Friday, 31 December 2010

Smokey Drolet


Smokey in the Maserati "Birdcage"

Sierra Drolet, better-known as Smokey, was an American endurance specialist, who raced from 1957 to the mid-1970s. She is most associated with Chevrolet cars, although she drove a variety of American and European models during her time at the wheel.

Her career seems to have begun in SCCA Regional events in 1957. She drove a variety of cars, including Lotus and Lola Formula Juniors, a Triumph TR2, which was her first racing car, a TR3 and a Frazer Nash, between then and 1960. She also made some appearances in the SCCA Nationals, in her home state of Florida.

1959 saw her earliest attempt at the big American sportscar races. She drove a Turner 750 Sports Climax with Fred Lieb in the Sebring 12 Hours, and was 43rd, fourth in the one-litre class. This was the first of several appearances at Sebring, although the rest would not transpire for quite some time. Sebring was, at the time, her local big circuit; her motorsport activities were always focused around Florida.

For the next couple of seasons, she returned to SCCA competition. As before, she was supported by J. Frank Harrison and his team, and usually drove his cars, including the Frazer-Nash. Mainly, she seems to have raced in Formula Junior. Occasionally, she drove saloons, such as the Renault Dauphine she used in a three-hour endurance race at Sebring, in 1963. As well as this, she made trips over to the Bahamas for Nassau Speed Week. In 1960, she won the Nassau Ladies’ race, driving a Daimler SP250 belonging to Michael Rothschild. She had been scheduled to compete in Harrison’s Maserati Tipo 61, but it was damaged in a crash in an earlier race. In 1962, she drove Charlie Kolb’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ at Nassau, and won another Ladies’ race. During this time, she also took part in some hillclimbs.

She reappears on the entry lists for major races in 1966. That year, she took part in her first Daytona 24 Hours, driving a Sunbeam Alpine for Autosport, with Rosemary Smith. They were 30th. Autosport were running an all-female Alpine team at the time, and the sister car of Janet Guthrie, Suzy Dietrich and Donna Mae Mims (running as the "Ring Free Motor Maids") was a couple of places behind. She did not drive in the Sebring 12 Hours, but a ride in a Mini Cooper for the supporting four-hour race gave her a fifteenth spot, alongside J. Peter Marinelli.

In 1967, she was part of another all-female sportscar team, this time the Ring Free Oil Motor Maids themselves. Partnered by Anita Taylor and Janet Guthrie, she was 20th in the Daytona 24 Hours, in a Ford Mustang. The car was little more than a showroom model, and quite old. Although she was not included in the Ring Free squad for the Sebring 12 Hours, she still contested it. Partnered by Anita Taylor once more, she drove a Baker Alpine-Renault A110 to 35th place.  

Later, she won her class at Daytona in 1969, driving a Corvette. Her co-drivers were John Tremblay, Vince Gimondo and John Belperche, and they were sixteenth overall. Smokey was equally at home driving alongside men, or as part of all-female teams. Her other achievements that year include a second in class in the Sebring 12 Hours, partnering Rosemary Smith in a BMW 2002. They were 26th overall. Early in the season, she petitioned to be allowed to try out for the Indianapolis 500, but this wish was not fulfilled.

The following year, she drove another Chevrolet at Daytona: this time, it was Norberto Mastandrea’s Camaro. Driving with Mastandrea and Rajah Rodgers, she was 25th. A scheduled Alfa Romeo drive for the Sebring 12 Hours, in Del Taylor’s 1750 GTV, did not happen.

In 1971, she shared another American car for the Daytona enduro, co-driving a Dodge Dart with Fred Lieb and Mitch Daroff. They did not finish. This was Smokey’s last appearance in a major race.

During her time as a competitor, she was respected by her peers, perhaps more so than some of her female contemporaries, for her abilities and her no-nonsense attitude. That she frequently got to the finish of long races, in ageing and underpowered machinery with no hope of winning, is testament to this.

After retiring from the track, Smokey went in to the automotive parts and service business, where she remained active until quite recently. She died in June 2015, not long after her husband, Walt Sizemore.

