Friday, 30 May 2014

Eija Jurvanen

Eija and her navigator, Kari Jokinen, with the Sierra Cosworth in 1995

Eija Jurvanen was born in Finland in 1958. She seems to be rather a private lady, and not much biographical information is available about her. It is not even completely clear when she began her motorsport career.
By 1988, she was rallying in Finland, driving a Ford Escort. Results for this year are proving very hard to track down, but pictures exist of her on the Riihimaki Rally, rolling the Escort. The car is listed in some places as belonging to Eija and Ari Jurvanen, so it looks like she was from a rallying family. At various points in her career, she was sponsored by Teboil, a Finnish petroleum company with a long history of supporting rally drivers.
She started competing more seriously in 1989, when her name appears in the entry list for the Arctic Rally. She was 35th, driving an Audi 80 Quattro, co-driven by Marjo Berglund, who would be one of her most frequent navigators during her career. However, for the rest of the season, Maarit Laine sat beside her. They did the Rajd Polski in Poland together, and Eija’s first 1000 Lakes Rally. They did not finish either. She did do some other rallies in the Finnish championship, including the Nurmijarvi Rally and the NSM-Talvi Rally.
In 1990, she started competing in a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth, which is the car most associated with her. With Marjo Berglund, she secured her first 1000 Lakes finish, a 38th place, tenth in class.
She used the same car in 1991, and started the year with 28th in the Arctic Rally. A trip to Germany for the Rally Deutschland ended in retirement, but not long after, she bettered her 1000 Lakes result to 29th, 17th in Group A8. She must have taken part in some more Finnish rallies, whose results are not forthcoming; she is recorded as that year’s Finnish Ladies’ champion. There were a few strong female contenders during the early 1990s, such as Minna Sillankorva and Anne Vuorio, so this was a bit of an achievement.
In 1992, she made her move onto the World Rally Championship stages. With some impressive sponsorship in place, she entered seven WRC rounds, with the express aim of capturing the FIA Ladies’ title. For her first rally, Sweden, she drove a Mitsubishi Galant, and was 17th overall, running in Group N. After a gap, she drove the Group A-spec Sierra in the 1000 Lakes, and was 16th, her best finish there yet. She retired from the Rally of Australia, in the Sierra, and was beaten to the Ladies’ award by Jacquiline Dines, but as Jacquiline rarely competed outside Oceania, this did not affect her Ladies’ chances too much. She only had to start one non-European rally to qualify. A drive in the Bandama-Cote d’Ivoire Rally in a Mitusbishi Starion also ended in retirement, as it did for many of the crews, that year and other years. Back in the Sierra, she was 15th in Catalunya, one place ahead of Christine Driano, another rival. Another retirement from the RAC Rally, in the Sierra, was not enough for her to lose her official FIA Ladies’ championship. She only had to start seven events to retain her eligibility, and she retired very early on. This had also been the case in the Sanremo Rally.
After her WRC year, she went back to competing in Finland and northern Europe, still in the Sierra. In the snowy Hankiralli, she was ninth, her best result so far. She followed this up with 15th in the 1000 Lakes, eleventh in class. Much later in the year, in November, she travelled to nearby Estonia for the Saaremaa Rally. The trip paid off, as she won the event outright, and made history as the first female driver to do so. Although the Estonian championship was still finding its feet after the fall of the Eastern Bloc, this was still a win, and will have gone some way towards restoring credibility lost through her somewhat mercenary behaviour in 1992. She won by over a minute to her nearest rival, another Finn, Mikko Kallionaa, in a Mitsubishi Galant.
In 1994, she stuck to Finnish rallies, using the Sierra Cosworth. Even on the more competitive Finnish stage, her results continued to improve, with a twelfth in the Arctic Rally a decent start to the season. In the summer, she was 16th in the 1000 Lakes Rally, tenth in class. She also seems to have driven in other Finnish rallies, although the results are hard to find. As well as rallying, she did some driver training for the Teboil team, instructing other female drivers.
Things continued in the same vein in 1995, although she split her season between Finland and Estonia again. She was 17th in the Arctic Rally at Rovaniemi, then went over to Estonia for the Tallinn-Neste Rally, and was eighth. In September, she was fifth in the Lõuna-Eesti Rally. She did make a return to the Saaremaa Rally, but did not finish this time due to a broken clutch. In Finland, she also retired from the 1000 Lakes Rally. Away from international events, she took part in some more Finnish rallies, including the Talviralli in Jyväskylä.
1995 was her last year of competition, and after that, she fades from the motorsport scene, having achieved her ambition to take the FIA Ladies’ title. Her erstwhile rival, Minna Sillankorva, had re-taken her crown as Finland’s foremost female driver.
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Monday, 26 May 2014

