Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Annette Meeuvissen

Annette was a German driver who raced in the 1980s and 1990s, in Europe mainly, but also further afield, as far as Bathurst in Australia. She began her motorsport career in 1980, when she was 18, and initially competed in slaloms. In 1982, she entered her first major championship, the Ford Fiesta Ladies’ Cup. She won the first race, at Wunstorf, and went on the win the Cup, after multiple wins. Throughout the season, Delia Stegemann matched her performances, and they were declared joint winners, the prize doubled. Despite her success, Annette was sometimes the target of disparaging comments from spectators, but she did not let this deter her. Despite her rivalry with Delia Stegemann, the two teamed up for the Nürburgring 24 Hours mid-season, in the Fiesta, with Peter Marx. They did not finish.
For the 1983 and 1984 seasons, she raced in the VLN long-distance series, at the Nürburgring. Apparently, she almost won her class at the 1984 Nürburgring 24 Hours, but was prevented from doing so by a mechanical problem. The complete starting and finishing lists for these races do not seem to be available.
In 1985, she stepped up to international competition, driving a Ford Escort for the Gerstmann team, in the European Touring Car Championship. Driving with Jörg van Ommen, she entered the championship in the third round, at Donington, and was 20th overall. After missing the Anderstorp round, she reappeared at Brno, with Arno Wester as a third driver. They did not finish. The trio were then fifteenth at Zeltweg. After another break, they entered the Spa 24 Hours, but do not appear to have finished. Back as a pair, Annette and Jörg van Ommen raced at the Silverstone Tourist Trophy, but were only 26th. Their last race of the season was at Zolder, but they did not qualify.
1986 was a quieter season for Annette. She raced a Porsche in the 944 Turbo-Cup, against her former team-mate, Jörg van Ommen, and the likes of winner Joachim Winkelhock, but was not among the front-runners. Mid-season, she was linked with another Gerstmann drive in the Spa 24 Hours, but this did not happen.
1987 was certainly not quiet. Annette was paired up with former beauty queen, Mercedes Stermitz, to drive the second Schnitzer Motorsport BMW M3 in the International Touring Car Championship (ITC), competing around the world. Their first race was the second round, at Jarama, and they qualified ninth. However, an accident put them out after eleven laps. Back in action after a short break, they did not finish at the Nürburgring either, driving as a trio with Altfrid Heger. For the Spa 24 Hours, they transferred to the satellite Linder team, still driving a works BMW, with assistance from Gerrit van Kouwen. Despite only qualifying 35th, they were seventh overall. Driving for the factory team, Annette and Mercedes were then fifteenth at Brno. They missed the Silverstone round, but then flew across the world for the Pacific-region races. The prestigious Bathurst 24–hour race in Australia ended in clutch failure, and third driver, Roland Ratzenberger, did not get a look-in. The second Australian race, at Calder Park, was more productive, and the two women were seventh again. Their last race was at Wellington, New Zealand, and it resulted in another crash. Annette was unplaced in the ITC standings.
Away from the ITC, the Schnitzer M3 was entered into the Zeltweg round of the ETCC, Mercedes Stermitz’s home race. They finished seventh, again. The team’s poor finishing record this season was blamed squarely on Stermitz, whose incautious and rather crash-happy style was ridiculed in the motoring press.
In 1988, Annette became one of the first women to race in the DTM, one of several at this time. She was driving another BMW M3, for the Zakspeed team. This year, she was very much a secondary driver, and at the AVUS race, had to give up her car to Markus Oestreich. That said, she participated in almost all of the other races, and finished a large majority of them. She appears to have had some degree of mechanical sympathy, unlike her previous team-mate. Although she was a reliable finisher, her results were not spectacular this year, with a twelfth at the Nürburgring being her best. Towards the end of the season, she was getting into the top twenty regularly, in large fields of about 35 cars. She was 31st in the championship.
 In 1989, she only managed a few DTM races, in a Linder-run BMW M3. She raced at the Hockenheim Rennsport-Festival, and was twelfth, 22nd and 21st in her three races. Later, at Hochenheim again, she was twelfth in a qualification race, but did not finish the race proper, after a rare accident. The rest of the year may well have been spent in the VLN once more, although results are hard to find.
The following year, she was back in the Zakspeed M3, and did the whole DTM season, apart from the fly-away season finale at Kyalami, South Africa. Her year started badly, with a double DNF at Zolder, but it soon picked up and settled down. Her qualifying performances were improving, and she often able to hold her position, just outside the top ten. Her best performance was at AVUS, where she was seventh in the qualification race, and converted it into eleventh in the first feature race. She was also eleventh in a feature race at Hockenheim, part of the Rennsport-Festival, after finishing eleventh in the preliminary qualifying race. That year, she was linked to a drive in a Rimstock M3 in the Spa 24 Hours, but it did not happen.
1990 saw her back in the DTM, driving for the satellite Linder team again. She was entered into the main championship, but not any of the extra races, some for privateers, put on that year. Her team-mates, usually Dieter Quester and Altfrid Heger, were not really on the pace, and Annette did not fare as well as she had in previous years, with a best result of fifteenth, achieved at the Diepholz airfield track. The Mercedes and Opels were more dominant that year, and she was getting left behind somewhat. This would be her last DTM season.
The Nürburgring was a happier hunting ground for her. She was fifth in the 24 Hour race, driving another BMW. During her career, she entered this classic event four times.
In 1992, she did less racing than in previous years. Her only big event was the Spa 24 Hours, in which she drove am M3, run by Bychl Euroracing. With her team-mates, Marc Gindorf and Heiner Weis, she was 17th overall.
Towards the end of her career, Annette became rather frustrated by motorsport and its vagaries. She retired in 1992, and for some time, worked as a performance driving instructor for BMW. In the mid-1990s, she travelled to Africa, where she ended up founding an animal sanctuary in Namibia. Later, she worked as airline cabin crew, and gave birth to a son. She was in the process of setting up her own kindergarten when she became ill with cancer. Sadly, she died a year later, in 2004.
(Image from http://www.carlosghys.be/html/autographs_meeuvissen.html)

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