(Image copyright Willem Osthoek Collection)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Sheila van Damm



Sheila (left) in 1954, with Pauline Jesty and Joyce Leavens

Sheila van Damm was born in 1922, the daughter of London theatre impresario, Vivian van Damm. As with many other female drivers of her era, her first taste of motoring came during the Second World War, when she worked as a driver in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

She got her break in rallying in 1950, driving a works-prepared Sunbeam in the Daily Express Rally. The car was sponsored by her father’s infamous Windmill Theatre, which was known for its risqué revues. Sheila, navigated by her sister Nona, drove a Sunbeam Talbot, with “Windmill Girl” proudly emblazoned down the side. They were third in the Coupe des Dames, and their performance impressed the Rootes team sufficiently for them to offer Sheila a works seat for the following season.

Her first drive for Rootes was the 1951 Monte Carlo Rally, in a Hillman Minx. She was unplaced. Later in the year, navigated by the veteran Elsie “Bill” Wisdom, she won the Ladies’ Prize in the Closed car category of the RAC Rally. 

In 1952, she remained with Rootes, as she would for her entire rally career. As part of a three-woman team, she drove a Sunbeam Talbot in the Monte Carlo Rally. The other team members were Bill Wisdom and Nancy Mitchell. Sheila is also reported to have won a ladies’ award in an MCC Rally in the UK, in the same car.

1953 was a busy year. It began with the Monte Carlo Rally, in which Sheila was the second lady in her Sunbeam Talbot. Her co-drivers that year were Francoise Clarke, who sat beside her for the RAC Rally, and Anne Hall, who navigated her to the Coupe des Dames and a Coupe des Alpes in the Alpine Rally. They were 24th overall.. Her best finish was eighth overall, in the Lisbon Rally. This was probably her best career result.

1954 saw Sheila in action all over Europe, ably assisted by Anne Hall. They drove a Sunbeam Talbot in the Monte Carlo Rally, but were unplaced, and later came tenth in the Tulip Rally, with a Ladies’ prize and second in class. In the same car, they also entered the Austrian Alpine Rally. For the Stella Alpina, they were allowed use of the Sunbeam Alpine prototype, and made off with the Ladies’ Trophy, and fifth in class. The Alpine Rally gave them another class fifth, and they were second in class in the Geneva Rally. A Coupe des Dames in the Viking Rally was another highlight.

1955 continued in the same vein. The Monte Carlo Rally saw her best result on that particular event: eleventh, and first lady. She was driving another Sunbeam with Francoise Clarke and Anne Hall. With Anne in the navigator’s seat, she won another Coupe des Dames on the RAC Rally, and was second in that category on the Tulip Rally, behind Greta Molander. Sheila and Greta were great rivals at this time, often in close competition for Ladies’ and class awards.

In 1954 and 1955, she was European Ladies’ Champion, after her string of Coupes des Dames. She also helped Rootes to the team prize on the Monte Carlo Rally in 1954, 1955 and 1956.

1956 was her last year as a Rootes driver. She entered the Monte Carlo Rally in a Sunbeam, but did not make the finish. Greta Molander was also among the casualties that year. Anne Hall had now moved back to full-time driving, and Sheila prepared to wind down her motorsport career.

As well as rallying, she proved a capable record-breaker and road-racer, winning her class on the 1956 Mille Miglia. She drove a Sunbeam Rapier with Peter Harper, and was 72nd overall. She was persuaded out of retirement for the 1957 Mille Miglia, again in a Rapier, with David Humphrey, but did not finish this time. Her record-breaking happened in 1953; during the Monte Carlo Rally, she hit 120mph in her Sunbeam, on the Jabbeke highway in Belgium.

After her competition career was over, Sheila helped her father with operations at the Windmill, and was its general manager between his death in 1960, and its eventual closure in 1964. After that, she retired to a farm with Nona, although she remained in touch with her old world through her Vogue motoring column, and her presidency of the Doghouse Club, for “motorsport wives and ladies”.
She died in 1987.

