in the Rally 4 Regioni. 


Unsurprisingly, the Stratos was changed for an Alfa Romeo Alfasud in 1983. The year started with the last gasp of Team Aseptogyl, which entered Isabella into the Monte Carlo Rally with a large group of other female crews representing several European countries. She was one of the few to qualify for the rally proper and the third to finish, in 60th place. The rest of the year was spent in the Italian championship, with a best finish of fourteenth with a class win in the Rally Valli Vesimesi.


After 1983, Isabella competed less, only taking part in a few rallies per year. First she used an Opel Manta, scoring a sixth place in the 1984 Citta di Sassari event, then she moved on to a Renault 5 which she drove between 1985 and 1989. This car gave her another top ten finish: fifth in the 4 Regioni Rally. 


Aside from a single 1993 outing in a Lancia Delta Integrale and a co-driving slot the following year, she did not appear on the stages again until 2011. That year, she resurfaced in historic competition, driving first an Opel Kadett and then a Porsche 911 for Biella Corse. Her second rally back, the Rally Lana Historico, led to a seventh in the Kadett. It took slightly longer for her to get results from the Porsche, but in 2012 she was third in the Targa Florio Historic.


After a full season of historic competition she settled into occasional outings again. She remained competitive, as shown by results such as her sixth place in the Historic Rally 4 Stagioni in 2016, driving the Porsche. She was nint in the same event in 2017, driving the Porsche this time. 


2018 featured a move back to contemporary rallying, using the unlikely choice of a BMW 318. As of 2020, she is still rallying this car in Italy. 


Away from rallying, she studied veterinary medicine. 


(Image from ilquotidianodaybyday.eu)



Sunday, 27 September 2020

Marian (Mopsy) Pagan


Marian Pagan, often known as “Mopsy” was one of the first female drivers to try her hand in NASCAR. 

Residing in California, she was the first woman from outside NASCAR’s Southern heartlands to try her hand at one of its top-level events.

She only made one Cup start in 1954, finishing 18th out of 33 in the Oakland Grand National race in a Plymouth run by her husband Eddie. He also took part in the race. Some of her male rivals protested her entry, but responses from the media and the public were largely positive.

“Mopsy” had relatively little experience in motorsport, but she had been quite successful in horse-drawn buggy races and was a member of the Cheesecake Racing Association, a twelve-woman racing league that competed widely. Their main haunt was Culver City but they also made several appearances at Gardena, at least one of which featured Mopsy.

In a 1955 newspaper interview, Eddie Pagan claimed that Marian had got into motor racing through him and that she first competed in 1951 after seeing her first “powderpuff derby” ladies’ race. Further details of her pre-Oakland career have proved tricky to find; full results for powderpuff derby races were rarely published.

In 1957, she was one of nine women who competed in the Mobilgas Economy Run for the Ford team. This was not a race but a cross-country trial with the aim of covering the greatest distance on the least fuel. She was tenth in the “Low Price” class, driving a Ford Fairlane. This appears to be the last time she entered a large-scale motoring event.

Away from the track, Marian worked in the aircraft industry.


(Image copyright Oakland Tribune)

 


Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Greta Oakes



Greta Oakes was an Danish-born Bahamian driver who raced in her adopted home country and in the USA in the 1950s.

A noted socialite from a wealthy family of Danish extraction who spent a lot of time in London, she married Sydney Oakes, who was instrumental in bringing motorsport to the Bahamas. In marrying Sydney in 1948, she became Lady Oakes of Nassau and became an integral part of the emerging Bahamas motor racing scene.


She entered a number of American sportscar races between 1950 and 1959, including the Sebring 12 Hours in 1955 and 1959. She usually drove with her husband and their car was normally a 3000cc Austin-Healey 100. They did not finish the 1955 race and the Bahamas Motor Club entry was only a reserve in 1959. The pair were listed as drivers in an Alfa Romeo in 1957, but did not take the start.


Greta also competed in the Nassau Speed Weeks, driving solo. She and Sydney were the chief supporters of the event alongside Sherman “Red” Crise, its American creator. It always ran very late in the season during the Bahamas summer, functioning as an end-of-year party for a mix of East Coast sportscar racers and increasingly, international stars such as Stirling Moss and Phil Hill.


