Friday, 15 August 2014

Female Drivers in Touring Cars: Germany

Yolanda Surer

Saloon racing has been extremely popular in Germany since the 1960s. Throughout its history, female drivers have been a part of it, up to the highest levels, including the DTM. Ulrike Krafft and Lili Reisenbichler now have their own post.

Ronja Assmann - often races a Renault Clio in Germany, driving for her family team, usually with her father, Winfried. She began her motorsport career in 2012, at the age of 17, in a KTM X-Bow, driving in a rookie championship. She was 18th overall. In 2013, she acquired the Clio, and used it in the Bohemia Clio Cup, with a best finish of eleventh, at Most. She was 20th overall. Back in Germany, she competed in some rounds of the German Touring Car Cup, in the 2000cc and under class. She normally ran well compared to the other Clios in her races, and her best finish was eleventh overall, at Lausitz. In 2014, she continued to race in the same series, and used the Clio to begin with. Later, she changed it for a Porsche GT3 Cup, which gave her better results, averaging about tenth. She did not complete the season. Elsewhere, she was part of the dmsj –youngster-Team for the Rundstrecken Challenge, at the Nürburgring. In a Vauxhall Astra, she achieved one win in the Junior class. The team retained her services in 2015, and she competed in the VLN, in the Astra. She was twelfth in the OPC Astra Cup class of the VLN, as part of a team of three. She finished the Nürburgring 24 Hours on her first attempt, and was fourth in the Cup1 class, with Winfried and two team-mates. They were 61st overall. It was back to the RCN for the 2016 season, in the Flying Horse Porsche. During the winter season, she travelled to the Netherlands for the Winter Endurance Championship, and was second overall in a race at Zandvoort. In 2017, she did her first races in the Porsche Carrera Cup, at the Lausitzring. She was also fourth in the Cup 3 class of the Nürburgring 24 Hours, driving a Porsche Cayman.

Heidi Blechinger - raced saloons in Germany in the 1970s. In 1978, she competed in the Trophée l’Avenir with Lili Reisenbichler. They drove an Audi 50 together in the Nürburgring round, and did not finish. The rest of the full results of this series are hard to find, but the pair may have entered again at some point. That year, she also took part in her third season of Renault 5 racing. She began her career in slalom events in 1968. She also drove in rallies: she is recorded as a finisher in the 1976 ADAC-Rallye Hanseatic, in a Renault 5.

Lisa (Christin) Brunner -  former karter who had her first season of senior motorsport in 2014, aged 21. She raced a Mini in Division III of the ADAC Procar championship, in Germany. Her team-mate was Victoria Fross. She was relatively competitive from the beginning, with a seventh place at Oschersleben, and was able to hold her own in her class. Her best finish was fourth, at the Nürburgring. Despite not completing the whole of the season, she was ninth in the championship, and third in the Rookie Cup, one place above Victoria Fross. Away from the championship, she also competed in a sprint race at Oschersleben, and was second overall. She started 2015 with a run in the Dubai 24 Hours, in a Peugeot 207, driving for Frensch Power Motorsport. Her final position was 61st. In the spring, she moved on to the Central Europe Clio Cup championship, where she had a best finish of eleventh, at Zandvoort. She was sixteenth overall. Her second season, not a full one, in the Clio Cup gave her a sixteenth place, although she was probably driving better. Her best finish was seventh, at Most. Most was her best circuit in 2017 too; she was ninth. She did the complete season and was 21st overall. 

