Thursday, 30 June 2016

Morna Vaughan

Morna with her Standard in 1933

Morna Vaughan was a British rally driver from the 1930s onward. She is mostly remembered for her drives in the Monte Carlo Rally between 1931 and 1952, which were often eventful rather than strictly successful.

Morna was born Morna Lloyd Rawlins in India, in 1882. Rallying was very much a second career for her; she was one of the first wave of women to qualify as medical doctors, and worked as an Army surgeon during the First World War. This made her one of the first female surgeons in the UK. After the war, and her 1917 marriage to Francis Vaughan, she continued to practise. She was the head of the “Female VD” department (genito-urinary medicine) of Guy’s Hospital in London from 1917, until at least 1935. In addition to this, she was a consultant surgeon to several London hospitals, specialising in women’s GU medicine.

She began driving in 1924, when she was forty-two. Her first major competition experience seems to have been in 1930, when she entered the JCC Half-Day Trial, in a Standard. She was one of the “First Class” award winners. Trials were something to which she would return throughout her career, with some success. That year, she drove a Wolseley Hornet at Shelsley Walsh, making the climb in 80.8 seconds.

Her first Monte Carlo Rally was in 1931, and she drove a Riley. She does not appear on the lists of finishers, but there are no reports of her getting involved in any particular accidents or other drama.

In 1932, she was sixth in the Light Car class of the Monte Carlo Rally, driving a Triumph Nine. This year, she also won her only Monte Coupe des Dames. This was in spite of a lengthy stop close to the end of the rally, when Morna and her co-driver, Charlotte Nash, a medical student, stopped to help another crew. They set several broken legs and gave extensive medical assistance, giving up any chance of a good final time, but still hanging on to the Ladies’ prize.

The following year, she drove a Standard on the Monte, with Elsie Wisdom as her navigator. They started from Tallinn in Estonia. Later in the year, Morna did the RAC Rally in a Wolseley Hornet. Her co-driver’s name is not recorded, and she may not have finished.

After 1933, she took a break from international competition. That year, she entered the Colmore Trial for at least the second time, winning a third class award in the Standard. Between then and 1937, she was an active and enthusiastic member of the Women’s Automobile and Sports Association (WASA), the British women’s motorsport association. She took part in their trials, which often seemed to be held in the Cotswolds, in the Standard.

Her fourth Monte was in 1937. Driving the Standard, she did not make the finish this time, due to accident damage. Her last pre-war event was the 1939 Monte, still driving the Standard. She finished in 48th place, trailing Yvonne Simon and Louise Lamberjack for the Coupe des Dames.

Unusually, she resumed her motorsport activities after World War II. By this time, she had retired from medical practice and was well into her sixties. In 1951, she returned to the Monte Carlo Rally, in an AC Ace, but did not finish.

Her last major rally was the 1952 Monte. In classic style, this was an eventful test for Morna, now 69. In an interview at the start, she professed not to remember how many rallies she had taken part in. She completed the greater part of the event in a decent time, but unfortunately ran out of petrol near Paris. Despite terrible winter weather, she managed to refuel, with the help of a passerby, and get on her way again. However, somewhere near Clermont-Ferrand, another car ran into the back of her Jowett Javelin, which burst into flames. She was not seriously hurt.

After her retirement from medicine, she lived on a smallholding. She died in 1969.

Morna’s collection of trophies and newspaper cuttings is now held at the National Motor Museum. Their online summary of its contents was a great help in writing this article.

(Image copyright

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky

Mikaela in 2015

Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky is a Swedish driver who has raced in international one-make series for Volkswagen and Audi.

She began karting at the age of twelve, and spent five years in various championships. In 2009, she was fourth in the Swedish Rotax Max championship.

Her first full season of senior competition was in 2012. Instead of learning the ropes in a Swedish national championship, she jumped straight into the VW Scirocco-R Cup, based in Germany, having passed its selection procedure. It was not the easiest of years, with two thirteenths at Oschersleben her best finishes. She was 19th in the championship. As well as other up and coming young drivers, she raced against guests such as Damon Hill and WRC champion Sébastien Ogier. At the end of the season, she secured an invite to the FIA Women In Motorsport commission’s Scirocco-R Shootout, a competition for female drivers with a funded season in the 2012 Cup as its prize. Mikaela was second, behind Michelle Gatting.

