Monday, 16 March 2015

Women in Rallycross: France



Drivers from the 2014 Coupe des Dames


Rallycross is popular in France, and many female drivers have taken part over the years, with varying degrees of success. Women’s championships have even been held, including the Citroen Challenge Féminin and the Coupe des Dames, introduced in 2014. There is some crossover between rallycross and Andros Trophy ice-racing drivers, especially in France.

Sandra Bessas - competed in French rallycross in 2003 and 2004. In 2003, she drove a Saxo in the Citroen Challenge, finishing 32nd overall and third in the Ladies’ standings. In 2004, the Saxo was replaced by a C2. She was 25th in the new Citroen Challenge, and sixth in the Coupe des Dames. Previously, in 2002, she competed in slalom events in France. 

Caty Caly - winner of five French Ladies’ Rallycross titles. The first was in a Golf in 1985. Later, she drove for Audi, after their redundant Group B rally cars were put into rallycross service. She won Ladies’ championships in Audi Quattros in 1993 and 1994. In 1995 and 1996 she defended her crown in a Citroen ZX. Since then, she has mainly raced sportscars, favouring Ferraris and Porsches, in one-make series and the French national GT championship. Her best finish was a couple of podiums in the Porsche Supercup. As well as sportscars, she has done some Andros Trophy ice races. She made a comeback in 2013, driving in two rounds of the Euro NASCAR stock car championship in France. 

Magali Charbonnier - raced in the Super 1600 class of the French Rallycross Championship in 2012. Her car was a Citroen C2 and she was 16th, with a best overall finish of twelfth, achieved twice at Dreux. Previously, she was active in autocross, in the buggy class, usually driving in women’s events. She first competed in 1997, and won at least one French championship in the discipline, in 2007. In 2011, she took part in the main, mixed French championship for buggies. In 2013, she remained in Super 1600, in the Citroen. She was fifteenth overall, with a best finish of ninth. She retired from rallycross at the beginning of 2014, but continued to compete in autocross in France. 

Nathalie Gouennou  - active in rallycross since 2011, when her brother (Nicolas Bothorel) gave her a car, a Citroen Saxo. She did a few races that year, in Division 4. After taking a break in 2012 due to a knee injury, she returned for a longer schedule in 2013, scoring her first points in the French championship at Lessay. She was 37th overall. In 2014, she was 29th in the Division 4 championship, with a best finish of 21st, at Pont du Druan. In 2015, she raced a Citroen Xsara in Division 4 of the French championship. She was 42nd overall, after a part-season. She continued to race the Xsara in 2016, and also a Renault Twingo, which she drove in the final rounds of the French Twingo championship. She was 44th in the final standings. 

Lucie Grosset-Janin – French Ladies’ rallycross champion in 2014, driving a Renault Twingo. The championship was run as part of the Twingo R1 Cup one-make series, in which she was twelfth. Her best overall finish was sixth, at Dreux. She was also eighth in the Junior championship. 2014 was her second rallycross season; she competed in the Twingo R1 Cup in 2013, and was 25th in the championship. At the start of 2015, she announced that she would not be racing the Twingo that year. Lucie is from a rallycross family. Her two brothers also race, one alongside her in the Twingo R1 Cup.

Fiona Huet - had her first season of French rallycross in 2009. She drove a Peugeot 309 that had previously been campaigned by her father. Racing in Division 4, her best result came in the first round at Dreux, where she was 16th after qualifying for the “C” final. She was 36th in the championship. 

Samira Ijoui - raced in the Dacia Logan Cup of the French championship in 2009. She did not take part in all the rounds and was not among the front-runners. She does not appear to have returned in 2010. 

Marianne Juin - took part in the French Rallycross Championship in 2007 and 2008. In 2007, she drove a Peugeot 206 in Division 2, and was 30th overall. Her best finish was fourteenth, at Faleyras. This result improved to 27th in 2008, using the same car. This time, her best finish was thirteenth, at Luneville. After the 2008 season, Marianne stepped down from driving duties and now helps to run a rallycross team with her husband, Jean Juin. 

