Sunday, 30 April 2017

Deborah Gregg


Deborah Gregg raced sportscars in the States in the 1980s, and ran Brumos Motorsport after the premature death of her husband, Peter Gregg, in 1980.

The Greggs first met at a party, and initially bonded over a late-night road race they held with friends. Deborah had never actually raced. Peter competed internationally, as well as owning four car dealerships.

Their relationship progressed quickly, and they married within a few months. However, just five months after they met, Peter drove out into the desert and shot himself. He had changed his will in favour of Deborah, and left her a note telling her not to blame herself for what he had done.

She was now a widow, and went through the normal grieving processes, but she was also, now, a very wealthy woman, with the resources at hand to go racing, an ambition she had always harboured. According to her mother, she had been interested in cars since the age of five.

Her first IMSA event, in 1982, was the Daytona Finale. She drove a Porsche 924 with Elliot Forbes-Robinson. They were 22nd overall, and eleventh in the GTO class.

In 1983, she started racing for the Brumos team, which now technically belonged to her, as it had been owned by Peter since 1965. Hurley Haywood, a former team-mate of Peter’s, was on hand to help. Deborah ran a Porsche 924 for an all-female team of herself, Bonnie Henn and Kathy Rude. Their first event together was the Daytona 24 Hours, and they were thirteenth overall. The trio reunited for the Sebring 12 Hours, in which they were 35th. Deborah and Kathy then did the next three rounds of the IMSA series together, with a best finish of 17th, at Charlotte.

Mid-season, Deborah travelled to Germany for the Nürburgring Grand Prix. She shared a car with Lili Reisenbichler and Jürgen Hamelmann, but they did not finish. Back at home, she did the last two rounds of IMSA in two different Porsches 924s, driving alongside Elliot Forbes-Robinson and George Drolsom.

1984 was a much quieter season. She raced with the El Salvador team, in another 924. Her team-mates were Jim Trueman and Alfredo Mena. They were meant to do the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours together, but Deborah never got to race at Sebring. The team did not finish either race anyway.

1985 saw her back in a Brumos car for the Road America Trans Am round. This time, it was a Buick Regal. She was 23rd. She also drove an Alba AR4 for Malibu in the Watkins Glen 500km, and was fifteenth.

She returned to IMSA in 1986, driving a Tiga GT286. For Daytona, she was part of a four-driver Rinzler Motoracing team with Mike Brockman, Steve Durst and Jim Trueman. They qualified in 28th place, but the car’s engine failed. Sharing with Jeff Kline, Deborah was eleventh at Laguna Seca, then ninth at Charlotte, with Jim Trueman. This was her best finish of the year. Later in the season, the car was taken over by Brumos. This particular team’s best result was a twelfth place at Palm Beach, before another Tiga was brought in, which did not run as well.

Her fourth Daytona 24 Hours was the best of her career. She got a ride in a Roush Racing Ford Mustang, with Scott Pruett, Scott Goodyear and Bobby Akin. They were ninth overall, third in class. This was more remarkable considering that they were unable to set a qualifying time, and started from the back of the grid.

Deborah remained a Roush driver for the rest of the season, and tackled the Trans-Am series in a Mercury Capri. This car seemed to suit her. She was eighth in her first race at Long Beach. By the third round at Portland, she was into the top five. Her first podium happened at Road America, and was quickly followed by another third place at Memphis. She was fifth in the championship, and won the Rookie of the Year award.

In 1988, she joined up with another Roush driver, Lyn St. James. They drove a Mercury Capri at Daytona with Mark Martin and Pete Halsmer, but crashed out quite late on. Deborah and Lynn had more success as a duo, finishing eighth at the Sebring 12 Hours in a Mercury Merkur XR4Ti. They were second in the GTO class.

Deborah had not always had such good relationships with other female drivers. Shortly before her 1988 Daytona run, she had appeared on a speaking panel with Janet Guthrie, who said, in front of her, “as for Deborah Gregg, I don't know how much money Peter Gregg left her, but it was evidently enough for her to buy herself a ride.'' It is unclear what her grudge was, or what the context of her remarks was. Others were more complementary. Including former team-mate Elliot Forbes-Robinson, who praised her progress that year.

Deborah’s Trans-Am season was not quite as strong as her 1987 run, although she remained a solid competitor. Her best result was at Detroit, where she was fifth in the Merkur. This was one of four top-tens she earned that year.

