Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Female Rally Drivers After 1950: Belgium

Vicky van de Walle and navigator Michelle Demeestere with the Mini Cooper, in 2013

Belgium's most successful female driver, Melissa Debackere, has her own profile here.

Daisy Cols - former Belgian driver. She competed in the Belgian Division Two Championship in a Fiat Punto in 2003, as part of a team with her brother, Larry. In 2004, she continued in the Fiat and won the Coupe des Dames and Class A7 in the Boucles de Spa. She repeated her A7 win in the Rallye de Wallonie. Her career began in 1999, driving a Citroen Saxo.

Evelien de Corte – competed on and off in the Ford Fiesta Sport Trophy in Belgium, between 2011 and 2013. She began rallying at the age of 20, in 2010, in a Peugeot 106, and drove a Renault Twingo in the Moorslede rallypsrint in 2011. As a Fiesta Sport Trophy driver, her best 2011 result was 30th, in the Criterium section of the TAC Rally. After 2011, her funding started to run out, and she only managed the Rally of Wallonie in 2012, in which she was 61st. In 2013, she finished the Geko Ypres Rally in 53rd place, but did not compete for the rest of the season. Her website is no longer being updated. 

Valina Dechamps - driver and  co-driver who usually competes in rallysprint and Belgian club events. She was her club’s female champion in 2011 and 2012. In recent years, she has driven a Peugeot 206 and 306. In 2006 and 2007, she competed in some major Belgian rallies, in a Toyota Yaris. She was 39th in the 2007 East Belgian Rally and 104th in the 2006 Rallye Condroz-Huy. Her club activities often seem to be in the Hannut region. On the navigation side, she sat with Sebastien Honnay in the Micky Rallysprint in 2013. She remained active as a driver in 2014, competing the Achene Rallysprint at least, in a Peugeot 306. In 2015, she rallied a Peugeot 207, but did not finish any of the events she entered. 

Aurélie Dehaye - Belgian driver, active since 2006. Her first car was a VW Polo, which she used in Belgian rallies. She continued to rally a Polo for the next couple of seasons, and by 2008, she was winning her class. Both the Rally of Wallonie and the East Belgian Rally gave her N1 wins. After a break, she returned in 2012 in a VW Golf, and immediately scored her first top-twenty finish, an eleventh in the Criterium section of the Rally of Wallonie. She carried on entering major stage rallies in 2013, but also some more rallysprints, in which she was quite successful, finishing second in the Rallye Sprint Winning and fifth in the Villersois event. She continued to rally a Golf and a VW Polo in 2014 and 2015. In 2015, she was twelfth in the Trois-Ponts Rally, in the Golf. This event was her best rally in 2016, too, and she was fifth, in the Golf. She finished in the top twenty in three more Belgian rallies in 2016. In 2017, she took a leap forward in terms of results. She picked up her first podium, a third in the Achene Rallysprint, and was fourth in the Trois-Ponts Rally. These were two of four top-ten finishes she had. Her car the still the VW. She continued to shine in rallysprints in 2018, finishing second in the Villersois event. Her navigator is Eddy Gully.

Julie Devalet - won the Citroen Racing Junior Trophy in Belgium in 2013. She won her class in the three rounds that she entered: the Ypres Rally, Rallye du Condroz and East Belgian Rally. Her car was a Citroen DS3 R1. She also drove in the Luxembourg Rally, and was 30th overall. Her usual navigator, Jennifer Thielen, was Luxembourgish. Previously, she did some Belgian rallies in 2006, in a Skoda Fabia. She also navigated from 2004 onwards, and helped her partner Caren Burton to second overall in the 2013 Rallye des Trois-Ponts. In 2014, she rallied in Belgium and Luxembourg, in the Citroen. Her best finish was 43rd, with a class win, in the Rally of Luxembourg. In 2015, she switched between driving an navigation, in Belgian rallies. As a driver, she used an Opel Adam, and was 39th in the East Belgian Rally. In 2016, she did some co-driving, but her only outing behind the wheel was as the course car in the Spa Rally. In 2019, she rallied a Skoda Fabia R2 in the Herock Spa Rally, finishing 28th.

