Thursday, 9 September 2010

Women in International Sportscar Racing After 1950: Part I

The Ring Free "Motor Maids" at the 1967 Daytona 24 Hours: Suzy Dietrich, Donna Mae Mims, Smokey Drolet, Janet Guthrie and Gabriel Konig

The definition of "international" is tricky to pin down; obviously, World Sportscar Championship , Le Mans and ALMS entrants are included, as are those who raced in the Mille Miglia and later Targa Florio, Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours.
For earlier European races, the distinction is less sharp, but if it looks like something more than a national championship, someone who drove in it might be here. Part two of this post can be found here. Paola della Chiesa now has her own post.

Bianca Anton - Romanian driver who is active in the GT4 European Cup, driving a Sin Cars Sin R1. In 2017, her best result was a 23rd place overall, at Misano. In her class, she was more competitive, with a third, fifth and sixth place. She shares the car with Eduard Anton, her younger brother. In 2015 and 2016, Bianca raced touring cars in Romania, and won the VW Lupo 1600 championship in 2016, with five outright wins. She also had two second places in Formula Predators. In 2015, she won three rounds of the VW Polo Cup, usually fighting with her brother for first place.

Dafne Bernardi - drove in the Mille Miglia twice, in 1953 and 1954. On her first attempt, she was 75th in a Lancia Aurelia. Her team-mate was “O Marazzi”. In 1954, she and Franco Cortesi were 85th in a Fiat 1100/103.

“Madame Bizeray” - raced a 750cc Renault 4CV special in Europe in the 1950s. She competed with her husband, who had built the car. They entered the Nürburgring 1000km and the Tourist Trophy at Dundrod, but did not finish the TT and were not classified in the Nürburgring race. They may also have raced at Montlhéry. In 1951, driving solo, Madame Bizeray was twelfth in the Paris Bol d’Or, driving a similar 750cc Renault. Her given name is never recorded.

Charlotte Burridge - races a Lotus in Britain and Europe. She started racing in 2011, after a couple of relatively successful years in karting. During her first season in the Titan MR2 series, she had a best finish of second and several pole positions, missing out only on an outright win. When she moved into the British Lotus Cup in 2012, it was a similar story - she was second on one occasion and not often out of the top five, but did not actually win. She was fourth in the championship. In 2013, she moved up again, to the European Lotus Cup, driving an Elise, and there, she got her first win, at Brands Hatch. She finished in the top three in every race she entered, and was third overall in the championship. That year, she also finished third in the Brands Hatch 6 Hours endurance race, a first for a female driver. She received the BWRDC’s Newcomer and International Driver awards at the end of the season. She had to sit out 2014, after being injured in a road traffic accident. Despite still struggling with her injuries, she returned to the track in 2015, for some rounds of the Lotus Cup. She does not appear to have raced in 2016.

Alma Cacciandra - Italian driver who competed in the late 1950s and 1960s. In 1959, she was fifth, eighth and sixth in major races at Monza. She used an Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ for the 1961 season, and was fifth in the Coppa Sant Ambroeus. She also teamed up with Anna Maria Peduzzi for one of her last races, the Coppa Ascari, but they did not finish. She was listed as an entrant for a few other Italian races that year, but did not make the start. In 1962, she was fourth in the 1300cc GT Trophy Monza and 17th in the Coppa d’Autumno. It appears that she then took a break from motorsport for a season, before returning in 1964. Driving a Giulia this time, she was tenth in the 2000cc Coppa Inter-Europa race, with Alberto della Beffa. She was also tenth in the Trofeo Bettoia, held at Monza. In 1965, she drove again in the Coppa Inter-Europa, but the engine blew.

Catherine Desbruères - French driver, active in sportscars since 2005, when she raced an Opel Astra GT in the Vallelunga Gold Cup, winning her class and coming eighth They also entered a couple of Spanish GT races. Her team-mates were Daniel Desbruères and Loris de Sordi. The same team and car was twelfth in 2006. In 2007, it was upgraded to a Ferrari F430, which was used for GT Open races in Italy, and some rounds of the Spanish GT championship. The results were not spectacular, the best being 23rd at Vallelunga. The Ferrari was retained for 2008, and scored an 18th and 15th at the Fun Cup 25 Hours at Spa, and a 13th at Vallelunga. Since then, her only activity seems to be the Dubai 24 Hours. She first entered in 2009, in a Porsche 997 GT3, with Daniel, Christian Kelders and Philippe Greish. In 2010, the same team took the Ferrari to Dubai, but did not finish. In 2012, she was set to enter the Blancpain Endurance series in a Porsche 997, but this did not happen. She used the same car in Dubai, with the same team, and was 17th in class.She has also done some historic rallying, in a Ford Escort, and a Mazda RX-7. This seems to be her main motorsport activity in since 2013.