Joan Newton Cuneo

Joan in the Knox Giantess, in 1911

Joan was born in 1876, to an industrial family who seemed to have both interest in technology, and a rather progressive attitude towards women’s involvement in it. Before she learned to drive a car, she apparently learned to drive a train; her family operated their own narrow-gauge line. She only got behind the wheel of a car after her marriage to Andrew Cuneo, and probably owned her first car, a Locomobile, in 1902. At first, she was driven around by a chauffeur, but she soon started to drive herself.  This story was recounted by Joan herself to the press, although she sometimes claimed that she had been driving for five years, making the date of her first car 1900.
Her competition career definitely did begin in 1905, almost certainly making her the earliest female motorsport competitor in the USA. The Frenchwoman, Camille du Gast, had tried to enter the New York-San Francisco road race in 1902, but her entry was not accepted. Joan chose the Glidden Cup Tour, a multi-surface, long-distance reliability trial over a thousand miles long, to make her debut. Her car was a White Steam Tourer, the most up-to-date 1905 model with 15 hp. Her team included her husband, and Lou Disbrow, her erstwhile chauffeur, as riding mechanic. She was the only female entrant, and attracted a lot of attention, particularly when she swerved into a stream, in order to avoid another driver reversing out of a dangerous spot. No-one was injured, and Joan carried on, apparently re-lighting the boiler herself, but there were photographers present, and it made the news. Later, despite running well, she was prevented from completing a hill-climbing section of the Tour by the organisers, who decided it was too dangerous for a woman driver. She eventually did the climb, but was not allowed to have her time recognised officially by the organising body, the American Automobile Association. This meant that she was not part of the official, “first class” classification for the Tour.
Later that year, she took part in her first circuit races. The biggest of these was at Atlantic City. This was meant to have been a thrilling match between Joan and another female racer, Mrs. Clarence C. Fitler, who had won races at Cape May. However, Mrs. Fitler pulled out. Joan was third in the one race she entered. Shortly afterwards, she was invited to try dirt track racing at Poughkeepsie, mainly doing demonstration runs.  After her Glidden Cup exploits, she was invited to various tracks and beach courses, and performed quite well. She secured her first win at the Point Breeze dirt oval, in the three-mile race, and was second in a one-mile race for light cars at Ventnor Beach.
Early in 1906, she bought a new car, a Maxwell Speedster. Her first competitive outing was the beach racing meet at Atlantic City, in March. This time, a female opponent was found for her, a Mrs. Ernest Rogers. Joan defeated her in their mile-long match race. She then went on to finish second in a mixed race, then set another ladies' speed record in an exhibition run, in the White. In April , back in the Maxwell, she drove in the Ventnor Beach races, winning the one-mile Trial for petrol-powered cars, and coming second in the one-mile race for that category. She was pleased with the Maxwell, and wanted to enter a second Glidden Tour, but instead, she spent much of the year accompanying her husband on business trips to Europe. There is no concrete evidence that she did any competitive motoring whilst there, although at least one contemporary source claims that she had a match race against the British driver, Dorothy Levitt (named as “Dorothy Revell”). Dorothy was big news in the UK at this time, so it is odd that no British media mention this race happening.
She returned to the States in September, in time do some auto gymkhanas, modelled after equestrian gymkhanas, and some more exhibition races. These included a run at a fairground short-track in Nyack.
For 1907, she acquired another new car, a Rainier touring model. Her first event was a 100-mile dirt track race at Bennings, a horse racing course. The Rainier proved highly unsuited to the short circuit’s corners, and was not quick enough. Joan finished, but in sixth and second-to-last place. The papers still published stories about her nevertheless, some of which were becoming more and more outlandish. The number of speeding tickets she received in the course of her adventures seemed to increase exponentially with every retelling of the story.
