Friday, 10 September 2010

Female Drivers in National Sportscar Racing, After 1950


Francesca Pardini

This post profiles female drivers in national-level sportscar racing, from club level to domestic GT championships. It includes Caterham racing. Belgian sportscar drivers are likely to be found in the Belcar post. Due to the high number of female drivers in French domestic series, they have their own post, here. British drivers in this category can now be found here, and drivers from the Nordic countries, here. Sybil Lupp, and other contemporary New Zealand drivers, can be found here. Renee Gracie now has her own post.

Petra Beacker - German driver racing a Ginetta in the UK in 2017. 2017 is her second season in the Ginetta Racing Drivers Club Plus series. She was 21st overall in the 2016 championship, with her best round being Spa-Francorchamps, where she scored one eighth place. 2016 appears to have been her first season of racing.

Piera Bertoletti – raced a series of Alfa Romeos in Europe, between 1957 and 1961. Her first major competition car seems to have been a Giulietta, a version of which she used in the 1957 Targa Florio. She finished the event in 117th place. She normally used Giulietta models, including a Sprint Zagato, but occasionall raced a Zagato-bodied Abarth 500. In this car, she was fifth in the GT500 Coppa Sant Ambroeus in 1959. She was particularly recognised for her efforts in airport-based races at Innsbruck and Klagenfurt. At Innsbruck, she qualified on pole for the 1960 Preis von Tirol, but did not finish.


Nadeene Brengle – raced Alfa Romeos in SCCA competitions in the 1960s. She was given a car, a Giulia, by Alfa Romeo USA to race in 1964. To start with, she took part in Ladies’ races in Florida in a Cooper, in 1961, before moving on to a Fiat-Abarth Zagato , then the first of a series of Alfas in 1963. In 1967, she made history by becoming the first female driver to start from pole in an SCCA National Runoff. She fought her way back from last after a first lap incident with another car, and finished second.

Lisa Caceres - raced sportscars and saloons in the USA in the 1980s. She is probably most famous for winning races in the SCCA Endurance Series in 1987, with Desiré Wilson. They won the Sears Point race, in a Saleen Mustang. Lyn St. James was also a member of their team, and they raced together through to 1987, in endurance events.  Previously, in 1985, she drove a Chevrolet Camaro in at least one IMSA race, at Riverside, running in the GTO class. She did not finish, but was classified 41st despite crashing out. Later, in 1996, after some time racing jet skis and karts, she drove a Chevrolet Lumina in the GT-America series. As well as competitive motorsport, she works as a driving instructor, and has done some screen driving stunts.

Balba Camino (Gonzalez Camino) - successful Spanish GT racer in her domestic series, winning in 2000 with Miguel Angel de Castro. Their car was a The duo also won the GTA class in 2003, finishing first or second in every race they entered. Their car was a SEAT Toledo GT. Despite a couple of wins in a Lister Storm in 2002, they could not manage an overall win. In Spain, Balba has raced single-seaters, touring cars and historics. Internationally, she raced in Formula Nissan 2000 in 1999. Later, she did one race for Chamberlain in the LMES in 2005, the Silverstone round. Her team-mate was Amanda Stretton, and they could not finish in their Lola. Balba now works as an artist, but she came out of retirement in 2014. She was the winner of the Prototype race at the Maxi Endurance 32h, held at the Algarve circuit. She was part of a team of six. She was also third in the Sport race, in a SEAT Leon.

Olga Carless – raced an Alfa Romeo Giulietta in the 1958 Venezuela Grand Prix. She was 29th overall, third in class. Her entry was noted as “Señora Olga”. That year, Olga also competed in a race at Maracay el Limon, in Venezuela, and was fourth, out of seven drivers.  She was married to another racer, Giorgio Carless, and may well have entered other races.

Angélique Detavernier – began racing in 2013, after winning a karting competition. She raced in the VW Fun Cup in Belgium. For most of 2014, she raced a Porsche 997 GT3 Cup, mainly in the Supercar Challenge. Her best results were two third places in the GTB class, at Zolder and Assen. In the same car, she was fourth in the Zolder 24 Hours, with Miguel Vandereyt, Frederic Vervisch, Louis-Philippe Soenen, Francois Bouillon and Patrick van Glabeke. As well as the Porsche, she raced a Maserati in the Maserati Trofeo, finishing tenth at Spa and fourteenth at Abu Dhabi. She also returned to the Fun Cup, and managed a pole position. In 2015, she ahd another try at the Zolder 24 Hours, in a Porsche 997. Driving as part of a four-driver team, she was 24th, and third in class. She was slated to enter the European rounds of the Maserati Trofeo this year, but this appears to have fallen through. At some point, she did do some Fun Cup racing, and started once from pole. In 2016, she was third in a Fun Cup race in Dubai, and made guest appearances in the Zolder 24 Hours, and the Blacpain Endurance Series. She was seventh overall at Zolder, driving a Porsche, and drove an AMG in the Blancpain championship. She is better-known as a model.

