Thursday, 5 February 2015

The San Isidro Rallye Femenino

Gloria Castresana Waid (left) and Paquita Torres, in 1967

Spain’s answer to the long-running Paris-St. Raphaël Rally in France had its first edition in 1967. It ran in May, as part of the city of Madrid’s traditional San Isidro festivities.

The rally was 175 kilometres long, and the route went from the centre of Madrid, to the bullring at San Pedro Arena, near Avila. It was run as a regularity test, with a 50km/h speed limit. There were also slalom sections and high-speed sections, at least one of which was held at the Jarama circuit, which had just opened.

The first Rallye enjoyed quite a large amount of sponsorship, from the Coca-Cola Corporation, Iberia Airlines and a number of local businesses, who provided prizes. It was organised by the Sociedad Internacional de Azafatas (International Society of Hostesses, a trade body for promotional and hospitality workers) and the Spanish Royal Automobile Club. Lili Alvarez, a former tennis champion and female sporting icon, was one of its spokespeople, who included Juan Antonio Samaranch, then the Minister in charge of sporting activities.

Sixty crews entered. Makes and models of their cars are not usually recorded in contemporary accounts. A few were from motorsport backgrounds, including Gloria Castresana Waid, an established rally driver. She partnered “Miss Spain”, Paquita Torres, in a Mini. They won the Slalom section and the regularity section. The rest of the field was made up of “society” girls, minor celebrities and also, adventurous Madrid-based women with a car, who wanted to have a go.

The event was not taken entirely seriously. One stage involved the drivers getting out of their cars and tying a tie on a waiting man. Some competitors claimed that their rivals were stopping to meet their boyfriends for drinks en route.

It was possibly for these reasons that the Rallye was not covered as extensively by the media in 1968. It was temporarily cancelled for the 1969 season.

It ran six times between 1967 and 1973; by 1970, it was part of a Spanish women’s championship. By now, it was run as a conventional rally, and attracted regular rally drivers to take part. After 1973, it disappears from the official women’s rally championship calendar.

Later, it is referred to as the Rallye Automovilistico Femenino SIASA, then the Rallye SIASA. By then, it had extended to 200km in length, and had two regularity sections and three speed tests: two hillclimbs and one circuit race. The numbers of crews fluctuated, from 23 to over a hundred.

A complete list of winners does not seem to be available, and this matter is confused by there being several awards made during each rally.

1967 Carmen Gimeno/Cristina Gimeno
1968 ?
1970 Marisol Rodriguez Mesa/Maria Teresa Rodriguez Mesa (Mini 1275)
1971 Aurora Fierro/Belén Agosti (Alfa Romeo 1300 GT Junior)
1972 Gloria Gascuñana/Maria de Jesús Urrutia (SEAT 1430)
1973 Nuria Viñas/Ana Maria Garreta (BMW 2002 Ti)

I would be interested to learn more about this rally, not least the winner of the 1969 event.

(Image copyright Gloria Castresana Waid)