Monday, 29 February 2016

Shea Holbrook

Shea on the podium in 2015

Shea Holbrook races in the Pirelli World Challenge in the USA.

Despite not coming from a motorsport family, she began racing in earnest in 2008, at 18, in a Mazda Miata (MX-5), entering some rounds of the East Coast Teen Mazda Challenge, with a best finish of third, at Road Atlanta. 2008 was a busy year for her, with runs in Late Model stock cars, the Skip Barber series, NASA, FARA and SCCA races. At the end of the year, she received a scholarship from the Lyn St. James Driver Development Academy.

Her first experience of motorsport had come two years earlier, when she took a high-speed ride at the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Between then and 2008, she did some junior pick-up racing in FASCAR, and initially, competed in autocross.

2009 was quite a similar year to 2008, although a little less busy. She raced a Miata and a Honda Civic in SCCA competitions, and won the Central Florida Class H1 championship. She also did a little more single-seater racing in the Skip Barber Formula.

In 2010, she raced in the SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge, the club-level version of the Pirelli World Challenge, where she was fast from the beginning: two sixth places in her first races as a professional driver, at St. Petersburg. Her best finish was fifth, at Toronto, and she was sixth in the championship.

She stepped up to the Pirelli World Challenge in 2011, driving a Honda Civic. Very soon, she was on the pace, and she picked up her first Touring Car class win in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Although her short season meant that she was unable to challenge for overall honours, she received Sunoco Hard Charger Award and the Optima Batteries award for the best standing start.

In 2012, she had her second season in the series. She scored two podium finishes, driving a Honda Civic Si. Her consistent finishing was enough to give her fourth in a competitive championship. That year, she also set up her own team, Shea Racing, with her father, Jeff.

In 2013, she competed in Class B of the Pirelli World Challenge, in a Honda Civic. It was a slightly challenging season, and she had a best result of fourth in class, at Lime Rock. At the end, she was seventh overall. Whilst the on-track side of her career was on one of its steeper learning curves this year, her Shea Racing team was flying. It had now expanded into a multi-car team, with two regular drivers, Shea and PJ Groenke, and another guest driver.

In 2014, she moved into the TCA class, with the Civic, a move which paid off. She won her class five times, at Barber, New Jersey, Road America and Mid-Ohio, and finished on the podium in ten out of thirteen races. Her lowest final position of the year was fifth. She was runner-up at the end of the season.

Her 2015 season in the Pirelli series started well enough, with two thirds and a fifth at Circuit of the Americas, but she dropped out after a no-show at the next meeting, at Mosport. She spent the rest of the season preparing for, and competing, in jet dragster races. The car is run by the Florida Institute of Technology, and Shea won at least one IHRA title.

In 2016, she returned to the Pirelli World Challenge, with a new set of sponsors and a new Honda Accord. She just missed out on a podium position, with a best finish of fourth, at Circuit of the Americas, although her consistent top-ten finishes left her fifth in the championship. 

At the end of the season, she was made a Development Driver for Honda Racing, and took part in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill for the team.

Shea's Pirelli World Challenge season in 2017 was almost two separate seasons. She began the year in the TC class in the Accord, but struggled for pace and could not finish higher than 16th. A move back to the Civic and the TCA class in August was rewarded with a win, She was ninth overall at the end of the season.

As well as touring cars, she tried sportscars for the first time in 2017. She drove a Lamborghini Huracan in four rounds of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo USA, with multiple Indy 500 racer Pippa Mann. They scored three fourth places and were sixth in the Am class. 

Shea did not get out on the circuits much in 2018, but she did enter the Lamborghini Trofeo World Finals at Vallelunga. She was seventh and fifth in her first European races.

She did make the news when she helped Denise Mueller-Korenek to set a world record for motor-paced cycling at Bonneville Salt Flats. Denise cycled in the slipstream of a dragster, driven by Shea, reaching a speed of almost 184mph.

