Tuesday, 11 February 2020

The VW Polo Ladies' Cup Turkey

Ann Tahincioglu, Nuray Esener and Melis Ceker

The Volkswagen Polo Ladies’ Cup was an all-female one-make series which ran in Turkey between 2005 and 2006. It was announced as part of a package of new club championships for Turkey in the wake of the opening of the Istanbul grand prix circuit.

The entry list contained a mixture of experienced circuit racers, drivers from other disciplines (including rally co-drivers), women who had achieved fame in other sports and a few celebrities. 2005 champion Ann Tahincioglu had been involved in Turkish motorsport for years and was the oldest driver at 49. Nuray Esener and Sanem Celik also had circuit experience. Didem Coksayar and Melis Ceker had co-driven in rallies; 2006 entrant Burcu Cetinkaya had been a Turkish ladies’ rally champion. Yasemin Dalkilic had set records in freediving and Zeynep Ozenc had represented Turkey in volleyball. The celebrity drivers included fashion designer Secilay Du Pre. 2006 champion Gunes Ippekan started the 2005 Cup as a complete novice and was also the youngest driver, at 25.

Seventeen cars lined up for the first race at Izmit Bay. The championship’s other three rounds were held at Istanbul. An additional race was held at Lausitz in Germany as a guest support for the DTM.

A 1900cc turbodiesel version of the Polo was used. Cars were run by various teams with different sponsorship deals.

In 2006, two drivers in the championship received a guest entry into a round of the DTM-supporting German Polo Cup. Champion Gunes Ippekan and fifth-placed Melis Ceker made the trip to the Netherlands for their two races.

Championship results


  1. Ann Tahincioglu
  2.  Nuray Esener
  3.  Melis Ceker


  1. Gunes Ippekan
  2. Ann Tahincioglu
  3. Nuray Esener
  4. Ebru Sile
  5. Melis Ceker
  6. Ayse Sule Bilgic
  7. Demet Kapani
  8. Yasemin Dalkilic
  9. Didem Coksayar
  10. Aysa Alparslan

(Image copyright nurayurkmez.com)

Friday, 7 February 2020

Bianca Steiner

Bianca Steiner is an Austrian driver who has competed across Europe in almost all categories of single-seaters. 

She began racing in 2004 in Hungary, in the E-2000 Championship for 2000cc single-seaters. Despite being only fourteen years old at the time, she came fourth, driving a Formula Renault. 

She was ninth in 2005, and that year, she branched out into Formula Junior in Italy, driving for the Hungarian Szsasz team. At that time, Italian Formula Junior was a Formula Renault 1600 series. This arrangement continued in 2006, and she was tenth in the championship. As well as the Italian Junior series, she entered a Formula Renault Winter series. Never scared of ccs or horsepower, she even did a few Italian Formula 3000 races with the Coloni Rookies team. She was ninth and tenth at Misano, the closing rounds of the season.

For 2007, her programme was more focused, and she now had her own team. She drove to a disappointing 31st place in Italian Formula Renault, and made a few outings in the Eurocup at the Hungaroring. 

In 2008, she moved to the Northern Europe Championship, but did not fare much better. 

After four races back in the Italian championship in 2009, with a best finish of fourth, she appears to have left the series. She also did some hillclimbing in a Formula Nippon car in 2009. She had borrowed the car from a French driver called Lionel Regal, who died in 2010.

A long time on the sidelines followed while Bianca and her family saved money for a more powerful and better car.

In 2018 she made a comeback in the BOSS GP series for major single-seaters. She drove an ex-Timo Glock Dallara GP2 car in five rounds and scored one podium, a third at the Red Bull Ring. From the very beginning of the season she had been on the pace, finishing fourth in only her second race. She was eleventh in the championship. 

In the same car, she did the first two rounds of the 2019 Maxx Formula series at Zandvoort, finishing fourth and third. She had followed her Top Speed team-mate Veronika Cicha to the new championship.