As well as tin-tops, she tried her hand at GT racing, taking part in some rounds of the Scandinavian Porsche Carrera Cup. Her best finish was eighth, at Solvalla, one of three top-tens she achieved in five races. She was twelfth in the championship.

A second season in the Scirocco-R Cup saw a more assured Mikaela. Towards the middle of the season, she broke into the top five for the first time, finishing fourth at the Norisring. She followed this up with a second at the Nürburgring, her best race of the season. She was eighth in the championship.

In a somewhat backwards move, she spent some time in 2013 in Sweden, racing in the Clio Cup, which ran as the Swedish Junior Touring Car Championship. She was twelfth in that championship, too, after a part-season. Her best finish was sixth, at Kinnekulle.

She had her best season yet in the Scirocco-R Cup in 2014, and was the strongest of the female entrants. She won one race, at the Norisring, the first female driver to do so. Despite five more top-tens, four of those being top fives, some poor finishes at Oschersleben and Hockenheim let her down.  She was ninth in the championship.

That year, she also took part in rallycross, racing an RX Lites Ford Fiesta. She raced in the Swedish and Turkish rounds, and performed best in Sweden; she was fifth in the final. In Turkey, she got as far as the semi-final. At the end of the season, she was fourteenth in the championship. She had a similar experience during her part-season in the Swedish Supercar Lites championship: fifth in on final at Höljesbanan, and eighth overall in the championship.

In 2015, she entered the Audi Sport TT Cup, the successor to the now-defunct Scirocco series. A series of non-finishes, including a crash at Oschersleben, dropped her down the leaderboard to fifteenth. However, her race results were quite good, and included a third place, at the Norisring. When she made the finish, she was almost always in the top ten.

For 2016, she remained with the Audi marque, but took a step up into sportscar racing, in an R8 LMS. She raced in the ADAC GT Masters in Germany, for Aust Motorsport, as a team-mate to Marco Bonanomi. It was a steep learning curve for both of them, and Mikaela had a best finish of tenth, at Oschersleben. She was just out of the top ten on two more occasions, and was 52nd overall.

2017 was another Audi-based year. She took part in the Swedish Touring Car Championship, which was run to TCR regulations. Her car was an Audi RS3 LMS. The season was slow to get going, with two DNFs in the first two races. Her best finish was an eighth place at Solvalla, one of two top-tens she scored during the year. She was 20th overall.

She was in the R8 again for the ADAC GT Masters. Neither she nor any of her Audi Sport Racing Academy team-mates fared particularly well. Mikaela's best finish was fourteenth, at Zandvoort.

In 2018, she concentrated on the STCC and was tenth overall, posting a historic first win at Karlskoga in August. This was one of five top-ten finishes for her.

Her 2019 season got off to an excellent start with a win at Knutstorp. It was her first race in the rebranded STCC, now running under TCR regulations and known as Scandinavian TCR. Her car was a SEAT Cupra as she did in 2018. She was sixth in the championship after a second place at the Drivecenter Arena and thirds at Falkenberg, Karlskoga and Mantorp.

Away from actual competition, she was named as an official tyre tester for the forthcoming Extreme E electric SUV championship. She undertook testing and PR duties for the Alejandro Agag-run enterprise. 

She is the daughter of rally driver Susanne Kottulinsky, and grand-daughter of Freddy Kottulinsky, another rally driver. Although she grew up in a motorsport family, she had no interest in it whatsoever until she was a teenager, preferring dance and gymnastics.

Mikaela’s profile rose, due to her being romantically linked to Max Verstappen. However, she remains focused on her own racing career, and aims to compete in the DTM in future. Her 2017 plans had to be adjusted, as she broke her leg at the end of 2016.

