Friday, 31 December 2010

Smokey Drolet

Smokey in the Maserati "Birdcage"

Sierra Drolet, better-known as Smokey, was an American endurance specialist, who raced from 1957 to the mid-1970s. She is most associated with Chevrolet cars, although she drove a variety of American and European models during her time at the wheel.

Her career seems to have begun in SCCA Regional events in 1957. She drove a variety of cars, including Lotus and Lola Formula Juniors, a Triumph TR2, which was her first racing car, a TR3 and a Frazer Nash, between then and 1960. She also made some appearances in the SCCA Nationals, in her home state of Florida.
1959 saw her earliest attempt at the big American sportscar races. She drove a Turner 750 Sports Climax with Fred Lieb in the Sebring 12 Hours, and was 43rd, fourth in the one-litre class. This was the first of several appearances at Sebring, although the rest would not transpire for quite some time. Sebring was, at the time, her local big circuit; her motorsport activities were always focused around Florida.
For the next couple of seasons, she returned to SCCA competition. As before, she was supported by J. Frank Harrison and his team, and usually drove his cars, including the Frazer-Nash. Mainly, she seems to have raced in Formula Junior. Occasionally, she drove saloons, such as the Renault Dauphine she used in a three-hour endurance race at Sebring, in 1963. As well as this, she made trips over to the Bahamas for Nassau Speed Week. In 1960, she won the Nassau Ladies’ race, driving a Daimler SP250 belonging to Michael Rothschild. She had been scheduled to compete in Harrison’s Maserati Tipo 61, but it was damaged in a crash in an earlier race. In 1962, she drove Charlie Kolb’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ at Nassau, and won another Ladies’ race. During this time, she also took part in some hillclimbs.

She reappears on the entry lists for major races in 1966. That year, she took part in her first Daytona 24 Hours, driving a Sunbeam Alpine for Autosport, with Rosemary Smith. They were 30th. Autosport were running an all-female Alpine team at the time, and the sister car of Janet Guthrie, Suzy Dietrich and Donna Mae Mims (running as the "Ring Free Motor Maids") was a couple of places behind. She did not drive in the Sebring 12 Hours, but a ride in a Mini Cooper for the supporting four-hour race gave her a fifteenth spot, alongside J. Peter Marinelli.
In 1967, she was part of another all-female sportscar team, this time the Ring Free Oil Motor Maids themselves. Partnered by Anita Taylor and Janet Guthrie, she was 20th in the Daytona 24 Hours, in a Ford Mustang. The car was little more than a showroom model, and quite old. Although she was not included in the Ring Free squad for the Sebring 12 Hours, she still contested it. Partnered by Anita Taylor once more, she drove a Baker Alpine-Renault A110 to 35th place.  
Later, she won her class at Daytona in 1969, driving a Corvette. Her co-drivers were John Tremblay, Vince Gimondo and John Belperche, and they were sixteenth overall. Smokey was equally at home driving alongside men, or as part of all-female teams. Her other achievements that year include a second in class in the Sebring 12 Hours, partnering Rosemary Smith in a BMW 2002. They were 26th overall. Early in the season, she petitioned to be allowed to try out for the Indianapolis 500, but this wish was not fulfilled.
The following year, she drove another Chevrolet at Daytona: this time, it was Norberto Mastandrea’s Camaro. Driving with Mastandrea and Rajah Rodgers, she was 25th. A scheduled Alfa Romeo drive for the Sebring 12 Hours, in Del Taylor’s 1750 GTV, did not happen.
In 1971, she shared another American car for the Daytona enduro, co-driving a Dodge Dart with Fred Lieb and Mitch Daroff. They did not finish. This was Smokey’s last appearance in a major race.
During her time as a competitor, she was respected by her peers, perhaps more so than some of her female contemporaries, for her abilities and her no-nonsense attitude. That she frequently got to the finish of long races, in ageing and underpowered machinery with no hope of winning, is testament to this.
After retiring from the track, Smokey went in to the automotive parts and service business, where she remained active until quite recently. She died in June 2015, not long after her husband, Walt Sizemore.

(Image copyright Willem Osthoek Collection)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Sheila van Damm

Sheila (left) in 1954, with Pauline Jesty and Joyce Leavens

Sheila van Damm was born in 1922, the daughter of London theatre impresario, Vivian van Damm. As with many other female drivers of her era, her first taste of motoring came during the Second World War, when she worked as a driver in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Encouraged by her father, she learned to fly an aeroplane too. For a time, she took part in aerobatics contests, although aircraft were never really her passion. Vivian van Damm employed a female personal pilot himself. 

Sheila and her sisters grew up around showgirls as well as a number of professional women employed by their father. In her autobiography, No Excuses, she comes across as clearly loving her father, but being somewhat scared of him. She admits to doing anything he told her to do, and that included driving a rally car.
She got her break in rallying in 1950, driving a works-prepared Sunbeam in the Daily Express Rally. The car was sponsored by her father’s infamous Windmill Theatre, which was known for its risqué revues. Vivian's aforementioned pilot, Zita Irwin, was one of those who persuaded her to have a go. Sheila, navigated by her sister Nona, drove a Sunbeam Talbot, with “Windmill Girl” proudly emblazoned down the side. This was to be Nona's only outing as a rally driver; she was car-sick and did not enjoy herself, returning to her beloved horses afterwards. They were third in the Coupe des Dames, and their performance impressed the Rootes team sufficiently for them to offer Sheila a works seat for the following season.
Although Nona never took to rallying, Sheila's mother, Natalie, later took it up in the mid-'50s.