She only started racing at the advent of Speed Week in 1954. Her chief sporting interest before that had been horses. In 1954, she was fourth in the Production race, driving an Austin Healey 100M. Driving the same car, she was tenth in a 402m speed trial held as part of Speed Week. 


The following year, she used the Austin-Healey for the Locals race, unsuccessfully. A Miami Herald article claimed that she called the car “The Great Dane III”.


After that, she entered the 1956 Ladies’ and Local Residents’ races, in a Porsche 356. She took part in both heats for both events but does not seem to have made the final. Her best finish was fourth in a Locals heat. This was the first time that a Ladies’ race had been held in the Bahamas and the field was quite impressive, with Denise McCluggage, Evelyn Mull, Suzy Dietrich and Marion Lowe all making the trip from the States. 


Greta missed the 1957 event but came back in 1958. This year, she drove a motorcycle-engined Berkeley SE328 in the Ladies’ race and in a Berkeley one-make encounter. She was sixth out of eight Berkeleys and seventh in the women’s race, which included four Berkeleys. The best of these was driven by Gladys Cam, who also beat Greta in the one-make event. For the Locals race, she went back to the Healey but did not finish. 


Her preferred mount for the 1959 Ladies’ event was an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider. She was fourth out of six finishers. First and second placed Prudence Baxter and Marion Lowe both used lightweight Lotus Eleven sportscars and Greta got her hands on one for the following year. She was third, behind Smokey Drolet and Heather Bethell. Heather was another Bahamas resident who raced alongside her husband Peter, who in turn had been part of the Bahamas Motor Club team for the 1959 Sebring 12 Hours.


In 1961 she did not race, but she did drive the pace car for the Governor’s Trophy. She was accompanied in her Jaguar XK-E by the Governor himself, Sir Robert Stapledon. The Jaguar was a specially-modified show car with fins, aircraft lights, a TV and a bar for passengers, plus an early radar speed trap detector and a gold-plated tool kit. 


Her racing career ended at the start of the 1960s. The Oakeses divorced suddenly in 1961 and then Sydney was killed in a road traffic accident in 1966. Greta continued to be styled “Lady Oakes” and was a regular fixture on the upper-class US social scene. She also served as an honorary consul to Denmark for the Bahamas and stood for election to the Bahamian legislative assembly in 1963. Among her other exploits was writing and directing a calypso-themed musical in 1961. 


She died in 1977.


(Image copyright Miami Herald)


Saturday, 12 September 2020

Regina Sirvent

 


Regina Sirvent races stock cars and trucks in Mexico. She is a racewinner in pickup racing. 


2017 was her first season and she started early. She was 14 when she had her first race in a NASCAR pickup, after seven years of karting in Mexico and the USA. Her best finish in trucks was seventh, at Pachuca, and she was eleventh overall. She also did a part-season in Mexican Super Touring, in the Light class. Her car was a Chevrolet. She was only 30th on the leaderboard due to missing most of the early rounds, but she did manage two top-ten finishes, the best of these being an eighth at Mexico City. 


In 2018, she continued to divide her time between cars and trucks, competing in Mexican Super Touring and the Mikel's Trucks series. Driving a Chevy, she scored two podiums in Super Touring, a second at Amozoc and a third at Mexico City. She was fourteenth overall. In Trucks, she was tenth overall, despite not being as quick. Her best finish was eighth at Queretaro, one of five top-ten positions. 


In 2018, she also made her single-seater debut, racing in the NACAM F4 series at Aguascalientes. She scored one fifth and two seventh places. This was a one-off appearance.


2019 was mostly spent racing in Mikel's Trucks, where she earned a fourth place at Aguascalientes and five further top-ten finishes. She also made guest appearances in TC2000 and Super Touring 1 in Mexico, driving a Ford. TC2000 was not one of her greatest moments; she only finished one of her three races in 26th place, at Mexico City. Super Touring 1 was more fruitful and she came close to a podium at Mexico City, finishing fourth.


When the 2020 season finally got under way, she won her first race in trucks. Her victory at Queretaro followed a start from pole and she also picked up a fastest lap. The second race of the meeting gave her a second place. 


In June 2020 she was announced as one of four teenaged drivers taking part in a shootout for a place in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity programme. She drove a Legend car against the other candidates. 