The Rainier was a poor choice for dirt-track racing, but its more generous suspension made it a more promising Glidden Tour car. Joan entered again in 1907, and encountered further opposition from the organisers. This time, a rule was made that to be eligible to win, drivers must be a member of an AAA-affiliated club. None of the appropriate clubs permitted female membership, which again excluded Joan from the full classification. She was undeterred by this and carried on anyway, going on to finish the Tour, now 1500 miles long. This was in spite of a series of car problems, including broken suspension, a bent rear axle and various punctures, at least one a full-on blowout. Later, sponsored by the Rainier motor company, she wrote a little book about her experiences during this event.
The Rainier was updated to the most recent spec for the 1908 Glidden Tour. The Tour was now almost 2000 miles long, and Joan was still one of its most newsworthy entrants. She was in the papers yet again after a near miss at a level crossing, where she only just skidded the car out of the way of a passing train. She and her crew were uninjured, and the car was not seriously damaged, unlike the level crossing’s fence. As she was now part of the Chicago Motor Club’s team, she was eligible for points and awards, and achieved a perfect score of 1000, as well as a gold medal from the AAA, and a silver cup for good sportsmanship. The Rainier was subsequently put on display in a showroom for some time, complete with Tour dirt and damage. It was called into action again in September, when Joan entered a two-day “Mechanical Efficiency Contest” around Long Island. Her five passengers were all women, something she often did. Her riding mechanic, Lou Disbrow, also competed, in another Rainier.
1909 saw the start of a partnership with Knox cars. Joan’s newest vehicle was a Knox Giant, with 50hp, a similar power output to the Rainier. She entered the inaugural Mardi Gras races in New Orleans, held in February. Initially, a match race was set up with another lady driver, Alice Byrd Potter, but she never showed up. Joan put her name down for every race for which she was eligible, and travelled to New Orleans with Andrew, Lou Disbrow and her two children. Her first event was a one-mile time trial, in which she was fourth. Later, in a ten-mile trial, she broke her own womens’ speed record. The first of her actual races seems to have been the 50-mile handicap, in which she was a strong second, behind Ralph de Palma. She then went on to win two races the next day: the Amateur Championship and the Klaxon Signal 10 Mile race.
On the third day, she started off with an exhibition speed run, breaking the women’s record again. She was third in the TC Campbell Trophy, then won an amateur five-mile race. The biggest event of the day was a 50-miler, in which Joan struggled, and she was only tenth. However, this did not dent her confidence, and she was second in a ten-mile handicap later in the day.
Despite her triumphs in New Orleans, the AAA were not impressed with Joan, the attention she was getting, or the idea of female racing drivers in general. Within a few weeks, women drivers were banned from all of their sanctioned competitions. She attempted to enter a race meeting in Massachusetts in August, but they held firm. This was the end of her active competition career.
Despite the prohibition on women in organised circuit races, Joan continued to drive the Giant. She did exhibition runs and speed trials throughout 1909 and 1910, continuing to better her own ladies’ speed records. Despite official disapproval, she was still a popular figure and a draw for spectators. She continued to use Knox cars, but not exclusively, and in 1910, she set a record of 112mph in a Pope Hummer, on Long Island. Some of her other cars included a Darracq Bluebird and a Lancia Lampo. Later in 1910, she beat her own record, in the Knox Giant.
In 1911, the Knox factory built her a new Giant, which was christened the “Giantess” in her honour. It was used in demonstrations and record runs, and was also raced by Lou Disbrow.
Joan continued to make appearances and attempt to break records until 1915, by which time, her marriage was failing. She moved to Vermont in 1918 and lived the rest of her life in rural obscurity, close to her son and his family. She died in 1934, aged 56.
For more information about Joan and her life, Elsa Nystrom's book, Mad For Speed: The Racing Life of Joan Newton Cuneo is the most comprehensive source.
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Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Female Drivers in Brazilian Endurance Races

Isadora Diehl, Sabrina Koronuma and Patricia de Souza in 2011.