Her first drive for Rootes was the 1951 Monte Carlo Rally, in a Hillman Minx. She was unplaced. Later in the year, navigated by the veteran Elsie “Bill” Wisdom, she won the Ladies’ Prize in the Closed car category of the RAC Rally. 
In 1952, she remained with Rootes, as she would for her entire rally career. As part of a three-woman team, she drove a Sunbeam Talbot in the Monte Carlo Rally. The other team members were Bill Wisdom and Nancy Mitchell. Sheila is also reported to have won a ladies’ award in an MCC Rally in the UK, in the same car.
1953 was a busy year. It began with the Monte Carlo Rally, in which Sheila was the second lady in her Sunbeam Talbot. Her co-drivers that year were Francoise Clarke, who sat beside her for the RAC Rally, and Anne Hall, who navigated her to the Coupe des Dames and a Coupe des Alpes in the Alpine Rally. They were 24th overall. The three almost always drove together and took turns at navigating, timekeeping and driving. Sheila was always in charge and admits to being rather harsh on her team-mates, although they all understood one another and their idiosyncrasies. Her best finish was eighth overall, in the Lisbon Rally. This was probably her best career result.

The furthest she travelled during her career was the USA; Rootes included her in a team for the 1953 Great American Mountain Rally. Unfortunately, she ran into problems on the tough terrain and was not among the leading finishers.
Sheila almost always drove with an all-female team, and had friendly rivalries with other female drivers like Nancy Mitchell, Madeleine Pochon and Lorna Doone Snow. However, she was also quite at home in the largely-male Rootes team, where the more experienced men were happy to help her out in becoming a better driver. Among them were Stirling Moss and Peter Collins.

1954 was full of action all over Europe for Sheila, ably assisted by Anne and Francoise. They drove a Sunbeam Talbot in the Monte Carlo Rally, but were unplaced, and later came tenth in the Tulip Rally, with a Ladies’ prize and second in class. In the same car, they also entered the Austrian Alpine Rally. For the Stella Alpina, they were allowed use of the Sunbeam Alpine prototype, and made off with the Ladies’ Trophy, and fifth in class. The Alpine Rally gave them another class fifth, and they were second in class in the Geneva Rally. A Coupe des Dames in the Viking Rally was another highlight.
1955 continued in the same vein. The Monte Carlo Rally produced her best result on that particular event: eleventh, and first lady. She was driving another Sunbeam with Francoise Clarke and Anne Hall. With Anne in the navigator’s seat, she won another Coupe des Dames on the RAC Rally, and was second in that category on the Tulip Rally, behind Greta Molander. Sheila and Greta were great rivals at this time, often in close competition for Ladies’ and class awards.

During and after her rally career, Sheila was a popular media personality. She wrote for the Daily Express, which sponsored rallies at the time. In 1955, she confessed to being very hard on Francoise Clarke in her role as co-driver and praised Francoise's patience. In the same interview, she also mentioned taking "pep pills" during longer events, which was common practice at the time. She was one of the favourites of rally journalist, Basil Cardew, who championed female talent.
In 1954 and 1955, she was European Ladies’ Champion, after her string of Coupes des Dames. She also helped Rootes to the team prize on the Monte Carlo Rally in 1954, 1955 and 1956.
1956 was her last year as a Rootes driver. She entered the Monte Carlo Rally in a Sunbeam. She finished but did not place in her class. Greta Molander also had an indifferent rally. 

Anne Hall now moved back to full-time driving, and Sheila prepared to wind down her motorsport career. She had wanted to reunite her original team, but the others were both busy. The Monte was her last event. She had the rare distinction of having finished every rally that she entered. Sometimes she only just managed to finish, but she managed.
As well as rallying, she proved a capable record-breaker and road-racer, winning her class on the 1956 Mille Miglia. She drove a Sunbeam Rapier with Peter Harper, and was 72nd overall. She was persuaded out of retirement for the 1957 Mille Miglia, again in a Rapier, with David Humphrey, but did not finish this time. Her record-breaking happened in 1953; during the Monte Carlo Rally, she hit 120mph in her Sunbeam, on the Jabbeke highway in Belgium.
After her competition career was over, Sheila helped her father with operations at the Windmill, and was its general manager between his death in 1960, and its eventual closure in 1964. In the late 1950s, she managed an all-female karting team, comprised of "Windmill girls". The theatre had always been her first love and her motorsport career was almost a stopgap before she could take over from Vivian. That said, she enjoyed her rallying and the life it entailed.  she remained in touch with her old world through her Vogue motoring column, and her presidency of the Doghouse Club, for “motorsport wives and ladies”.

Sheila's unconventional background was replicated somewhat in her own personal life. As well as the final demise of the Windmill in 1964, she had to contend with the sudden deaths of her friends Nancy Spain and Joan Werner Laurie in an air crash. The three had lived together in a menage a trois of sorts; Joan was probably Sheila's lover as well as Nancy's.

After the trials of 1964, she retired to a farm with Nona. Her mental health deteriorated and she received treatment for depression, including electroconvulsive therapy. The two sisters lived quietly and reclusively.
Sheila died in 1987. She had been suffering from cancer in secret for some time. Just two days after she confessed to her family and friends that she had the disease, it killed her.

(Image copyright Bournemouth Daily Echo)

Monday, 27 December 2010

Women in Formula One - the results

Maria Teresa de Filippis

This post gives a complete set of results for female drivers in the Formula One World Championship.

Maria Teresa de Filippis (Maserati 250F) - DNQ
Maria Teresa de Filippis (Maserati 250F) - 10th
Maria Teresa de Filippis (Maserati 250F) - DNF
Maria Teresa de Filippis (Maserati 250F) - DNF

Maria Teresa de Filippis (Behra Porsche F2) - DNQ

Great Britain
Lella Lombardi (Brabham BT42) - DNQ

South Africa
Lella Lombardi (March 741) - DNF
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - 6th
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - DNQ
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - DNF
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - DNF
The Netherlands
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - 14th
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - 18th
Great Britain
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - DNF
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - 7th
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - 17th
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - DNF
United States
Lella Lombardi (Williams FW04) - qualified, but not allowed to start.