Christelle Fameree - has competed on and off in Belgium since at least 2000. She has driven or co-driven in at least 16 runnings of the Rallye du Condroz, in cars including an Opel/Vauxhall Astra and a Peugeot 106. In 2013, she was 77th, in a Peugeot 207. Apart from major rallies, she is a regular in club and lower-level events, including rallysprints. She has entered the Micky Rallysprint on several occasions, and was 41st in 2013. In 2014, she was thirteenth in the Criterium section of the Rallye de Wallonie, in the 207. Another season in the 207, in 2015, was mainly rallysprints, and she competed exclusively in rallysprints in 2016. In 2017, she tried some multi-stage events again, the Condroz-Huy and Wallonie rallies. 2018 was similar and she had a best finish of 25th in the Haillot rallysprint. She did more stage rallies in 2019, including the Wallonie and Condroz-Huy events. She is from a rallying family: her father and partner prepare her cars, and she is navigated by her mother, Arlette Faniel. 

Dorothée Jacquemin - rallied mostly in France and Belgium in the 1980s and early 1990s. Her earliest car was a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, which she used between 1983 and 1985. Her best result in it was a ninth place in the Rallye Internationale Charlemagne in France, in 1985. In 1987, she started driving a Peugeot 205, and in 1988, the focus of her motorsport activities switched to France. She achieved two more top-ten finishes during her career: a fifth in the Charlemagne event in 1988, and a ninth in the Picardie National Rally in 1989, both in the Peugeot. In 1992, she had one last season, and rallied a Citroen AX Sport in Europe, including a run in the Manx International Rally in the UK. She was 35th. Between 1989 and 1992, she was ladies’ champion of France in Division 2. Her husband, Jean-Marie Jacquemin, was also a rally driver. Much earlier, Dorothée occasionally acted as his navigator.

Patricia Nijs - driver and co-driver who has moved between the two roles. She first appears in the Belgian championship in 2004, navigating for Phil Nijs. In 2006, she had a season as a driver, competing in the Belgian championship and the Ypres Westhoek Rally, a round of the IRC and European Championship. In this rally, she drove a Ford Fiesta, and was 60th overall. Her best result was 19th, seventh in class, in the Rally of Haspengouw, in a Subaru Impreza WRX. In 2013, she returned to the stages in a different Impreza, and was 22nd in the Shortrally of Suikerstreek and 19th in the Rally van Sint-Truiden. She made a one-off return in 2017, driving the Impreza in the Criterium Jean-Louis Dumont. 

Magali Schutz – Belgian driver and co-driver who has been competing since at least 2005. For most of her career, she has remained in the co-driver’s seat, but she began driving herself in 2015. Her first car was a Citroen Saxo, which she mostly used in rallysprints. In 2016, she used a Peugeot 206 and a Renault Clio, finishing most of her events. Her best result was a 39th overall, in the Boucles Clavieroises, driving the Peugeot. She was also second in class in the Villersois Rallysprint, in the Clio. 2017 was spent doing some rallysprints in the Clio. 

Vicky van de Walle - long-time navigator who has recently switched to the driver’s seat. She has been co-driving since at least 1999, and was Hans Vancampenhoudt’s regular navigator in 2000. She also co-drove Melissa Debackere, and did a one-off rally with her in 2013. She had her first driving experience in a Mini in 2011, in the Tour of Flanders, with a Mini. She did not finish. In 2013, in another Mini Cooper, she did four rounds of the Belgian championship, plus the Rally of Luxembourg. Her best finish was 29th, in the ORC Canal Rally, which was won by Melissa Debackere. She drove the Mini again in 2014, and was 55th in the 6 Uren van Kortrijk. In 2015, she returned to co-driving, in historic rallies. 