Gaëlle Lecourbe - took part in the French rallycross championship between 2003 and 2006. She began in the Citroen Ladies’ Challenge in a Saxo, and was twelfth in the ladies’ championship. In 2004, she stuck with the Saxo, which she shared with her father, Jean-Pierre, and entered a few rounds of Division Four of the French championship, without much success. This arrangement continued in 2005 and 2006. Gaëlle was an enthusiastic competitor but rarely qualified for finals. 

Stephanie Liger (Anne) - French rallycross driver between 2003 and 2005. She began in the Citroen Challenge, like many others, and was thirteenth in the Ladies’ standings in her first year. In 2004 she improved this to fourth lady, and finished 27th overall. Using the same Citroen Saxo VTS, she was also 31st in Division Four of the main French championship. She moved back to the Citroen Challenge in 2005, and was 24th, fifth in the Coupe des Dames. She announced her retirement at the beginning of the 2006 season.

Céline Menier - one of very few female drivers to compete in Division One of the French Rallycross championship. She has driven a Ford Focus WRC in this class since 2007. In 2008, she was 16th, with a best finish of eighth. In 2007, she was twelfth, with one fifth place. Before that, she raced in the lower divisions: Division Three in a Peugeot 306 in 2006, Division Four in a Citroen Saxo in 2004, and the Citroen Saxo Ladies’ Challenge in 2003, in which she was fifth. She has also competed in ice-racing, entering the Trophée Andros Féminin between 2002 and 2006. Altogether, she won eight races, and she was second in 2004. She does not appear to have competed in 2009, but returned in 2010, driving a Citroen C2. Her best finish was a disappointing 17th. 

Christelle Menier - occasionally drives in French rallycross events. She was ninth in the Citroen Saxo Ladies’ Challenge in 2003, and drove strongly, if not the most competitively, in that year’s Citroen Challenge. Since then, she has tested her family team’s Ford Focus WRC and made occasional appearances in it. Alongside her younger sister Celine Menier, she drove in the Andros Trophée Féminin between 2002 and 2006. She was one of the first “Ice Girls” to race, and was reasonably fast, although she did not win as many races as her sister. In 2010, alongside Celine, she returned to French rallycross, and was 33rd in class 1A. She may have shared a car with her sister.

Veronique Patier - competes in France in a number of mixed-surface disciplines. She started at the age of 16, driving a Cross Car buggy. At 19, she graduated to rallycross, in the Citroen Challenge. She won her first race in 2003. Between then and 2006, she competed in the Citroen Challenge and was runner-up in the Ladies’ championship in 2003, 2004 and 2005. She won the Ladies’ title in 2006. Her best overall result was 16th, in 2004. After the 2006 season and the cancellation of the Citroen series, she moved back to buggy-based competition in the French Autocross championship. She drives in both mixed and women’s events. As well as mud, she has also raced on ice in the Andros Trophée Féminin, plus a few races in the main championship. 

Anne Perillous - has competed in French rallycross since at least 2005. She appears to have made her debut in the French championship in 2005, driving a Peugeot 306 in Division 2. During 2007, she was 39th in class after one points finish at Mayenne. In an unusual move, she raced a BMW Z3 in 2008, and managed lower-level points finishes in most of her events. She was fourteenth overall. The Z3 was exchanged for a Citroen Xsara in 2009, but after only one round, she returned to the BMW. Throughout the season, she alternated between the two. She was 23rd in Division 3 this time, with a best finish of seventh at Chateauroux. She moved up to Division 1 in 2010, driving a Peugeot 207 T16. After one tenth place, she was 25th in the championship. In 2011, she entered one race in this car, and was tenth. 

Catherine Planche - winner of the Citroen Challenge Féminine in France in 2003, 2004 and 2005, driving a Saxo and then a C2. Her best finish in the main Challenge was 15th, in 2004. In 2003 she was 18th and in 2005 she was 19th. Prior to her rallycross exploits, she drove a Peugeot 106 in French rallies. In 2006, she had her rallycross C2 converted to tarmac rally spec and returned to the stages. Her co-driver was Benoit Noger. After 2006, she disappears from the scene. 