(Image from

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

"The Paris Scene", c1927-1932

"Albertine" Derancourt in her Bugatti, 1929

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, there was a considerable vogue for women’s motorsport events in Paris, and women in motoring generally. It seems to have started with Concours d’Elegance, then informal rallies, sometimes attached to hot-air balloon races, and then bigger organised events. The best-known and longest-lived of these was the Paris-St Raphael Rally, which began in 1929. The Journée Féminine de l’Automobile, promoted by the newspaper, Le Journal, was a yearly racing championship. There was also a regular Paris – La Baule ladies’ rally, and other rallies to Cannes and Juan-les-Pins, among others.

These rallies and races attracted some star names, such as Elisabeth Junek, and more drivers, such as Charlotte Versigny and Jannine Jennky, went on to enjoy success in mixed-sex competition. Others stuck to the women-only events.

Below are short profiles of some of the main participants in the Paris ladies’ motor racing scene.

"The Baroness d'Elern" (Aniela d'Elern) - Frenchwoman who raced and rallied a Bugatti T35 internationally in 1929 and 1930. She entered the first Paris-St Raphael Rally in 1929. She died during the 1930 Algerian Grand Prix, trying to overtake another driver. Her car hit a telegraph pole and she was killed.

Marcelle Leblanc – winner of the Championnat race at the 1929 Journée Féminine de l’Automobile, driving a Peugeot 5CV. The same year, she entered the Tour de France Auto, in the same, or a similar, car. She finished the event with no penalties. In 1931, she entered the Paris-St. Raphaël women’s rally, and won her class. In 1933, she won the Paris-St. Raphaël outright, in another Peugeot. The following year, 1934, she entered the Monte Carlo Rally, and was fourth in the Coupe des Dames. According to Paris-Soir, she won the Paris-Les Pyrenées-Paris Rally outright, in a Peugeot 401. Driving a 601, she won her class in the Paris-St. Raphaël.

“The Comtesse de Lesguern” (Arlette de Lesguern) – born in 1900, she seems to have begun her involvement in the motoring scene in the late 1920s, entering Concours d’Elegance. She was an active and enthusiastic participant in the many women’s motorsport events that happened in and around Paris in the late 1920s and early 1930s, including the early runnings of the Paris-Saint-Raphaël  Rally. She entered the first Rallye in 1929, driving a Rosengart, and again in 1931 and 1932. In between, she won the Championnat Féminin of the Journée Féminine de l’Automobile at Montlhéry, in a Simca-Standart. It was not only women-only events which she entered: she won her class in the Ostend Rally at least twice, in 1929 and 1930, driving the Simca, which was a showroom-spec model. After 1932, she appears to stop rallying. She died in 1977, after possibly having a career as a translator.

“Madame Liétard” – winner of the first two Paris-Saint-Raphaël  Rallies, in 1929 and 1930. Her car was a Salmson on both occasions. Her 1929 win was not her first triumph; she won the 1100cc Touring class of the Paris-La Baule Rally in 1928, another female-only event. Her car was a Salmson. She was a regular on the Paris-based women’s motorsport “scene” of the late 1920s and early 1930s. After about 1930, her name disappears from the entry lists. Her given name is never used.

Lucienne Radisse - noted French cellist and actress who had a brief rallying career in the early 1930s. She is reported to have won the Paris-St. Raphaël Rally in 1931, driving a small-engined Renault. She used the same car on that year’s Paris-Nice rally. Later, in 1932, she acquired an eight-cylinder Delage D8, which she used in the Paris-Juan les Pins rally. At this time, she was undertaking a series of driving adventures around the world, as well as shooting a film.

Colette Salomon - raced a Bugatti T35 in 1927. She was listed as an entrant in that year's Course de Formule Libre de l'ACF. She was the winner of the first Journée Féminine de l’Automobile in 1927, driving a Salmson. She was active in the women's motorsport circuit in France in the late 1920s, usually in the Salmson. This was the car in which she was photographed for French Vogue in 1927. Prior to taking up motorsport, she had been a dancer, and had made some films.

(Image from

Friday, 10 June 2016

Leona Chin

Leona Chin came to prominence as a member of Malaysia’s Red Bull Rookies all-female driving squad in 2008. She beat many other young Malaysian women to the coveted team spot.

