Friday, 30 July 2010

Jennie-Lee Hermansson



Jennie-Lee is Swedish. She was born in 1980 and has been rallying since 1999. Her first car was a 1300cc Renault Clio, which she used for national events, and, bravely, the Rally of Sweden in her first year of competition. She and co-driver Stefan Bergman were 63rd.

The Clio was replaced by a similarly-engined Suzuki Swift in 2000, and a Volkswagen Polo in 2001. At first, Jennie stuck to Swedish rallies, but by 2002 she had branched out again and was driving in Germany. Her first big German event was the ADAC Eiffel-Rallye, as part of the Joki Motorsport team. She and Sune Elofsson failed to finish. However, on the 3-Städte-Rallye later in the season she was 24th with Anders Wänn. They won class N1 and were 19th in Group N.

Her international adventures carried on in 2003. As well as a number of Swedish events, Jennie sampled her first British rallies towards the end of the season, still in the Polo. She impressed many onlookers with her car control, although she did not set the leaderboards alight.

After her positive British experience, Jennie-Lee moved to the UK in 2004 in order to contest the whole British Rally Championship, with 22 Motorsport. Her car was a Group N Subaru Impreza and her new co-driver was the experienced Howard Davies. They started the season well at the Pirelli Rally in Gateshead, coming 17th overall, fifth in the Production class, and earning a Ladies' Award for Jennie. On the Rally of Wales they were far less lucky; Jennie crashed the Subaru hard on a forest stage. The incident was caught on the in-car camera and was a staple of rally video collections that year.

The car was rebuilt for the Scottish Rally and it was business as usual: 18th overall, another fifth in Group N. The Ladies' award went to Lorna Smith this time, who was much more experienced on the Scottish roads. Jennie struggled more with the tarmac terrain of Duns on the Jim Clark Memorial Rally a month later; she could only muster a 33rd position after a string of problems. She took away the award for the best finish by a non-UK driver as a consolation.

By the time the Manx Rally came around, Jennie was much more proficient on tarmac and she was 22nd, seventh in class. She also earned her second Ladies' Prize. She improved some more in Ulster with an 18th place, sixth in Group N. The Ladies' prize went to Lucy Whitford this time, as this event required a female co-driver for the award. Her arch-rival Lorna Smith was the top female on the Trackrod Rally a month later, but Jennie remained consistent with 16th and fifth in Production. She saved the best until last, coming twelfth on the Tempest Rally, fourth in Group N and first lady. She was eleventh in the final points table, a point behind Lorna Smith and ahead of several more experienced and better-regarded drivers than herself.

Jennie returned to Sweden for 2005, where she became professionally involved with former WRC driving veteran Kenneth Eriksson. Eriksson now acts as her mentor and has high regard for her driving style. Jennie also became involved with the Mitsubishi works team in Sweden, putting together a decent sponsorship package with a view to competing in the Production WRC eventually. Mitsubishi's decision to pull out of the World Rally Championship and stop producing more new homologated Lancers cast some uncertainty on her plans, meaning that she only took part in a few local events in Sweden for two seasons. Despite this setback, Mitsubishi Sweden got behind her for the 2007 calendar. Eight years after her first World Rally, Jennie contested the Rally of Sweden in February 2007. Sadly, she retired after stage ten due to a crash which left her navigator Markku Kangas injured.

Since then, she has undertaken a programme of Swedish national rallies and rallysprints, usually accompanied by Gemma Price or Serena Rapezzi in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, her sponsor was John Deere. Driving a Lancer Evo 9, she was fifth in the ESAB Rallyt, with a class win, third in the Lars-Erik Torph Memorial event and fourth in the Nyckeljakten Rally, with a Group N win. Her navigator was Ola Persson.

She continued to enjoy sponsorship from John Deere and a list of other companies in 2010, and competed once more with Ola Persson in Sweden. She also carried out some testing in the Lancer. Further information about which rallies Jennie-Lee drove in is proving hard to track down, due to language barriers. There are many in-car videos freely available, but little in the way of results lists. The situation appears to be the same for 2011 and 2012. In 2011, she competed in Rally Sweden, and was 22nd overall.

In 2012, she and new navigator Ida Hegge were 25th in the ESAB Rally. They also contested the Rally Killingen, finishing 24th. Driving with Stefan Gustavsson, she was fourteenth in the Gastabudstrofen event, and retired from the Dan Anderssons Minne rally.

In 2013, with some oil company sponsorship, she planned to contest the Swedish Championship. Her challenge ended up being only four rounds long, driving a Lancer Evo IX with Ida Hegge. She was 41st in the Vinterpokalen and 28th in the South Swedish Rally. Later on, she crashed out of the AM-Snapphanerallyt and suffered technical problems in the East Sweden Rally.

In 2014, she stuck with the same car, but had a new co-driver: Stefan Ohlsson. She drove in mainly gravel rallies, and had a best finish of twelfth, in the Karlstad Rally.

Still in the Lancer, she took part in the Swedish championship in 2015. Her season was blighted by a string of non-finishes. The Edane Rally was her best event, and she was 16th overall.

Jennie-Lee did some Swedish rallies in 2016, driving a Lancer. It was quite a short season for her, but she was rewarded with a third place in the AD Bildelar Ludvika Jubileumsrushen rally.

(Image from www.jennie-lee.com)

2 comments:

  1. So she can only drive certain roads, not place very well and yet is given a seat on a team and somehow women are held back from the sport which now results in so many incentives and racing programs for women while none exist for men.

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  2. She drives for her own team, with some outside sponsorship. Most rally drivers have a favoured surface, too. British drivers, in recent years, have not been good on tarmac, for instance. Even a driver of the calibre of Walter Rohrl couldn't really deal with Finland, and avoided it where he could.

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