Her career took an unexpected turn to single-seaters in 2019. She was selected as one of the 20 female drivers for the inaugural W Series, after three rounds of assessment. During the season itself, she struggled somewhat, sometimes due to an ailing car. Her best finish was a twelfth place at Zolder and she was unplaced in the championship.

She had more luck in some ways in the F3 Americas series, although car issues dented her finishing record. Her best on-track finish was fourth at Road Atlanta and she was promoted to third by a disqualification.

At the end of 2019, Shea announced that she was pregnant and would not race in 2020.

Shea is also a multiple championship-winning water-skier, and has stated that if she was not a racing driver, she would like to be a fighter pilot. She has used her public profile to raise money and awareness for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a disease which affects her family.

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Saturday, 13 February 2016

Amy Ruman

Amy with the Corvette in 2015

Amy Ruman races in Trans-Am in the United States. In 2015, she made history by becoming the first woman to win the Trans-Am championship.

Before Trans-Am, Amy was a multiple SCCA Regional champion, and has been active on circuits since 1995, after a couple of seasons of autocross and Solo. She is from a motorsport family, who race as a team: Ruman Racing. Her father, Bob, is a stalwart of the Trans-Am championship. Amy’s elder sister, Niki, also raced on and off.

Among the series Amy raced in was the SCCA Spec Racer Ford championship, sharing the car with Niki and their father for the endurance races. Her performances in SRF in 1998 were enough to catch the attention of Lyn St. James, and both sisters were invited to join the Women’s Global GT Series for 1999. That year, Niki was the faster of the two, and Amy found the races rather hard going. She was thirteenth in the championship.

Her second season of the WGGTS was somewhat more successful. She had a best finish of sixth, at Sebring, and was tenth in the championship. However, the series was cancelled at the end of the season, so there were no more chances for Amy to carry on improving.

After another season in Spec Racer Ford, Amy branched out into GT-1 racing in 2002, driving the family GT-1 Corvette. She finished third in an SCCA race at Sebring, one of her best tracks.

Her second season in GT-1 racing proved that she had found her niche. She was in the top five for every race, and scored her first win, at Beverun.

After managing runner-up spots in previous years, she won her divisional GT-1 championship in 2006 and retained it in 2007. During the 2007 season, she scored five wins in seven races.

In 2005, she had begun doing some Trans-Am racing, after substituting for her father in a race he was scheduled to drive. The race was at Cleveland, and she was tenth. Her second Trans-Am race, at Topeka in 2006, gave her a fifth place.

The Trans-Am championship itself did not run for a few seasons, and when it did reappear in 2009, Amy was part of it. Her best finish was third, at Road Atlanta, in her first race of five. Another part-season in 2010 saw her consolidate her top-three credentials, with three thirds from six races

In 2011, she committed fully to Trans-Am, and won her first race, the last round of the season at Road Atlanta. This was the first win in the series for a female driver. Three further third places were enough for third in the championship.

In 2012, she won in Trans-Am twice, at New Jersey and Brainerd. Five more races ended in podium finishes; she was only out of the top three for three of her seven races. She was second overall in the championship, and was now one of the leading drivers of the series.

She ran in Trans-Am again in 2013, but could not manage a win, although she put together enough of a challenge to finish fourth in the championship. Her best finishes were two third places, at Brainerd and Sebring.

Amy was very successful in 2014, notching up another two wins, and coming third in the 2014 championship. The first victory came from her first pole position, at New Jersey, and her second, at Daytona, was the first win for an individual female driver in a professional race at the circuit.

She made even more history in 2015, by winning the championship outright, with eight race victories from twelve starts. This was a completely dominant performance, and she was 34 points (and five wins) ahead of her nearest rival.

Amy still drives the Ruman Racing Corvette. She defended her title in 2016, after winning three races and scoring three more podium finishes. 

