Monday, 18 August 2014

Female Drivers in One-Make Series: Germany


Cora Schumacher

Margit Abt - competed in at least one season of the Fiesta Mixed Cup in Germany, in 1991. She was racing with her husband, Hans-Jürgen Abt. Margit was seventh in the women’s standings at the end of the season, with the pair scoring a few top ten finishes. In 2005, she returned to the track for two guest appearances in the Seat Leon Supercopa, at Hockenheim. 

Brigitte (Biggi) Briel - a regular in German one-make racing in the 1980s. She began racing in the Ford Fiesta Ladies’ Cup in 1982, and teamed up with two other “Fiesta Ladies” for the Nürburgring 24 Hours that summer. She was 51st in the Fiesta, with Anette Gottwald and Barbara Schmitz. Brigitte returned to the Ladies’ Cup, and was eighth in 1984 and seventh in 1985. After the Fiesta Cup, she moved into the Renault 5 Cup, still in Germany. She did two seasons in the Renault, in 1986 and 1987, as the only female driver in the series. She was not among the front-runners. In 1988, she raced in the VLN, in a Group N-spec Ford Sierra Cosworth. She scored two group wins.

Claudia Ostlender - winner of the 1983 Ford Fiesta Ladies’ Cup in Germany, in her first year of motorsport. She did two more seasons in the Cup but did not repeat her win. In 1986, she moved over to the Volkswagen Polo Cup, doing a part-season at first. A similar season followed in 1987, but in 1988, she really found some speed and won her first Polo race, at Zolder. She was fifth overall. Some time before 1989, when she retired from motor racing, she won her class three times in VLN races at the Nürburgring. Her cars were a Volkswagen Golf GTi and a Ford Escort RS. At some point, she also set a speed record in a Volkswagen Corrado.

Jasmin Rubatto - German driver who raced in the 2000s, mostly in one-make series. She took part in the MINI Challenge in Germany in 2004, and was ninth overall. Her team-mate in the Ich Liebe Es squad was Kati Droste. Apparently, this was a comeback from “maternity leave”, but details of her career prior to this are not forthcoming. In 2009, she also did four races in the SEAT Leon Supercopa, also in Germany. She was driving as one of SEAT’s guest works drivers.  

Cora Schumacher - raced a BMW MINI in her native Germany in 2004 and 2005. Her best finish was eighth, but she was better known for a nasty accident which limited her involvement with the series. This dropped her to 34th in the final points, although her initial speed had surprised some. After that, she signed up for the 2006 Seat Leon Supercopa alongside Christina Surer, but only made two starts. In 2010, she returned to the MINI Challenge, and was 19th, rising to 14th in 2011. In 2012, she drove in the Dubai 24 Hours in a MINI, winning class A2, as well as testing a Chevrolet Camaro GT3 car. For most of the season, she raced in the MINI Trophy, scoring six top-ten finishes, the best being an eighth at the Red Bull Ring. This was good for 15th in the championship. She is married to Ralf Schumacher.

Doreen Seidel - began racing in 2011, in the ADAC Cruze Cup, run at Oschersleben. She shared a Chevrolet Cruze with Nadine-Nicole Frentzen. In 2012, she returned to the Cruze Cup, still with the Buchbinder Rent-A-Car team. This year, she shared the car with Ronny Melkus and Freddie Hunt, and was really quite competitive, with two second places and several thirds. In 2013, she spent a season in the Mini Challenge, or most of it. She was fourteenth overall, but did not race for the whole season. She also undertook some test driving for the Abt Sportsline team, for the ADAC GT Masters. In 2014, she stuck with one-make racing, in the Volkswagen Scirocco-R Cup. At the time of writing, her best result has been eleventh, at the Red Bull Ring. Doreen is a former model.

