Paola and Luisa in 1991
Paola is an Italian driver, who was most successful in the late 1980s.
She began rallying in 1984, at the age of 20. Her first car was an Autobianchi A112, which she used in Italian events. Her first title, the Italian Ladies’ Championship, came in that year. The following year, she upgraded her car to a Ford Escort XR3i, but only completed part of the season, after suffering injuries in a crash. During her time off, she negotiated a deal with Audi to drive one of their cars in the Italian championship. In 1986, she returned to the stages in an Audi 80. Some of her best results were eighth in the Rallye Proserpina, and tenth in the Mille Miglia.
She continued to compete with Audi in 1987 - it was a partnership that lasted more than ten years. Driving the Coupe with Umberta Gibellini, she was sixth on the Piancavello Rally, tenth on the Rally della Lana Biella and tenth in the Mille Miglia. Her best result looks to have been a fourth place on the Rally Limone.
Her 1988 season took in Europe as well as Italy. Using an Audi 90 and Coupe, she drove for the Audi Sport Europa team. She was fourth in Catalunya, eighth on the Rally Costa Smeralda, fourth on the Rally Albena, and retired from the Rally Elpa Halkidikis. However, her greatest achievement was an outright win on the San Marino Rally. This was enough to leave her sixth in the European Championship. As well as her first win, she made her first World Championship start in 1988. Her debut run in the Sanremo Rally gave her an excellent ninth place.
In 1989, she moved further into WRC territory, entering six rounds. Sadly, a mix of mechanical troubles and one accident prevented her from finishing in Portugal, Greece, Sanremo and the Cote d’Ivoire. Her two finishes, in Monte Carlo and Corsica, earned her another two ninth places, and a final drivers’ leaderboard position of 57th, an improvement on her 72nd the previous year. European events had not been forgotten either: Paola and Umberta scored another pair of sixth places in San Marino and the Costa Smeralda Rally.
Paola’s WRC campaign continued in 1990, with eight rounds. She did not finish in Monte Carlo, Greece, Australia or Sanremo, after a frustrating series of electrical and engine failures. Additionally, she was withdrawn from the Rally Argentina for unknown reasons. This was a guest drive for the Lancia team, in a Delta Integrale, but she only got to complete one stage.
She did, however, manage to finish in Portugal, in 16th place, and Corsica, where she was ninth once again. The Portuguese event was a real rally of attrition that only 34 cars out of 100 finished. Later in the season, she was 32nd in her first attempt at the Rally Finland. This slightly disappointing season gave her 54th in the drivers’ championship, and second in the FIA Ladies’ Cup, behind Louise Aitken-Walker.
In 1991, Paola ended her involvement with Audi, and started driving for Lancia in the Italian championship. That year, she had a new co-driver in the shape of Luisa Zumelli. They were sixth in the Mille Miglia and fourth in Piancavello, using a Delta Integrale 16v.
Paola took a year out of motorsport in 1992, but returned in 1993, still with Lancia, but an HF Integrale this time. She was reunited with Umberta Gibellini, and the highlight of their year was a sixth place in San Marino.
After that, Paola took a long break from rallying. She made a brief comeback in 2001, driving a Subaru Impreza WRX, but failed to finish the Isola d’Elba and San Marino rallies. After that, she returned to retirement, although she did not stay completely out of a rally car. In 2007 and 2008, she made guest appearances in the Ronde dell'Elba, in a Mitsubishi Lancer and a Toyota Corolla WRC respectively. She was tenth in 2008.
At some point, she also raced on the Italian circuits in the Campionato Italiano Velocita Turismo.
(Image from http://m.forocoches.com/)