She did not manage to make it three in a row in 2017, and had to settle for third place. Her best finishes were a pair of seconds at Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta. Contact between her Corvette and cars from other classes was a problem this year. 

In 2018, she had a solid year and finished fifth in Trans Am, now running as the Chase for the Trigon Trophy. She picked up two thirds and one second place, the second coming from Indianapolis, but she was not able to secure another win. Winner Ernie Francis Jr's dominant form kept her off the top spot.

She was third in the 2019 Trigon Trophy, with more consistent results and a best finish of third at Road Atlanta.

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Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Valentina Albanese

Valentina on the podium

Valentina is an Italian one-make specialist who often drives a SEAT, and is involved with the make on an official basis. She has achieved good results in individual and team racing.

Born in 1974, she got her first steps in motorsport in 1994, winning a “Volante Rosa” women’s driving competition, organised by a motoring magazine. Although she was not from a motor racing family, she had been interested in cars from a young age. She gravitated towards saloon racing from the start. Two years later, she took to the track in the Citroen Saxo Cup. She won her first championship in Italy in 1998, the Ladies’ class of the Saxo Cup.

Sticking with one-make championships, she had her next notable success in 2001, when she won some rounds of the Smart Cup in Italy, and was second in the championship. These were the first outright wins of her career.

That year, she also had her first races in the Volkswagen Fun Cup, driving a Beetle. The Cup would be her main sporting home until 2008. During her time in the Fun Cup, Valentina won several races, and was invited to be a part of the Uniroyal team in 2005. For two seasons, she was part of a Uniroyal all-female team with Francesca Pardini, following on from the “Rain Tyre Ladies” (Sylvie Delcour, Fanny Duchateau and Sabine Dubois.) In 2008, driving for a different, mixed team with Luca Trevisol, she won the European and Italian Fun Cups.

Valentina, driving alone, also raced in the Campionato Italiano Turismo Endurance that season, driving a diesel SEAT Leon TDI. This was the first year of a partnership with SEAT that has lasted many years. Driving for the Italian SEAT team, she won one race, and was tenth in the championship.

In 2009 she once again drove for SEAT in the Campionato Italiano Turismo Endurance, and won the diesel class. Alongside Gianni Giudici of Scuderia Giudici, who was the runner-up, she dominated the season.

In 2010, she was third in the main class of the same championship, driving a similar SEAT Leon, powered by petrol this time. Although she was not able to record a win, she finished on the podium a number of times. Of the four SEAT Italy drivers, she was the highest-placed.

A period of relative competitive inactivity followed. In 2011, she only made some guest appearances in the Ibiza Cup section of the CITE, as she was working for the SEAT team. She retained her SEAT links in 2012, but seems to have only carried out media work for the marque.

Her only big race during this time was the Zhuhai 500-mile race in December 2012. Sharing a Mercedes C63 AMG with Michela Cerruti, she was second overall. The team challenged for the win at some points during the race.

 In 2013, she seems to have concentrated on test-driving for SEAT, although she also demonstrated a Mercedes in Jerusalem.

Again, in 2014, she tested cars for SEAT, but did not race.

She returned to competition in 2015, in a SEAT Leon. She won the Italian Endurance Touring Car Championship (CITE) outright, partnered by Jordi Gené for part of the season. After leading for most of the season, she won the penultimate race to seal her victory. It was her fifth win of the year, from eight races, and she was forty points ahead of her nearest rivals, Stefano Valli and Vincenzo Montalbano.

Away from her racing and her promotional work for SEAT, Valentina works as a lawyer. She has stated that her motorsport ambition is to race a Super Touring-spec car in a major championship.

She was announced as the head of Porsche Motorsport in Italy in 2016.

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Thursday, 4 February 2016

Charlotte Dalmasso

Charlotte in 2015

Charlotte was the 2013 French Ladies’ Champion. She has been active as a driver since 2011, when she was twenty. Normally a tarmac specialist, she can and does compete on both surfaces.