Elisa Giordan - Italian driver who has competed in Italy and Spain. She drove in the Italian Prototype Cup at some point, before coming ninth in the 2004 Italian Superstars touring car series. The following year, she won the Italian Mazda RX-8 Cup. She moved to Spain in 2007 and drove a Ferrari F430 GT2 car in the Spanish GT championship. Driving with Lorenzo Bontempelli and Giorgio Mondini, she was fifth, after two wins at Jerez and Albacete. After that, she does seem to have raced in Italy, although details of her activities are not forthcoming. They may have involved hillclimbing: she competed in climbs in an Osella in 2002 and 2003.

Ivana Giustri – Italian driver who often competed in an Alpine-Renault A110. She entered the Giro d’Italia three times, between 1973 and 1975, in an Alpine each time. Her best finish seems to have been 44th, in 1974. In 1975, she was part of an all-female team with Cica Lurani. Later, in 1980, she entered a Porsche 930 in the Vallelunga 6 Hours, but did not qualify. In between, she did at least one season in the Renault 5 Cup, in 1979. Early in her career, between 1970 and 1972, she raced a Lancia Fulvia, in hillclimbs at least.

Anneliese Hartenau – Chilean-born driver who was the winner of the first Sport Limited Speed race in Buenos Aires in 1960, driving a Porsche-engined Gordini. The series was for older Grand Prix cars. She had begun racing another Porsche not long before, in 1959, in her adopted homeland of Argentina. Later, she raced an NSU Prinz in Argentina, with some success. Her motorsport activities included the marathon rallies held in the Andes. As well as driving herself, she worked as a race mechanic, and was part of Juan Manuel Fangio’s crew for quite some time.

Alexandra Irmgartz - has been racing a Porsche in Germany since 2010. She won the Junior title in her first year in the Special Touring Car Trophy (STT), and defended it in 2011, as well as finishing fourth overall in the series. Again, she defended her Junior title, and her fourth place, in 2012. In 2013, she only had a part-season in the STT, although she still managed to win the Junior class again. She was now racing her 964 in the Porsche Club Historic Challenge, and was on the pace very quickly. She scored two podiums in her first season. In 2014, she won the championship outright, finishing on the podium in eleven out of the fifteen races. A part-season in the PCHC in 2015 brought more success in the 964, with seven wins and one second place, from nine races. Her PCHC was not quite as stellar in 2016, but she still managed one win, at Hockenheim, and eight further podium finishes.

Nina Jerančič – Slovenian driver who had a long and successful time in karting, before going to Italy to start her senior racing career, after a spell in Austria in 1993, in Formula Ford, when she was 16. She began in Formula Campus, as well as other junior single-seater formulae, and also did some guest appearances in one-make cups, as well as one round of the Porsche Supercup, at Zeltweg, in 1999. After more years in karting, she started racing Ferraris in 2004, in the Shell Cup. She started off quite cautiously, but by 2007, was good enough to finish second in the championship, in an F430. She returned to the championship in 2008, and was seventh overall. She does not appear to have competed since then.  


Laura Kraihamer - Austrian driver who races in the KTM X-Bow Battle and Sprint series, around Europe. Her first season was 2012, and she was twelfth in the Rookie standings, with best finishes of sixth place. Despite running a full season in 2013, and maintaining her best finish, she was only 23rd in the championship. In 2014, she was a much improved driver. She was second in the Sprint standings of the championship, with one win and four second places. Driving with Uwe Schmidt, she won the Endurance class of the X-Bow battle. In 2015, she was part of a televised challenge, the "Race to 24", for drivers competing for a race seat in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2016. This was in addition to another season in the X-Bow; she was seventh in the Battle series and second in the Endurance championship, with Uwe Schmidt. 2016 saw her stay with KTM, but in the European GT4 Championship. She was eighteenth in the Pro class, after a string of lower top-ten finishes. Her team-mate was Jamie Vandenbalck. As well as racing a KTM, Laura has also done some testing for the Mini Challenge, and was active in karting from a young age.

