Madeleine, her navigator and the 4CV in 1954
Madeleine Pochon was one of Europe’s top female drivers in the mid-1950s, winning the Coupe des Dames on the Monte Carlo Rally twice.
Frenchwoman Madeleine first appears on the major entry lists in 1951, as a co-driver to L. Pochon in the Tulip Rally, driving a Renault. The driver was presumably her husband. In September, she may have taken part in the Tour de France in a Peugeot 203, alongside a driver called “Madame Mazade”. This may have been Jeanine Mazade who acted as a co-driver later.
In 1952, Madeleine entered the Monte Carlo Rally and was second in the Coupe des Dames standings, driving a Simca Aronde. She was 104th overall. Not long after, she was third in the Paris-St. Raphael Rally, in a Renault. At this stage, she was still switching seats and she partnered Irene Terray for the brutal Liege-Rome-Liege marathon in a Peugeot, named as the navigator. They were 24th.
Her second Tour de France ended in a 17th place, from 57 finishers. She was part of a three-woman crew in a Renault 4CV 1063 with Mesdames Boucher and Trott, whose forenames are not given. Mme Boucher was a regular driver and co-driver throughout the 1950s and beyond.
Madeleine won her first Monte Carlo Coupe des Dames in 1953, driving a Renault 4CV to 49th place overall. Irene Terray took her turn as navigator this time.
As well as this, she competed on the Alpine Rally in a Renault, probably the 4CV. Her result has been lost, but she did not win an Alpine Cup. The fuel pump in her car gave up part-way through and she was penalised for being late to a time control.
That year, she entered a rare circuit race, taking on the 12 Hours of Hyères with Jane Bagarry. They were tenth overall in a Renault 4CV, fourth in class. This appears to have been her only major circuit race.
In 1954, she repeated her Monte Carlo achievement and finished seventh overall. Her co-driver was Lise Renaud.
She was a career-best 13th in the Tour de France in September, driving a 1900cc Alfa Romeo with Marie Honoré.
She switched to the Alfa Romeo for the 1955 rally season and entered the Monte once more, although she was not the top lady this time. Her great rival Sheila van Damm finished five places above her in eleventh, while she and Marie Honoré were 16th. This was still an achievement, as she had come off the road in the Alfa and gone over the time limit on at least one stage.
Sheila and Madeleine had been vying for the Monte Coupe des Dames for the past three years. In her autobiography, Sheila praised Madeleine’s ability.
That year, she is also listed as an entrant in the Mille Miglia, driving the same car.
1955 was to be her last season. In October that year, she died suddenly from a heart attack, aged 36.
Madeleine is much less well-known than her chief rival Sheila van Damm now, possibly due to the shortness of her career and the fact that she rarely competed outside France. Sheila van Damm noted that Madeleine did not speak English and looked “anything but strong”. She was apparently uninterested in the European Ladies’ Championship and only entered the rallies she liked. Had she been more interested in forging an international career, she would probably have gone much further and won many more awards.
(Image from http://motorcanalsbalil.no-ip.info)