Lella Lombardi (March 761) - 14th
Great Britain
Lella Lombardi (Brabham BT44B) - DNQ
Divina Galica (Surtees TS16) - DNQ
Lella Lombardi (Brabham BT44B) - DNQ
Lella Lombardi (Brabham BT44B) - DNQ

Divina Galica (Hesketh 308E) - DNQ
Divina Galica (Hesketh 308E) - DNQ

Great Britain
Desiré Wilson (Williams FW07) - DNQ

South Africa
Giovanna Amati (Brabham BT60B) - DNQ
Giovanna Amati (Brabham BT60B) - DNQ
Giovanna Amati (Brabham BT60B) - DNQ

(Image copyright Hulton/Getty Images)

Friday, 24 December 2010

Women in the Indianapolis 500

(L-R: Milka Duno, Sarah Fisher, Lyn St.James, Billie Jean King, Danica Patrick)

The first running of the Indianapolis 500, at the Brickyard circuit, happened in 1911. However, it remained a firmly male-only bastion until the 1970s. It was not until the start of the decade that women were permitted into the pitlane as journalists or team staff, partly due to the persistence of women journalists such as Denise McCluggage.

Although female drivers had made specially-sanctioned promotional appearances at the Brickyard as early as 1935, it was not until 1976 that they were allowed to participate in its blue riband event. Janet Guthrie was the first woman driver to pass her rookie test.

In more recent history, the Indianapolis 500 has been one of the few elite motorsport events routinely entered by multiple women racers.

Below is a list of all the appearances by female drivers in the Indy 500.

Janet Guthrie (Coyote-Foyt) - DNQ

Janet Guthrie (Lightning-Offenhauser) - 29th

Janet Guthrie (Wildcat-DGS) - 9th

Janet Guthrie (Lola-Cosworth) - 34th

Janet Guthrie (Lightning-Cosworth) - DNQ

Desiré Wilson (Eagle-Cosworth) - DNQ (withdrawn)

Desiré Wilson (March 82C-Cosworth) - DNQ

Lyn St. James (Lola-Chevrolet) - 11th

Lyn St.James (Lola-Cosworth) - 25th

Lyn St.James (Lola-Cosworth) - 19th

Lyn St.James (Lola-Cosworth) - 32nd

Lyn St.James (Lola-Cosworth) - 14th

Lyn St. James (Dallara-Infiniti) - 13th

Lyn St. James (G Force-Infiniti) - DNQ

Lyn St. James (G Force-Oldsmobile) - DNQ

Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Oldsmobile) - 31st
Lyn St. James (G Force-Oldsmobile) - 32nd

Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Oldsmobile) - 31st

Sarah Fisher (G Force-Infiniti) - 24th

Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Chevrolet) - 31st

Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Toyota) - 21st

Danica Patrick (Panoz-Honda) - 4th

Danica Patrick (Panoz-Honda) - 8th

Danica Patrick (Dallara-Honda) - 8th
Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Honda) - 18th
Milka Duno (Dallara-Honda) - 31st

Milka Duno (Dallara-Honda) - 19th
Danica Patrick (Dallara-Honda) - 22nd
Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Honda) - 30th

Danica Patrick (Dallara-Honda) - 3rd
Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Honda) - 17th
Milka Duno (Dallara-Honda) - 20th

Danica Patrick (Dallara-Honda) - 6th
Simona de Silvestro (Dallara-Honda) - 14th
Ana Beatriz (Dallara-Honda) - 21st
Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Honda) - 26th
Milka Duno (Dallara-Honda) - DNQ

Danica Patrick - 10th
Pippa Mann - 20th
Ana Beatriz - 21st
Simona de Silvestro - DNF
(all Dallara-Honda)

Katherine Legge (Dallara-Chevrolet) - 22nd
Ana Beatriz (Dallara-Chevrolet) - 23rd
Simona de Silvestro (Dallara-Lotus) - DNF

Ana Beatriz (Honda) - 15th
Simona de Silvestro (Chevrolet) - 17th
Katherine Legge (Honda) - 26th
Pippa Mann (Honda) - 30th/DNF

Pippa Mann (Dallara) - 24th

Simona de Silvestro (Honda) - 19th
Pippa Mann (Honda) - 22nd

Pippa Mann (Honda) - 18th

Pippa Mann (Honda) - 17th

Pippa Mann (Honda) - DNQ

Pippa Mann (Chevrolet) - 16th

(Image from

Friday, 10 December 2010

Maria Antonietta d'Avanzo

The Baronessa in a 1922 Bugatti T29

Baronessa Maria Antonietta d’Avanzo was a pioneering driver of the 1920s. She was born in 1889, and learned to drive very young, encouraged by her father. When she married, later, her husband, Eustacio d’Avanzo, also encouraged her driving talents, and bought her a 35hp Spa sportscar to race. Her first big race was the 1919 Giro del Lazio, and she won her class, despite having to replace an errant wheel during the event.

She arrived fully on the scene in 1920, entering the Targa Florio in a Buick. Like many other entrants that year, she did not make the finish, retiring during her third lap.

In 1921, she drove an Ansaldo 4CS in Italy. This was as a reserve driver, as another team member had dropped out. She was team-mate to Tazio Nuvolari. At the Circuito del Gardo she was seventh, third in class, while another lost wheel put her out of the Circuito di Mugello. She also drove an Alfa Romeo ES to a third place finish in a "Gentlemans'" Race in Brescia, during Speed Week. Paradoxically, she finished Speed Week with the Coupe des Dames. In another American car, an enormous twelve-cylinder aero-engined Packard, she entered the speed trials at Fano beach in Denmark. Here, she was notable for surviving a fire to her car, partly due to her quick thinking in driving the burning Packard off the dunes and into the sea. The car, and by token, its driver, caught the attention of a young Enzo Ferrari.

Her second Targa attempt came in 1922, in the Alfa this time. Again, she did not finish.