Marleen Seilheimer - raced in the Volkswagen Polo Cup in 2006 and 2007, in Germany. She was 16th in the championship in 2006, and tenth in 2007. The following year, she drove a Honda Civic for the Honda Junior Team in the VLN, and entered the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Her team-mates were Christian Caron, Jorge Altmann and Daniel Ortmann. They do not appear to have finished. This was Marleen’s last notable competitive outing, but she has stayed involved in motorsport, and works in media relations for the Sauber Formula One team.

(Image from http://www.leblogauto.com/2006/03/schumachre.html)


Friday, 15 August 2014

Female Drivers in Touring Cars: Germany


Yolanda Surer

Saloon racing has been extremely popular in Germany since the 1960s. Throughout its history, female drivers have been a part of it, up to the highest levels, including the DTM.

Heidi Blechinger - raced saloons in Germany in the 1970s. In 1978, she competed in the Trophee l’Avenir with Lili Riesenbichler. They drove an Audi 50 together in the Nurburgring round and did not finish. The rest of the full results of this series are hard to find, but the pair may have entered again at some point. That year, she also took part in her third season of Renault 5 racing. She began her career in slalom events in 1968. She also drove in rallies: she is recorded as a finisher in the 1976 ADAC-Rallye Hanseatic, in a Renault 5.

Astrid Grünfelder (Waldmann) - raced saloons in Germany between 1989 and 2002. Her best year was 1993, in which she won the Deutsche Tourenwagen Cup under-2000cc class, with three victories. She and Sabine Schmitz also scored four class wins at the Nürburgring, in the VLN, driving a BMW M3. Until 1995 she was a member of the BMW Junior team. Her last big result was a second place in a DTC race at Hockenheim in 1995, in another M3. Since then, she has raced an Opel Calibra in Austrian Touring Cars, with one third place, and driven in the VLN with Nicole Luttecke and Tina Grewe, using a Mitsubishi Carisma. Between 2000 and 2002, she took part in the Ford Puma Cup, with a best finish of fourteenth.

Karin Hirschmann - best-known for racing a Simca 1000 in the 1980s and 1990s, despite the car being at least ten years old. In 1983, she competed in the German Racing Cup (DRP), but was not overly competitive. In 1992, when the car was twenty years old, the reappeared in the Special Touring Car Trophy in Germany. Again, she was not really competitive, but was racing against cars that were either much newer, or much more powerful. In between, she did some speed events, in 1990 and 1991. Her best result was thirteenth, at Most, in 1991.

Ulrike Krafft - German driver competing in the ETCC since 2011. She began as a teenager in slaloms in 2005, winning her first title in 2006. Between then and 2009, she tried several different motorsport disciplines, including rallying, settling on the Dacia Logan Cup. In 2010, she moved up to the ADAC Procar series with the ATM Ladies team, driving a Ford Fiesta in Division II. She was fifth in the division, with a best finish of second, at Hockenheim. She held position in 2011, finishing fifth despite a slightly shortened season, with at least two second places. She also made her debut appearance in the ETCC, and was second in class for her race at Salzburg. She was driving the Fiesta. In 2012, she moved into the ETCC full-time, in the S1600 class, driving a different Fiesta. She was third in her class, with a best finish of second, at Monza, plus two third places at Imola and Salzburg. She contested the ETCC again in 2013, and was quite successful, winning her class once at Pergusa, and finishing second on several occasions. Her overall result was third in the Super 1600 class, in the Fiesta. However, she lost her Ladies' crown to Andrina Gugger. 

Inez Muhle - driver from Hamburg  who raced in Europe in the 1970s. She began in Formula Vee sometime in the 1970s, probably 1975, in the 1300cc class, and raced in Germany. Previously, she had driven in hillclimbs and slaloms, in 1974. Later, she came to specialise in one-make series, including the VW Scirocco Cup in 1976. Her best finish was ninth, at Hockenheim, against opponents including Manfred Winkelhock. During this time, and in 1977, she did some racing for the Jagermeister team, in the DRP touring car championship.  Her 1976 car was an Audi 50, and she did well in the under-1150cc class, with a fifth at Zandvoort. In 1977, she drove a VW Polo, and was not quite as effective. 