She was sixth in Class B in the Merdeka Millennium Challenge in 2008, driving a Honda DC2 with Puteri Ayu Jasmin, Norlina Johor and Norbaizura Ruslan. They had qualified first in their class.

Prior to her first year as a Rookie, she had not done any circuit racing, but she had done some drifting, which is very popular in Southeast Asia, competing since 2006. She got into drifting and the modified car scene as a teenager. As soon as she was old enough to own a car, she got involved herself.

In 2009, she tackled the Sepang 1000km in a Honda DC2, with Puteri, Diana Chin and Nur Hayati Omar. They were 21st and fourteenth in class. Her calendar also took in rallysprint events in the MAM Championship, winning a Ladies’ and Junior title. Her car was a two-litre Proton Satria.

She raced a Honda in the Ultimate Challenge in 2010. The Challenge is a Honda-sponsored amateur motorsport competition, involving karting and circuit racing.

2011 was mostly spent drifting, although she did take part in the HPC 4-hour endurance race in Malaysia, and was fourth in class, driving a Mazda Miata. She also did some Autocross grass racing. Although she did not do much wheel to wheel racing, her profile remained high, due to promotional work and TV appearances.

In 2012, she continued with drifting, time attack, gymkhana and grass racing, and did some speed events in 2013, using a Radical, among other cars. For the next three seasons, she competed around Southeast Asia, winning several ladies’ prizes and becoming something of a name in the modified car scene.

She returned to the circuits in 2015. This was a new challenge, as she was racing a Caterham, and she had not really driven an open sportscar before. She was competitive from the beginning. In only her second race, at Sepang, she won the Supersport class. Out of the eight races she did, all ended in podium finishes.

At the end of the year, she also drove a Subaru Impreza in the 6-Hour Endurance race at Guangdong Raceway, as part of a four-driver team with Sam Lau, Xi Xu Ping and Sun Qiang. They were fourth in class. Her promotional activities this year were also more circuit-focused, and included autocrossing against Jari-Matti Latvala for the launch of the VW Polo Trophy model in Malaysia.

For 2016, she stuck with one-make series and travelled to China to compete in the Renault Clio Cup. This was a move that paid off; she was immediately on the pace, and on the podium. In her second race, at Zhuhai, she was third, and then scored two seconds in Korea. She was second in the championship, with seven top-three finishes in total. Throughout the season, she was never lower than fifth.

She entered a round of the 2018 Mini Challenge Asia at Zhuhai and finished third overall.

In 2019, she raced in the Malaysian Championship series, driving a Suzuki Swift. She was second in the MTC class for saloon cars, with three wins from nine races plus three further podiums.

Driving for a different team in a different car (a Proton Saga), she entered the Sepang 1000km as part of an all-female team with Faye Kusairi and Nurul Husna Nasaruddin. They were seventh.

Leona has many sponsors, for whom she makes appearances in the Asian media. As well as racing herself, she runs her own car accessories firm, Kuraz Motorsports, and works as a stunt driver for TV.

(Image from  

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Lili Reisenbichler

Lili on a motorbike

Lili Reisenbichler raced in German touring car championships from 1974 to 1987, including touring-based prototypes in sportscar races.

Slovenian-born but living in Germany, she got into motorsport through her partner, a Mercedes engineer. Her first racing cars were a Ford Escort and an NSU TT. In the former, she appeared in her first major race in 1975: the Hockenheim 100 Miles. She was seventh in Group 1. The car was an RS2000. In the same car, she tackled the Sembach DRP round, and was fifth in class. Early in the season, she had taken part in another non-championship event, a street race at Saarlouis. She was sixth, and fourth in her class.

For the next few seasons, she made occasional appearances in circuit races and hillclimbs in Germany and Austria. In 1977, she raced an NSU TT in the Mainz-Finthen round of the DRM, finishing seventh in class. In the same car, at the same track, she also tackled a round of the DRP series, finishing second in class. Later in the season, she was fifth in class at Kassel-Calden, another airfield circuit.