(Image copyright Bournemouth Daily Echo)

Monday, 27 December 2010

Women in Formula One - the results


Maria Teresa de Filippis

This post gives a complete set of results for female drivers in the Formula One World Championship.

1958
Monaco
Maria Teresa de Filippis (Maserati 250F) - DNQ
Belgium
Maria Teresa de Filippis (Maserati 250F) - 10th
Portugal
Maria Teresa de Filippis (Maserati 250F) - DNF
Italy
Maria Teresa de Filippis (Maserati 250F) - DNF

1959
Monaco
Maria Teresa de Filippis (Behra Porsche F2) - DNQ

1974
Great Britain
Lella Lombardi (Brabham BT42) - DNQ


1975
South Africa
Lella Lombardi (March 741) - DNF
Spain
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - 6th
Monaco
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - DNQ
Belgium
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - DNF
Sweden
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - DNF
The Netherlands
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - 14th
France
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - 18th
Great Britain
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - DNF
Germany
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - 7th
Austria
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - 17th
Italy
Lella Lombardi (March 751) - DNF
United States
Lella Lombardi (Williams FW04) - qualified, but not allowed to start.

1976
Brazil
Lella Lombardi (March 761) - 14th
Great Britain
Lella Lombardi (Brabham BT44B) - DNQ
Divina Galica (Surtees TS16) - DNQ
Germany
Lella Lombardi (Brabham BT44B) - DNQ
Austria
Lella Lombardi (Brabham BT44B) - DNQ

1978
Argentina
Divina Galica (Hesketh 308E) - DNQ
Brazil
Divina Galica (Hesketh 308E) - DNQ

1980
Great Britain
Desiré Wilson (Williams FW07) - DNQ

1992
South Africa
Giovanna Amati (Brabham BT60B) - DNQ
Mexico
Giovanna Amati (Brabham BT60B) - DNQ
Brazil
Giovanna Amati (Brabham BT60B) - DNQ

(Image copyright Hulton/Getty Images)

Friday, 24 December 2010

Women in the Indianapolis 500


(L-R: Milka Duno, Sarah Fisher, Lyn St.James, Billie Jean King, Danica Patrick)

The first running of the Indianapolis 500, at the Brickyard circuit, happened in 1911. However, it remained a firmly male-only bastion until the 1970s. It was not until the start of the decade that women were permitted into the pitlane as journalists or team staff, partly due to the persistence of women journalists such as Denise McCluggage.

Although female drivers had made specially-sanctioned promotional appearances at the Brickyard as early as 1935, it was not until 1976 that they were allowed to participate in its blue riband event. Janet Guthrie was the first woman driver to pass her rookie test.

In more recent history, the Indianapolis 500 has been one of the few elite motorsport events routinely entered by multiple women racers.

Below is a list of all the appearances by female drivers in the Indy 500.

1976
Janet Guthrie (Coyote-Foyt) - DNQ

1977
Janet Guthrie (Lightning-Offenhauser) - 29th

1978
Janet Guthrie (Wildcat-DGS) - 9th

1979
Janet Guthrie (Lola-Cosworth) - 34th

1980
Janet Guthrie (Lightning-Cosworth) - DNQ

1982
Desiré Wilson (Eagle-Cosworth) - DNQ (withdrawn)

1983
Desiré Wilson (March 82C-Cosworth) - DNQ

1992
Lyn St. James (Lola-Chevrolet) - 11th

1993
Lyn St.James (Lola-Cosworth) - 25th

1994
Lyn St.James (Lola-Cosworth) - 19th

1995
Lyn St.James (Lola-Cosworth) - 32nd

1996
Lyn St.James (Lola-Cosworth) - 14th

1997
Lyn St. James (Dallara-Infiniti) - 13th

1998
Lyn St. James (G Force-Infiniti) - DNQ

1999
Lyn St. James (G Force-Oldsmobile) - DNQ

2000
Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Oldsmobile) - 31st
Lyn St. James (G Force-Oldsmobile) - 32nd