Sarah Ganser – German driver who mostly races in Belgium. She began racing at 15 years old, in a Peugeot, in the 2011 Cup and Tourenwagen Trophy (CTT). The following year, she entered the CTT again, and won her class in six of the fourteen races. In 2013, she moved into the Belgian Racing Car Championship, driving a Porsche 996 GT3. Her co-driver was Karen Vaes. Their best finish was fifteenth, at Spa, but they were third in class in all four of the races they contested. Sarah was 23rd in the championship. In 2014, she moved back to Germany, and entered the VLN, in a BMW 325, as well as some runs in the RCN (Rundstrecken Challenge Nürburgring) in her own Peugeot 206. She retired very early from the DMV 250-Mile race, which sadly ended her VLN involvement. It was not a great year for Sarah or her co-driver, Jana Osterheider, in the RCN, either, as they often struggled to finish. Sarah has her own racing team and planned a return to the circuits in 2015. She was not very active in 2015, but is signed up for the 2016 VLN, as part of an all-female team with Tina Annemuller and Tatjana Hanser. This did not come to fruition, but Sarah did compete in the DMV BMW Challenge. She earned at least one class win, at the Nürburgring. Away from motorsport, she works as a nurse. 

Astrid Grünfelder (Waldmann) - raced saloons in Germany between 1989 and 2002. Her best year was 1993, in which she won the Deutsche Tourenwagen Cup under-2000cc class, with three victories. She and Sabine Schmitz also scored four class wins at the Nürburgring, in the VLN, driving a BMW M3. Until 1995 she was a member of the BMW Junior team. Her last big result was a second place in a DTC race at Hockenheim in 1995, in another M3. Since then, she has raced an Opel Calibra in Austrian Touring Cars, with one third place, and driven in the VLN with Nicole Lüttecke and Tina Grewe, using a Mitsubishi Carisma. Between 2000 and 2002, she took part in the Ford Puma Cup, with a best finish of fourteenth.

Helga Hess - raced touring cars in Germany in the late 1980s. She drove a Volkswagen Polo in the Special Touring Car Trophy in 1988. In 1987, she appears to have competed in the VLN, and driven an Audi 50 in the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Her team-mates were Werner Hürttllen and Meinhard Hellweg. Other details of her career are not forthcoming.

Karin Hirschmann - best-known for racing a Simca 1000 in the 1980s and 1990s, despite the car being at least ten years old. In 1983, she competed in the German Racing Cup (DRP), but was not overly competitive. In 1992, when the car was twenty years old, the reappeared in the Special Touring Car Trophy in Germany. Again, she was not really competitive, but was racing against cars that were either much newer, or much more powerful. In between, she did some speed events, in 1990 and 1991. Her best result was thirteenth, at Most, in 1991.

Carmen Holzer - raced in Germany in 2005. She drove an Alfa Romeo 147 in the Diesel class of the German Production Car Championship, and finished eighth. Actual race results are hard to come by, but she earned at least an eighth and a seventh at Oschersleben that year. After 2005, she does not appear to have raced again, although she possibly married and competed under another name.

Alexandra Jovanic - raced an Autobianchi A112 Abarth in the DRP in 1977. She competed in the Hockenheim, Salzburg and Ulm-Mengen rounds, and was usually in the middle of a group of Autobianchi drivers. She was not able to challenge for wins. She returned to Hockenheim in 1978, in the same car, and was eleventh in class. Other details of any further racing activities are not forthcoming.

Petra Kolic-Wiese - has had at least five seasons in the German Special Touring Car Trophy, in different cars. In 2007, she raced a Vauxhall Astra and Opel Kadett in the series. In 2009 and 2010, she drove a Volkswagen Golf, with a best finish of thirteenth in 2009. In 2011, she changed to a BMW M3, which was faster, but she was not quite as competitive, although she did figure quite strongly in her class. Towards the end of the season, she changed it again, for an Audi TT, which was a little more competitive. Since 2012, she has campaigned a V8 Star one-make car in the STT, and some associated events in Germany and the Netherlands. 

Inez Muhle - driver from Hamburg  who raced in Europe in the 1970s. She began in Formula Vee some time in the 1970s, probably 1975, in the 1300cc class, and raced in Germany. Previously, she had driven in hillclimbs and slaloms, in 1974. Later, she came to specialise in one-make series, including the VW Scirocco Cup in 1976. Her best finish was ninth, at Hockenheim, against opponents including Manfred Winkelhock. During this time, and in 1977, she did some racing for the Jagermeister team, in the DRP touring car championship.  Her 1976 car was an Audi 50, and she did well in the under-1150cc class, with a fifth at Zandvoort. In 1977, she drove a VW Polo, and was not quite as effective. 