In 1978, she teamed up with Heidi Blechinger for the Grosser Preis der Tourenwagen at the Nürburgring. They drove an Audi  50 together, and were ninth in class. Driving solo, Lili took the Audi to a class fourth in the 100 Meilen Hockenheim. This was the start of a part-season in the Audi, sponsored by Duckhams; her other results were a ninth in class at Saarlouis, and eleventh at Hockenheim again.

She also competed in the Nürburgring 24 Hours in an Alpine-Renault, but the results are not readily available.

Lili encountered various problems with funding in the early part of her career, in common with many other drivers, but she was better at finding solutions to this than most. She stayed clear of genuine scandal, but was not afraid of using her good looks and lively personality as a selling point. As well as this, she worked in various jobs to finance her motorsport habit. This made her either very popular, or unpopular, depending on whose opinion was sought.

In 1979, her career started to take off, albeit slowly. She got herself a seat with the Warsteiner team in a BMW M1, and entered the ADAC Bilstein Super-Sprint at the Nürburgring. She was eleventh overall in Division 1, against a series of Porsches, and fourth in class. She also continued to race the Audi, and was in second place in one race at Zandvoort, when she went onto the grass and suffered an embarrassing roll, thankfully unharmed.  

The start of the new decade saw Lili taking another step up in the motorsport world. She started with another run in a BMW M1, driving for Team Airpress Wind Deflectors. She was ninth at the Hockenheim DRM round (the Jim Clark Trophy). Not long after, she teamed up with Ford Berkenkamp Racing, initially for the Nürburgring 1000km. The team put her in two of its cars, a Capri and an Escort. She did not finish in the Capri, but was seventeenth, with a class win, in the Escort. Her co-drivers were Dieter Selzer and Günther Braumüller. A similar arrangement ensued for the Nürburgring Grand Prix meeting, although it was less successful for Lili. Later in the season, she drove solo for the team in an Escort, and was eighteenth at Salzburg and twentieth at Hockenheim, in the DRM. In the second-tier DRP touring car championship, she drove a new Ford Fiesta. She was third in class at Avus, and would have been second at Hockenheim, had she not been disqualified. The reasons for this are unclear.

A second season with the Berkenkamp Ford operation followed in 1981, with a much expanded programme for Lili. In the first three rounds of the DRM, she scored three top-ten finishes, two ninths and an eighth. The rest of the DRM season was rather inconsistent for both her and team-mate Dieter Selzer, mostly just missing the top ten. Her highlight of the latter part of the season was a tenth place, at the Nürburgring Supersprint.

She stayed in the DRM in 1982, but moved teams to Zakspeed Ford, one of the leading touring car stables of the time. Their Capri prototype remains the stuff of legends. Lili got to drive it this year. Her season began badly, and she dropped out of the first DRM round, at Zolder, on only her second lap. None of her other three races in the Capri led to a finish, either.

In 1983, she was part of the Berlin-based Autoveri team, driving a Ford Escort. She was entered into the German and Central European rounds of the ETCC, and managed to finish one, the Brno Grand Prix, in 27th place. For the Touring Car Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, she was paired with Jürgen Hammelman and the American driver, Deborah Gregg, but they did not finish. She entered the Spa 24 Hours, but only got in as a reserve driver, and did not race.

The main, professional part of her career finishes here, at the age of 35. She continued to race occasionally until about 1987, but not in major events. Her business acumen and media experience meant that she was not out of work for long, and she became a successful journalist and photographer, covering a range of subjects, as well sitting on the board of a furniture company, and running a film production company.

In recent years, she has been competing occasionally in historics in Germany. She has driven a BMW in classic rallies.

(Image copyright Kräling Picture Agency)

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Jean Denton

Jean Denton with her MGB

Jean Denton was an international rally driver between 1969 and 1972, after some years as a circuit racer.

She did particularly well in long-distance events, such as the 1968 London-Sydney rally, in which she won the sportscar class in her MGB. Her co-driver was Tom Boyce, a Canadian who had been a friend of Jean and her husband Tony at the London School of Economics, where they all studied. They were 42nd overall, out of 56 finishers and 100 starters. Jean was just pipped to the Coupe des Dames by the Volvo crew led by Elsie Gadd, who were 41st. The MGB was sponsored by Nova, an influential fashion magazine of the time. Jean was a marketing consultant for IPC Magazines, who knew how to use her contacts well.