Her first car was a Peugeot 207 RC R3T, which she used in mostly gravel rallies. Her best finish was 16th, in the Rally Antibes Côte d’Azur. This was not her only top-twenty finish: she was 19th in the Rallye National des 10,000 Virages, the National event that ran alongside the Tour de Corse. She was competing in the Volant Peugeot one-make championship, and was fourteenth at the end of the season.

For most of 2012, she used the same car, staying in the same championship for part of the year. Early in the season, she bettered her best result to fifteenth, in the Rallye National Terre Ouest Provence, a gravel rally. She did one rally in a S2000-spec 207, the Rallye du Var, and was 42nd, eighth in the French Amateur class. Just before, she did the Haut Pays-Niçois Rally in a 206, trying different cars, but keeping with the Peugeot marque. She was 47th. Two of her three Volant Peugeot rallies ended in mechanical failure, so she was out of the running in that championship, but she did manage her first points in the French Amateur championship this year.

She did two more events in S2000 207 in 2013: the Rallye Régional du Médoc, in which she was 44th, and the Rallye Régional Limousin Lac de Vassivière, which she did not finish, after an alternator problem. Most of the season was spent in a 208 VTi R2, including the Alsace Rallye de France, a WRC round. She was 47th overall, and won the Coupe des Dames. She also tried out an Opel Adam in the Rallye Régional de la Croisette, and was 48th. This year, she picked up a few points in the French Tarmac championship, and won her Ladies’ Championship, ahead of Charlotte Berton, her closest rival.

Her 2014 season began badly, with two crashes in her first two rallies. However, she was soon back on track, driving the 208, and managed a 17th place on her favourite event, the Rally Antibes Côte d’Azur. She was also 25th in the Critérium des Cévennes, with an eighth place in the Tarmac standings, the same as in the Antibes event. Although she finished higher in the Tarmac standings than Charlotte Berton, she could not catch her for the Ladies' award, as Charlotte had one more Ladies’ class win than her. She was thirteenth in the French Tarmac championship, and fifteenth in the Amateur competition.

In 2015, she pushed her international career further, entering three rounds of the World Championship: Corsica, Portugal and Monte Carlo. The best of these for her was Portugal, where she was 57th overall and tenth in the JWRC class. Corsica was a disaster, ending in a crash. The Monte fell somewhere in the middle; she finished, in 61st place, just behind her countrywoman, Laure Jaussaud. This was not as good an overall position for her, but she did get into the JWRC and WRC3 top ten for the first time. For most of the season, she drove a Citroen DS3, in both WRC and French rallies, although she did have some outings in a Peugeot 207 and 208. Her best French rally was probably the Antibes event, in which she won the Coupe des Dames, and was twelfth in the French tarmac championship. She was 22nd overall. For this event, she used the S2000-spec 207. Driving the Citroen, she equalled her 22nd place in the Vaison-la-Romaine Rally. Despite two class wins, she could not catch Sophie Laurent for the Coupe des Dames. She was tenth in the Amateur Trophy, and 21st in the French Tarmac championship.

She mostly rallied a Renault Clio in 2016, and regained her Coupe des Dames title, defending it from Allison Viano. Better than this, however, was her first top-ten finish in a French rally; a seventh place in the Croisette Regional Rally. She stuck to French national and regional rallies, and was registered for the French Clio R3T championship, in which she was eighth.  She was fourteenth in the French national Tarmac championship.

Charlotte is also active as a co-driver, and started her career in the navigator’s seat in 2009.    

She took a break from competition in 2017 to have a baby, making a limited return to the stages in 2019. She drove a Peugeot 208 in the Roches Brunes Regional Rally, finishing 24th, then sampled R5 power in a Hyundai i20. Her only event in this car was the Vosges-Grand Est Rally, which she found hard-going but fun at first. She crashed out on the fifth stage.

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