Maïté Poussin - winner of the French Ladies’ Rallycross Championship in 1989 and 1990. She was driving a Lancia Delta. In 1991, she drove a Ford Sierra in the same championship. She appears to have competed for quite some time, and her husband Gerard acted as her team manager. They now run the rallycross driving school together at Lohéac, with their son. 

Aude Salviat - began competing in France in 2009. She has driven in the Dacia Logan Cup in both seasons. In 2009, she usually managed points finishes, and scored several eighth places. In 2010, with a larger field, she maintained this form, with a best finish of seventh, which is now midfield. She was eighth overall in the championship. In 2011, she was only 19th, after a part-season in the Logan Cup. 

Adeline Sangnier - former single-seater driver and French junior karting champion. She had one season in Formula Renault in 2004. She made the switch to rallycross in 2008, and was seventh in Division 2 in her first season. Her car was a Honda Civic Type R, which gave her a best finish of third at Lavare. She finished in the points in all eleven rounds. In 2009, she drove a Citroen C2 R2 in Division 2, and was sixth in Division 1A. This made her the French Ladies’ champion. Her best results were two fourth places at Dreux and Faleyras. Driving an older Saxo, she was third in Division 1A in 2010. Her best results were four second places. Still in the ageing Saxo, she was fifth in 2011, with two third places as her best results. She was also eighth in the French round of the Super 1600 European Championship. The Saxo was updated to a C2 in 2012, which proved very powerful. She won the Loheac round of the Super 1600 championship, and was fourth in the championship overall. In 2013, she continued to be competitive, although she did not manage a win. Her two second places and two thirds were enough to give her third in the Super 1600 championship. She was lying in fourth place in the French Super 1600 championship in 2014, when her season was ended by a serious accident in the C2. Her brother took her place in the championship for the rest of the season. She returned to competition in 2015, racing a Peugeot 207 in the Supercar class. She was fifth overall. Her 2016 season started late but well, with a win at Sarthe, but she only did a part-season in the 207, and was unable to challenge for a title.


Sabrina Souchaud - winner of the French ladies’ rallycross championship in 2016, which ran as part of the Renault Twingo Cup. She was fourteenth in the main Twingo standings. 2015 was her second season in the Twingo, and her third in rallycross. Her first car, in 2014, was a Citroen 2CV. She competes alongside her son, who races in the Super 1600 class.

Jessica Tarrière (Anne) - probably France’s most successful contemporary female rallycross driver. She began in 2005, driving a Citroen Saxo in Division Four. In 2006, she moved up to Division Two, with a Honda Civic Type R. Her best result that year was seventh overall, and she was thirteenth in the championship. In 2007, she improved that to sixth, after a consistent year in which she improved her best finish to fourth. Still in the Type R, she was fourth in Division Four in 2008, and came second at Mayenne. Driving an S1600 Fiat Punto, she moved up to Division 1A in 2009. She was not yet quite as competitive and had a best result of seventh, at Faleyras. She had another disappointing year in 1A in 2010, with only a couple of tenth places to her name, driving the same car. She was fifteenth overall. In Autumn 2010, she stopped racing, following an accident. However, she made a small comeback in 2012, driving a Renault Clio to ninth place at Tourneix. This comeback continued in 2013, mostly in Division 4. Driving the Clio, she was ninth overall, with one second place. She also featured in one Supercar race, in a Citroen Xsara. The Xsara was her full-time car in 2014, in Supercars. She was fifteenth in the championship. Another Supercar season in 2015 only ended up a guest spot, and she was 20th in the championship. In 2016, she was back in Division 4, but was quite competitive, and finished eighth in class. Her car was a Renault Clio. 

Sandra Vincent – runner-up in the French Ladies’ Rallycross Championship in 2014, driving a Renault Twingo R1. She began racing in 2013, and was 27th in the Twingo R1 series. In 2014, she improved her overall position to 21st, with a best finish of fourteenth, achieved at Kerlabo and Chateauroux. She won two of the women’s finals. In 2015, she was third in the Coupe des Dames, and twelfth in the Twingo championship. She only did a part-season in 2016, so although she won two Coupe des Dames races, she was only fourth in the championship. Her final position in the Twingo class was nineteenth. Previously, she competed in autocross in France for nine seasons.


(Image from http://rallycrossfrance.com/)

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