(Image from


Monday, 17 March 2014

Jill Robinson

Jill in the Alpine-Renault, in the 1972 RAC Rally

Jill was one of Britain's leading lady drivers in the 1970s. She was a regular entrant in the major British rallies, and also competed quite extensively abroad, particularly in Finland. Although she never achieved the stellar results of Pat Moss or Rosemary Smith, whose careers overlapped with hers, she was capable of holding her own on a special stage, and was able to draw upon considerable resources and contacts to support her motorsport activities.

Born Jill (Margaret) Simpson, she was part of the Simpson family who were the “Simpson” in “Clarke & Simpson”, an upmarket Ford dealership in London. Her sister, Judy, was also a rally driver, although she took it up some years after Jill. Jill herself seems to have started competing some time after her first marriage, and the birth of at least one child, a daughter.

On the international stage, she competed in the RAC Rally seven times. Her first RAC Rally was in 1969, and she drove a BMW 2002 TI with Audrey Scott. They were 58th overall and won the Ladies’ Cup. In 1970, she entered again, this time in a Ford Escort RS 1600. She would continue to drive Escorts of various kinds throughout her career. In this particular one, she is not recorded as a finisher. Her navigator was Frances Cobb. They renewed their partnership in 1971’s RAC Rally, in a similar car, but again, did not finish. The duo also did the Ypres Rally together, in an Escort RS1600 run by Clarke & Simpson. They also drove in the Dukeries Rally, finishing 49th in the Escort. That year, Jill, with local co-driver Leila Loukimo alongside, entered her first 1000 Lakes Rally, in a Twin Cam Escort. They were 42nd overall, and second female crew, behind the experienced and local Eeva Heinonen.

In 1972, Jill started her season back in Finland, for the Arctic Rally. She and Kirsti Pätiälä retired in their Twin Cam Escort. For a change, Jill drove an Alpine-Renault A110 in the Daily Mirror RAC Rally, alongside Dilys Rodgers. They do not appear to have finished.

Jill’s most famous rallying exploit came in 1973, during the Daily Mirror RAC Rally. In a Ford Escort Mexico, she was roped into driving alongside the now-disgraced DJ Jimmy Savile, which did not end well. They dropped out very early on, after performing quite poorly. That year, she also teamed up with Frances Cobb again for the Avon Tour of Britain, a Tour de France style combination of rally sections and circuit races. They drove a Ford Cortina and do not appear to have finished.

The following year, she returned to the RAC Rally with a more skilled navigator, Dilys Rodgers. They drove a Ford Escort RS1600, and were 52nd overall. Later in the year, Jill moved away from Ford power temporarily, and drove an Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV in the 1000 Lakes Rally. Her navigator was Kirsti Airikkala, a British-based Finn who was married to Pentti Airikkala, another entrant into the rally. Pentti was sponsored by Clarke & Simpson, and both Jill and Kirsti would drive under Castrol sponsorship. Jill and Kirsti were 80th overall, but third in the one-litre class. They was also third in the ladies’ standings, behind her regular rival, Eeva Heinonen, and Trine Jensen.

Another attempt at the RAC Rally in 1975, assisted by Dilys Rodgers and in a Ford Escort RS1800 this time, ended in retirement again. She was part of an Avon Tyres-backed team with Russell Close. The following year, she had her best RAC Rally result of her career: 28th, and winner of the Coupe des Dames. She was driving an RS1800 with Pauline Gullick. During the summer, she made another trip to Finland, for the Hankiralli this time, driving an RS2000. She did not finish.
Her programme was similar in 1977. This time, she finished the Hankirally in 39th place, driving an RS2000 with Ian Parry. She was 47th in that year’s RAC Rally, in another Escort, with Dorothy Selby-Boothroyd. This year, she was also active in British rallies, and was part of Team Castrol in the British championship, driving an RS1600 with Dilys Rodgers.
By 1978, her career was winding down, and she only appears to have driven in one major rally this year. She was 40th in the Safari Rally in an Escort RS2000, co-driven by another experienced local, Yvonne Pratt.
In 1979, she did her last big international events. One was her debut visit to the Rally of Madeira, which she does not appear to have finished. Another was the Sunriser Forest Rally in the USA. Jill drove an ex-Rod Millen Datsun 510, with Pauline Gullick. They did not finish. This deal was partly arranged by Jill’s partner, David Sutton, a rally driver and preparation expert. Some time after this, the couple married. Jill and David sometimes competed together, and David, a former sales manager at Clarke & Simpson, was instrumental in brokering some of Jill’s drives. He took over Clarke & Simpson in 1975, which became David Sutton Cars.
In 1979, Jill’s daughter, whose name is not forthcoming, attempted to start her own rally career in the Fabergé Fiesta Challenge. She was eliminated in the preliminary rounds. Jill and David are still together, and live in Northamptonshire.

