Thursday, 10 August 2017

Osmunde Dolischka


Osmunde Dolischka rose through the European single-seater ranks during the 1990s, after winning a regional karting title in 1994. She was one of a small group of women who came within touching distance of a Formula One career in the 1990s.

She was a latecomer to motor racing. Prior to 1994, she had competed in alpine skiing and was Austrian champion in the giant slalom. Even then, she showed signs of versatility and competed in water-skiing as well as the more traditional alpine form.

In 1995, she raced in the German Formula Ford championship, winning the last round, at Salzburg and finishing seventh overall. She was third in her state championship.

Formula Ford was followed by Formula Renault in 1996. She was second in her first race, at Zolder, and picked up another win part-way through the season.

Her progress faltered in 1997 when she moved again into Formula Opel. Her single season in the category was hit by a series of car problems and she was unable to finish higher than twelfth place.

In 1998, Osmunde got her career back on track. She raced in Formula 3 in central Europe, driving for the Fritz Kopp team. Her first races were at the A1-Ring and she was fifth and ninth. Two non-finishes at the Sachsenring came next, but then she managed a fourth at Most. Later in the season, she picked up another two fourth places at Most, having bounced back from another DNF. A second visit to the A1-Ring and a trip to Brno gave her two second places, the best of her season. She was third in the second race at Brno. Her last race of the season was at Hockenheim, where she was fifth. She was third in the Formula 3 Austria Cup, in her first F3 season.

Her form was impressive enough to attract the attention of Peter Sauber, who wanted to run her in Formula 3000. However, her biggest sponsor, Fujitsu-Siemens, pulled out in favour of her rival, Claudia Steffek, making this impossible. Osmunde and Claudia had fought it out on the track all year in F3, with Osmunde the more accomplished driver. Claudia was sixth in the championship and had a best finish of fourth. Fujitsu-Siemens opted for Claudia anyway, possibly due to her being younger and driving an older car. Her career stalled as suddenly as Osmunde’s did, a couple of years later.

1998 was her only season in Formula 3. She continued to compete in 1999, in the ADAC VW New Beetle Cup. Saloon cars were a new experience for her. She was eleventh in the championship.

That year, she also raced a Porsche 993 GT3 in endurance races. The results are not forthcoming. This marked the end of her circuit racing career. She had always had some money for her racing from family business interests, but without a sponsor, she was unable to continue at the level of which she was capable.

She attempted a comeback as a rally driver, in 2007, but crashed her VW Golf on her first event, and thought better of it. The accident happened on the first stage of the Ostarrichi Rally. It was one of a series of crashes on the stage and part of the rally was cancelled.

Osmunde is still involved in motorsport, running a kart hire firm and supporting her daughter’s karting career. Jorden was born in 2004 and has competed at a high level since the age of nine.

(Image from vn.at)

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Sue Hughes


Sue with her Radical SR3

Sue Hughes, also known as Sue Hughes-Collins, is a longstanding figure in Australian motorsport. She has experience in most disciplines, but is most known for saloon racing.

She has raced on and off since 1988, when she started driving in hillclimbs. Motorsport is part of her family background; she uses her family name of Hughes as a tribute to her father. He was a speedway rider. In hillclimbing, she won her class in the New South Wales championship, and was runner-up in the Australian championship. Her car both times was a Formula Vee.

She was part of the all-female Mazda 121 Challenge in 1996, which brought her into the limelight. Her solid on-track performances gave her a fifth place. The championship was dominated by Tania Gulson and Paula Elstrek.

The next ride for Sue was a Suzuki Swift in the Australian Production GT Championship. Her first appearances were one-off drives, then a full-season in the series followed in 1999. This was a good year; she was third in Class E and won some rookie awards. Hughes Motorsport, Sue’s family team, made its first appearance this year.

She returned to the GTP series in 2000, and switched between a Mazda MX-5, Ford Falcon and BMW 323i. She was not as competitive in these cars as she had been in the Swift; the Falcon was probably the best drive for her. Competing in Class D, she was ninth. Her combined efforts in the BMW and the Mazda in Class B gave her a fourteenth place.