It is here that the Baronessa disappears from the scene for a few years. In 1925, she is said to have raced in Australia, but few actual results have ever surfaced. Contemporary newspaper articles state that she definitely stayed there for some time in 1924. There is one report of her driving an Essex in a “match race” at Penrith Speedway, although this may have been an exhibition. During this time, she took part in some of her other adventurous activities, such as flying, and wrote articles about sport for various publications.

She returned to Europe. and motorsport, in 1926. According to some sources, she raced a Mercedes in that year’s Coppa della Perugina.

Later, in 1928, she entered her first Mille Miglia, driving a Chrysler Tipo 72 with Manuel de Teffé. They did not finish, after a mechanical failure. The following year, she and Carlo Bruno retired early on, driving an Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS.

After a break in 1930, she made another attempt at the Mille Miglia, in a Bugatti T43, driving with Carlo Castelbarco. Once again, the treacherous Italian roads denied them. Back in the Alfa, she scored a third in the Coppa Pierazzi, and another third in the Grosseto-Scansano hillclimb.

1932 saw her final try at the Mille Miglia. This time, she was part of the official Scuderia Ferrari entry, driving an Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Spider Touring with Francesco Severi. Sadly, they did not finish. There was disappointment later in the year, also. She was invited over to the USA by Ralph de Palma, to test his Miller Special at Indianapolis. Regulations forbade women from racing, but she would be allowed to do some demonstration laps. Unfortunately, she struggled with the car, having not handled a huge American racer for years, and did not post good times. She returned to Italy before she was due to make her appearance.

After that, she began to wind down her motorsport career, and made only a few starts. Some sources have her as a driver in the 1933 Targa Abruzzi, but her choice of car is unclear. She definitely entered the 1938 Targa in a Stanguellini Fiat 1500, but probably did not finish. Her last recorded race was the 1939 Tobruk-Tripoli race, driving a Fiat. She was sixth in the 1100cc class, ahead of the other Italian female competitor, Lia Comirato Dumas.

In 1940, she is listed as an entrant for the Mille Miglia, driving a Fiat 1100 with Angelo Della Cella. They did not make the start.

Throughout her life, as a social personality, journalist and writer, Maria Antonietta was a vocal supporter of female drivers, on the track and on the public roads. She was adopted as a heroine by early Italian feminists. As well as this, she had many friends and allies in the male-dominated motorsport world, such as De Palma and Enzo Ferrari.

She died in 1977.

(Image from

Monday, 6 December 2010

Shelley Wakeling

Shelley is a multiple British rallycross championship winner. Her father is Richard Wakeling, a car preparation expert and rallycross competitor. Her brother, Paul Wakeling, also competes in rallycross, usually in a different class. She began racing in Minicross in 2004, after some time in Autograss.

She was sixth overall in her first season, with a best finish of sixth at Mondello Park. In 2005, she was fifth in her second. During her third season, 2006, she was runner-up, after achieving her first win at Blyton, the last meeting of the year.

A new car for the 2007 season allowed her to raise her game, and she walked away with the championship after four wins. A trip across to the continent resulted in a fifth place at Maasmechelen, in Belgium.

She defended her crown in style in 2008, winning with one race to spare. Her “A” Final win tally was increased to five. As well as the UK Minicross championships, she has also competed in Europe again. Her team entered the non-championship event at Eurocircuit in the Netherlands, and was rewarded with another win from Shelley, plus a fourth place for Richard.

In 2009, she moved up to the Procar 2000 class in a Honda Civic, and was third overall, despite missing the first rounds, as her car was not ready. Her other results varied between second and fourth. 

Her second season in this championship gave her another title to add to her collection, the BTRDA Modified 2000 trophy. This time, she was competing against much more powerful cars in the same races, so only managed one win, but she was consistently the best in her class. This also gave her an overall win in the BTRDA Clubmans series. This is a first for a female driver.

In 2011, she stepped up again to the British Super National class, in the improved Honda. Competition was much more intense this time, and she did not manage any wins, but she was ninth overall in the championship, with a  best result of eighth. Competing in the BTRDA series in the top Supermodified category, she managed two third places in the two meeting she entered.

In 2012, she aimed to be more competitive in Super National, and her Honda was fitted with a supercharger to improve performances. She contested four of the six rounds, and her best overall finish was fifth, at Pembrey. This was good for eighth place on the final leaderboard. She would have completed the season, but a broken differential on the Civic prevented this. It followed a big roll at Lydden Hill, from second place, although the car was rebuilt after this.

Shelley was less in evidence on the British rallycross scene in 2013, entering only a few races. She did travel to the Netherlands in July, finishing second and fourth in two of her races. She also took part in some autograss events, in a Class 14 Buggy. However, most of her motoring activity was as a part of Terry Grant's stunt show, with which she toured around Europe. 

The Honda Civic was still in her possession, in the process of being overhauled for the 2014 season, but she does not appear to have competed at all in 2014. She was still involved in an administrative capacity, for the British Minicross Drivers' Association. 

She returned to the circuits in 2015, racing a Mini in five of the seven rounds of the BTRDA Rallycross championship. She won the Clubmans series Classic Mini championship.

In 2016, she appears to have done at least one BTRDA rallycross meeting, earning second and third places at Blyton, driving a Mini. She was fourth in the Minicross standings.

In 2017, she raced only occasionally, making a guest appearance in the Netherlands in a rallycross car, and trying Autograss in April. She was second in her first Autograss meeting.

Shelley also appeared on an episode of Top Gear, in a segment about rallycross, racing against Richard Hammond in her old Mini. She was referred to as "Gary The Girl".

(Image from

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Joan Richmond

Joan was an Australian race and rally driver. Born in 1905, she began her motoring adventures in trials and speed events in 1926, driving a Citroen. Early in her career, she was fifth in the 1931 Australian Grand Prix at Philip Island, driving an Austin Seven. She also drove a Riley 9 during her time on the Australian circuits.

Her first rally was Monte Carlo in 1932, again, driving a Riley. This was her first introduction to European motorsport, and she did not take the easy route in. Joan and some other competitors took Australia as their start point, and drove overland all the way to Monaco, for the start of the rally. She was 17th overall. Still in the Riley, she drove in the RAC Rally later in the year.