 (Photo by, and copyright of, Tony Gardiner) 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Ramona Karlsson

Ramona and Miriam (left) after their Uppsala win

Ramona is Sweden’s most successful modern female driver, emulating and surpassing the triumphs of Ewy Rosqvist in the 1960s.
She was interested in motorsport from a very early age, and competed in motocross, kart-cross and rallycross as a junior driver. She won championships in both junior rallycross, and kart-cross, before commencing her rally career in 2001. In addition to her motorsport activities, she was also a junior champion in pistol shooting in Sweden.
She was fairly young when she started stage rallying seriously, 23 years old, and her first rallies were completed in a Saab 900, as were those of many Swedish drivers of the last twenty years or so. In 2004, she was 60th in the Kullingstrofén with Henrik Darius.
The Saab was exchanged for a newer Volkswagen Golf in 2005, although it did not prove to be much faster. Her second attempt at the Kullingstrofén gave her 70th place this time. She retired from the Silverratten rally. An Audi 90 Quattro, a prophetic but not particularly well-suited rally car, also proved rather fragile, and she retired from the 2006 Kullingstrofén rally. A year on the sidelines followed.
By 2008, Ramona had managed to invest in a more powerful car, a Subaru Impreza. By now, she was running her own rally team. She was also supported by Subaru Sweden for some of her events, including the South Swedish Rally, in which she was 30th, and her first WRC event, Rally Sweden. She was 40th, and 29th in her class. In between these two events, she drove in the Kvarnturen Rally, and was a career-best tenth. This year, she also developed a partnership with Miriam Walfridsson, her new co-driver and a member of the Walfridsson rallying clan.
In 2009, she drove for Pelle Palmqvist’s team in a Mitusbishi Lancer Evo 5 and 9, competing in Group N. She won her class in at least one round of the KMK Trofen, in the Evo 5. Her only big rally of the year seems to have been the South Swedish Rally, from which she retired.
In 2010, she picked up sponsorship from Mattel's Barbie brand, and competed in the Swedish championship once more, as well as making a visit to the UK for the Trackrod Rally, and Norway for the Rally Sorland. Unfortunately, she did not finish either. Driving a Lancer Evo 9, her best result was fourth, in the Gastabudstrofen. Her next rally, the Kvarnturen rally, gave her a seventh place. Later, she was twelfth in the KMK Trofen.
The Lancer was upgraded to an Evo X model for 2011. Ramona was immediately on the pace, finishing fifth in the Vinterpokalen. After a retirement from the Rally Sweden SM round, she was also sixth on the snow, in the Fäviken Winter Rally. After another retirement from the South Swedish Rally, she scored her third top ten of the season, finishing tenth in the AM-Tryck Snapphanerally. Fourteenth in the East Swedish Rally followed, and then two trips abroad: the Rally of Poland and the Lausitz Rally in Germany. She finished the Polish event in 23rd, third in class.
Encouraged by her improving form and the sponsorship and exposure it brought,  she contested the Production WRC in 2012, driving a Mitsubishi Evo X, run by her own team. She managed four rounds: Mexico, Argentina, New Zealand and Germany. She started quite well, with 18th place in Mexico (sixth in the PWRC standings), but did not finish in Argentina, due to car trouble. In New Zealand, she became the first female driver to record a PWRC stage win, and was running in a consistent 18th/19th place, but her car caught fire, forcing her and Miriam to evacuate it and run away during stage 15. Neither was hurt. They had a functional car again for Germany, but went out on the second stage with a mechanical problem.
In 2013, she acquired a Skoda Fabia WRC car, which, after she got used to it, was used to great effect in Swedish rallies. Her first two events, the Tractive Rallysprint and the Vinterpokalen, were distinctly underwhelming in terms of results, but by the time the Östersund Winter Rally came around, Ramona had got to grips with the Fabia, and was ninth overall. Over the season, she just kept getting better, finishing sixth in the South Swedish Rally, fifth in the Snapphanerallyt and third in the East Sweden Rally. Her season culminated in her first win, in the Uppsala Rally. She was runner-up in the Swedish championship.
For 2014, Ramona decided to move away from rallying, despite her success in 2013. She raced in the World Rallycross Championship, as its first female driver. As a way to raise funds for this, she offered her services as a taxi driver to Swedish marketing people in December 2013.