In 2001, she stuck with the BMW. This was her favourite of her three 2000 cars. She was ninth in Class B. Her season ended with the two-hour GTP Showroom Showdown, in which she shared the BMW with David Lawson. They were 24th, with a class fifth.

A break from active competition followed. Sue worked as a driver trainer for BMW, including teaching celebrities to race for a BMW Mini Celebrity Challenge. She also drove the medical car at Mount Panorama.

Her return to the circuits came In 2008, when she raced a BMW M3 in some national production races, but with no spectacular results.

In 2010, she tried single-seaters, racing a 1600cc Formula Ford, but in 2011, she settled on a Radical sportscar as her car of choice. In her first year of Radical racing, she won one race and was fourth in Class Two of the Australian Sports Racer Series. She was also thirteenth in the Radical Australia Cup and earned one podium finish.

Three more seasons in the Radical Cup followed. Sue was not quite as competition as in 2011, although she was active for most of the season each time. She was 22nd in 2012, then 17th in 2013 and 2014.

She continued to race Radicals in 2015 and 2016, increasingly with her son, Jon Collins. 2015 was spent mostly in the Australian Sports Racer Series, in which she was ninth. Her best finish was a runner-up spot at Phillip Island. At different times, she made guest appearances in the NSW Supersports Cup and the Radical Cup.

In 2016, she was 20th in the Australian Sports Racer series, in spite of a bad end to her short season which included two non-finishes. Two appearances in the Radical Cup at Mt Panorama gave her a fourteenth and eleventh place.

At the time of writing, Sue is still racing the Hughes Motorsport Radical in 2017. She has driven in some rounds of the Australian Prototype Championship. Her best finish has been twelfth at Sydney.

Sue continues to support her son Jon in his sporting endeavours, including Formula 3.

(Image copyright Hughes Motorsport)

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Speedqueens at War


This weekend’s commemorations of the Battle of Passchendaele have inspired me to write something slightly different for Speedqueens.

Women served in and alongside the military in many ways during the First World War. Ladies who had been part of the motoring scene were well-represented among them.

Muriel Thompson was probably the most famous of the military Speedqueens. Muriel, who had raced at Brooklands, served in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry from 1915. She was stationed in Belgium. Her motoring experience made her an ideal choice for driving ambulances; transporting casualties and performing battlefield first aid were among the duties of the FANY.
Her first diary entry of 1916 reads:

Jan 1st We have started the first woman’s M.A.C. (Motor Ambulance Convoy) ever to work for the British Army. Our camp is on a little hill near the sea, behind the Casino. Most of us live in tents and bathing machines. I share a small chalet with three others. The weather is fiendish, gales and torrents of rain. The cars are old and in a bad state, and we are short of drivers. We mess in a big tent, all together. Lots of work but are all so very pleased to be here.

“Thompers”, as she was known, received the Order of Leopold II from the King of the Belgians, in recognition of her courage under fire. This was in addition to the French Croix de Guerre and the British Military Medal. The British award was for “conspicuous devotion to duty during an hostile air raid”, during which the FANY drivers continued to work under aerial bombardment.

She rose up the FANY ranks and was commanding convoys before the end of the war. Aside from occasional testing, she did not return to motorsport after the Armistice.

Muriel’s greatest rival in the Brooklands Ladies’ Bracelet Handicap of 1908 was Christabel Ellis. Christabel also served in the military and used her motoring skills. She was one of the original leaders of the Women’s Legion and served as a Commandant in the Motor Transport section. The Legion was formed in 1915. Christabel is said to have driven ambulances in France and Serbia prior to this, as a Red Cross volunteer. Her main job post-1916 was handling recruitment to the Legion. She was also involved in managing teams of despatch riders. She was made an OBE in 1918 and a CBE the year after.

Christabel Ellis sometimes hillclimbed a sidecar combination with her cousin, Mary Ellis. Mary was much younger than Christabel, but the pair were good friends. The younger Miss Ellis was an ambulance driver too and served with the Red Cross in 1917. At about this time, she became one of the first qualified female medical doctors in the UK.