Brazil has a lengthy tradition of endurance racing, sometimes held on roads, but often on circuits, including Interlagos and Tarumã. These races were, and continue to be, for a mix of prototypes, sportscars and saloons.
Women have been part of the motor racing scene since at least the 1950s. One of Brazil's earliest female racing drivers was Juze Fittipaldi, mother of Emerson, who was fourteenth in the 1951 24 Hours of Interlagos, with Darly Ribeiro. Lulla Gancia raced in the 1960s. More recently, in the 1980s, women drivers have won major races. Alline Cipriani now has her own profile.

Mayara Bianchi – best-known for racing a Porsche in Brazil. She started out with track days, then moved into the Audi DTCC Series in 2012. Her best finish was fifteenth, at Interlagos. It was only a part-season. She started with the Porsche in 2013, in the Brazilian GT3 Cup, the first female driver to do so. Although she was not one of the front-runners, she was usually able to score points. In 2014, she carried on racing the Porsche in club and national events in Brazil, scoring a few points here and there, as well as racing in America, in endurance events. Her car was a Ginetta G40, shared between three drivers, and she normally raced in the FARA series. 

Larissa Cruzeiro - raced in the 1600cc Marcas championship in Brazil from 2006. She raced alongside her father Rogerio and took part in several editions of the Cascavel de Ouro endurance race, often as the only female driver. Their cars included a Ford Ka. She raced in Brazil until the 2017 season, after which she moved to Portugal to practice as a nutritionist. She aimed to return to the Brazilian circuits in 2020. Further details on her career are not forthcoming.

Isadora Diehl - class champion in the Gaucho Endurance Championship in 2011, driving a Volkswagen. She was also runner-up in the Brazilian national endurance championship, with her father, Airton Diehl, and Roberto Trenttin. The same driver trio won at least one Brazilian endurance race during that season. That year, she was eleventh in the Tarumã 12 Hours, driving a Golf with Sabrina Koronuma and Patricia de Souza. Earlier, in 2008, she raced in the Interlagos 500km, in the Golf, partnered by her father and Luciano Cardoso. They were 36th. Isadora and Airton were seventh in that year’s Tarumã 12 Hours, driving a Chevrolet Corsa. As well as endurance, Isadora regularly competed in the Drivers & Makes championship, and also seems to have done some dirt-track racing. It is unclear whether or not she is still active in motorsport.

Graziela Fernandes - one of Brazil’s earliest female drivers. Her first big race was the Circuito de Paricicaba, in a Renault Dauphine, and she was ninth. She entered the 1000 Milhas sportscar race in 1970 and drove an Alfa Romeo GTA 1600 to seventh overall, with Carlos Alberto Sgarbi. The same year, she took part in a road race in honour of the opening of the Kennedy Highway, and was fourth, in the same car. The following year, she raced an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA in endurance events, including the 500km of Interlagos, in which she was thirteenth. She was active in motorsport on and off from the 1964 to 1986, and mainly drove saloons and stock cars, including a Fiat, a Renault 1093 and a Willys jeep.

Silvia Lauda - raced in the 2000s. Her first race was the 2003 12 Hours of Tarumã, in which she was fourth in a VW Golf, driving with her brother, Fernando, and her father, also called Fernando. The same team won Class II of the same event in 2005. She may also have taken part in some Drivers and Manufacturers races in Brazil. The family are not related to Niki Lauda.

Patricia de Souza - winner of the Tarumã 12 Hour race in 1989, driving a Volkswagen Passat with her brother, Paulo. That season, the pair also earned a second place in the 3 Hours of Guapore. Later, Patricia contested the Women Corsa Cup in 1999, and the Campeonato Brasileiro Fiesta Feminino in 2001, as well as taking part in some more endurance races, and the Brazilian TC1600 series. Her most recent appearance was the Tarumã 12 Hours in 2011, in which she drove a Volkswagen Golf as part of an all-female team, with Isadora Diehl and Sabrina Koronuma. They were eleventh overall.

