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.

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

 (Image from www.uppsalabilder.se)

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