Ethel Locke King was one of the founders of Brooklands, the first woman to drive on the circuit and runner-up to Muriel Thompson in the 1908 Ladies’ Bracelet Handicap. She did not venture to the front herself but she did found fifteen auxiliary hospitals in Surrey for injured soldiers. One of them was set up in her own house at Brooklands itself. Ethel was the Assistant County Director for the Voluntary Aid Detachment, a female nursing corps. She was in charge of 19 companies of VAD nurses, over 700 individuals. For this, she was made a Dame in 1918.

Some Speedqueens began their racing careers after the War, perhaps having developed their driving skills in military service. Gwenda Hawkes, the Montlhéry and Brooklands record-breaker, drove a Red Cross ambulance on the Eastern Front. She may have been a colleague of Christabel Ellis. She was Gwenda Glubb then, and began racing motorcycles with her first husband, Sam Janson, whom she met during the war.

Morna Vaughan and Lady Iris Capell would become senior figures in the Women’s Automobile and Sports Association in the late 1920s. They both competed in rallies, including the Monte Carlo Rally.

Like Mary Ellis, Morna Vaughan (then Morna Rawlins) was a medical doctor, one of the UK’s first female surgeons. She is believed to have served in a military hospital. Her specialism was gynaecology and genito-urinary medicine, so it is unclear what sort of medicine she was practising at the front.

Iris Capell joined up as a nurse with the Red Cross, aged nineteen. She worked in military hospitals in the south of England. Iris was a lifelong committee woman and a senior figure in the Women’s Voluntary Service during the Second World War.

This is not an exhaustive list and it is very Anglocentric. Please feel free to comment with your own suggestions, or email me.

(Image copyright Mary Evans Picture Library)

Monday, 31 July 2017

Valérie Chiasson


Valérie Chiasson is a Canadian driver who is now based in Luxembourg and racing in Europe.

She began racing in 2007, after five years of karting from age thirteen to eighteen. Her family background is not motorsport-related, but her father encouraged her in karting anyway especially as it kept her from taking up motocross.

She started in the one-make Toyota Echo Cup, and was second in the rookie standings in her first year despite a huge learning curve. She raced the Echo again in 2008, although she did not run a full season.

In 2009, she moved into the American Canadian Tour series, a stock car championship. She was 19th overall in her Chevrolet Impala, and second in the Rookie championship.

She continued to compete, on and off, until 2012, when she left the motorsport world for a year to concentrate on her other sporting interest: equestrianism. She entered the 2013 Canada Games in dressage.

In 2013, she started planning a comeback, and funding for a part-season in the 2014 Canadian Touring Car Championship was available. She joined the Lombardi Honda team for four races in their Civic, and was fourth and fifth at Montreal and tenth at Trois-Riviéres. One of these races was a Grand Prix support race; she became the first woman to take a (class) podium position at the Grand Prix meeting.

She intended to carry on part-time in 2015 and did continue to race, although in the one-make Nissan Micra Cup rather than the CTCC. Her final position was sixth overall, with one podium finish. She was second in the ladies’ standings, behind Valérie Limoges.

In 2016, she raced both the Micra and a Porsche 911. Her sponsor for the Micra Cup, Nissan Gabriel, was able to arrange her Porsche seat. The Porsche was the better car for her, and she was eighth in the Canadian Porsche GT3 championship. Her best finish was sixth, which she earned three times at Bowmanville and Montreal.

She was eighteenth in the Micra Cup. This was only a part-season. She managed three top-tens in the early part of the year.

At the end of 2016, she was elected Canada’s representative to the FIA Women in Motorsport Council.

Shortly afterwards, her career went international. Valérie began dividing her time between Canada and Luxembourg. She signed up for the Canadian and Benelux Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge series. At the time of writing, she has run better in Canada, earning two runner-up spots at Montreal. Her best result in the Benelux series has been a twelfth place at Zandvoort.

Away from the track, Valérie has business interests in both Canada and Luxembourg. She has her own automotive marketing company and collaborates with others.