Stephanie Neitzel - competed in one-make championships and Procar in Germany for most of the 1990s and 2000s. She has multiple Ladies’ titles in the Citroen Saxo and Toyota Yaris Cups, with a seventh place overall in the Saxo Cup in 2001. She was also third in the Speed Women Cup for Germany’s fastest female drivers in 2003, after her achievements in the Yaris Cup in Germany and Australia. She moved to the German Production Championship in 2005, and was eighth in her class, then into ADAC Procar. After a full season in 2006, she was eighth, with one podium finish. She continued in the series in 2007, but only managed two events. After a long lay-off, she returned to competition in 2010, in Procar, still driving a Ford Fiesta, as she always had. She took part in four races, with a best finish of sixth at Assen. 

Lili Reisenbichler - raced in German touring car championships from 1974 to 1983, including touring-based prototypes in sportscar races. She and her team-mates won the Touring class of the 1980 Nürburgring 1000km. Her cars were normally Fords, including a Zakspeed Capri in 1982 and 1983. She drove this car in the German DRM series and European Touring Cars. Despite driving for a prestigious team later in her career, she was more successful earlier on, scoring a third place at Avus in 1980, driving a Fiesta in German touring cars. The same year, she was second in class in the Nurburgring 4 Hours, driving a private Capri. As well as Ford power, she drove Audi, BMW and Renault-Alpine machinery during her career.

Yolanda Surer (now Tavoli; given name also spelled Jolanda) - started in single-seaters in Germany in 1987, getting as far as Formula 3 from 1990 to 1992. Her best finish was a third at Hockenheim. She moved to touring cars later, racing in German and Italian championships. Her best result was in 1993 when she was seventh in the German Touring Trophy, with a class win at AVUS in her BMW M3, as well as three second and three third places. She was also fourth in the 1996 Spa 24 Hours, in a BMW, for a ladies' team. After taking time out of her career to have children (she became pregnant while racing in the Renault Spider Cup in 1997), she returned in 2004. She drove a Honda S2000 for an all-female team in the Nurburgring 24 Hours.

Vivien Volk - has raced saloons since the age of 18, after several years of karting. She started in the Volkswagen Polo Cup in 2008, and was 23rd overall, but fifth in the rookie standings. She also won an award from her motor club. She returned to the VW Cup in 2009, and was also 23rd, after not completing all of her races. In 2010, she did some VLN races in the Polo earning a fourth and third in class in two of them. Still in the VW, she entered the Hankook Cup and Tourenwagen Trophy in 2011, where she was 16th overall, and second in the under-1600cc class. She returned to the series in 2012, but was unable to enter most of the races due to an engine failure in the first round. She was third at Zolder and second at the Nürburgring. After that season, she took a step back from motorsport to concentrate on her professional career, which is teaching. Although she tried to make a comeback in 2013, she does not appear to have gathered enough sponsorship.

Margitta Wintergerst - long-standing competitor in German motor racing, since the late 1970s. She has raced in the Divinol Cup for many seasons, and was also a regular entrant in the German Special Touring Car Championship. She usually drives cars owned jointly with her husband, Wolfgang, and they are usually Fiats. In the early 1990s, Margitta raced a 3P in Special Touring Cars, and later, in 2007, she used a similar car, a 128 3P, in historic races in Europe. These included the Histo-Cup at the Hungaroring. That year, she also surprised observers by driving a Porsche in the Divinol Cup. Although she is a regular competitor, she is not often among the front-runners. She has been somewhat more successful in hillclimbing, winning some class awards.


Sandra Wollstadt - raced in the German Touring Car Trophy (DTT) in the 1990s. She first appears in  1992, but only makes a serious challenge from 1993, driving a BMW M3 for her family team, Autohaus Wollstadt. Her best results were two ninth places in class, at Zolder and Zandvoort. She improved this to seventh in class in 1994. The following year, in a BMW M3 E30, she returned to the championship, a more competitive driver. She scored three seconds in the 2500cc class, and was twelfth overall. In 1996, she drove a similar car in the same championship, and was fifth overall. She was in the top three for her class for all rounds, apart from Hockenheim.