Leticia Zanette - came into the public eye in 2002, when she was second in the Mil Milhas Brasileiras, driving a Chevrolet-engined Vectra prototype. Her co-drivers were Cláudio Ricci and Otávio Mesquita. Her achievement was even more noted because she was only 17 years old. Previously, in 2001, she competed in Formula Ford, and before that, karting. Her Mil Milhas drive was part of a Brascar season, which was affected by unreliability and sponsorship worries. Using the same car, she competed in the 2003 Mil Milhas, with Cláudio Ricci and Carlos Alberto Benedetti. They were 20th overall. After that, Leticia seems to have returned to karting, although she did do at least some races in the Brazilian Pick Up championship in 2006.

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Monday, 5 May 2014

Women Drivers in Touring Cars: Sweden

Sandra Oscarsson

Jessica Bäckman - Swedish driver who races touring cars. She is a long-term karter who has won two Swedish championships and switched to cars for the 2018 season. Her first-ever races were the opening rounds of the British TCR series, driving a Volkswagen Golf for Westcoast Racing. She was eighth and sixth at Silverstone. By mid-season, she was much improved and she scored one podium finish, a second place at Brands Hatch. She was fourth in the championship. In Sweden, she also raced in TCR, for the same team, although she did not do quite as well, finishing 19th with a best finish of twelfth. This was achieved at Falkenberg. 2019 was a busy year, with a full season in the European TCR series, plus appearances in its German and Scandinavian equivalents, all in a Hyundai i30. Her TCR Europe season was rather inconsistent but she did manage one third place at Hockenheim, one of three top tens. Later in the year, she revisited Hockenheim with the German championship and claimed a second place during a guest appearance for the Hyundai factory team. In November, she also took part in the inaugural FIA Motorsport Games, racing an i30 for Sweden in the Touring Car Cup. She often races with her brother, Andreas.

Caroline Bender - former karter who graduated to cars quite early, at the age of 17. She competed for two seasons in the Junior Touring Car Championship in 2007 and 2008, driving a Citroen C2 both times. In 2007, she was unplaced in the championship. In 2008, she was also unplaced, after a part-season with rather a lot of non-finishes. Her best finish was 21st, at Knutstorp. She does not appear to have raced since then. She was racing alongside her brother, Alexander Bender.

Nina Dahlin - raced in Sweden between 2005 and 2008. She began in the Renault Junior Cup, aged just fifteen, driving a Renault 5. She finished third in her second season in 2006, winning twice. The following year, she switched to a Clio, entering some rounds of the Junior Cup, and the Swedish Fyndbörsen Cup, where she managed another win. In 2008, she drove in the JTCC in a Peugeot 206, but only did some of the rounds, with no podium finishes. She does not appear to have raced since then, and her blog is no longer being updated. 

Angelica (Minna) Haraldsson - raced in Sweden between 2005 and 2008. She began racing a week after receiving her driving license, although she was unable to reach the pedals and struggled to drive her racing car. She raced again in 2006, although only in a few races. In 2007, she put together a deal to race in the JTCC with the GAPS team, in a Ford Fiesta. She was still very inexperienced, and although her lap times improved dramatically, she did not score points. Half way through 2008, the team folded, leaving Angelica without support or sponsorship. She sold her car in 2009. Since then, she has remained involved in motorsport through marshalling, driving course cars, and competition management.

Caroline Jansson - first raced in 2002, driving a Volvo. By 2003, she was scoring top ten finishes, and in 2004, she did the whole Volvo S60 Challenge, finishing thirteenth. After that, she appears to have returned to international watersports competition for Sweden, apart from two guest spots in the 2009 Ginetta G20 Cup. She is the daughter of Nettan Lindgren, who is her manager.

Elisabeth Nilsson - did two seasons of the Swedish touring car championship under Super Touring rules, driving a Ford Mondeo. During her first season, she was on the pace, with a best finish of second, at Karlskoga, and another fourth place at Knutstorp. Her finishing record, however, let her down, as she recorded four DNFs out of nine races. This dropped her down to eighth overall. In 1997, she came back in the same car, but with a different team. Reliability really affected her season, and she only started six of the ten races, finishing three. Her best result was fourth, at Mantorp Park, and she was twelfth overall. Previously, she won the Opel Lady Cup in 1994, and seems to have started her career through the Swedish women racing drivers’ club.