Gail Engle - drove a Philip Keirn Chevrolet Corvette in a few major events in 1981 and 1982, alongside Philip Keirn. The team was not particularly successful, and Gail only got to drive in three of her five races. Her best result was 22nd in the Mid-Ohio 500km in 1982. Later, she was 36th in the Road Atlanta 500km. She entered one Daytona 24 Hour race, with Philip Keirn and Bard Boand in 1981. They were classified 36th, although the car's electrics had failed before the end of the race.

Jacqueline Evans de Lopez - British-born Mexican driver who competed in five runnings of the Carrera Panamericana, between 1950 and 1954. She is most famous for her drives in a Porsche 356 in 1953 and 1954, although she did not finish the race. Her best result was 37th in 1952, driving a Chrysler Saratoga. She used Chrysler models, a Saratoga and a Windsor, for her other two entries, finishing once in 1950, in 45th place. Away from the tracks, she was an actress in Spanish-language films.

Nadège Ferrier (Washer) - Swiss lady who drove in long-distance sportscar races, rallies and hillclimbs in the late 1950s and early 1960s. From 1954, she often partnered Gilberte Thirion in races and rallies, co-driving her to victory in the 1956 Tour de Corse. She and Gilberte shared cars, including Renault Dauphines and the Porsche 356 she drove on the 1960 Nürburgring 1000 Km. They travelled extensively together, taking the Dauphine to Sebring for the 1957 12 Hour race and finishing 35th, second in class. She sometimes raced with other drivers, like when she and Bernard Cahier contested the 1956 Mille Miglia in a Dauphine. After Gilberte retired, she continued to race. She and Paul Frere raced a 356 in the 1959 Nürburgring 1000km, coming in 21st. Later, she returned to hillclimbing, and was seventh in the 1961 Col de la Faucille event.

Natalia Freidina - Russian driver competing internationally. After several years of karting, she finally began her senior racing career at the age of 33, entering two rounds of the JK Racing Asia series, which uses Formula BMW cars. She finished one race at Sepang, in 18th. In 2012, she started competing in the FIA GT3 Championship, initially driving an Aston-Martin DBRS9 for Valmon Racing Team Russia. Her team-mate was Tom Kimber-Smith. They were eleventh twice at Nogaro. Natalia then switched to a Lamborghini Gallardo, first for Rhino’s Leipert Motorsport, then Reiter Engineering. Her co-drivers were Leonid Machitski and Albert von Thurn und Taxis respectively. Her results were a ninth and tenth, and two more eleventh places. In 2014, she entered the Lamborghini Super Trofeo, for at least two rounds. She was tenth and seventh at Sepang. In 2015, she did a lot of automotive-related charity and media work, but limited racing. She took part in the GT Sports Club at the Algarve track, driving an AMG Mercedes SLS. She and Rebecca Jackson undertook a charity drive across Europe, driving a number of different cars at various tracks along the way.

Regine Gordine – French driver from the 1950s onwards. She competed in sportscar races and later, rallies, as a navigator. She and Germaine Rouault entered Le Mans in 1950, in a Simca Gordini, but crashed out after 19 hours. Afterwards, she specialised in long-distance sportscar events, such as the Tour de France and the Mille Miglia, which she entered twice, in 1955 and 1957, before turning to rallying. Her co-driver in 1955 was Lise Renaud, and the car, a 750 Moretti. They did not finish. They tried again in a Citroen DS19, but again, did not make the finish. In 1952, she had finished 19th in the Tour de France, driving a Renault 4CV with Germaine Rouault. It was her best finish on that event.

Corinna Gostner – one of a pair of Italian sisters who race in the Coppa Shell Ferrari Challenge. 2014 was her first year of competition, and she was 19th in the championship. In 2015, she raced a Ferrari 458 with her sister, Manuela, and their father, Thomas Gostner, as part of the Ineco team. Her best result was eighth, in the final race at Mugello. Corinna and Thomas raced together in the 458 in 2014, too, with Manuela making a few appearances. In 2016, the family trio raced again in the Ferrari Challenge. Corinna's best finish was a fourth place, at Jerez, and she was seventeenth overall. She also did two rounds of the Italian GT Championship, in the Ferrari, with her sister. They were eighth and sixth at Mugello. Away from motorsport, Corinna competed in handball at a high level.