That year, Joan achieved considerable fame by winning the Brooklands 1000 Mile race with Elsie Wisdom. The duo were driving a Riley Brooklands, and lapped the circuit at 90 miles per hour. The BARC, the governing club, had only just permitted female teams to enter their events, and Joan and Elsie were the circuit’s first major female winners.

In 1933, Joan purchased a 3000cc Ballot from 1921, previously raced by Malcolm Campbell. Although she impressed onlookers with her handling of the car, it was unwieldy and unreliable, as well as being out of date, and she was not able to challenge for victories. Never one to take the easy way out, she persevered with the Ballot for two seasons, but did not achieve anything notable. It was sold in 1935. The Riley was retained for rallies, and gave Joan a thirteenth place in the Light Car class of the 1933 RAC Rally, navigated by Kay Petre.

Joan’s next car was a Triumph, which she used in a JCC relay event at Brooklands. Later in the year, she drove a Frazer Nash in a Ladies’ Mountain Handicap, and was second. In between, she made the trip to Le Mans with Eveline Gordon-Simpson, as part of the “Dancing Daughters” MG works team. Their car was a P-Type and they were 24th overall, the first “Daughters” car home.

In 1936, it was back to competing at Brooklands in the Triumph. She also entered the Tourist Trophy in Ireland with Francis Monkhouse, but did not get to drive their Aston Martin. As well as her circuit-based activities, she attacked the rally calendar with relish, tackling the Monte Carlo, RAC and Scottish rallies, as well as the Land’s End Trial. In the Triumph, she was third in class in Monte Carlo and won her class in the RAC.

The Triumph too was sold for the 1937 season, and Joan did some Brooklands events in an HRG. However, this car was not quite up to the fast-advancing standards of modern racing vehicles, and she was not terribly competitive. Back at Le Mans, she fared better, sharing Bill Bilney’s Ford Ten and finishing fourteenth. She and Bill were an item at the time, although the relationship was short-lived, as he was killed in an accident later in the year at Donington. Joan was his co-driver, in her own AC. Her involvement with motorsport continued, but on a lesser scale than before, up to 1939. She is recorded as a finisher in the 1938 Imperial Plate at Crystal Palace, driving a Frazer Nash. Throughout her career, she drove in trials and speed events, and in 1937, she teamed up with Robert Waddy to drive his twin-engined “Fuzzi” special. She was third in class at Shelsley Walsh, but could not catch Kay Petre for the Ladies’ Record.

During the war, Joan worked in aircraft manufacturing, like many of her contemporaries. After peace was restored, she did not return to motor racing, and settled once more in Australia, where she died in 1999.

(Image from

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Women at Le Mans: 1980 - present day

Rahel Frey, Cyndie Allemann, and Natacha Gachnang in 2010

1980 was the last year that female drivers entered the Le Mans 24 Hours in any number, until the 2010 race. That year, representation was increased by the presence of the all-female Matech Ford team.

Marianne Hoepfner/Jean-Marie Almeyras/Patrick Perrier (Porsche 934) - DNF
Anny-Charlotte Verney/Xavier Lapeyre/Jean-Louis Trintignant (Porsche 935 K3/80) - DNF
Lella Lombardi/Mark Thatcher/Don Whittington (Osella PA8 BMW) - DNF

Anny-Charlotte Verney/Ralph Kent-Cooke/Bob Garretson (Porsche 935 K3) - 6th

Anny-Charlotte Verney/Ray Ratcliff/Bob Garretson (Porsche 935 K3) - 11th
Desiré Wilson/Emilio de Villota/Alain de Cadenet (Grid Plaza S1 Ford) - DNF

Desiré Wilson/Axel Plankenhorn/Jürgen Lassig (Porsche 956) - 7th
Anny-Charlotte Verney/Vic Elford/Joel Gouhier (Rondeau M379C Ford) - DNF

Margie Smith-Haas/David Ovey/Paul Smith (Porsche 930) - DNF

Margie Smith-Haas/David Mercer/Jens Winther (URD C83 BMW) - DNF

Lyn St. James/Ray Bellm/Gordon Spice (Spice SE89C Ford) - DNF

Lyn St. James/Cathy Muller/Desiré Wilson (Spice SE90C Ford) - DNF

Tomiko Yoshikawa/Jun Harada/Kenta Shimamura (Spice SE89C Ford) - 15th (not classified)

Tomiko Yoshikawa/Alessandro Gini/Yojiro Temada (Courage C30LM Porsche) - DNF
Lilian Bryner/Enzo Calderari/Luigino Pagotto (Porsche 911 Carrera 2 Cup) - DNF

Lilian Bryner/Enzo Calderari/Renato Mastropietro (Porsche 911 Carrera RSR) - 9th
Tomiko Yoshikawa/Jun Harada/Masahiko Kondou (Porsche 962C GTi) - 22nd (not classified)

Lilian Bryner/Enzo Calderari/Andreas Fuchs (Porsche 911 GT2) - DNF

Claudia Hürtgen/John Robinson/Hugh Price (Porsche 911 GT2) - 13th
Lilian Bryner/Enzo Calderari/Angelo Zadra (Porsche 911 GT2) - DNF

Claudia Hürtgen/Robert Nearn/Michel Ligonnet (Porsche 911 GT2) - 17th

Claudia Hürtgen/Vincent Vosse/André Ahrle (Porsche 993 GT2) - 20th

Claudia Hurtgen/Chris Gleason/Rick Fairbanks (Lola B2K/40 Nissan) - DNF
Vanina Ickx/Vincent Vosse/Carl Rosenblad (Chrysler Viper GTS-R) - DNF
Milka Duno/John Graham/David Murry (Reynard 01Q Judd) - DNF