Chantal Kroll - Swiss driver who competes in Europe and the Middle East, usually in endurance events. In 2012, she drove in the 24-hour races in Dubai and at the Nürburgring, in a BMW E46. She and her team-mates won their class at the Dubai race. In 2013, she was third in class in the Barcelona 24 Hours, in the BMW. She also drove in the Nürburgring 24 Hours. In 2014, she entered the Zolder 24 Hours, and was third overall, in a Porsche 997. She also drove in the Nürburgring and Dubai races in BMWs. At the Nürburgring, she and her team drove in two separate cars, finishing in both. In 2015, she was once more active in the 24-Hour Series, winnin the Ladies' Cup comfortably. She also scored class wins in the Dubai, Mugello and Paul Ricard races, in the BMW and a Mercedes SLS AMG. In all of her races, she doubled up in both Hofor Racing cars. Despite not winning a race in 2016, Chantal's team were the overall winners of the 24 Hour Series for class A6, after several podiums. A four-driver Hofor team, including Chantal, was second in class in the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Previously, she raced Porsches in Europe, driving solo. Her usual team-mates are Martin and Michael Kroll, who are presumably relatives. She has been active in motorsport since at least 2006.

Carina Lima - raced in the Portuguese GT championship in 2012. Her car was a Ferrari F430, run by Oasis Motosport, and she competed in the GT Cup class. Out of her six races, her best result came at Jarama, the last round, where she was eighth. With her team-mate, Luis Reis, she was thirteenth in the championship, and third in the GT Cup class. Although she intended to return to the series in 2013, she does not seem to have raced again. In 2014, she raced in the Lamborghini Trofeo, finishing tenth in the Amateur class. She entered the Trofeo again in 2015, and won the Gallardo Am class three times, at Monza and Paul Ricard. She and Andrea Palma won their class outright. She raced a Lamborghini Huracan in the Italian GT Championship in 2016, with Andrea Palma. Her best finish was ninth, at Mugello. 

Valerie Limoges - raced in the Koni Grand-Am Challenge, in the States, in 2007. She debuted in the series in 2006, having driven karts, Formula Renault and touring cars, coming fourth in the Hankook Touring Car Series in 2004. Her Grand-Am car was a Ford Mustang prepared by Black Forest. During the season, she had many mechanical problems to deal with, although she proved herself capable of running in the top ten. After 2007, her sponsorship was withdrawn and she has been unable to race, although she did make one guest appearance in Canadian Touring Cars in 2012. In 2015 and 2016, she raced in the Canadian Nissan Micra Cup, finishing fifth overall both times.

Carmen Lista – raced in IMSA in the 1980s, after competing in the late 1970s in US sportscar events. She always drove Chevrolet cars, and her first big races were at Daytona, in 1976. She drove a Corvette in the Daytona 250 Miles, and was 39th, with “Bean”. The following year, in the same race, she was 62nd, driving solo. A final appearance in the 250 Mile race in 1978 led to a 19th place, again as a single driver, in Debra Tribiano’s Corvette. In 1983, she reappears in the entry lists, driving a Camaro in IMSA races. She was 47th in that year’s Sebring 12 Hours, with Bobby Diehl, David Marks and Roy Newsome, with Diehl’s team.   

Vittoria Maffi – raced in Italy in the late 1950s and early 1960s. She is most associated with Alfa Romeo, having competed in the 1959 Coppa Ambroeus in an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce. She was ninth in the race. The following year, she shared a Fiat 500 with Alma Cacciandra, and was 31st in the Coppa Ascari. She had owned the Alfa since 1956, so may have done some earlier races, possibly in the women-only circuit that existed in Italy at the time. 

Tania Mann – Australian driver who races in the UK. She began competing in 2011, in the Lotus Cup, after doing track days in her own Porsche. 2012 was her first full season, and she drove in the Porsche Carrera Cup. Her best overall finish was twelfth, at Donington, but she was one of the leaders of the Pro-Am class, and was second, with four wins. After a year spent putting together sponsorship, she took part in some rounds of the British GT Championship in 2014, in a Ginetta G55. She was fourth and sixth at Oulton Park and seventh at Rockingham, partnering Jade Edwards for one race.  

Paige Monette (Alexander) - American driver who races sportscars in the USA, in the Trans-Am series. She has been active in club racing since 2004, starting with dirt-track events, and began racing sportscars in 2007, when she contested the GT1 class of the National Championships. Her car was a Chevrolet Corvette, run by her family team. In 2008, she managed her first podium position in this championship, and was ninth overall. In 2010, she moved up to the SCCA Trans-Am series, still driving alongside her brothers, and finished in 30th, after a limited programme. In 2012, she stepped up to the national Trans-Am championship, entering selected races. Paige is notable for being one of the only drivers of Native American origin racing in the States.