2001
Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Oldsmobile) - 31st

2002
Sarah Fisher (G Force-Infiniti) - 24th

2003
Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Chevrolet) - 31st

2004
Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Toyota) - 21st

2005
Danica Patrick (Panoz-Honda) - 4th

2006
Danica Patrick (Panoz-Honda) - 8th

2007
Danica Patrick (Dallara-Honda) - 8th
Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Honda) - 18th
Milka Duno (Dallara-Honda) - 31st

2008
Milka Duno (Dallara-Honda) - 19th
Danica Patrick (Dallara-Honda) - 22nd
Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Honda) - 30th

2009
Danica Patrick (Dallara-Honda) - 3rd
Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Honda) - 17th
Milka Duno (Dallara-Honda) - 20th

2010
Danica Patrick (Dallara-Honda) - 6th
Simona de Silvestro (Dallara-Honda) - 14th
Ana Beatriz (Dallara-Honda) - 21st
Sarah Fisher (Dallara-Honda) - 26th
Milka Duno (Dallara-Honda) - DNQ

2011
Danica Patrick - 10th
Pippa Mann - 20th
Ana Beatriz - 21st
Simona de Silvestro - DNF
(all Dallara-Honda)

2012
Katherine Legge (Dallara-Chevrolet) - 22nd
Ana Beatriz (Dallara-Chevrolet) - 23rd
Simona de Silvestro (Dallara-Lotus) - DNF

2013
Ana Beatriz (Honda) - 15th
Simona de Silvestro (Chevrolet) - 17th
Katherine Legge (Honda) - 26th
Pippa Mann (Honda) - 30th/DNF

2014
Pippa Mann (Dallara) - 24th

2015
Simona de Silvestro (Honda) - 19th
Pippa Mann (Honda) - 22nd

2016
Pippa Mann (Honda) - 18th

(Image from www.motorsport.com)

Friday, 10 December 2010

Maria Antonietta d'Avanzo


The Baronessa in a 1922 Bugatti T29


Baronessa Maria Antonietta d’Avanzo was a pioneering driver of the 1920s. She was born in 1889, and learned to drive very young, encouraged by her father. When she married, later, her husband, Eustacio d’Avanzo, also encouraged her driving talents, and bought her a 35hp Spa sportscar to race. Her first big race was the 1919 Giro del Lazio, and she won her class, despite having to replace an errant wheel during the event.


She arrived fully on the scene in 1920, entering the Targa Florio in a Buick. Like many other entrants that year, she did not make the finish, retiring during her third lap.

In 1921, she drove an Ansaldo 4CS in Italy. This was as a reserve driver, as another team member had dropped out. She was team-mate to Tazio Nuvolari. At the Circuito del Gardo she was seventh, third in class, while another lost wheel put her out of the Circuito di Mugello. She also drove an Alfa Romeo ES to a third place finish in a "Gentlemans'" Race in Brescia, during Speed Week. Paradoxically, she finished Speed Week with the Coupe des Dames. In another American car, an enormous twelve-cylinder aero-engined Packard, she entered the speed trials at Fano beach in Denmark. Here, she was notable for surviving a fire to her car, partly due to her quick thinking in driving the burning Packard off the dunes and into the sea. The car, and by token, its driver, caught the attention of a young Enzo Ferrari.

Her second Targa attempt came in 1922, in the Alfa this time. Again, she did not finish.

It is here that the Baronessa disappears from the scene for a few years. In 1925, she is said to have raced in Australia, but few actual results have ever surfaced. Contemporary newspaper articles state that she definitely stayed there for some time in 1924. There is one report of her driving an Essex in a “match race” at Penrith Speedway, although this may have been an exhibition. During this time, she took part in some of her other adventurous activities, such as flying, and wrote articles about sport for various publications.

She returned to Europe. and motorsport, in 1926. According to some sources, she raced a Mercedes in that year’s Coppa della Perugina.

Later, in 1928, she entered her first Mille Miglia, driving a Chrysler Tipo 72 with Manuel de Teffé. They did not finish, after a mechanical failure. The following year, she and Carlo Bruno retired early on, driving an Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS.