Milka Duno/Didier de Radrigues/John Graham (Panoz LMP07 Mugen) - DNF

Vanina Ickx/Patrick Bourdais/Roland Bervillé (Porsche 996 GT3-RS) - 27th

Vanina Ickx/Joao Barbosa/ Martin Short (Dallara LMP Judd) - 16th
Liz Halliday/Gregor Fisken/Sam Hancock (Lola B05/40 AER) - DNF

Liz Halliday/Clint Field/Duncan Dayton (Lola B05/40 AER) - 19th

Liz Halliday/Vitaly Petrov/Romain Iannetta (Courage LC75 AER) - DNF

Vanina Ickx/Joao Barbosa/Stephane Gregoire (Pescarolo 01 Judd) - 11th
Amanda Stretton/Bob Berridge/Gareth Evans (Lola B06/10 AER) - DNF

Vanina Ickx/Jamie Campbell-Walter/Romain Iannetta (Creation CA07 Judd) - 20th

Vanina Ickx/Pierre Ragues/Franck Mailleux (Lola Aston Martin DBR1-2) - DNF
Natacha Gachnang/Cyndie Allemann/Rahel Frey (Ford GT) - DNF

Vanina Ickx/Bas Leinders/Maxime Martin (Lola Aston Martin B09/60) - 7th
Andrea Robertson/David Robertson/David Murry (Ford GT-R Mk.VII) - 26th

Keiko Ihara/Jean-Denis Deletraz/Marc Rostan - (Lola-Nissan B12/80 Coupe) - not classified

Natacha Gachnang/Franck Mailleux/Olivier Lombard - (Morgan LMP2) - 11th
Keiko Ihara/Fabien Giroix/Philippe Haezebrouck - (Lola B12/80 Nissan) - DNF

Keiko Ihara/Pierre Ragues/Ricky Taylor - (Morgan-Judd LMP2) - 14th

Christina Nielsen/Johnny Laursen/Mikkel Mac (Ferrari 458 Italia) - 35th
Ines Taittinger/Remy Striebig/Leo Roussel (Morgan-Nissan) - DNF

Christina Nielsen/Alessandro Balzan/Bret Curtis (Ferrari 488 GTE) - 45th

Christina Nielsen/Fabio Babini/Erik Maris (Porsche 911 RSR) - 34th

Rahel Frey/Manuela Gostner/Michelle Gatting (Ferrari 488) - 39th

For earlier results, click here.

(Image from

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Women at Le Mans: 1950 - 1979

Yvette Fontaine, Christine Beckers and Marie Laurent in 1974

After the Second World War, it took a while for motor racing to get back to where it had been beforehand. The early 1950s was not the easiest time for female drivers, but a few managed to break through.
The biggest factor affecting women's participation at Le Mans during this period was the fallout from Annie Bousquet's fatal accident at the Reims 12 Hours in 1956. Due to the negative publicity this sad event triggered, French motorsport authorities were "reluctant" to accept entries from female drivers for a long time afterwards, meaning that none competed at all at Le Mans between 1955 and 1970.
During the 1970s, there was another boom in the number of female entrants, including Anny-Charlotte Verney and Lella Lombardi.

Germaine Rouault/Regine Gordine (Simca Gordini TMM) - DNF
Yvonne Simon/Michel Casse (Ferrari 166MM) - DNF

Yvonne Simon/Betty Haig (Ferrari 166 MM Berlinetta) - 15th

Gilberte Thirion/André Pilette (Gordini T17S) - DNF

Marie-Claude Beaumont/Henri Greder (Chevrolet Corvette) - DNF

Marie-Claude Beaumont/Henri Greder (Chevrolet Corvette) - DNF

Marie-Claude Beaumont/Henri Greder (Chevrolet Corvette) - 12th (class win)
Christine Beckers/Roger Dubos/Pierre Pagani (Chevron B21/23 Ford) - DNF

Anny-Charlotte Verney/Martine Renier/Pierre Mauroy (Porsche Carrera RSR) - 13th
Christine Beckers/Marie Laurent/Yvette Fontaine (Chevron B23 Ford) - 17th (class win)
Marie-Claude Beaumont/Henri Greder (Chevrolet Corvette) - 18th

Anny-Charlotte Verney/Corinne Tarnaud/Yvette Fontaine (Porsche Carrera RS) - 11th
Marianne Hoepfner/Michèle Mouton/Christine Dacremont (Moynet LM75 JRD) - 21st (class win)
Marie-Claude Beaumont/Lella Lombardi (Alpine-Renault A441C) - DNF

Anny-Charlotte Verney/Hubert Streibig/Hugues Kirschoffer (Porsche 934) - 11th
Martine Renier/Thierry Perrier/Guy de Saint-Pierre (Porsche Carrera RSR) - 18th
Marie-Claude Beaumont/Didier Pironi/Bob Wollek (Porsche 934) - 19th
Lella Lombardi/Christine Dacremont (Lancia Stratos Turbo) - 20th
Christine Beckers/Jean Rondeau/Jean-Pierre Jaussaud (Inaltera Ford) - 21st

Lella Lombardi/Christine Beckers (Inaltera Ford) - 11th
Anny-Charlotte Verney/Rene Metge/Dany Snobeck/Hubert Streibig (Porsche Carrera RSR) - 18th
Anna Cambiaghi/Raymond Touroul/Alain Cudini (Osella PA5 BMW) - DNF
Christine Dacremont/Marianne Hoepfner (Lancia Stratos Turbo) - DNF

Anny-Charlotte Verney/Xavier Lapeyre/Francois Servanin (Porsche Carrera RSR) - 12th (class win)
Marianne Hoepfner/Christine Dacremont (WM P76 Peugeot) - DNF
Juliette Slaughter/Ian Harrower/Brian Joscelyne (Lola T294S Ford) - DNF

Anny-Charlotte Verney/Rene Metge/Patrick Bardinon (Posche 934) - 19th

Post 1979 results here

(Image copyright Corbis Images)

Friday, 15 October 2010

Women at Le Mans: pre 1950

The MG "Dancing Daughters" team of 1935, in their Midgets

The first Le Mans 24 Hours was held in 1923, and won by Andre Lagache and Rene Leonard, driving a Chenard & Walcker. No female drivers entered until 1930, but by the end of the decade, women drivers were commonplace, even making up some of the works entries.
Below is a list of all of the female participants up to 1949, with their results. In the case of a male/female driver pairing, the woman's name is always given first.