Her first year as a rallycross driver was hard-going, going straight into the Supercar class, and competing against former WRC stars, such as Petter Soblerg, and experienced rallycross professionals. She used both a Saab 9-3 and a Peugeot 208. She was only 39th in the championship, scoring some points at the Montalegre round. She did not enter all of the races, and had a mid-season gap where she switched teams.
In 2015, she continued in rallycross, and drove a Volkswagen Scirocco, run by her own RamonaRX team. This was the first time a female-run team had entered the World Rallycross Championship, although she only got to enter one round, in Sweden. She spent most of the season in the European Supercar series, where she was 23rd overall, with a best finish of fourteenth, in Germany.

She sat out the 2016 competition season, due to pregnancy, but remained involved in motorsport as the Marketing Director for the World Rallycross Championship.

In 2017, she returned to rallycross, and earned several top-ten finishes in the Nordic RallyX championship. Her car was a Volkswagen.

She sat out 2018 due to pregnancy.

She is a member of the FIA's Women In Motorsport Commission.

 (Image from

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Female Rally Drivers Around the World: Switzerland

Stéphanie le Coultre and Sonia Boi

Circuit racing is illegal in Switzerland, but it has some rallies, and an active rally championship based mainly in France and Italy. Swiss drivers also compete in other championships.

Stéphanie le Coultre - Swiss driver, active in major rallies since 2007. Her first car was a Citroen Saxo VTS, which she used in events in Switzerland itself and France. Her first finish in a major rally came in 2008, when she was 37th in the International Rallye du Valais, in Switzerland. In 2009, she entered the Valais rally again, but could not drive because her navigator, Sarah Dussex, was ill. After this, she exchanged the Citroen for a Fiat Abarth 500. When she shifted the focus of her rally activities to Italy, her results really started improving. In 2011, her best result was 19th, in the Rallye Antibes Côte d’Azur in France. She was also 34th in the Rally Appenino Reggiano. Mid-season, she entered her first IRC rally, the San Remo Rally, but did not finish. After a quiet season in 2012, where she changed car again, to a Suzuki Swift, and gained a new navigator, Sonia Boi, They attacked the Italian Suzuki Rally Cup together in 2013, driving partly for Team Nyonnais and partly for Butterfly Motorsport. Stéphanie’s best result was 17th in the Mille Miglia National Rally, fifth in class and ninth in the Suzuki Cup. Her best Suzuki Cup finish was eighth, in the Sanremo Leggende Rally. She was 34th overall. As well as rallying, she also competes in hillclimbs occasionally. In 2014, she did not do any driving, but navigated for Jean-Marie Renaud. She became a mother in 2016.