Angela M. Negrão da Cunha - Portuguese racer active in GT racing in Portugal and Spain in 2012. She drove a Lotus Evora Cup in four rounds of the Portuguese championship, with Joffrey Didier, with a best finish of ninth, at Braga. Her best result in the Spanish series was also ninth, at Jarama, in the same car, with Didier and Nuno Batista. She does not appear to have competed again after 2012, and it looks to have been her first and only racing season.

Elouise Norris – raced in SCCA events in the 1960s. Rather unusually, she favoured European cars, and she came on the scene in 1963, driving an Alfa Romeo Giulietta to third place at Midland, with her boss, Dave Dooley. At 42, she was a rather late starter. In 1964 and 1965, she raced a Triumph TR3, competing in the American Road Race of Champions twice, with a best finish of eighth in 1964. In 1966, she used both a Lotus Cortina and a Datsun 1500, belonging to Dooley. The Cortina was her car for Trans-Am races. During her six-year career, she took part in the ARRC five times. Her best result was a second place in 1967, driving a Mini. She was bestowed with many awards by the SCCA, including the 1968 Oklahoma Driver of the Year. After retiring from active competition, she served as a steward and SCCA committee member, earning more accolades for her work. She died in 2012.

Francesca Pardini - Italian Prototype title-winner in 2001, and runner-up in 2000 and 2002. Her car in 2001 was a Lucchini-Alfa Romeo. She came to England to race in Formula Palmer Audi in 2004, and was a regular fixture in the top ten. In between, she did more Prototype racing and entered the Ferrari Challenge and Clio Cup in Italy. At some point in 2004, she returned to Italy for some Prototype races. Her low final position suggests she only took part in a few races. Her activities since 2004 are unclear. During 2005, she took part in at least one VW Fun Cup event as part of a ladies’ team, driving with Fun Cup regular Sabine Dubois and touring car racer Valentina Albanese. This appears to have been a limited programme.

Danijela Radulovic - races a KTM X-Bow in Austria and Europe, in the X-Bow Battle series. Her first season was 2012, and she was sixth in the Rookie standings. Her best finishes were a pair of sixth places. She did not run a full season in 2013, and was out of the points table, and the situation was similar in 2014. A good finish in the first Endurance race, with Reini Kofler, gave her a fourteenth place overall. She had entered the Sprint championship in the early part of the season, but scored no points. She appears to have raced an X-Bow in events other than Battle meetings, but details are not forthcoming. In 2015, she moved away from the X-Bow, and seems to have raced a BMW in the DMV BMW Challenge.

Ellen Reed – raced sports and GT cars in Australia in the 1970s. She drove an MG Midget in the Australian Sports Car Championship in 1978, participating in the Calder, Lakeside and Amaroo Park events, and finishing fifteenth in the championship. Earlier, in 1975, she raced a Triumph Spitfire in the Production Sportscar championship.  She was usually the only woman in the series.

Farah al-Sabah – driver from Kuwait, active in sportscar racing in the Middle East. In 2015, she competed in the NGK Racing Series in the UAE, driving a McLaren GT Sprint with Leon Price, from South Africa. So far, she has recorded two class wins, at Dubai Autodrome. She also races karts in the UAE, in the Sodi World Series.

Luisa Rezzonico – Italian driver who died following a crash, whilst competing in the Autogiro d’Italia in 1954, driving a Lancia Aurelia. She started racing at the age of nineteen, in 1953. During her first year of major competition, she won the Perla di Sanremo women’s rally, and the Como-Lieto Colle, another ladies’ event, both in the Aurelia. The same year, and in a similar car, she was fifth overall in the Circuito Ospedaletti road race, and second in class.  

Birgitt Schmack - a graduate of the Ford Fiesta Ladies Cup in 1985. She was not among the front-runners, and was 17th overall. That year, she also took part in the Porsche Club Trophy in Germany, driving a 911. She was second in the Ladies’ standings,  winning at least one ladies’ race, or ladies’ class in a race, possibly at Hockenheim. She continued in Porsche club motorsport in 1986, driving in the Porsche 944 Turbo Cup. She was not overly competitive, and finished out of the top twenty.