Odette Siko/Marguerite Mareuse (Bugatti T40) - 7th

Odette Siko/Marguerite Mareuse (Bugatti T40) - 9th, but disqualified for refuelling too early
Joan Chetwynd/H.H. Sisted (MG C-type Midget) - DNF

Odette Siko/"Jean Sabipa" (Alfa Romeo 6C) - 4th

Odette Siko/"Jean Sabipa" (Alfa Romeo 6C) - DNF
Marie Desprez/Pierre Brussienne (Bugatti T50S) - DNF
Elsie Wisdom/Mortimer Morris-Goodall (Aston Martin 1 1/2) - DNF

Dorothy Champney/Kay Petre (Riley Ulster Imp 9) - 13th
Anne-Cécile Rose-Itier/Charles Duruy (MG Midget PA) - 17th
Gwenda Stewart/Louis Bonne (Derby L8) - DNF

Anne-Cécile Rose-Itier/Robert Jacob (Fiat 508S Balilla) - 18th
Joan Richmond/Eveline Gordon-Simpson (MG Midget PA) - 24th
Doreen Evans/Barbara Skinner (MG Midget PA) - 25th
Margaret Allan/Colleen Eaton (MG Midget PA) - 26th
Gwenda Stewart/Charles Worth (Derby) - DNF
Elsie Wisdom/Kay Petre (Riley MPH) - DNF

Suzanne Largeot/Just-Emile Vernet (Simca-Fiat Balilla) - 12th (class win)
Joan Richmond/M.K.H. Bilney (Ford 10) - 14th
Dorothy Stanley-Turner/Enid Riddell (MG Midget PB) - 16th
Marjorie Eccles/Freddy Clifford (Singer Nine Le Mans Replica) - DNF
Kay Petre/G. Mangan (Austin Seven Grasshopper) - DNF
Anne-Cécile Rose-Itier/Huschke von Hanstein (Adler Trumpf Rennlimousine) - DNF

Anne-Cécile Rose-Itier/Claude Bonneau (MG Midget PB Special) - 12th
Prudence Fawcett/Geoffrey White (Morgan 4/4 Coventry Climax) - 13th
Fernande Roux/Germaine Rouault (Amilcar Pegase G36) - DNF
Suzanne Largeot/Just-Emile Vernet (Simca Huit Fiat) - DNF
Elsie Wisdom/Arthur Dobson (MG Midget PB) - DNF

Viviane Elder/René Camerano (Simca Huit) - DNF

(Image copyright

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Female Single-Seater Drivers Around the World: Africa

Tasmin Pepper

The African continent has produced a few female drivers, the most famous being Desiré Wilson. This page will hopefully expand in future. Drivers in other types of racing in Africa can be found here

Vicki Kemp - raced in South African Supercars in 2010, aged 18, with a view to moving into NASCAR. She was selected for 2010 NASCAR Driver Talent Search and Shootout, but did not get through. Her finishing record in Supercars was not good, but she did manage eighth and ninth places. After that, she switched to single-seaters, and competed in Formula VW in 2011. Her car was more reliable, and she  had a best finish of sixth, at Killarney. She was tenth in the championship. During her second Formula VW season, her performances were similar, and she was eleventh overall. After that, she does not seem to have raced. As a junior, she was the first girl to win a South African karting championship in 2007.

Jennifer Murray - South African driver who was part of their A1 GP team, driving in one test session in 2006. She was taken on following her performances in Formula Ford, in South Africa and at the 2004 Formula Ford Festival in the UK. In 2006, she was a consistent top-ten performer in the South African series, and was fourth overall. Between 2007 and 2009, she mostly competed in the Shelby Can-Am sportscar series in South Africa, in a 3300cc Dodge. Her best season was 2008, during which she won two races, visited the podium ten times and was the overall runner-up. She has also competed in Formula Volkswagen, and in the all-female Formula Woman Nations Cup. 

Tasmin Pepper - well-travelled young driver from South Africa. She began racing in the South African Formula Ford Championship at sixteen. In her first full season, in 2007, she was fourth, and claimed her first podium finishes. In 2008, she combined the South African Formula Volkswagen series and Formula BMW Pacific, racing all over Asia as well as her homeland. Her best finishes in both championships were fourth places. She was seventh in Formula Volkswagen and thirteenth in Formula BMW. The following year, she stuck to Formula VW, and was rewarded with her first win, at Kyalami. Another three podiums at Kyalami and Killarney confirmed her fourth place. In 2010, she continued where she left off, finishing second in the championship, with another win at East London, and ten podium places. When she finished, she was never out of the top ten, and almost always in the top five. In 2011, she challenged again. Sadly, she did not win this time, although she was rarely out of the top five. She was fourth overall. In 2012, she switched to saloon car racing in the Wesbank Super Series, driving a VW Golf. She also returned to karting, including some visits to Europe, in the X30 series, after winning the South African edition in 2011. Her win was repeated in 2012. In 2013, she added more wins to her tally: a round of the VW Cup at Phakisa. Later that year, she was selected for the FIA VW Scirocco R-Cup ladies' evaluation tests, but did not win the following Shootout. She returned to the VW Cup in 2014, driving a Polo. She was fourth overall. In 2017, she returned to the VW Polo Cup in South Africa. She did a second season in the Polo in 2018, winning at least one race. In 2019, she qualified for the all-female W Series and was a solid midfield finisher, racing in Europe.