(Image from http://www.forum-auto.com/sport-auto/formule-1/sujet378778.htm)


Monday, 11 August 2014

Female Drivers in North American Circuit Racing, 1910-1950


Joan LaCosta

Female drivers were banned from competition by the USA’s main motorsport authority, in 1909, but between then and the 1950s, a number of women found ways to race. Many of them competed in speed trials, which were still allowed, and these were often part of fairground “daredevil” exhibitions. The International Motor Competition Association (IMCA) presided over many of these fairground meets, usually run on dirt tracks, and they allowed men and women to race together, as well as putting on women’s races, particularly match races between female drivers. IMCA also promoted motorsport in Canada. Below are profiles of some of these racers. See also The Speederettes for details of an early group of dirt-track racers.

Joan LaCosta - French driver (apparently), mostly noted as a daredevil and speed triallist in the USA in the 1920s. Her usual car seems to have been a Miller special. She was most active in the Florida area, and set many speed records on beaches, at Jacksonville and Daytona. One of her most impressive runs came in at 145 mph, in 1926, at Jacksonville. One of her most newsworthy exploits was a lucky escape from a burning car on Daytona Beach, during a trial run for one of her speed record attempts. At some point, she was crowned “women’s international champion”, and this may have come from a meeting promoted by the International Motor Contest Association, who sometimes put on women’s races, featuring the likes of Elfrieda Mais. Such a championship was held in 1925, at Indianapolis. In 1926, Joan entered a match race, as part of one of their events in Toronto, Canada. She won, beating Louis Disbrow. The two had considerable history, having raced against each other several times. The same year as their Toronto battle, Disbrow apparently led a protest against Joan’s inclusion in a Lakewood starting grid. His objection was overturned, partly because her speed-trial times proved that she was faster than several of the male entrants. In 1928, she won a women’s race in Milwaukee, but this was one of her last triumphs. At the end of the year, she announced her intention to retire and take up flying. This did not happen, although she continued to garner attention due to a conviction for robbery, after she lost “all of her money” at the races. Joan LaCosta was almost certainly not her birth name.

Elfrieda Mais (also spelt Maas and Mazy) - raced in the USA between 1912 and 1934. As women were prohibited from driving in sanctioned events, she mostly did speed trials and demonstration runs, although one source describes her racing a Hudson, against male drivers, at a dirt track in Lima in 1918. Here, she was credited as “Miss Mazy”. At around this time, she set a series of speed records, but as she was not part of the motorsport establishment, these were not official. Increasingly, she turned to stunt driving at fairground dirt tracks, to earn money and satisfy her taste for danger. She was killed in 1932, when one of these went wrong. Having survived driving through a burning wall, her car overturned on a bank.

Marion Martins - French driver who raced in the 1920s in Canada, usually in IMCA events and driving a Frontenac Ford. In 1925, she competed in Edmonton, Calgary and Regina, on the half-mile dirt oval tracks there. At the Edmonton Exhibition, she won a match race against a driver called Al Cotey. At Regina, shortly before, she defeated Elfrieda Mais in a ladies’ match race. As well as various races, usually of very short distance, she took part in speed trials. For at least one of these, at Ottawa, she used a Bugatti. After 1925, she seems to disappear. Marriage records suggest that she and Joan LaCosta could have been the same person, racing under different names. However, they will remain as separate entries until this is more certain.

(Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/shushmuckle/7002149122/. Originally from the Danville, Virginia newspaper, The Bee.)