Maude Crepin - Swiss rallyist active as a driver in French rallies since 2009. She began as a slalom driver, before entering rallying as a navigator in 2008. In 2009, she competed in four French national rallies in a Citroen Saxo, as well as hillclimbs, slaloms and even circuit racing. The following year, her programme extended to six rallies, still in the Citroen. She managed to finish some rallies, although she was still learning, and had problems with tyres. In 2011, she entered the Saxo into both gravel and tarmac events, with tarmac giving her a best finish of 37th in the Rallye du Gard. Her best gravel finish was 77th, in the Terre des Causes rally. In 2012, she was less active, but drove a Peugeot 106 in some French rallies, including the Rallye des Vins du Gard. She seems to have done some navigation in 2013. In 2014, she returned to the driver's seat, in the Swiss Rally Ronde del Ticino, and the French Rallye Terre des Cardabelles. She won her class in the French event, driving a Ford Fiesta. She was 67th overall. In 2015, she did some rallies in a Citroen Saxo, and finished the Fourme d'Ambert Rally in 100th place. She used the Saxo for one rally in 2016, the Terre des Cardabelles, but mostly drove a Peugeot 206. In this car, she had her best result, a 58th place in the Rallye National du Gard, fourth in class. In 2017, she did another rally in the Saxo, the Terre des Causses event in France. She was 65th out of 102 finishers. Another gravel outing in 2018, driving a Citroen DS3 R3T, ended in retirement. She entered the Rallye Terre de Vauclusebut dropped out on the second day with mechanical trouble.

Nathalie Golaz – Swiss driver who mostly competes in France. She began in 2007, driving a Peugeot 206 in France and Switzerland, taking on the Rallye du Valais in her first year. Her other cars have included a Toyota Yaris and a Peugeot 306. In 2013, she started to concentrate more on using bigger, Group N4 cars, such as a Subaru Impreza and a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6. She was quite effective with the Impreza in 2014, managing three Group N podiums in French regional rallies, and a fifteenth overall in the Ruppéen Rally. She was second in class. In 2015, she drove a WRC-spec Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9. Her best result was a 45th place, in the Monts de Vaucluse Rally. She used the Lancer again in 2016, and scored her best finish of the season in it: 23rd in the Bourgogne International Rally. She also rallied a Citroen C2 and a Ford Fiesta in French national and regional rallies, with mixed results. Until 2010, she was also a co-driver for several different drivers, and this is how her rally career began, in 1996.

Michela (Micky) Martinelli - Swiss driver active in the 1970s and 1980s. She often drove an Opel Kadett or an Alfa Romeo. One of her most famous drives was her 27th place in the 1981 Targa Florio, in the Kadett. She competed in the Italian championship that year and appears to have won the Ladies’ prize, ahead of Pierangela Riva. At some point prior to this, she won the Swiss championship as well. She is now active again in historic events, often in Italy. In 2015, she was seventh in the Rally Storico dell'Appenino, driving an Opel Kadett. She continued in historic events with the Kadett in 2016. 

Iris Thurnherr – Swiss driver with single-seater and rallying experience. She raced in the German junior formulae in 2002 and 2003, before taking up rallying with the Suzuki Ignis Cup. A season in the Swiss championship followed. She changed to a Swift in 2007, for the Suzuki Rallye Cup. She scored some good class podium places in European rallies as part of the Cup and was usually the fastest woman. Her class-winning ways in the Ignis continued into 2008, with an N2 win on the Rallye Pays du Gier, and she was first in class, second in group and 15th overall on the Rallye Oberehe. This time, she was driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 instead of the Ignis. In 2009, she continued with the Lancer, competing in German rallies, rallysprints, and the occasional circuit race. The situation was the same in 2010. Her best finish was third in the ADAC Rallye Oberehe.She drove in the Swiss championship in 2011, in an Evo VIII run by Emil Frey Motorsport. She was tenth overall, fourth in class, with a best finish of seventh, in the Rallye delle Valle Cuneesi.

(Image from