During her time at Roush, Deborah also did some truck racing in a Mitsubishi and a Jeep Comanche, although results are proving hard to track down. Lyn St. James used a Ford Ranger.

After the 1988 season, Deborah took a break from racing, although she came back to Trans-Am in a Chevrolet Camaro, in 1991. She was 18th in the 1991 championship, and tenth in 1992. A part-season in 1993 gave her a 21st place.

Her last IMSA race also occurred in 1993. She was twelfth at Miami, in her self-entered Camaro.

Shortly afterwards, she sold her interest in Brumos, and concentrated on other things, including family.

(Image copyright Mark Windecker)

Monday, 24 April 2017

The European Ladies' Rally Championship


Ewy Rosqvist and Ursula Wirth

The FIA European Rally Championship began in 1953. For the first thirteen years of its existence, a Ladies’ Championship prize was awarded to the overall highest-performing female driver.
In its heyday, the Ladies’ Prize was taken seriously by teams and manufacturers, who liked to use it in their lists of wins in their advertisements. The Ladies’ Prize was not a mere token either; a certain number of women had to take part in a rally for one to be given. It was not an award for showing up. This led to teams entering multiple female crews, in order to ensure that a prize would be awarded. This could be good news for female drivers, who got more chances to compete internationally, but it could also mean that once someone had picked up enough points to win, those drivers would be dropped from the team. Other tactics included deliberately pulling out of rallies, to make sure a rival was unable to score points.

The new ERC reinstated the Ladies’ Prize in 2013, with a less complicated set of rules.

Below is a list of the winners. Co-drivers’ names are given when known, and when they were a regular team-mate. Team names have been given when a driver used different cars during a season.

1953 Greta Molander (Saab 92)
1954 Sheila van Damm/Anne Hall (Sunbeam/Rootes team)
1955 Sheila van Damm/Anne Hall (Sunbeam/Rootes team)
1956 Nancy Mitchell (MG/BMC team)
1957 Nancy Mitchell (MG/BMC team)
1958 Pat Moss-Carlsson/Ann Wisdom (BMC)
1959 Ewy Rosqvist (Volvo)
1960 Pat Moss-Carlsson/Ann Wisdom (BMC)
1961 Ewy Rosqvist (Volvo)
1962 Pat Moss-Carlsson (BMC)
1963 Pauline Mayman/Valerie Domleo (BMC)
1964 Pat Moss-Carlsson (Saab 96)
1965 Pat Moss-Carlsson/Elisabeth Nyström (Saab 96)
1966 Sylvia Österberg (Volvo 122/Renault 8 Gordini)

2013 Molly Taylor/Sebastian Marshall (Citroen DS3)
2014 Ekaterina Stratieva/Carmen Poenaru (Citroen C2/Subaru Impreza)
2015 Ekaterina Stratieva/Julianna Nyirfás (Citroen C2/Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX)
2016 Catie Munnings/Anne Katharina Stein (Peugeot 208)
2017 Tamara Molinaro/Ursula Mayrhofer/Giovanni Bernacchini/Martin Wydaeghe (Opel Adam)


(Image from https://www.mercedes-benz.com/en/mercedes-benz/classic/women-and-motor-racing/)

Friday, 21 April 2017

Female Drivers in Touring Cars: the USA


Michele Abbate

Below are some profiles of women racing touring cars in the USA. Some of these have been split off from the Female Drivers in Touring Cars in the Rest of the World post. Shea Holbrook has her own profile. For female stock car drivers, try here or here.

Michele Abbate - races a Scion FR-S (precursor to the Toyota GT86) in the USA. She started out in time trials and Time Attack events, before moving into circuit racing in 2009. She has mainly competed in SCCA Nationals, where she has achieved considerable success, including a Western Conference championship win in 2015. In 2014 and 2015, she raced in the US Touring Car Championship. She was seventh in the 2014 series, but only competed in one 2015 race. Her continuing strong performances and skill in finding sponsorship have led to a drive in the 2017 Bathurst 6 Hour race, for Pedders Racing. She will be driving a Toyota GT86.

Geri Amani - races touring cars and single-seaters in the USA. She is a multiple race winner in SCCA Improved Touring, and finished in the championship top three in 2013 and 2014. In 2014, she also entered the US Touring Car Championship, driving a Mazda3. She did one race, and was fourth in class, at Laguna Seca. That year, she did her first single-seater races as well, finishing third in Formula F in a 1600cc Formula Ford. Since then, she has mostly worked as a driving instructor, and stunt driver.