Friday, 8 August 2014

Vicky (Vittoria) Piria


Vicky with her F3 car

Vicky, who is half Italian and half English, began her senior racing career early in 2009, at the age of sixteen. Previously, she had driven karts since childhood, although she had only a couple of years of serious competition behind her.
Her first season was a busy one, with rides in Formula Renault, Formula Light 2000 and Formel Lista Junior, in Italy and Europe. She started with Formel Lista Junior, racing at the first event of the season, at Dijon in France. She was fifteenth in her second race, but did not finish her first. After a break, she tried out Italian Formula Renault in July, again, for one meeting. She was fourteenth and thirteenth at Misano. A little later, she joined the Light class of Italian Formula 2000 for the second half of its season. Her best finish was ninth, at Varano, her second race. She also managed tenth places at Misano and Adria, and was 19th overall. Despite gaining a lot of experience, she did not compete in enough races in any series to mount a serious challenge. After the close of the main motorsport season, she returned to Formula 2000 for the Winter Trophy, and scored one fourth place, at Adria. This year, she raced under a British license, which she is entitled to hold due to her mother’s nationality.
In 2010 she concentrated on the Campionato Italiano Formula ACICSAI Abarth championship, but found it tough-going, competing against older drivers with at least a year’s more single-seater experience. She did not score many points. Her best finish was 16th, at Magione. Her early season results were better than her later ones, and she did prove herself capable of running in the top twenty.
She had a full season in 2011, driving in the Formula ACICSAI Abarth series, and Formula Abarth Europe. She was racing for Prema Powerteam in both series. In the Italian championship, she only entered four races, finishing three of them. She was closer to the pace this year, with two eleventh places and a fourteenth, at Varano. In the European championships, she was quite competitive, with a best finish of eighth, at Monza. She also scored two ninth places, at Valencia and Catalunya. The Valencia result was her first of the season. She was eighteenth overall.
In 2012, she raced in GP3. Her initial plan had been Italian Formula 3, and she had posted some very competitive times in testing. However, an offer of a higher-profile series was too tempting for Vicky, and she accepted, despite having limited experience of racing at this level, or in a car this powerful. Her best finish was twelfth, at Monte Carlo. Mostly, she finished in the lower part of the top twenty, although she did manage a fourteenth at Hockenheim. She was unplaced in the championship.
Away from GP3, Vicky travelled to Austria for a guest appearance in the Lotus Ladies Cup, early in the season. This was her first experience of sportscar racing. At the end of the season, she travelled somewhat further, to India, for four rounds of the MRF Challenge, at Irungattukotai. She was eleventh, fifteenth, eighth and fifth, learning the track as the race weekend wore on.
2013 was the year she finally got a seat in a Formula Three car. She drove for RP Motorsport first of all, in the European F3 Open Winter Series, where she was fourth at Jerez. For the Open Series proper, she was with BVM Motorsport, alongside Mario Marasca. As had happened before, her season started quite badly, with a 23rd place at Paul Ricard, but she then rallied, and was fourth the next day. She did not manage to better her fourth place for the rest of the season, but she did obtain six more top-ten finishes, eighth and ninth places at Portimao, the Nürburgring, Jerez, Silverstone and Catalunya. She was tenth in the championship, one place behind her team-mate.
In 2014, Vicky decided to move to the States, in order to take her first steps on the Indycar ladder. She signed up for the Formula Star Mazda Pro Series, with JDC Motorsports. Again, she had a difficult start to the season, and was sent out of her first race, at St Petersburg, by a crash, which also put her out of the second race. At Barber, she was thirteenth in both of her races, out of twenty drivers. Sadly, this seems to have been her last involvement with the series.
Since then, she appears to have done some test drives in Europe, and some media work.
(Image from http://www.toilef1.com/Semaine-des-femmes-en-sport-auto.html)