Saskia Müller – raced in ADAC Procar in Germany in 2010 and 2011. Her car in 2010 was a GENA Autosport Citroen C2. That year, she was a consistent top-ten finisher in Division II, and had a best finish of sixth, at Oschersleben and Hockenheim. In 2011, she drove for Glatzel Racing, in a Ford Fiesta, as team-mate to Sandra Sutter. She was seventh in Division II, after five fifth places, at Zolder and the Red Bull Ring. She does not appear to have raced since. She may now be competing as an amateur jockey.

Stephanie Neitzel - competed in one-make championships and Procar in Germany for most of the 1990s and 2000s. She has multiple Ladies’ titles in the Citroen Saxo and Toyota Yaris Cups, with a seventh place overall in the Saxo Cup in 2001. She was also third in the Speed Women Cup for Germany’s fastest female drivers in 2003, after her achievements in the Yaris Cup in Germany and Australia. She moved to the German Production Championship in 2005, and was eighth in her class, then into ADAC Procar. After a full season in 2006, she was eighth, with one podium finish. She continued in the series in 2007, but only managed two events. After a long lay-off, she returned to competition in 2010, in Procar, still driving a Ford Fiesta, as she always had. She took part in four races, with a best finish of sixth at Assen. 

Brigitte Schmalzl – racer, rally co-driver and drifter from Austria. Although drifting is her main motorsport activity, she started racing in the Slovakian Racing Trophy in 2014, using the Mercedes 190 in which she competes in drifting. Her best result was sixth. In 2015, she returned to the championship. Her best results have been two seventh places. She races alongside her husband, Christoph, and also acts as his co-driver in historic rallies.

Jessica Schüngel – raced in the RCN series in 2015, driving a VW Polo. It was at least her second year in the championship, and her second in that car. In 2015, she was part of a four-driver team, and took part in the Nürburgring 24 Hours. She and her team-mates were 96th overall, after problems during the night. She is from a racing family, and sometimes competes alongside her father, Ulrich Schüngel.

Bettina Sonntag - driver from the former East Germany who began racing in 1986. She entered the 1300cc class of the DDR’s Touring Car championship, probably in a Trabant. In her first ever race, she managed to hit a kerb and crash, causing the race to be stopped. She improved later in the season, and was fifth in class at the end of the year. She carried on in the same class in 1987, and was seventh, improving to third in 1988. In 1989, she was not as competitive, and finished ninth, but she was third again, in the 1600cc class, in 1990, the last year of the DDR. That year, she also entered the Fiesta Mixed Cup with Oliver Dobbekau, the first East German pairing to do so. After that, she disappears from the entry lists until 2007, when she made a guest appearance in the ADAC GT Masters, driving a Ferrari with he father, Sieghard Sonntag.

Yolanda Surer (now Tavoli; given name also spelled Jolanda) - started in single-seaters in Germany in 1987, getting as far as Formula 3, from 1990 to 1992. Her best finish was a third at Hockenheim. She moved to touring cars later, racing in German and Italian championships. Her best result was in 1993 when she was seventh in the German Touring Trophy, with a class win at AVUS in her BMW M3, as well as three second and three third places. She was also fourth in the 1996 Spa 24 Hours, in a BMW, for a ladies' team. After taking time out of her career to have children (she became pregnant while racing in the Renault Spider Cup in 1997), she returned in 2004. She drove a Honda S2000 for an all-female team in the Nürburgring 24 Hours.

Julia Trampert – raced in ADAC Procar between 2011 and 2013. At first, she did some guest drives for the GENA team, in a Ford Fiesta, before moving to the Liqui Moly Engstler team in 2012, driving a different Fiesta. 2013 seems to have been her best season. It was her second driving for Franz Engstler, and she was seventh in Division II. After that, she could not raise enough sponsorship to continue at this level. She competed in slaloms and karting in 2014, but she does not seem to have raced in 2015. Before entering the Procar series, she did some racing in the VW Fun Cup in 2009 and 2010.