Brittany Vorster - Formula Three driver from South Africa. She competed in Formula 3 in South Africa in 2010, as well as travelling to Brazil for the Brazil Open. She did not qualify. Her South African results are not forthcoming. Prior to this, she raced in Formula GTi in South Africa, and was fifth in the 2009 championship after three podium finishes. A serious accident at the end of the 2010 season meant that she decided to retire. Before that, she was active on the karting scene, both nationally and internationally. Away from the track, she is a model and TV personality. 

(Image from

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Female Rally Drivers After 1950: Norway

Miriam Aasli, during the 2014 Rally Bohemia

Norway has produced a number of female rally drivers. They tend not to be as well-travelled or well-known as their Swedish and Finnish counterparts, but they do get around.
Between 1960 and 1990, there were many more women competing in Norwegian rallies than there seem to be now.

Miriam Aasli - young driver active since 2011. Her first rally car was a Nissan Almera GTI, a rather unusual choice. She continued to rally the car in Norwegian events in 2012, entering seven, and had a best finish of 28th, in the Stavanger Rally. In 2013, she drove the Almera for most of the year, and was moderately successful, with class wins in the Hedemarken and Sørland rallies. Her only real low point was her only retirement, which came on the Telemark Rally, after the driveshaft on the Almera broke. Mid-season, she did one rally, the Stavanger Rally, in a Ford Fiesta, and was rewarded with her first top twenty finish - a twelfth place. In 2014, she changed over to the newer Fiesta full-time, and achieved two top-twenty finishes from eight rallies: 20th in the Sørland Rally and 16th in the Rally Telemark. She also did her first overseas rally, finishing 22nd in the Rally Bohemia, in the Czech Republic. In 2015, she stuck to the Norwegian championship again, in the Fiesta. Her best result was a 26th place in the Rally Hedemarken, and she was sixth in class. In 2016, she rallied the Fiesta again in the Norwegian championship, and was third in her class. The best events for her were the Rally Hedemarken and the Rally Sørland, in both of which she was second in class and 25th overall.

Trine Jensen - Norwegian who rallied in the 1960s and 1970s. In the early part of her career, from 1964 to 1969, she drove a Saab 96 and VW 1500 in Norwegian rallies, finishing well in class with some wins. Later, she took part in some international events, including the RAC Rally in 1975 and 1976, and the Swedish Rally in 1975, 1976 and 1977. This time, she was driving a Ford Escort. Her best result was probably fourth in the 1973 Rally Denmark, in an Escort.

Wenche Knudtzen - competed mostly in the 1960s and 1970s and through to the 1980s. In the early days, she drove a Saab with Carl Erik Knudtzen, sometimes as co-driver. They scored some class wins in Norwegian events. Later, she teamed up with a series of different co-drivers, and apparently favoured Soviet-built cars, such as the Moskvich she used in the 1972 Daily Express Rally, and the Lada she drove in the RAC Rally in 1982, finishing on both occasions. She drove the Lada in rallies in Norway and Sweden late in her career. 

Thea Turvoll Lien - rallies a Ford Fiesta in Norway. She has been active in the Norwegian championship since 2016. Between then and 2018, she was a leading driver in Group N, driving the R1 version of the car. She did best in sprint rallies. The car was upgraded to an R2 model at the end of 2017, which Thea has found somewhat harder; she has had several non-finishes. Her best result in it was 36th in the Sigdal Rally, with a class second. The car was upgraded again to R2T spec at the end of 2018 and Thea branched out into Swedish gravel rallies in 2019. Her best finish was 28th in the Aurskog-Holand Rally and she also won her class in the Rally Hedemarken. She is from a rallying family with brothers who also compete.

Wenche Nafstad - rallied in Norway between 1978 and 1982. She also drove in the (now) Czech Republic, Sweden and Denmark. Some of these rallies were international events, but their full results are hard to find. Wenche was among the front-runners in a "Ladies in Action" class for Scandinavian rallies during her years of activity. Her normal co-driver was Thor Nafstad. She is still active in motorsport administration, as a co-ordinator for the Volvo Original rally series.

Laila Schou-Nilsen – Norwegian driver who rallied in Europe in the 1960s. Between 1961 and 1963, she used Skoda cars in Scandinavian events. The best of these was an Octavia, which took her to ninth place in the 1962 Vinterrally, in Norway. In 1963, she drove a Skoda TS in the 1000 Lakes Rally, finishing 29th. Her last big rally seems to have been Monte Carlo in 1965, in which she drove a Saab 96. In the 1930s and 1940s, she made a name for herself as an Olympic downhill skier, and was an early exponent of women’s speed skating. She died in 1998.

Helene Skau Andersen - active in Norwegian rallies since 2018, driving a Volvo. Her first car was a 242 but she has since switched to a 940. She is a consistent finisher and her best result so far has been a 37th place in the 2019 Rally Aurskog-Holand. She was initially co-driven by her 15-year-old brother, Marius. Prior to her motorsport career, she competed in equestrian events.

Randi Sofie Tangeland - rallied in the 1970s, in her native Norway and Europe. She began as a junior in 1970. Soon, she was finishing well in class, driving a Fiat 850 Special, 127 and 128. She competed internationally between 1975 and 1977, entering the RAC and Swedish rallies in 1976, and the RAC in 1975 and 1977. She also co-drove for Birger Tangeland on occasion, including in international events. Her career continued into 1980, when she drove an Opel Kadett in Europe, including the Tulip Rally.

Heidi Wessel - driver and co-driver, mainly active behind the wheel in the 1960s. Among her earliest rally starts was the 1962 KNA Junior Rally in Norway, driving a Wartburg. She reappears in 1965, driving a Renault R8 Gordini with Trine Wessel, scoring some good positions in Class 5. Later, she drove a BMW 1600, Audi 90 and Alfa Romeo in Norwegian events, assisted by Trine Wessel, Kiss Sorvig and others. She disappears from the entry lists at the end of the 1960s, although Trine Wessel, presumably a sister, continues to navigate for other drivers.

(Image from