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Annette Meeuvissen



Annette was a German driver who raced in the 1980s and 1990s, in Europe mainly, but also further afield, as far as Bathurst in Australia. She began her motorsport career in 1980, when she was 18, and initially competed in slaloms. In 1982, she entered her first major championship, the Ford Fiesta Ladies’ Cup. She won the first race, at Wunstorf, and went on the win the Cup, after multiple wins. Throughout the season, Delia Stegemann matched her performances, and they were declared joint winners, the prize doubled. Despite her success, Annette was sometimes the target of disparaging comments from spectators, but she did not let this deter her. Despite her rivalry with Delia Stegemann, the two teamed up for the Nürburgring 24 Hours mid-season, in the Fiesta, with Peter Marx. They did not finish.
For the 1983 and 1984 seasons, she raced in the VLN long-distance series, at the Nürburgring. Apparently, she almost won her class at the 1984 Nürburgring 24 Hours, but was prevented from doing so by a mechanical problem. The complete starting and finishing lists for these races do not seem to be available.
In 1985, she stepped up to international competition, driving a Ford Escort for the Gerstmann team, in the European Touring Car Championship. Driving with Jörg van Ommen, she entered the championship in the third round, at Donington, and was 20th overall. After missing the Anderstorp round, she reappeared at Brno, with Arno Wester as a third driver. They did not finish. The trio were then fifteenth at Zeltweg. After another break, they entered the Spa 24 Hours, but do not appear to have finished. Back as a pair, Annette and Jörg van Ommen raced at the Silverstone Tourist Trophy, but were only 26th. Their last race of the season was at Zolder, but they did not qualify.
1986 was a quieter season for Annette. She raced a Porsche in the 944 Turbo-Cup, against her former team-mate, Jörg van Ommen, and the likes of winner Joachim Winkelhock, but was not among the front-runners. Mid-season, she was linked with another Gerstmann drive in the Spa 24 Hours, but this did not happen.
1987 was certainly not quiet. Annette was paired up with former beauty queen, Mercedes Stermitz, to drive the second Schnitzer Motorsport BMW M3 in the International Touring Car Championship (ITC), competing around the world. Their first race was the second round, at Jarama, and they qualified ninth. However, an accident put them out after eleven laps. Back in action after a short break, they did not finish at the Nürburgring either, driving as a trio with Altfrid Heger. For the Spa 24 Hours, they transferred to the satellite Linder team, still driving a works BMW, with assistance from Gerrit van Kouwen. Despite only qualifying 35th, they were seventh overall. Driving for the factory team, Annette and Mercedes were then fifteenth at Brno. They missed the Silverstone round, but then flew across the world for the Pacific-region races. The prestigious Bathurst 24 –hour race in Australia ended in clutch failure, and third driver, Roland Ratzenberger, did not get a look-in. The second Australian race, at Calder Park, was more productive, and the two women were seventh again. Their last race was at Wellington, New Zealand, and it resulted in another crash. Annette was unplaced in the ITC standings.