(Image copyright Dario Ayala)

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Vivien Keszthelyi


Vivien Keszthelyi is a Hungarian driver who had her first senior races in 2014, aged only thirteen. She was competing in the Suzuki Swift Cup in Central and Eastern Europe.

Her best result was second, achieved at the Panonniaring and her home race at the Hungaroring. She finished in the top ten in all races she finished, and was on the podium in the Junior class every time. Her overall position at the end of the year was sixth. An outing in the Austrian Suzuki Cup gave her a fourth place. This was all despite having almost no prior motorsport experience. She had not been a junior karter in any serious way and only attended her first motor race a year earlier. Having said that, her parents liked cars, and she got an electric jeep for an early birthday.

In 2015, she returned to the RCM Swift Cup, and was a much stronger driver, despite a shaky start. Her first race ended in eleventh place, the first finish outside the top ten of her career. She scored her first win at the Pannoniaring, one of two this season. She was second three times, at the Hungaroring and the Slovakiaring. At the Hungaroring, she was also third in a multi-marque endurance race, driving solo in the Swift.

Always adding to her experience, she entered a couple of rounds of the Central European Touring Car Championship in Slovakia, in the same car. She was fifteenth and ninth, third and second in class.

In 2016, she raced an Audi TT Cup car in the Hungarian touring car championship. She was among the leading drivers, and won five races, mostly the sprints. The first of these wins was at Brno, where she won two in a row, with two fastest laps. Later in the season, at the Hungaroring, she won another three races at the same meeting. This gave her the Hungarian Touring Car and CEZ Endurance titles.

She stayed with the TT Cup car in 2017, but took a further step up into the Audi TT Cup in Europe. She is now a member of the Audi Sport Academy and receiving professional coaching from Pierre Kaffer. She was still only sixteen at the start of the season, having had to wait for a year to be allowed to start in the series.

Her season began badly, with a non-start in the first race, then a non-finish in the second. She was struggling without her race engineer, who had been in hospital, then had the embarrassing experience of sliding off during the parade lap and damaging her car. It was patched up for race two, but tyre problems intervened. Things got worse at the Nürburgring; she was caught up in a Fabian Vettel’s crash on the first lap, hit the wall, and spent the next two days in intensive care.

At the Norisring, she had recovered sufficiently to take part, and was rewarded with her first points finish, an eighth place. She will contest the rest of the 2017 season.

Her aim is to race in the DTM or the WEC.

(Image copyright Gabor Muranyi)

Friday, 7 July 2017

Laleh Seddigh


Laleh Seddigh is Iran’s top woman driver. She has won several races against men, as well as her country’s Ladies’ Championship.

Laleh was born in 1977. Her family was wealthy; her father owned several factories, including a car spares firm. She was a car enthusiast from a very early age and learned to drive at home, in the family’s yard. Some articles claim this was when she was eight, or eleven. A 2008 interview with Laleh for the German magazine Spiegel says she was thirteen.

By the time she was fourteen, she was being stopped by police and returned home, having “borrowed” her father’s car for a nocturnal excursion. Again, some sources claim this happened when she was much younger. She got her license later. As a teenager and young adult, she was very sporty and competed in athletics, equestrianism and volleyball.

Her first motorsport experience came through rallying. Her website says that she first competed in 2000, when she was 23, but details are hazy, partly due to language and information barriers. She took part in the Iranian championship between 2001 and 2005 and won the 2004 Ladies’ Championship. Part of the problem was that her activities were deemed un-Islamic by Iran’s religious authorities, and a media blackout was imposed on reporting her successes. She eventually petitioned for legitimate participation, which was granted. One fact in motorsport’s favour was that it was easy for Laleh to adhere to strict Muslim dress codes while clad head-to-foot in Nomex. In 2005, she was pictured at the start of the Arjan Rally close to Tehran, getting into her car. Her schedule involved both stage rallies and longer cross-country raids. She drove a Proton for an official team, and apparently won three rallies before 2004, from 28 starts.

In 2004, she started circuit racing as well as rallying. She used two different Protons and a Peugeot 206 over the course of five races. One of her first, at the Asadi Park stadium track, gave her a third place.