Vivien Volk - has raced saloons since the age of 18, after several years of karting. She started in the Volkswagen Polo Cup in 2008, and was 23rd overall, but fifth in the rookie standings. She also won an award from her motor club. She returned to the VW Cup in 2009, and was also 23rd, after not completing all of her races. In 2010, she did some VLN races in the Polo earning a fourth and third in class in two of them. Still in the VW, she entered the Hankook Cup and Tourenwagen Trophy in 2011, where she was 16th overall, and second in the under-1600cc class. She returned to the series in 2012, but was unable to enter most of the races due to an engine failure in the first round. She was third at Zolder and second at the Nürburgring. After that season, she took a step back from motorsport to concentrate on her professional career, which is teaching. Although she tried to make a comeback in 2013, she does not appear to have gathered enough sponsorship.

Monika Wallraf - active in German motorsport in the early 1960s. In 1961, she drove an Auto Union 1000 in touring car races, including the Nürburgring 500km, in which she was 20th, driving with Jürgen Karrenberg. They were second in the one-litre class. That season, she also acted as Ewy Rosqvist’s navigator in European rallies, driving a Volvo. They won the Coupe des Dames on that year’s Alpine Rally. The following year, she concentrated more on circuit racing, still with the Auto Union. During the summer of 1962, she raced in the Nürburgring 12 Hours, with a driver called “Peters”, and was third in the one-litre class. Driving solo, she entered the Grand Prix support race at the Nürburgring, and was 24th, seventh in class. A little later, she took part in the Nürburgring 500km again, in a DKW Junior belonging to French driver, Malou Racle. Malou was also driving, and they were 30th overall, sixth in the 850cc class. After this, Monika’s name disappears from the entry lists, although in 1964, she is mentioned as a test driver for Volkswagen in a newspaper article. She is described as being 33 years old, and a beautician.

Suzanne Weidt – raced an Audi R8 LMS Ultra in 2014 and 2015. In 2014, she guested in the International GT Open series, in the GTS category, at the Nürburgring and Spa. Her best finish was eleventh, at Spa. In 2015, she used the same car in the DMV Gran Turismo Touring Car Cup, and was 24th overall. Her sojourn in the GT Open championship was a break from the DMV Touring Car series, in which she also raced the Audi in 2013. In 2016, she raced the Audi R8 in the Dubai 24 Hours, for the Spirit Race team. She and her three team-mates did not finish. In 2017, she stayed in the DMY GT Cup, but changed her car to a Lamborghini Huracan. She was 16th in the championship after a part-season, and scored fifth places at Hockenheim and the Red Bull Ring. 

Margitta Wintergerst - long-standing competitor in German motor racing, since the late 1970s. She has raced in the Divinol Cup for many seasons, and was also a regular entrant in the German Special Touring Car Championship. She usually drives cars owned jointly with her husband, Wolfgang, and they are usually Fiats. In the early 1990s, Margitta raced a 3P in Special Touring Cars, and later, in 2007, she used a similar car, a 128 3P, in historic races in Europe. These included the Histo-Cup at the Hungaroring. That year, she also surprised observers by driving a Porsche in the Divinol Cup. Although she is a regular competitor, she is not often among the front-runners. She has been somewhat more successful in hillclimbing, winning some class awards.

Sandra Wollstadt - raced in the German Touring Car Trophy (DTT) in the 1990s. She first appears in  1992, but only makes a serious challenge from 1993, driving a BMW M3 for her family team, Autohaus Wollstadt. Her best results were two ninth places in class, at Zolder and Zandvoort. She improved this to seventh in class in 1994. The following year, in a BMW M3 E30, she returned to the championship, a more competitive driver. She scored three seconds in the 2500cc class, and was twelfth overall. In 1996, she drove a similar car in the same championship, and was fifth overall. She was in the top three for her class for all rounds, apart from Hockenheim.

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