Away from the ITC, the Schnitzer M3 was entered into the Zeltweg round of the ETCC, Mercedes Stermitz’s home race. They finished seventh, again. The team’s poor finishing record this season was blamed squarely on Stermitz, whose incautious and rather crash-happy style was ridiculed in the motoring press.
In 1988, Annette became one of the first women to race in the DTM, one of several at this time. She was driving another BMW M3, for the Zakspeed team. This year, she was very much a secondary driver, and at the Avus race, had to give up her car to Markus Oestreich. That said, she participated in almost all of the other races, and finished a large majority of them. She appears to have had some degree of mechanical sympathy, unlike her previous team-mate. Although she was a reliable finisher, her results were not spectacular this year, with a twelfth at the Nürburgring being her best. Towards the end of the season, she was getting into the top twenty regularly, in large fields of about 35 cars. She was 31st in the championship.
 In 1989, she only managed a few DTM races, in a Linder-run BMW M3. She raced at the Hockenheim Rennsport-Festival, and was twelfth, 22nd and 21st in her three races. Later, at Hochenheim again, she was twelfth in a qualification race, but did not finish the race proper, after a rare accident. The rest of the year may well have been spent in the VLN once more, although results are hard to find.
The following year, she was back in the Zakspeed M3, and did the whole DTM season, apart from the fly-away season finale at Kyalami, South Africa. Her year started badly, with a double DNF at Zolder, but it soon picked up and settled down. Her qualifying performances were improving, and she often able to hold her position, just outside the top ten. Her best performance was at Avus, where she was seventh in the qualification race, and converted it into eleventh in the first feature race. She was also eleventh in a feature race at Hockenheim, part of the Rennsport-Festival, after finishing eleventh in the preliminary qualifying race. That year, she was linked to a drive in a Rimstock M3 in the Spa 24 Hours, but it did not happen.
1990 saw her back in the DTM, driving for the satellite Linder team again. She was entered into the main championship, but not any of the extra races, some for privateers, put on that year. Her team-mates, usually Dieter Quester and Altfrid Heger, were not really on the pace, and Annette did not fare as well as she had in previous years, with a best result of fifteenth, achieved at the Diepholz airfield track. The Mercedes and Opels were more dominant that year, and she was getting left behind somewhat. This would be her last DTM season.
The Nürburgring was a happier hunting ground for her. She was fifth in the 24 Hour race, driving another BMW. During her career, she entered this classic event four times.
In 1992, she did less racing than in previous years. Her only big event was the Spa 24 Hours, in which she drove am M3, run by Bychl Euroracing. With her team-mates, Marc Gindorf and Heiner Weis, she was 17th overall.
Towards the end of her career, Annette became rather frustrated by motorsport and its vagaries. She retired in 1992, and for some time, worked as a performance driving instructor for BMW. In the mid-1990s, she travelled to Africa, where she ended up founding an animal sanctuary in Namibia. Later, she worked as airline cabin crew, and gave birth to a son. She was in the process of setting up her own kindergarten when she became ill with cancer. Sadly, she died a year later, in 2004.
(Image from http://www.carlosghys.be/html/autographs_meeuvissen.html)