She won the Iranian 1600cc GT championship outright in 2005. Her car for the eight-race series was a works Proton.

From 2006, she was barred from competing in her own country after accusations of cheating. She was prohibited from entering the Open class of the Iranian touring car championship after her 2005 win, so she disguised her new 2400cc car as her last season’s 1600 model in order to compete. She was found out and banned.

After that, she did some training for Formula BMW Bahrain after receiving a licence there. It is not clear whether she actually raced. She is also reported to have raced a Formula 3 car in Italy. Some reports say this happened at Monza, but no results are forthcoming.

For a while, things went fairly quiet for Laleh. Her website states that she won a “ladies’ rally” organised by Tehran motor club in 2009, but further details are not available.

A film was made about her in 2012, supported by none other than Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It caused huge controversy in Iran. For one, its depiction of a Muslim woman was deemed un-Islamic and supportive of Western stereotypes. The film received a huge amount of state sponsorship, which was also criticised.

In 2014 and 2015, she entered Iran's Shiraz Rally, driving a Peugeot 206 and a Mitsubishi Lancer, respectively. She finished in 2014, in thirteenth place.

In 2015, she did some testing for the Indian Mahindra team, in their XUV500 4WD. Once more, it is not clear whether this was during or in preparation for competition.

Since then, her profile, outside Iran at least, has been lower. She has undertaken a PhD and teaches at a university, as well as speaking publicly about her motorsport experiences. In 2016, she talked of setting up a women’s racing school.

She was nicknamed “Little Schumacher” in Iran during her first brush with stardom.

(Image from http://arhiva.dalje.com)

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Pat Coundley


Pat Coundley raced sports and touring cars in the 1960s, in the UK.

She was always quite sporty and her first love was horses, in common with several other speedqueens, such as Pat Moss and her contemporary, Jean Aley.

She started her motor racing career in 1959, in speed events, driving a Jaguar D-Type belonging to her husband, John, another racer who was a Jaguar specialist. It was he who persuaded her to enter her first event, the North Weald hillclimb, in which she won the ladies’ award. She drove another of John’s cars, a Lister-Jaguar, in 1960, winning the sportscar class in sprints at Castle Combe and Long Marsden Airfield.

After some years in club races and sprints, often using Jaguar sportscars, she made her debut in the British Saloon Car Championship in 1964, driving a Lotus Cortina run by John Coundley Racing Partnership, her husband’s team. She was not overly competitive. Her first race was the second round at Goodwood, where she was seventeenth overall. She is recorded as a finisher at Oulton Park, but her position is not forthcoming. At Aintree, she may have shared the car with John. The Coundley Cortina was 22nd. The team disappears from the BSCC grids after that.

The same year, she drove a single-seater Lotus Climax 19 in the Brighton Speed Trials.
The year before, she used a D-Type, entering the 1600cc+ sportscar class, and the Ladies’ class.

At the Antwerp Speed Trials in 1964, she drove a long-nose Jaguar D-Type, and set a European women's speed record of 161.278 mph. This made the front page of at least one British newspaper. Pat was described as a “housewife”.

The Coundley Racing Partnership Lotus Cortina made some appearances in the 1965 BSCC, but it was not driven by Pat.

At some point in the early 1960s, Pat also raced a Lotus Elite, including a Ladies’ Handicap at Brands Hatch. In Motor Sport in 1962, she likened driving the Elite to “handling a beautiful horse”.

(Image copyright Getty Images)


Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Muriel Thompson


Muriel in her FANY uniform

Muriel Thompson was Brooklands’ first female winner in 1908, when she won the Ladies’ Bracelet Handicap and the Match Race that followed it, defeating Christabel Ellis.

She was a member of the Berkshire Automobile Club from at least 1904. Among her earliest practical motorsport experiences was a run in the club’s Gymkhana in 1904. She drove a Wolseley in a “Legal Limit Race” on a grass track at Hall Place near Maidenhead. She was second overall.

She made another appearance in the Berkshire AC’s Gymkhana in 1905. She was third in the “Bending Race”, a slalom between markers, driving an 18hp Siddeley, belonging to her brother.