(Image copyright Angel Ferretiz/NASCAR)

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Renault 5 Ladies' Monte Carlo Grand Prix support race, 1975

 


  1. Marie-Claude Beaumont (France)

  2. Christine Beckers (Belgium)

  3. Ivana Giustri (Italy)


Gabriel Konig (Ireland)

Yvette Fontaine (Belgium)

Martine de la Grandrive (France)

Judy Witter (South Africa)

“Biche” (Michele Petit) (France)

Susy Raganelli (Italy)

Maggie Anderson (UK)

Eeva Heinonen (Finland)

Paula Murphy (USA)


Twelve of the world’s best female drivers assembled in Monaco in 1975 for a one-make Renault 5 race, supporting the Monaco Grand Prix.


Renault used the event to promote both the Renault 5 Turbo itself and its associated one-make series held across Europe. Ladies’ races had acted as supports for the Monaco event before but this was one of the biggest and most competitive.


All of the invited women were experienced in motorsport and several had at least some involvement with Renault or the series sponsor, Elf. Eventual winner Marie-Claude Beaumont spent most of the season racing for the Ecurie Elf sportscar team and Britain’s Maggie Anderson was one of the first racewinners in the UK Renault 5 series.


Yvette Fontaine and Christine Beckers were highly accomplished touring car racers. Gabriel Konig had many years of experience in sports and saloon racing. Judy Witter had won a Formula Vee championship at home in South Africa.


Some of the others had plenty of motorsport experience but had not done much circuit racing: Ivana Giustri and Eeva Heinonen were ladies’ rally champions in their home countries and both “Biche” and Martine de la Grandrive were in-demand rally co-drivers.


Paula Murphy had been involved mainly in drag racing in the States and had held the women’s Land Speed Record. Susy Raganelli had won the World Kart Championship in 1966 but had raced little since then.


The full results of the race itself have proved hard to track down. It ran for 15 laps and Marie-Claude Beaumont won from pole position, followed by Christine Beckers and Ivana Giustri. Maggie Anderson had a good start from fourth but was passed by Yvette Fontaine and Biche, before outbraking herself at the chicane and having to take the escape road. She was then passed by Gabriel Konig and Eeva Heinonen and finished near the back. Gabriel, Eeva and Yvette continued to jostle for position, with Gabriel and Yvette prevailing. Eeva was tenth, despite setting the fastest lap.


(Image from acmanortheurope.com. For an account of the race in French, see renault-5.net)

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Junko Mihara


Junko Mihara is Japanese actress and media personality who had quite a successful racing career in the 1990s, both in Japan and further afield. 

She started in touring cars in 1990 and drove in some races of the Japanese championship then and in 1991 in a TOMS Toyota Corolla. Both times, she shared a car with Masahiro Matsunaga, who was her husband. He taught her to drive a racing car earlier in their relationship. Her achievements in her first seasons were mostly finishing rather than scoring points; in 1990 her finishing record was patchy, but this improved in 1991. 

In 1992, she changed teams, driving for the Kawasho set-up, but her car was the same. Although she scored a few points, she did not enter enough races to make an impact on the championship. Her best finish was 17th at Tsukuba. 

Between 1992 and 1995, she also raced a little in Europe, entering the Spa 24 Hours each year. She was always in a Toyota, either an MR2 or a Corolla, and usually with Matsunaga. She was 16th in 1994 and 19th in 1995, and did not finish the other races. For the latter race, she was part of an all-female team with Michiko Okuyama and Kumi Sato

In 1996 and 1997, she raced sportscars in Japan alongside Matsunaga, in an MR2. She was not among the front-runners, although the Japanese Super GT championship at the time was very competitive. Her best finish was 20th at the Fuji Special GT Cup in 1996. Again, her finishing record was good in 1997, although she was never in contention for wins.

In 1998, she made one appearance at the Fuji GT round in a Toyota Cavalier, but was unclassified. The car was a rebadged Vauxhall and was unusual, if not particularly fast. That year, she also raced in the USA, taking part in the Toyota Long Beach Pro-Celebrity race as a pro with Kumi Sato. She was 16th.

She does not appear to have raced since then. Her 1999 divorce from Matsunaga was probably a contributing factor.

After leaving both motorsport and showbusiness behind and also recovering from cervical cancer, Junko entered politics. She stood for election for Japan’s ruling Liberal party.

(Image from /www.jiaponline.org/)