Priscilla Speelman - winner of the Sport 1 class of the Dutch Supercar Challenge in 2012. She won eight out of her fourteen races and was only out of the top three on three occasions. Her co-driver for the series was John van der Voort. This was her first senior racing season, and previously, she had a long career in karting. This included three seasons in Superkarts, culminating in an International Championship victory in 2011. Her racing programme was smaller in 2013, but she managed two second places in in the PR1 division of Supercar Superlights, driving a Praga R1 prototype, and another win in the SR3 class, in a Radical. She ran five races overall, and made the podium in all of them. In 2014, she joined the Acceleration MW-V6 Pickup Series for its second half. She was quite competitive, with a sixth place at Monza. She was 21st overall. In 2015, she raced in the Supercar Challenge again, in a SEAT Leon run by Ferry Monster Autosport. She had a mixed season in the championship, but her real highlight was a win in the Oschersleben 24 Hours, driving with Ferry and Robin Monster, Pim Kievit and Theunis van der Grifft. She was fifth in the Supersport Division in 2016, driving Jan van der Kooi's Lotus. 


Emilee Tominovich - started racing in 2010, at the age of 18. She began in SCCA events, in her own Pontiac Solstice, and recorded her first race wins in 2011. In 2012, she was signed up by the TrueCar team, who were putting together an all-female driver lineup. She raced in the Mazda MX-5 Cup, and was tenth overall in her first season, managing two top-ten positions after finishing last in her first race. In 2013, she returned to the Cup on a part-time basis, with different sponsors. The following year, she moved into the Pirelli World Challenge, in the Touring class, driving a Volkswagen Jetta. She was fourth and sixth at New Jersey, and eighth and fifth at Mid-Ohio. Initially, she only got interested in motorsport because she was injured and unable to play football any more.


Veronika Vanyova – Slovakian driver who raced in the Lotus Ladies’ Cup, in 2013 and 2014. Her first season yielded a sixth place overall, with a best race finish of fifth, at the Hungaroring. In the shortened 2014 series, she was fifth, with one fourth-place finish at the Red Bull Ring. In 2015, she raced in mixed competition, taking on the STC Touring Car series in and around Slovakia, and the RCM Cup, which runs throughout Eastern Europe. She has scored better results in the STC Cup, with a seventh and eighth place, at Brno. The situation was similar in 2016; she entered the D4 touring car championship and the Hankook Racer Cup. She struggled in the former, but was a leading driver in the latter, and won a race at the Hungaroring, among many podiums and top-fives.

Estelle Vermooten – races a Locost in South Africa. In 2013, she and two team-mates were tenth in the African 6 Hour at Phakisa, against much larger and more powerful cars. In 2014 and 2015, she has been racing in the Lotus Challenge in South Africa. In 2015, she got together with Freak Show Racing again, for the African 6 Hour, still in the Locost. In 2016, she drove the Locost for the TransGlobal team, and raced in the African Endurance Series. Estelle built the car herself. She initially competed in gymkhana events.

“Julie Wood” – competed in the KTM X-Bow Battle, based in Austria. She was part of the championship between 2012 and 2014. In 2012, she was eleventh in the Rookie standings. He following year, she was unplaced in the Battle standings. The situation was similar in 2014, although she did manage a fifteenth place in the Endurance championship, with Harduin Putrich. She does not appear to have raced since then. Her real name is unclear; “Julie Wood” is the name of a female motorcyclist in the Michel Vaillant motorsport comics.

Mary “Mickey” Wright - races in Trans Am in the USA. After competing in local “powder puff derby” events in her youth, she took up motorsport again in her forties. Between 2011 and 2013, she raced on dirt tracks, and in club-level stock car and road circuit races. She moved into Trans Am in 2012, running a part-season in the TA2 class. Another season with a couple of guest appearances followed, and this year she managed her first top ten, an eighth place at Sebring. In 2014, she joined up with Derhaag Motorsports, having secured some decent sponsorship, and did the full championship season. Her second season with Derhaag, in 2016, has given her one top-ten finish, a tenth place at Brainerd. She has used the name “Mickey” since childhood, a nickname given to her by her brothers due to her squeakiness.

Margaret (Peggy) Wyllie - raced in the US between 1953 and 1965. She started off in Ladies’ races, but was soon regularly taking part in mixed SCCA events, in a Jaguar or MG. She won eight races during her career, all Ladies’ events. In 1956, she drove in her first Sebring 12 Hour race, sharing a Lotus Mark IX with her husband, Jesse “Doc” Wyllie. They did three Sebring races together, as well as seven editions of the 500 Miles of Road America. Their best finish was sixth, in 1962, driving a Lola Mk I. In recent years, she has been working to promote and provide engineering education to female students.

(Image from http://forum.sky.it/ladies-brum-brum-extra-f-1-t250775.html)

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