Sunday, 5 September 2010

Female Rally Drivers After 1950: Africa



Stefanie Botha and Angela Shields

Women have featured in African rallies since they first appeared in the 1950s. Below are some short profiles. This post only covers stage rallying; rally raids such as the Dakar have their own page.
Susan Muwonge's profile is located in the Rally Winners post.
Kenyan drivers have their own post, here.

Irene “Leila” Blick (Mayanja) - Ugandan driver who came to prominence in 2013, after navigating for her husband, Omar Mayanja, since at least 2005. In 2013, she was tenth in her first event of the year, the Mbarara Rally, and won her class. Her car was a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo II, and her navigator was Faridah Ndagire. She retired from her next three rallies, including the Pearl of Africa event, but her fortunes changed when she switched to Toyota power. She was fifth in the Mukwano Independence Rally, driving a Run-X, and seventh in the Oilybia Mount Elgon Rally, in an Allex. The last event also gave her a class win. She competed quite extensively in Uganda in 2014, in the Allex. She finished in the top ten on three occasions: eighth in the Mbarara Rally, fourth in the Source of the Nile Rally, and sixth in the SMC Challenge Rally. She also entered the Milles Collines event in Rwanda, which was cancelled due to a fatal accident. She had another season in the Allex in 2015, and her best rally was the Mountains of the Moon event, in which she was twelfth. She was quite busy in 2016, in the Allex, rallying in both Uganda and Rwanda, although her finishing record was not brilliant. Her best result was an eleventh place in the Gorillas in the Mist Rally. Irene is from a motorsport family: her parents both rallied as a team.

Stefanie Botha - second generation rally driver, originally from Namibia. She co-drove for her father Willem Hugo from the age of 15, then switched to driving at 18 in 2007, with Willem as navigator. In 2008, she drove in her regional championship in South Africa, using cars including a Subaru Impreza. For 2010, she was part of the RallyStar driving academy and moved up to the SA championship, scoring two class wins. Team Total signed her for 2011, driving a Toyota RunX in the SA championship. With Angela Shields, she ran well, although mechanical troubles caused many retirements. The situation has been the same in 2012. In 2013, she really stepped up, and was second in the Band Windhoek Azurite Tsumeb Rally. She also achieved thirds in the Total Tara and Walvis Bay rallies, in South Africa and Namibia. In 2014, she rallied a Subaru Impreza and a Toyota Corolla in Namibia, but did not finish any of her events. She tried again in the Subaru in 2015, in the Namibian championship, but still did not finish any of her events. Away from rallying, Stefanie also competes in dirt-track circuit races.

Viviane Evina - Cameroonian driver who finished 8th in the Bandama Ivory Coast Rally in 1990. She was driving a Toyota Corolla FX 16V and won class N2. the following year, she entered the Bandama again, in the same car, but retired after an accident. The rally was removed from the WRC calendar not long afterwards.

Michelle Fortmann - Zimbabwean driver who has been rallying on and off since 2007. She was eleventh in her first event, the Dunlop Zimbabwe Challenge, in a Ford Escort. Her best result seems to have been eighth in the 2010 Zimbabwe Challenge Rally, in a Toyota Corolla. She has also driven a Subaru Impreza. Away from active competition, she works as a motorsport photographer.


Janine Lourens – rallies in South Africa, often sharing a car with her twin sister, Michelle. Rather unusually, the sisters share driving duties, alternating every season. In 2012, Janine took the wheel, and was 19th in the Polokwane Rally. Her car was a Toyota Conquest. She also rallied in her regional championship, finishing thirteenth in the SA Earthworks All Tar Rally and seventh in the SAHRA Night Rally. She began her career at 17, in 2009, driving in rallysprints with her sister, navigated by their father. In 2010, she alternated driving duties with Michelle in regional rallies. Janine also navigates for Craig Trott. 2015 saw her take the wheel again, with Michelle on the maps. She was sixth and seventh in the two-part Secunda Regional Rally, and sixth in the Motomid Rally. 

