Thursday, 29 July 2010

Ellen Lohr



Ellen as a DTM winner

Born in Germany in 1965, Ellen started early in motorsport, and was karting competitively at the age of thirteen. She was German regional champion in 1983, as a senior, and had World Championship experience, before moving on to Formula Ford in 1984. She remained in the German series until 1987, when she graduated again to Formula Three, having scored at least one win.

It wasn't long before Ellen's talent and experience paid off and in 1989 she was seventh in German F3 as part of a strong field. She branched out into European races the following season and was rewarded with a superb second place in the rain at the blue-riband Monaco race. She was signed by the Marko team for Formula 3000 but only entered one race, for which she failed to qualify. This may have been the impetus behind the change of direction in her sporting career in 1991.

1991 was the year Ellen, then twenty-six, became a full-time professional racer. Having competed occasionally in touring cars since her earliest racing days, she became part of the AMG Mercedes team for the DTM touring car series. Her first season was a learning year, but probably the greatest achievement of her career came in 1992. At that season's first race at the Hockenheim Grand Prix circuit, Ellen won a sprint race, a first for a woman in the DTM. She followed it up with a strong second place at Avus, against established touring car specialists and ex-F1 drivers such as 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg. She ended the year tenth in the standings.

Sadly, Ellen was unable to follow up her stellar year. She continued to race a Mercedes in the DTM until 1995, with some solid midfield places but no fireworks. In 1995, upon the DTM's cancellation, she moved across to the short-lived ITC world touring car series with Zakspeed Mercedes, but could only muster 17th and 25th in the points in her two seasons there.

It was time for another change of direction. Sticking with Mercedes, she entered the European Truck Racing Championships and tried her luck there for a couple of years, before moving back to touring cars in 1999. She broke the habit of a lifetime and switched to a Honda for the German Touring Cup, but it seemed to be the lift her fortunes needed. The following year she changed again for BMW and the results started to appear again. She was fifth in German Super Touring and a regular visitor to the top ten again. There was more of the same in 2001 and she was seventh this time.

Ellen tried something different again in 2002; US-style stock car racing in the V8 Star series, and was twelfth overall. The following year she was part of the Formula One-supporting Porsche Supercup and came eleventh after a couple of good finishes.

Yet another change beckoned in 2004. Switching disciplines completely, Ellen turned her hand to rally raids with a Mitsubishi. After a couple of promising finishes in desert events, she proved her mettle by coming third in the Baja Deutschland, way ahead of her German rival Andrea Mayer, who had been tipped to win. She tackled some more cross-country rallies in 2005 in a Mitsubishi Pajero and went some way to overcoming the disappointment of going out of the Paris-Dakar early on. She took part in World Cup raids in Spain, Portugal and the United Arab Emirates and was second on the Baja Deutschland.

A second Dakar beckoned at the beginning of 2006. Ellen and her navigator Detlef Ruf started well, and by Stage Six had worked their way across the Mauritanian desert into the top thirty. However, disaster struck on Stage Twelve. Another competitor crashed into the duo's buggy, leaving them needing assistance from the service truck. The resulting carnage meant that the stage was declared impassible for trucks and the service vehicle was delayed by six hours, dropping Ellen and Detlef out of the running. The rest of the stage was cancelled.

Despite her early-season disappointment, Ellen was slated to enter the whole Cross-Country World Cup in 2006, driving for Mercedes once again, in their new ML prototype. However, results suggest that she did not drive in any of the major raids that year.

She returned to the Dakar for a third time in 2007, driving a Mercedes with Antonia de Roissard. They did not finish. The pair did not get the chance to try again the following year due to the cancellation of the Dakar. They did enter its impromptu replacement, the Central Europe Rally, but retired on Stage Three. They then turned their full attention to stage rallying for most of the season, driving a Subaru Impreza in six events. Their last German championship outing was the Saarland Rally, which ended with the Impreza upside down in a river. Thankfully, both crew members escaped unscathed. They managed to finish their other rallies.

As well as rallying, Ellen returned to her circuit roots with a one-off outing in the Nürburgring 24 Hours. She drove an Alfa Romeo 147 with Hubert Nacken, Chris Vogler and Martin Richter, but did not finish.

In 2009, the Dakar Rally was moved to South America in a bid to escape the political unrest and safety concerns of Northwest Africa. Ellen drove a FleetBoard Mercedes but yet again, failed to finish.

In 2010, she returned to the track for some sportscar action. She was driving a Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 as a guest driver in the FIA GT3 series and the ADAC GT Masters. The ADAC series gave her a 15th and a DNF at Oschersleben, while the FIA races went much more smoothly: Ellen achieved a fourth and a third at Silverstone.

She also drove in the Dakar, still relocated to South America, in a Mercedes R-Class, this time as a press reporter. After a successful run of reports, she continued this role in 2011 and 2012.

In a surprising move, Ellen came out of her semi-retirement from competitive motorsport for the 2012 season and announced that she would be racing a truck once more, in the FIA European Truck Racing Championship. Her machinery would be by Mercedes, as always. With a best finish of ninth, she was not among the front-runners. She was 21st overall.

Her truck exploits continued in 2013, driving a Freightliner. She was still not quite quick enough to score points, but she managed one eleventh place at Zolder, and a string of twelfths in the later two-thirds of the season. These were mid-field finishes. She was unplaced in the championship.

For Mercedes, she also competed in some off-road events, mostly in Germany, including some rounds of the German Off Road Meisterschaft. She also did some historic racing at the Nürburgring.

In 2014, she drove for MAN in the European Truck Racing Championship. Towards the end of the season, she managed to finish in the points three times. Her best finishes were two eighth places, at Jarama and Le Mans. At Jarama, she also managed a couple of tenths. She was 16th overall in the championship.

She returned to the European Truck Racing Championship in 2015, driving for the Truck Sport Bernau team in a MAN. She was tenth in the championship, with two fifth places as her best finishes, at the Hungaroring.

Her 2016 season in the ETRC was her best yet. She was ninth in the championship, with a new best finish of second, which she achieved in the last race of the season, at Le Mans.

In addition to endurance events and truck racing, she also commentates on motorsport for German television. She now competes for Monaco, her adopted home country.

(Image from www.dtm.com)

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