After a break in 1930, she made another attempt at the Mille Miglia, in a Bugatti T43, driving with Carlo Castelbarco. Once again, the treacherous Italian roads denied them. Back in the Alfa, she scored a third in the Coppa Pierazzi, and another third in the Grosseto-Scansano hillclimb.

1932 saw her final try at the Mille Miglia. This time, she was part of the official Scuderia Ferrari entry, driving an Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Spider Touring with Francesco Severi. Sadly, they did not finish. There was disappointment later in the year, also. She was invited over to the USA by Ralph de Palma, to test his Miller Special at Indianapolis. Regulations forbade women from racing, but she would be allowed to do some demonstration laps. Unfortunately, she struggled with the car, having not handled a huge American racer for years, and did not post good times. She returned to Italy before she was due to make her appearance.

After that, she began to wind down her motorsport career, and made only a few starts. Some sources have her as a driver in the 1933 Targa Abruzzi, but her choice of car is unclear. She definitely entered the 1938 Targa in a Stanguellini Fiat 1500, but probably did not finish. Her last recorded race was the 1939 Tobruk-Tripoli race, driving a Fiat. She was sixth in the 1100cc class, ahead of the other Italian female competitor, Lia Comirato Dumas.

In 1940, she is listed as an entrant for the Mille Miglia, driving a Fiat 1100 with Angelo Della Cella. They did not make the start.

Throughout her life, as a social personality, journalist and writer, Maria Antonietta was a vocal supporter of female drivers, on the track and on the public roads. She was adopted as a heroine by early Italian feminists. As well as this, she had many friends and allies in the male-dominated motorsport world, such as De Palma and Enzo Ferrari.

She died in 1977.

(Image from http://www.bugattipage.com/)



Monday, 6 December 2010

Shelley Wakeling



Shelley is a multiple British rallycross championship winner. Her father is Richard Wakeling, a car preparation expert and rallycross competitor. Her brother, Paul Wakeling, also competes in rallycross, usually in a different class. She began racing in Minicross in 2004, after some time in Autograss.

She was sixth overall in her first season, with a best finish of sixth at Mondello Park. In 2005, she was fifth in her second. During her third season, 2006, she was runner-up, after achieving her first win at Blyton, the last meeting of the year.

A new car for the 2007 season allowed her to raise her game, and she walked away with the championship after four wins. A trip across to the continent resulted in a fifth place at Maasmechelen, in Belgium.

She defended her crown in style in 2008, winning with one race to spare. Her “A” Final win tally was increased to five. As well as the UK Minicross championships, she has also competed in Europe again. Her team entered the non-championship event at Eurocircuit in the Netherlands, and was rewarded with another win from Shelley, plus a fourth place for Richard.

In 2009, she moved up to the Procar 2000 class in a Honda Civic, and was third overall, despite missing the first rounds, as her car was not ready. Her other results varied between second and fourth. 

Her second season in this championship gave her another title to add to her collection, the BTRDA Modified 2000 trophy. This time, she was competing against much more powerful cars in the same races, so only managed one win, but she was consistently the best in her class. This also gave her an overall win in the BTRDA Clubmans series. This is a first for a female driver.


In 2011, she stepped up again to the British Super National class, in the improved Honda. Competition was much more intense this time, and she did not manage any wins, but she was ninth overall in the championship, with a  best result of eighth. Competing in the BTRDA series in the top Supermodified category, she managed two third places in the two meeting she entered.


In 2012, she aimed to be more competitive in Super National, and her Honda was fitted with a supercharger to improve performances. She contested four of the six rounds, and her best overall finish was fifth, at Pembrey. This was good for eighth place on the final leaderboard. She would have completed the season, but a broken differential on the Civic prevented this. It followed a big roll at Lydden Hill, from second place, although the car was rebuilt after this.

Shelley was less in evidence on the British rallycross scene in 2013, entering only a few races. She did travel to the Netherlands in July, finishing second and fourth in two of her races. She also took part in some autograss events, in a Class 14 Buggy. However, most of her motoring activity was as a part of Terry Grant's stunt show, with which she toured around Europe. 