Her 2020 plans are unclear as yet.

(Image copyright noen.at)

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Mira Erda

Mira Erda is an Indian racer who is the youngest Indian woman to race cars. She was only fourteen years old when she made her debut in LGB Formula 4 in 2014. 

She continued to race in LGB F4  (not the same thing as FIA F4) in 2015, as part of India’s JK Tyre Racing Championship. Previously, she was active in karting all over Asia from 2010, when she was nine. She won her first kart race in 2012. Her family owns a kart track.

In one of her first races in cars, the season-opener at Coimbatore, she was fifth overall. 

She won one Rookie class LGB F4 race in 2016, at Greater Noida, following three rookie podiums at Coimbatore. This made her the series’ female champion. 

In 2017, she was in the media again as the first Indian woman to race in the Euro JK single-seater series, a step higher than her previous experience. Her results were steady rather than spectacular; she was a consistent presence in the lower part of the top ten and was tenth in the championship.

She was the leading woman driver in the JK Racing India Series in 2018, driving its standard 1200cc bike-engined Formula BMW car. Her final championship position was tenth. Coimbatore was once again her best circuit, giving her a fifth place.

She attempted to qualify for the all-female W Series at the start of 2019, but did not make the first cut. She spent much of the rest of the year in the Southeast Asia Formula 4 championship with Meritus GP. Her best circuit was her home Madras track, where she earned her best finish of sixth. 

Domestically, she returned to LGB F4 and was ninth in the championship. Yet again, Coimbatore was her best circuit and she scored points in all of her races during round three. She was the championship’s leading female driver, ahead of the less experienced all-female Ahura team, which fielded seven cars.

At the end of the year, she was drafted in to the AD Racing Delhi team for the X1 Racing League, a new Indian championship with city-based teams. She was brought in to replace Christina Nielsen. The team's car was not competitive and failed to finish the first round’s two races, leading to the departure of Nielsen and Mathias Lauda. Mira does not seem to have taken part in either of the two races of the second meeting.

She helps to train other female drivers in India and is involved in the Red Bull Catch-Up series of events for female amateurs.

(Image copyright styleandrace.com)

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Alice Graves

Alice Graves raced in IMSA in 1983 and 1984. She was regarded as America’s oldest female professional racing driver at the time, being in her fifties and a grandmother.

Her car was a Porsche 914/6, which she shared with her husband Richard Graves. They bought their first Porsche in 1976 and initially used it for road rallies with the Porsche Club of America.

In 1983, they entered the Road America, Pocono and Daytona Finale rounds, with a best finish of 17th at Pocono. 

In 1984, she raced at Mid-Ohio, Road America and Pocono. Their best finish was 25th at Mid-Ohio. The Porsche was not overly competitive, compared to newer 962s and Aston Martins. At this point, it was eight years old.

With its 2000cc, six-cylinder engine, the 914 was always rather underpowered compared to the giants of IMSA, but it normally held its own in its class. 

Alice owned and raced other cars, including a Datsun in which she won her class at the 1984 SCCA June Sprints at Elkhart Lake.

The Porsche was road-legal and according to Alice in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, she occasionally used it to go shopping, much to the dismay of her daughter. 

Both Alice and Richard retired from major competition at the end of the 1984 season.

(Image copyright Chicago Tribune/Jose More)

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Linda Ludemann

Linda Ludemann raced in IMSA between 1987 and 1990, alongside Scott Schubot. She is the first recorded female winner of an IMSA title, having won the Lights class in 1989, but she is more widely known due to the 1989 “Linda Ludemann rule” which allowed a second driver in IMSA races to take a very limited role in order to get round the compulsory pitstops.