Her first motorsport success seems to have been a win in a Blindfold Test at the Berkshire Club’s 1907 Gymkhana. The competitors were required to drive blindfolded towards a flag 75 yards away, from a stationary position facing away from the flag. Muriel got within forty feet of the flag, in 25 seconds.

Her car was an Austin, nicknamed "Pobble", which had belonged to her brother, Oscar, a regular racer. He was a member of the BARC, and as such, was able to enter his car into the first ladies’ event at Brooklands, held in July 1908. Eight ladies entered the Ladies’ Bracelet Handicap, with five making the start. Muriel won comfortably, after the favourite, Christabel Ellis, ran into trouble. Commentators likened Muriel’s upright driving stance to that of “an American jockey”. Shortly afterwards, Muriel and Christabel challenged each other to a match race at Brooklands. Muriel won again.

In 1908, she also went up against Dorothy Levitt in the Aston Hill Climb, driving the Austin. She was eighth overall. Her achievements were reported in Queen magazine.

Opportunities for Muriel to race "Pobble" were quite limited, due to the BARC's ban on women drivers, but she did make some other appearances.

In 1909, she was part of the winning Berkshire Motor Club team in the five-mile Inter-Club Team Trophy, at Brooklands. She was permitted to race due to the meeting being a non-BARC sanctioned event.

The same year, she was appointed by the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) as an official driver. She acted as chauffeur to Emmeline Pankhurst and other prominent suffragettes in the WSPU’s own Austin. She was succeeded as chauffeur by Vera Holme, but was still an active member of the Union in 1912.

In July 1911, at the RAC's Associated Motor Clubs meeting, she won the Declaration Handicap, in the Austin. At the same meeting, she revisited her blind-driving skills, winning another blindfold driving competition.

The following year, she returned to Brooklands for the RAC Associated Clubs meeting once more. She drove Pobble in the Skilful Driving Race. She posted a very fast time in the hillclimb section up the Test Hill, but clipped an obstacle in the reversing section. In yet another blindfold driving competition, she did not live up to her usual high standards and did not stop when she reached the marker.

She later became a decorated war hero, as a WW1 ambulance driver and medic, in the FANY. Among her awards was a British Military Medal, French Croix de Guerre, and from Belgium, the Order of Leopold II and Queen Elisabeth Medal. Muriel commanded convoys and delivered aid to soldiers on the frontline. She took her own Cadillac, named “Kangaroo”, over with her and it was used as an ambulance. Muriel kept a detailed diary throughout the war, which has been useful in piecing together the history of the FANY. Her nickname among her FANY colleagues was “Thompers”.

She continued testing cars occasionally until the 1930s. In 1939, she died of encephalitis lethargica (sleeping sickness), probably contracted during a flu epidemic. She was 65.

(Image from http://www.ocotilloroad.com/geneal/thompson3.html)

Monday, 19 June 2017

The Fast Girls Consul GT Challenge


Gillian Fortescue-Thomas

2. Jenny Birrell
3. Micki Vandervell
7. Susan Tucker-Peake
8. Margaret Blankstone
9. Carolyn Tyler-Morris
10. Sheila Islip-Underwood
11. Jenny Dell
14. Vicki Graham
DNF Liz Crellin
DNF Trisha Morris

The “Fast Girls Consul GT Challenge” was held on August 26th, 1972 at Brands Hatch, during the Formula 5000 meeting.

It was a launch event for a Ford Consul one-make series and was intended as a one-off. The British Women Racing Drivers’ Club supplied many of the drivers. Some had come through the Shellsport “charm school” at Brands Hatch, including winner, Gillian Fortescue-Thomas, and Juliette Scott-Gunn. Some very experienced rally drivers took part as well as circuit racers. Tish Ozanne, Liz Crellin and Rosemary Smith had been active much earlier. Jill Robinson was more current. Yvette Fontaine was the only international entrant.

It was run over ten laps of the club circuit. Jenny Birrell started on pole.

The winning driver was presented with a mink coat by none other than Graham Hill.

(Image copyright Autosprint, 1971)