Sunday, 18 December 2016

Fabrizia Pons

Fabrizia Pons is Italian, and is best known as Michele Mouton’s navigator during the most successful part of her career, sitting beside her for all four of her rally wins. She is also a driver in her own right.

Even before she started rallying, she competed in motocross between 1971 and 1975, in Italy, starting off in the junior categories. She combined a motocross racing schedule with studying to be an architect. It was only a major accident that made her re-evaluate where she wanted to be in motorsport, and switch to rallying n 1976.

Her first rally car was a Group 1 Autobianchi A112, which she used in Italian events, including the Rally Ciocco, in which she was 19th. Her navigator was Gabriella Zappia. The pair also drove an Alfasud in the Sanremo Rally, finishing 29th overall. Among her rivals for the Coupe des Dames was Michele Mouton, in an Alpine-Renault, who went out with a broken radiator.

Fabrizia and Gabriella won the Italian ladies’ championship that year, which was no mean feat for a crew in their first year of competition.

For 1977, she changed to driving an Opel Kadett, still in Group 1. She and Anna Gatti took part in that year’s Sanremo Rally, but did not finish. They were more successful in Italian rallies, and defended her ladies’ title.

1978 was her best year in that car; her third attempt at Sanremo gave her a ninth place, making her one of two people to have scored world championship points in the same event as both driver and co-driver.
The Kadett was run by Conrero Squadra Corse, and Fabrizia earned herself another strong finish on the Targa Florio Rally, finishing fourteenth overall. They were behind sixth-placed Anna Cambiaghi, in a Lancia Stratos, but had accrued enough points for Fabrizia to take a third Italian ladies’ title.

This was her final full year as a driver. At the start of the 1979 season, she swapped seats and launched her career as a co-driver. She had done two Monte Carlo Rallies as a navigator, but she was now in the role full-time. By the end of the year, her navigation and organisational skills had helped Lucky Battistolli to two outright wins, in Austria and Germany.

When Michele Mouton was signed by Audi for the 1981 season, she was on the lookout for a new co-driver, having parted ways with Françoise Conconi, who had been her regular navigator for some years, and not quite clicking with Annie Arrii, her replacement. Fabrizia joined her for the Rally of Portugal, and began a five-year partnership that included four WRC wins, the FIA Ladies’ Trophy and the 1982 Halda Trophy for the best navigator.

After a disappointing season in the 1985 British championship, Fabrizia retired from full-time competition to have a family. Before her sabbatical, she had one more go at the steering wheel herself, driving an Audi Quattro in the Lady Rally dei Castelli Malatestiani, held on the island of Rimini in 1985. She was the winner, from Paola de Martini in a Ferrari.

Her career got going again in 1995, when she teamed up with Ari Vatanen at Ford, and she was back to winning ways in 1997, assisting Subaru driver Piero Liatti to victories in Monte Carlo and Portugal.

In 2008, she and Michele did the Rally of Otago together in a Ford Escort, finishing 35th. Prior to that, she was Jutta Kleinschmidt’s regular rally-raid navigator at Volkswagen, having done the same for Ari Vatanen.
In recent years, she has paired up again with Lucky Battistolli in the Italian Historic Championship, normally in a Lancia.

She is a member of the FIA’s committee on women in motorsport, and is also sought after by representatives from other sports for her organisational expertise. Teams and events she has supported include the New Zealand Olympic squad, and the European Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships. She now runs her own school for rally co-drivers.

(Image copyright Victor Patterson)

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