Three-time winner, Paola della Chiesa
The Perla di Sanremo Rallye ran between 1952 and 1956. Recently, it was recognised as part of the history of the Rallye Sanremo, and its five editions were included in the yearly event numbering.
The Rallye was one of a number of events for female drivers that existed in Italy in the 1950s. Women-only hillclimbs and circuit races were a feature of Italian motorsport of the time, and attracted some talented drivers in genuine racing cars.
The first Rallye, in 1952, was around 500km long, and consisted of regularity trials, and two speed tests, held at the Ospedaletti circuit and the Poggio dei Fiori. Starting points included Milan, Padua, Monte Carlo, Turin and Lyon. The 1953 Rallye is described by some sources as being a reliability trial only, but this was an exception. Later events had high-speed tests at Monza, and the Colle-San Bartolomeo hillclimb. The distances covered gradually increased over the years, up to 1000km by the end, run over three days, rather than two.
Numbers of crews varied, but 22 was the largest entry.
The Rallye was cancelled after the closure of the Ospedaletti track, and a change in the rules about motorsport on public roads.
Contessa Paola della Chiesa was the star of the Perla di Sanremo, winning three times. She was also successful in other women’s events, and took part in mixed competition too. The young Luisa Rezzonico managed one win. Ada Pace was another well-known driver who took part at least once, in an Alfa Romeo.
Like all rallies of the time, the Perla di Sanremo had its share of tragedy; Giuliana Pini and her navigator, Margherita Pantaguzzi, were killed in an accident during a road section of the 1954 Rallye.
1952 Paola della Chiesa (Lancia Aurelia GT)
1953 Luisa Rezzonico (Lancia Aurelia)
1954 Paola della Chiesa (Alfa Romeo 1900)
1955 Paola della Chiesa (Lancia Aurelia B2)
1956 Goffreda Cambieri (Isetta)
(Image from http://www.motorismostorico.it/)