Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Inessa Tushkanova


Inessa in 2015

Inessa Tushkanova is a driver and co-driver from Ukraine, now based in Russia. A quick Google image search for her would suggest that she is one of the models parachuted into motorsport from time to time, in order to promote something or someone. Although Inessa has modelled professionally, she is the real deal as a rally driver.

Inessa took part in various sports as a teenager, and rode a motorcycle from a young age. In 2006, she took her first steps in rallying, driving a Daewoo Sens in Russian club rallies. A couple of months after passing her driving test, the boyfriend of one of her friends was organising one of these rallies. Inessa and her friend Tatiana had the idea of entering as an all-girl team. She won a bronze medal in one of the club championships she entered, which was a good debut, especially since she and Tatiana were excluded from one of their first rallies, after oversleeping and turning up late.

After her small successes in 2006, she started entering bigger rallies as a navigator in 2007. Sitting alongside her fellow Ukrainian driver, Ivan German, she was not successful. She took the wheel herself in 2008, in a Subaru Impreza. Immediately, she impressed in Ukrainian rallies, finishing second in the Rally Boyarka. She also recorded two more top-ten finishes in Stolitsa Cup events: seventh in the Rally Stolitsa and ninth in the Mariupol Rally.

Quieter years followed in 2009 and 2010, although she did manage a sixth in the 2010 Rally Bukovyna, in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX. The year before, she had been 24th in the Bukovyna Rally, in the Impreza.  2010 saw her expand her motorsport repertoire from straight stage rallies, and she was third in class in an ice slalom in Lithuania in 2010.

If 2010 was a quiet year, then 2011 was a busy one for Inessa. She continued to branch out, into circuit racing. Her chosen championship was the Russian Mitjet Cup, a one-make series. She was on the pace very quickly, and won two races that year, at Smolensk, and Kazan in Poland.

Non-motorsport activities placed additional demands on her time. Her modelling career, which she had pursued since her teenage years, took off quite strongly this year. Although she achieved considerable success, she has claimed that she only did it to raise money for her rallying.

Rallying was still very much a priority. She mostly used the Lancer in 2011, and competed quite extensively in the Baltic countries. Her best finish was 18th, and sixth in class, in the Rally Vilnius in Lithuania. In December, she tried out a Renault Clio for the Babórka Rally in Poland, and was 26th out of 69 finishers.

Back in the Lancer, this pattern continued in 2012, with her activities concentrated again in the Baltic states, although she also competed in Russia and Poland. Her best finish was fourteenth, in the Russian Rally Masters Show, won by Evgeniy Novikov. She scored another top twenty finish in the Vilnius Rally. While she was in Lithuania, and working with a Lithuanian navigator, Irina Jankovskaya, she competed in some rallysprints at Shirvintos, earning two third places. This year saw her first European Championship event, the Rally Poland, in which she was 29th, and fourth in class.

In 2013, she initially switched her focus to western Europe, rallying in Finland and Italy, but was let down by car unreliability with the Lancer. She crashed out of the Arctic Rally, and did not finish the Itäralli in Finland, or the Italian Ronde Valtiberina either. After her Western adventure, she went back to a Subaru Impreza for one rally in Russia, the Rally Masters Show, in which she was 18th. The rest of the season was spent in the Russia Cup, driving a VW Polo. Her best result was tenth, in the Rally Gornuy Vershiniy. At some point this year, she also won a Time Attack event at Zandvoort, in the Netherlands.

In 2014, she competed mainly across Eastern Europe, with mixed results. She was excluded from the Rally of Estonia, and did not finish the Barum Rally, due to a crash. Her best finish was a 26th, in the Tarttu Rally, in Estonia. She scored two points in the ERC Production Cup. This year, she won her first European Ladies’ Cup, in the Rally Liepāja in Latvia.

She won another ERC Ladies’ Cup in 2015, again in the Liepāja Rally. She was 39th overall. This year, she was entered in the ERC2 class, and the Liepāja event gave her a ninth place in ERC2. This was her second rally of the year, after the Halls Winter Rally in Lithuania, which was not part of the ERC. She was sixth overall, the best result of her season. A run in the Pohjanmaa Rally in Finland gave her a 62nd place, but after that, her season started to go wrong. She crashed out of her first Circuit of Ireland, then did not finish the Harju Rally in Estonia, and Rally Estonia itself. She was set to change her Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX for a Renault Clio, for the Acropolis Rally, but this does not appear to have happened, and she did not rally in Greece.. She was third in the ERC Ladies’ Trophy.

2016 was a very quiet year in contrast. She drove a Lada Kalina in the St Petersburg Rally, but did not finish. Other than that, she remained very much under the radar.

Inessa intends to continue in rallying, and her programme usually seems to take her further and further afield each year.

(Image from www.drive.net)

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