Sandra Oscarsson - raced in Sweden and Germany in the 2000s, before retiring from motorsport very young. Her first full season was in 2008, when she raced a SEAT Leon in the JTCC touring car championship in Sweden, aged 17. She did not score any points. The following year, she went to Germany to race in the DTM-supporting Castrol ADAC Volkswagen Polo Cup, after being chosen by her team. She was 22nd overall. The same year as her JTCC run, she took part in endurance racing in Sweden in the SLC championship, winning one race at Knutstorp in a diesel SEAT Ibiza. She did another big endurance race in 2009, the Dubai 24 Hours, driving a Volkswagen Golf with Per Oscarsson. In 2013, she seems to have come out of retirement briefly for the SLC, with Per and Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, but it is not clear whether she got to start a race. Despite not actively racing, she still remains involved in motor racing, as a journalist and as a karting instructor. In 2014, she made some guest appearances in the Swedish Thunder Cars championship.

Therese (Tezz) Svensson - raced in Sweden and Denmark in the 2000s. She began in the JTCC in Sweden in 2005, driving a Ford Fiesta for her family’s TS Motorsport team. She carried on in the same car and the same championship in 2006, and was thirteenth overall this time. In 2008, she joined the Techprint AB team, and improved her finishing position to twelfth, still in the Fiesta. The same year, she made two guest appearances in the Danish Clio Cup, scoring a couple of points. Therese had aimed for the Swedish Touring Car Championship, but seems not to have competed since 2008.  

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Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Lancia Lady Cup

Lady Cup-spec Lancia A112 Abarth

This one-make championship for female drivers in Sweden ran from 1984 to 1989. It used the Lancia-badged Autobianchi A112 Abarth, a motorcycle-engined supermini that had been in production for quite some time before the Cup’s existence. The marketing department at Fiat had noted that the A112 was bought by a comparatively very large number of younger women, which seems to have informed the creation of this racing series. Its connection to Sweden is slightly puzzling, as Swedish motoring was dominated by domestic brands like Saab and Volvo, but the A112 was sold there, and had been badged as Lancia rather than Autobianchi for some time.

The championship itself was organised by the Swedish  women racing drivers’ club, and followed on from their earlier all-female racing series, which used the Mini. Women’s championships had been a feature of Swedish motorsport since at least 1979. The women drivers’ club formed in the late 1970s, and its membership formed most of the entrants for the Lady Cup. Drivers were all Swedish, or racing under a Swedish license.

Each Lady Cup championship consisted of six rounds, normally contested within Sweden, although one year, 1987, a race was held in Hungary, as a support to the Hungarian Grand Prix. It is unclear whether this was part of the championship.

The first championship, in 1984, was won by Åsa Johansson, the sister of Formula One driver, Stefan Johansson. Subsequent Lady Cups were mostly won by Nettan Lindgren, who dominated the series completely for most of its lifetime. In 1988, she made a clean sweep of wins, pole positions and fastest laps, after missing out on only one win in 1987. In 1989, Eva Bornebusch won the title.

Nettan Lindgren went on to race in the BTCC. Her near-total dominance of the Lady Cup meant that there was not much room for another female star to come up through the ranks. Mostly, Lady Cup competitors were active in Swedish club and national-level motorsport. One of the longest-standing members of the Swedish women racing drivers’ club, Ulla Britt Wigh, raced in at least one edition, finishing ninth in 1986. She was competing against her daughter, Anneli, who was fourth.

Among the drivers who spread their wings a little more were Catta Lindgren, sister of Nettan, who drove in the 1988 Kemora 500km race as part of an all-female team, and Eva Bornebusch, who was part of the same team. Eva Bornebusch was also a regular in one-make racing in Sweden in the 1990s. Eva Kjellkvist-Pulls was another long-term Lady Cup competitor who was a regular face on the Swedish one-make scene for a long time afterwards.

The A112 went out of general production in 1985, which limited the Cup’s shelf life somewhat. It was replaced by the Lady Opel Cup, which used GM's Corsa.

For more information about some of the drivers in this series, click here.

List of winners:
1984 Åsa Johansson
1985 Nettan Lindgren
1986 Nettan Lindgren
1987 Nettan Lindgren
1988 Nettan Lindgren
1989 Eva Bornebusch

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