She and Scott Schubot, who was her boyfriend as well as her team-mate, competed in the Lights class in 1987, under the “S&L Racing” banner.  Both had earned their racing licenses a couple of years previously and this was their first major championship together. Initially, they drove a Tiga GT285, with a best finish of eighth at Watkins Glen. They were also 16th at Daytona, with Jim Brown. For the shorter races, normally three-hour events, they usually drove together, but Schubot sometimes drove alone.

The car was changed for a Spice SE88P in 1988, which was less reliable, and gave them a highest position of 15th, at the San Antonio street circuit and Lime Rock. 

The rule changes that brought in the “Linda Ludemann Rule” happened in time for the 1989 season. Prior to then, most IMSA races could be completed safely by a solo driver, although many teams depended on a paying amateur co-driver to cover their costs. In order to appease the teams and remove the single-driver advantage, a driver change became compulsory.

The rules stated that the second driver only had to cover a minimum of two laps and did not specify that these laps had to be during a green-flag period. 

Linda was never regarded as a slow or unskilled driver, but she was not as fast as Schubot. In newspaper interviews of the time, she admits to being a couple of seconds per lap slower around the track and often claims that she is not quite aggressive enough when passing. 

In a 1987 interview with the Fort Lauderdale News, she describes her role in the team as “to bring the car back safe and sound. Scott’s job is to drive as hard as he can. He’s just more aggressive. I’ve had to work awfully hard to learn to be aggressive.”

Even so, in the same interview, she talks of having to show her partner how to downshift correctly with a manual gearbox, something she had learned working as pit crew for her father.

Her peers were often more complimentary. Writing in 2015, Marshall Pruett said he was “semi-confident” that she and Schubot could have won without “playing games”. The same article quotes IMSA’s chief steward at the time, Marty Kaufman, calling Linda “a good shoe.”

In order to maximise his time in the car, their driver changes would generally happen during a caution period, during which Linda would jump in, complete a few token laps and then hand the car back to her boyfriend when the flag went green.

Reliability improved in 1989, and Linda became the first woman to win the Lights class, after victories at West Palm Beach, San Antonio, Topeka and Sears Point. The team were also top-ten finishers three times, with a high point of sixth. 

Linda only did a part-season in 1990, still in the Spice, but proved she was still competitive with an eighth at Miami and a class win at Topeka. Her season was affected by a fire during qualifying at Sebring, which destroyed their car. Linda initially found a seat in another SE88 run by Essex Racing, but did not start the race.

As well as sportscars, she occasionally raced single-seaters, becoming the first woman to race a Barber Saab in 1989. Early in her career, both she and Schubot raced Formula Fords and Linda did at least one season in Sports 2000. 

She did not compete in 1991. Schubot switched his attention to single-seater racing for several seasons after that and they may have split up.

Away from the track, Linda worked as a florist and owned her own flower shop.

(Image copyright racer.com)

Monday, 9 December 2019

Circuit Racers in the Gulf States and the Middle East

The al-Qubaisi sisters (right) with Reema Juffali (left) and Scottish driver Logan Hannah at the 2019 Abu Dhabi GP

The motorsport scene in the Gulf States and the Middle East has only recently opened up to female drivers. In the case of Saudi Arabia, women only gained the right to hold driving licenses in 2019. Reema Juffali is the first Saudi female racer. 

Other countries have a more liberal policy and have a longer history of female motorsport competitors. 

Noor Daoud – racer and drifter from Israel/Palestine. In drifting, she competes all over the Middle East, in a BMW. She has also been active in mostly unofficial circuit racing in the West Bank since 2010, and is one of the “Speed Sisters”, a group of female racers from Palestine who have had a film made about them. In 2011, she raced a Formula Renault in the first legal Israeli race meeting, Formula Israel, in Eilat. She was third in a women’s race, and may have won another. Noor was born in the USA, and is a former international footballer for Palestine.