Michelle Lourens - South African driver who competes as part of a family team. Her twin sister, Janine, is her current navigator, and the pair have swapped seats several times in the past. They began rallying together, in 2009, at 17, in rallysprints. They did the Northern regional championship in South Africa in 2010, and took turns driving. After a quiet year, without significant sponsorship, in 2011, Janine took the wheel in 2012, again, contesting their regional championship. In 2013, with Michelle driving, they moved up to the South African championship, driving a Toyota Conquest, mainly. Her best result was fifth, in the East Rand Rally, and she also won her class in the Ford Dealer Rally, finishing 25th overall. In 2014, Michelle continued to drive in the South African championship, in an S2000-spec Toyota Tazz. She was seventh in the Hallspeed Rally, in South Africa. In 2015, she filled in as both driver and co-driver, to Janine. She drove a Toyota Run-X in the South African championship, but did not finish any of her events.

Rose Lwakataka - Ugandan driver who has been rallying on and off since around 2008. She is the wife of former Ugandan champion Ponsiano Lwakataka, and shares his car, a Subaru Impreza, on occasion. She was seventh in the Pearl Rally in Uganda in 2008. As well as stage rallies, she competes in rallysprint events in Africa, and is promoted as a great rival to Susan Muwonge.

Laureen Marufu - Zimbabwean driver who has been competing since 2010. She was ninth in her first event, the Toyota Challenge Rally. The following year, she was sixth in the same event. The same year, she was also eighth in the Zambia International Rally, again driving a Toyota  Corolla. In 2012, she entered the Zimbabwe event again, but could not finish, driving the Toyota. She intends to contest more African rallies in the future.

Lola Verlaque - South African driver who competes in the African championship, often with her sister Megan as her co-driver. In 2008, they were third in the Rally of Tanzania, driving a Subaru Impreza. They were eleventh in the same event in 2009, driving a VW Polo S2000 this time. They also competed in the revived Safari Rally in 2007 and 2009, but retired both times. Their cars were the Impreza and the Polo. In 2008, Lola drove a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 and was sixth in the African championship. Her best overall result was her Tanzanian third, although she was also fifth in Zambia. In 2007 they were third in the championship, with a best result of second in Zambia. After a break from competition, which included a couple of events where Megan did not navigate for her sister (in 2010), they returned to action in 2011, driving a VW Golf in the East African Safari Classic Rally. In 2015, she rallied both a VW Golf and a Toyota Corolla in the South African championship, with a best finish of ninth, in the Classic Rally South Africa. Her car was the Golf, and her co-driver was Edward Verlaque. The same pairing tackled the Top Fry Rift 1000 Classic Rally in 2016, in the Golf. They finished in 24th place.

Megan Verlaque - began her own successful driving career after navigating for her sister, Lola, for five seasons. In 2010, she did her first rallies in South Africa as a driver. Despite retiring four times, she won her class in three rallies: the Rally of South Africa, Osram Rally and Cape Swartland Rally. Her best overall finish was 15th, in the Rally of South Africa. Her car was a Toyota Run-X and her co-driver was her brother, Oliver Verlaque. In 2011, she started a partnership with Volkswagen in South Africa, and rallied a Polo, running in the S1400 class. Again, she won the class four times, out of five finishes. Appropriately, her best event was the Volkswagen Rally in which she was fourteenth, with a class win. In 2012, she had a shorter rally season, and moved into the S1600 class, in which she was fifth. She finished all of her four rallies, all in the top twenty. In 2013, she continued in the same vein, with five top-twenty finishes in South African rallies, the best of these being 15th in the Total Rally. She was eighth in the S1600 class. She did some navigation for Jose de Gouveia in 2015 and 2016, in the South African championship. 

Michelle Yorke - Zimbabwean driver who has been competing in Africa since at least 2008. She has driven in three Zimbabwe Rally Challenge events, in 2008, 2011 and 2012. For the first two rallies, she used a Toyota Corolla. In 2012, this was replaced by a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV. She has finished the event once, in 2008, when she was tenth. 

(Image from http://www.timeslive.co.za/)

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