The Honda Civic was still in her possession, in the process of being overhauled for the 2014 season, but she does not appear to have competed at all in 2014. She was still involved in an administrative capacity, for the British Minicross Drivers' Association. 

She returned to the circuits in 2015, racing a Mini in five of the seven rounds of the BTRDA Rallycross championship. She won the Clubmans series Classic Mini championship.

In 2016, she appears to have done at least one BTRDA rallycross meeting, earning second and third places at Blyton, driving a Mini. She was fourth in the Minicross standings.

Shelley also appeared on an episode of Top Gear, in a segment about rallycross, racing against Richard Hammond in her old Mini. She was referred to as "Gary The Girl".

(Image from www.revivals59.com)

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Joan Richmond


Joan was an Australian race and rally driver. Born in 1905, she began her motoring adventures in trials and speed events in 1926, driving a Citroen. Early in her career, she was fifth in the 1931 Australian Grand Prix at Philip Island, driving an Austin Seven. She also drove a Riley 9 during her time on the Australian circuits.


Her first rally was Monte Carlo in 1932, again, driving a Riley. This was her first introduction to European motorsport, and she did not take the easy route in. Joan and some other competitors took Australia as their start point, and drove overland all the way to Monaco, for the start of the rally. She was 17th overall. Still in the Riley, she drove in the RAC Rally later in the year.

That year, Joan achieved considerable fame by winning the Brooklands 1000 Mile race with Elsie Wisdom. The duo were driving a Riley Brooklands, and lapped the circuit at 90 miles per hour. The BARC, the governing club, had only just permitted female teams to enter their events, and Joan and Elsie were the circuit’s first major female winners.

In 1933, Joan purchased a 3000cc Ballot from 1921, previously raced by Malcolm Campbell. Although she impressed onlookers with her handling of the car, it was unwieldy and unreliable, as well as being out of date, and she was not able to challenge for victories. Never one to take the easy way out, she persevered with the Ballot for two seasons, but did not achieve anything notable. It was sold in 1935. The Riley was retained for rallies, and gave Joan a thirteenth place in the Light Car class of the 1933 RAC Rally, navigated by Kay Petre.

Joan’s next car was a Triumph, which she used in a JCC relay event at Brooklands. Later in the year, she drove a Frazer Nash in a Ladies’ Mountain Handicap, and was second. In between, she made the trip to Le Mans with Eveline Gordon-Simpson, as part of the “Dancing Daughters” MG works team. Their car was a P-Type and they were 24th overall, the first “Daughters” car home.

In 1936, it was back to competing at Brooklands in the Triumph. She also entered the Tourist Trophy in Ireland with Francis Monkhouse, but did not get to drive their Aston Martin. As well as her circuit-based activities, she attacked the rally calendar with relish, tackling the Monte Carlo, RAC and Scottish rallies, as well as the Land’s End Trial. In the Triumph, she was third in class in Monte Carlo and won her class in the RAC.

The Triumph too was sold for the 1937 season, and Joan did some Brooklands events in an HRG. However, this car was not quite up to the fast-advancing standards of modern racing vehicles, and she was not terribly competitive. Back at Le Mans, she fared better, sharing Bill Bilney’s Ford Ten and finishing fourteenth. She and Bill were an item at the time, although the relationship was short-lived, as he was killed in an accident later in the year at Donington. Joan was his co-driver, in her own AC. Her involvement with motorsport continued, but on a lesser scale than before, up to 1939. She is recorded as a finisher in the 1938 Imperial Plate at Crystal Palace, driving a Frazer Nash. Throughout her career, she drove in trials and speed events, and in 1937, she teamed up with Robert Waddy to drive his twin-engined “Fuzzi” special. She was third in class at Shelsley Walsh, but could not catch Kay Petre for the Ladies’ Record.

During the war, Joan worked in aircraft manufacturing, like many of her contemporaries. After peace was restored, she did not return to motor racing, and settled once more in Australia, where she died in 1999.

(Image from http://www.sportscars.tv/)