Elyane Imbert - raced in the mid-1950s. In 1953, she and Simone des Forest drove a Porsche 356 Super 1500 in two World Sportscar Championship races: the Spa 24 Hours and Nürburgring 1000km. They were disqualified both times, once for receiving assistance. Driving solo, Elyane was fourth in the Rouen GP. In 1954, she was third in the Circuit de Bressuire race for cars of more than 1100cc. She did not enter any more World Championship races.

Elizabeth Kleinschmidt - entered a few big sportscar races between 1979 and 1981, driving alongside Charles Kleinschmidt (husband?). In 1979, the Kleinschmidts plus Leroy Dickson drove an AMC Spirit to 22nd in the Daytona 6 Hour race. Elizabeth was slated to drive in the 1980 event, but did not start. In 1981, she entered the Sebring 12 Hours with Charles and Al Levenson, driving a Chevrolet Corvette. They started, and were classified finishers in 70th place, despite being withdrawn before the end.

Tina Kok - Danish driver active in the Ferrari Challenge, driving a Ferrari 488. In 2017, she raced for Formula Racing, and had a best finish of eleventh, at the Hungaroring. She was 21st in the championship. This was her first season in a Ferrari, but she has previous experience in the Le Mans Classic in 2016, and in the Danish Endurance Championship. She drove a Chevron B8 to 24th in the Le Mans Classic, a year after finishing sixth in the Danish Endurance series. Her car was a Renault Clio, shared with two other drivers.

Judy Kondratieff (Ganley) - raced sportscars and saloons in the USA, between 1965 and 1972. Driving an Austin-Healey Sprite and a Mini, she was very successful in SCCA events. She also raced a Ford-engined Brabham BT8. In 1970, she raced at the Sebring 12 Hours for the Ring Free Oil "Motor Maids" team, with Janet Guthrie and Rosemary Smith. They were 19th overall and first in class. She was part of the team again the following year, but car troubles intervened before it was time for her stint. After her retirement and marriage to Howden Ganley, she worked in motorsport management and administration extensively. She died in 2007, after a long battle with cancer.

Ruth Levy - mainly raced in the United States in the 1950s. She competed between 1955 and 1958, and won thirteen races during her short career. These were mainly Ladies races run at SCCA meetings, but some were mixed, and mixed-category too. She mainly drove Porsche cars, beginning with a 356 and switching to a 550 in 1957, but she also drove Fiats and Aston Martins, crashing out of the Ladies’ race at the 1957 Nassau Speed Week in the latter. Denise McCluggage was her most regular co-driver for major events, including the 1957 Venezuela GP (Porsche) and 1958 Sebring 12 Hours (Fiat). They were thirteenth in Venezuela and did not finish at Sebring.

Marion Lowe - usually drove a Frazer-Nash in the States, and at Nassau for Speed Week. She was ninth in the 1955 Sacramento 100 Mile race. In 1956, she won the Ladies’ race at Nassau in a Frazer Nash Targa Florio. She did the same in 1957, only this time, the car was a Jaguar XKD. Among her other cars was a Lotus 11, which was her personal vehicle - the Jaguar was borrowed. The Lotus was used to good effect at Nassau, later. She was still competing in 1960, when she entered some Formula Junior races in a BMC Mk1., including the Stockton Road Races, in which she was sixth.

Deborah Mayer - French regular member of the Kessel Racing sportscar team since 2016. She has raced in the Ferrari Challenge and the Blancpain Endurance Championship. She began in 2016 with the Ferrari Challenge, driving for Scuderia Niki this time. Her best result was a tenth place at Sochi, and she was 22nd overall. Her first race for the Kessel team was the 2016 Gulf 12 Hours at Yas Marina. She drove the second Ferrari 458 with Sergio Pianezzola and Claudio Schiavone, and was third in class, thirteenth overall. In 2017, she did a part-season for Kessel in the Ferrari Challenge, improving her best finish to ninth at Monza. In addition, she made appearances in the Michelin Le Mans Cup and the Misano round of the Blancpain Endurance Series. The Le Mans Cup was better for her: she was twelfth and seventh in the Road to Le Mans support race.

Evelyn Mull - raced an AC Ace Bristol with her husband John in 1957, entering that year's Sebring 12 Hours but failing to finish. In 1956 and 1957, she made the trip to the Bahamas for Nassau Speed Week. She was third in a Ladies’ race in 1956 and did better in 1957, coming seventh in the GT race and second in a Ladies’ race. She also owned an OSCA at some point during the decade, and raced a modified Jaguar in SCCA events in 1956.

(Image from

1 comment:

  1. You can see a picture of Paula della Chiesa in her 1st Series Lancia Aurelia B20 (probably '51 car, though you report she competed in it in '54) here : Aurelia B20 della Chiesa.