Saturday, 2 August 2014

Beitske Visser


Beitske after her Lausitz win, in 2012

Beitske Visser is a young Dutch driver with several race wins to her name. Among the current crop of female single-seater drivers, she is probably the most successful, despite her young age and relative inexperience. She began karting competitively at the age of seven, and by 2011, she was competing in the European championships.
Her move into senior motorsport was quick, and she made instant progress. Even her first major race, a round of the 2011 Dutch Supercar Challenge, gave her a win, in the Race 4 Slovakia Praga R4S. For the time being, she kept karting as her main focus, having proved her worth in a car.
In 2012, in search of competitive single-seater racing, she travelled over the border to Germany, to compete in ADAC Formula Masters, which has rounds at Zandvoort. She was driving for Team Lotus.  Her first races, at Oschersleben, gave her a promising ninth and fifth, as well as a DNF, which also caused her to miss the next meeting, as well as the first Zandvoort race. However, she was on the pace on the second day, finishing eighth in the first race, and winning the second one. Later in the season, at Lausitz, she won another race, this time from pole. One of these came from taking advantage of a reverse grid, but was a victory nevertheless, fought for and deserved .Apart from her two wins, her best result was fourth, also at Lausitz. Despite her race-winning speed, Beitske was not always consistent, and mostly finished in the lower half of the top ten. She was eighth overall, despite not doing a full season.
That year, she also travelled to Azerbaijan for some all-star street racing, in a Porsche GT3. She was thirteenth in the Baku City Challenge GT race, alongside Christian Bracke. They were competing against Jacques Villeneuve and Jos Verstappen, among others. Beitske also entered the Sprint race at Baku, in the same car.
Her exploits, and winning ways, in 2012 were enough to draw the attention of Red Bull’s talent scouts. She was signed up to the Red Bull Junior Team development programme for 2013. This meant practical support, and considerable sponsorship for her coming season.
Aided by Red Bull money and guidance, she embarked on a second season in Formula Master. To begin, she carried on where she left off, with eighth and ninth places at Oschersleben.  At Spa, she had another DNF, but it was not serious, and she was 16th and eighth in her next two races. At the Sachsenring, she started off a disappointing fourteenth, but moved up to seventh in the second race, and won the third. This was her only win of the season, but she managed another podium (a third) at the Slovakiaring, and a fourth at the Nürburgring. This added up to a slightly more consistent 2013, and she was tenth in the championship again.
Unfortunately, the Red Bull Junior Team managers were not sufficiently impressed with Beitske’s progress. It was announced in November that she was no longer part of the development squad.
This must have been a big setback for her, but she carried on with her motorsport activities, getting in as much practice and experience as she could, in both karts and cars. She put together a deal with the Spanish-based AVF team for the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in Europe. In order to train most effectively with her team, she moved to Barcelona. Her team-mate is the Swiss driver, Zoël Amberg. Formula Renault was a new experience for Beitske, and proved a steep learning curve. Her first race weekend, at Monza, started with a mystery car failure during the last qualifying session, then moved on to a puncture in the first race. She pushed hard in the second race, made up several places, but then made a mistake, and ended up in 17th place. The second weekend, at Motorland in Spain, did not include a DNF, but did feature problems in qualifying, a fightback, and then a mistakes. She was 18th and 16th.
During a break in FR3.5 proceedings, she accepted a drive in GP3 with Hilmer Motorsport, at her adopted home track of Catalunya. This was the first meeting of the season. Rain, associated tyre issues, problematic qualifying sessions and a poor start in the first race left her 15th and 18th, although as usual, she did make up some places during the races themselves.
Monaco was the next FR3.5 race. She was 17th overall, but lucky to finish, after damaging her car at the start. She managed to set some good lap times during the race itself, but could not convert them into places. However, at Spa, she finally managed her first points finish, a tenth place, after qualifying in 18th. In the second race, she also improved on her qualifying position, despite another little crash, and was fourteenth. In Moscow, she was thirteenth in both races, and was performing better in qualifying. At the Nürburgring, she just managed to finish the first race in 19th, following another puncture. More encouraging was the fact that she qualified in eleventh, with the same time as Zoël Amberg. She struggled to qualify for the second race, in the rain, and was running in twelfth when she crashed into a car going across the track.
At the time of writing, there are three events left in the FR3.5 calendar. Beitske’s overtaking ability is often noted, a skill which is sometimes lamented in modern motorsport. She is among the leading rookie drivers in FR3.5.
Away from racing, she seems to have considerable gymnastic ability, as evidenced by pictures on her Twitter feed, which show her in difficult balance positions. Despite her ex-pat status, she is proud of her origins, and her car is Dutch orange.
(Image from http://www.kartcom.com/it/pressrel/cpr/one-more-victory-for-visser)


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The FIA World Rally Championship Ladies' Cup


Twice winner Isolde Holderied, with her Toyota Corolla WRC

In 1990, the FIA created a Coupe des Dames for the World Rally Championship. To be eligible for the prize, drivers had to enter seven rounds of the WRC, including at least one outside Europe. Points were then awarded for finishing positions within each rally. This prevented local specialists from winning the Cup with a single good performance, and was meant to reward consistency. In practice, however, it meant that some entrants only made an effort with rallies that suited them, as eligibility was based on starting, rather than finishing, rallies. The phenomenon of a driver retiring from a rally early on, for no obvious reason, did draw criticism from some quarters, although the FIA Group N championship of the time ran in a similar manner, and attracted some of the same gamesmanship.

The Ladies’ championship attracted some good drivers, a couple of whom went on to challenge at the highest level of the sport. There were never great numbers of female competitors, and this seems to have been one of the factors in the decision to shelve the award after 1995.

Winners
1990 - Louise Aitken-Walker
1991 - Minna Sillankorva
1992 - Eija Jurvanen
1993 - Christine Driano
1994 - Isolde Holderied
1995 - Isolde Holderied

(Image from http://www.autozeitung.de/faszination-auto/isolde-holderied-im-toyota-corolla-wrc/Bild/n257057/5)