Sylvie (right) with Sylviane Sitarz in 1984
Sylvie Seignobeaux is a French rally driver, and was the winner of the Citroen Total Trophée Féminin in 1984.
Born in 1957, she enjoyed cars and driving from a very early age. In an interview with Rétro Course magazine, she talks about her earliest driving experiences, which involved crashing her aunt and uncle’s Citroen DS into a tree, when she was five years old. Later, as a teenager, she got further into cars through her boyfriend.
She got her start in motorsport in 1978, initially as a rally co-driver. In 1981, she took up driving herself, and was quite successful in hillclimbs. Her first car was an Autobianchi A112, in which she won her class in the 1981 Razal hillclimb. In 1982, she switched to a Citroen Visa for a regional Rallye Féminin, and was fifth in her first event, and second in another. During this time, she was far from being a professional driver; she worked for a ski school, and was a regular skier herself.
An early highlight of her career was a third place in the 1983 revival of the women-only Paris-St. Raphaël Rally. Her car was a Citroen Visa, and her co-driver was Brigitte Aymé.
Citroen would be the marque that had the most influence on her career. In 1984, she decided to enter a selection event for a women-only motorsport initiative organised by Citroen, devised to promote the Visa Mille Pistes rally homologation model. At the beginning of February, Sylvie was the best of 596 women who entered the Lyon heat. The selection challenges included slaloms and gymkhanas, economy runs and even driving around a disused quarry whilst blindfolded. Sylvie’s heat win put her in the final eleven-woman championship, ahead of the experienced Dominique Perrier. She paired up with Sylviane Sitarz as co-driver.
The first round of the Citroen Total Trophée Feminin was on gravel, the Terre de Provence Rallye. Sylvie won comfortably from Andrée Andrina. On asphalt at La Baule, she won by a smaller margin from Patricia Bertapelle. This early lead meant that her eighth place in the Mille Pistes Rally did not affect her chances too much, nor her seventh in the Boucles de Boulages. In the Tour de France, the biggest rally on the six-event calendar, she was a comfortable fourth, which she repeated on the Picardie Rally. Her relative consistency meant that she won the championship by four points from Christine Driano, representing Aquitaine-Charentes.
Sylvie’s prize was a contract with a Citroen works-supported team for the 1985 season, driving a Group B Visa Mille Pistes. Her first event as a works driver was the Critérium de Touraine. She did very well, finishing ninth overall, just behind her team-mate, Christine Driano. A little later, she was eleventh in the Rallye des Garrigues. An engine valve failure put her out of the Critérium Alpin, then a head gasket did the same during her first overseas rally. Both she and Christine Driano had travelled to Bulgaria for the Albena Rally. Back in France, she crashed out of the Touquet Rally, before getting back on track in the Rallye Aquitaine-Pays Basque with a seventh place. She was then twelfth in the Mont Blanc Rally, and a strong tenth in the Tour de France, as well as fourteenth in the Antibes Rally. Her second overseas rally was the Lois Algarve Rally, in Portugal, but she did not finish, due to another engine problem. During her works team year, she scored five Coupes des Dames, a class win and three top-tens.
After a promising debut year in the French championship, with some excellent results, she took a year out in 1986.
Her return to rallying in 1987 was quite low-key. She drove a Citroen Visa GTi in the Lyon-Charbonnières Rally for the Ecully team, and was fifth in class. As well as rallying, she tried some ice-racing at Flaine, in the same car, but professes not to remember much about it.
The Visa was exchanged for a Group A AX in 1988. It was prepared by Citroen Ecully and used for rallies and hillclimbs. This was a new car, and Sylvie’s season had its fair share of the technical problems that come with new models. She did not get to the finish of the Monts Dôme, Lozère or 1000km de la Réunion rallies. This last event was probably her most far-flung rally. (Réunion is a French dependency off the coast of Mauritius). When the car ran, it was quite competitive: she won her class in the Lyon-Charbonnières Rally, and was ninth in the Bricolles-Côteaux-Varois Rally. The car was more reliable in hillclimbs, and she had a best finish of fourth at Razal, with a class win. It was sold at the end of the season.
She did one more event in 1989 with the AX, this time in Group N form, and was ninth in the Ronde de Lans en Vercours. It was then replaced by a Peugeot 205 GTi, previously belonging to her partner, Claude, which she continued to rally for a while, with a best finish of eighth, in the Vins de Macon Rally, in 1989. That year, she also acted as a co-driver in the same car.
The first part of Sylvie’s career ends here. For some years, she was out of motorsport, and did other things, including flying aeroplanes. In recent years, she has returned to the stages in historic rallies in France, and has even revisited the Visa Mille Pistes. She acts as both driver and co-driver, and has even rallied with Sylviane Sitarz again.
As well as participating, Sylvie has discussed her experiences in quite a lot of detail on the http://www.forum-auto.com/ forum. She remains in touch with some of the other “Troféminin” competitors.
This post was written with the help of Sylvie’s reminiscences and list of results.
(Image from http://vccf.free.fr/Autour_Visa/Trofeminin/trof03_mob.php)