In the 1970 World Cup event, which ended in Mexico, she, Pat Wright and Liz Crellin were eighteenth in a Morris 1800. Again, they did not manage to get the Ladies’ award, which went to tenth-place finisher, Rosemary Smith, in an Austin Maxi. Jean, however, did manage to secure another good sponsorship package. The car was nicknamed “The Beauty Box”, and was sponsored by Woman magazine.

Jean usually drove BMC/Leyland cars, including an Austin–Healey Sprite in the 1970 RAC Rally. It is not clear whether or not she and co-driver Sandy Lawson finished.

Despite her usual loyalty to British power, she drove a Fiat 128 on the RAC Rally in 1972. Her co-driver was the experienced Elma Lewsey, and they were 80th.

Rallying was not her first love, but her motorsport career had a far from orthodox trajectory. Her background was academic, and not particularly sporty. She did not even learn to drive until 1961, when she was 26. Just four years later, she was competing in a Cooper single-seater that had previously belonged to Jackie Stewart. In this car, she was ninth in the 1965 Leinster Trophy, in Ireland.

In between, she drove a Mini in British club races, although she sometimes found it lacking in power. The Mini was her first racing car, and she began driving it shortly after passing her driving test.

After a while, the expense of maintaining the Cooper to a competitive standard became too much, and Jean took a sideways step into sportscar racing. Her first experiences in a sports racer were in a Morgan Plus 4, much earlier, in 1964. In this car, she won a Ladies’ Handicap at Brands Hatch, organised by the London Motor Club.

In 1966, she started racing a heavily tuned MGB on the British circuits. Her first major race in this car seems to have been that year’s Brands Hatch 500 Miles. Driving with her husband, Tony, Jean was twelfth overall.

Another year of racing the MGB in the UK followed, although details are a little sketchy. One of the races she entered was a Ladies’ Handicap, part of the Oulton Park Spring Cup. This event was associated with the British Women Racing Drivers’ Club, of which Jean was a long-standing member. She was fifth overall.

In 1968, her career went pan-European, with appearances in races at Vila Real, Montes Claros and Mugello. Sadly, the results seem to have been lost. She entered the Nürburgring 1000km with fellow BWRDC member, Natalie Goodwin, but they did not finish. This was a big race, a round of the World Championship for Makes, and won by Jo Siffert and Vic Elford, in a Porsche 908.

This year, she won the second of her British Women’s Racing championships, awarded by the BWRDC.
A second attempt at the Nürburgring 1000km in 1969 led to a finish, in 36th place. Jean was driving an MGB for her own team, and assisted by Mike Garton. The pair raced together in Europe at least twice more that year, at Mugello and Barcelona, but did not make the finish either time.

Jean only became a rally driver through a coincidence. She was apparently at the dentist’s, and found out that the dentist rallied himself. She thought it sounded like a good idea, and got in touch with Tom Boyce again, who, she knew, owned a rally-prepared MG. Her husband, Tony, was unsuitable as a co-driver, as he often suffered motion sickness when a passenger in fast cars. Thus began the professional part of her motorsport career, in 1968, from very unlikely origins.

After 1972, she retired from active competition, and returned to the world of business. Bringing her race and rally experience with her, she worked in corporate communications in the motor industry, up to and including being the head of that department in the MG Rover Group, previously her staunchly-supported British Leyland. She was the most senior woman in the British motor industry.

Later, she became a Conservative politician and a Cabinet member, at first in the Trade and Industry Office, and then in 1994, the Northern Ireland Office, until the Conservatives were deposed in 1997. She was made Baroness Denton of Wakefield in recognition of her achievements.

 She died in 2001, of cancer. Before her death, she used her influence and organisational skills to set up a support group called “Women On The Move Against Cancer.”

She is fondly remembered in motorsport circles as being down-to-earth and funny, as well as being a good driver and a highly organised team co-ordinator.

(Image copyright Alamy)