Martyna al-Qassab - Polish-born driver who races in her adopted country of Bahrain. She races in the Bahrain 2000cc Challenge and is the first female driver to do so. Her first car was a Renault Clio, which has now been replaced by an Acura DCS. She was fourth in the first round of the 2019-2020 championship. The previous year, she was a leading driver in the Novice class, winning at least one race. She is the founder of a Bahraini women’s motoring organisation, Yalla Banat, which has attempted to hold the biggest-ever women-only track parade at the Sakhir circuit in 2019.

Hamda al-Qubaisi - Abu Dhabi-born driver who began her senior racing career in 2019, in Formula 4. She competed against her older sister Amna al-Qubaisi in the last rounds of the Italian F4 championship at Red Bull Ring and Monza. Her best finish was 21st at Monza. She did better in the UAE F4 race that supported the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, qualifying third and finishing fifth in her first race. She ran into problems in the second and was eleventh. She will contest the UAE F4 championship over the wineter season and has already picked up second places at Dubai and Yas Marina, alongside a series of pole positions.

Farah al-Sabah – driver from Kuwait, active in sportscar racing in the Middle East. In 2015, she competed in the NGK Racing Series in the UAE, driving a McLaren GT Sprint with Leon Price, from South Africa. So far, she has recorded two class wins, at Dubai Autodrome. She also races karts in the UAE, in the Sodi World Series.

(Image copyright UAE F4 Official Instagram)

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Ann Moore

Ann leaps over her FF2000 car on Psalm

Ann Moore was a British showjumping champion who had a brief motorsport career in 1976, promoted by John Webb of Shellsport.

Ann won a silver medal in individual showjumping at the 1972 Munich Olympics, riding her horse Psalm. This made her the most successful of Britain’s female equestrians at a time when showjumping had a sizeable TV audience. She was voted the Sports Journalists’ Association Sportswoman of the Year in 1973, having been runner-up in the two years previously.

John Webb was the director of Brands Hatch circuit at the time. He was both sharp to the promotional value of female drivers and supportive of their abilities. He had one of his biggest successes the year before with Divina Galica, a former Olympic skier who would go on to attempt to qualify for a Formula One race in the same year that Ann Moore took the wheel. Ann’s public profile was far higher than Divina’s was due to the relative popularity of her sport. There was also a strong history of successful female drivers having first competed in equestrian events. Pat Moss was a showjumper like Ann, and another of the Webb protegees was Gillian Fortescue-Thomas, a former amateur jockey. The appeal to John Webb and his publicist wife Angela was obvious. Ann was signed up for what was referred to as the Webb “Charm School”.

Ann’s first race was in 1975. She was one of the celebrity racers hired to fill out the grid for the Shellsport Escort Ladies’ series, at Brands. Previous celebrity entrants had included TV announcer Linda Cunningham and actress and porn performer Fiona Richmond. The championship used the Shellsport fleet of Ford Escorts, which was kept at the circuit. Ann was eleventh after a spin. Divina Galica was the winner.

The next phase of her career was a move into single-seaters. It was announced early in 1976 that Ann would compete in “around 30 races” that year in an Elden Formula Ford 2000 car, arranged by the Webbs and sponsored by Rolatruc. She made her debut at the start of the season with two races at Brands, then one at Mallory Park in March.

Among her events that year was a charity single-seater race in aid of a sports-related cause. Ann’s car, complete with her livery and name, is seen being used by boxer Joe Bugner for training. 

The FF2000 car was perhaps not the best choice for a novice; Formula Ford 1600 may have been more suitable, or more outings in the Escort. Spectators of the time remark that Ann was slow and often spun her car. Her much-vaunted “professional” racing career came to a halt after only six races. 

A statement made to the press explained that she had not realised how much of her time would be taken up by motor racing, and that she would only take part in occasional celebrity races in the future. It is not clear whether she did appear in any more of Shellsport’s celebrity races, which usually used Escorts, but they were held throughout the season and there would have been plenty of opportunity.

Ann had already retired from showjumping two years previously, aged 24.

(Image by Nick Rogers, copyright Shutterstock)