Rebecca (Becky) Arsham - has taken part in at least five seasons of the US Touring Car Championship, usually in a Honda. She has only done part-seasons, and her best championship position was eighth, in 2014, driving a gogogear.com Honda Civic. Much earlier, in 2007, she shared a car with Rich Woo, and earned at least one third place. The pair had raced together in the NASA Pacific Coast Touring Car Championship in 1999 and 2000, finishing second both times. Becky has been active in motorsport since at least 1996, when she was second in the NASA HPR Championship.

Roberta Jesberger - raced in the SCCA World Challenge for touring cars in the USA. She raced a Mazda RX-7 during the 1995 season and had a best finish of 17th, at Mosport. She returned to the series in 1996, but made only a few starts. She was racing for “Father and Daughter Racing” with her father, Ron. She does not appear to have raced since then.

Shauna Marinus - raced touring cars in the USA in the early and mid-2000s. She competed in the World Challenge for touring cars between 2000 and 2004. Initially, she raced a BMW 328 and M3, but she used Mazda cars almost exclusively from 2001 onwards. Her best season in the World Challenge was 2002; she was tenth overall, driving a Mazda Protege. As well as touring cars, she tried sportscar racing. She did a couple of races in the Women’s Global GT Challenge in 1999 and 2000, in one of their spec Panoz Esperantes. In 2004, she raced a Mazda RX-8 in at least one round of the Grand-Am Cup. Prior to circuit racing, she did autocross and Solo events. She was the first woman to win an open SCCA Solo title in 1998.

Sarah Montgomery - racing in the Pirelli World Challenge in 2017, driving for Shea Holbrook’s Shea Racing team. Her car is a Honda Civic. Prior to this, Sarah raced a Mazda MX-5 (Miata) from 2011 to 2016. In 2013, she won two championships, the Gulf Coast Racing Series, and the NOLA Region Spec Miata Series. In 2012, she also won the Spec Miata Charity Challenge, a one-hour enduro.


Julie Wilkinson - Canadian driver who raced in the World Challenge touring car series in the 1990s, in the USA. She began in its inaugural season in 1990, in a Subaru. Previously, in 1988, she had been a team-mate to Kat Teasdale in the CASC Player’s/GM Motorsport Series. They both drove Chevrolet Camaros. The year before, she raced a Honda Civic in the CASC Honda/Michelin Challenge Series, with a best finish of fifth, at Westwood. She later became a motorsport journalist and died some time before 1999, when a sports journalism prize was set up in her memory.

(Image copyright Scion Racing)


Monday, 17 April 2017

Rena Blome


Rena in 1984

Rena Blome was the fastest female rally driver in Germany, in the mid-1980s.

A former apprentice painter and decorator, she rallied internationally from 1981, initially in a Peugeot 104. During this season, she entered the Monte Carlo and RAC Rallies, and was the leading German finisher in the 1000 Lakes Rally. She did not finish the other two World Championship events.  

In 1982, she managed a twelfth place in the Rallye Deutschland, and another in the Vorderpfalz Rally. This was one of four top-twenty finishes that year. The Peugeot team gave her a works 104 for the Hunsrück Rally, but she did not finish.

By the start of 1983, she had been talent-spotted by Peugeot Sport, who provided her with a car for the German championship. She drove a Talbot Samba that year, and was twelfth in the German championship. Her best finish was twelfth, in the ADAC-Saarland Peugeot-Talbot Rally, and she also scored a class win. The class win was won of seven that year.

In a Talbot Samba, and scored three top-ten finishes in 1984. The best of these was an eighth place, in the Saarland Rally. The others were two tenths in the Hessen and Trifels rallies, both with class wins. She was sixth in the German championship, and would probably have been higher, had she finished more rallies.

The following year, she returned to the Peugeot side of the company with a 205 GTi. She achieved two more top tens, an eighth in the Sachs Winter Rally, and a sixth in the Saarland Rally. Again, too many retirements later in the season disrupted her momentum, but it was still a strong season, in a competitive championship.

At the end of the year, she tried to obtain a Group B 205 T16 from Peugeot. This car, one of the fastest of the Group B era, would have allowed her to challenge for overall wins. It had allowed Kalle Grundel to dominate the 1985 championship, and he moved on to Ford, creating a space in the team. In the end they did not give her one; the number one Peugeot seat was filled by Michele Mouton, who went on to win the 1986 championship. Rena had set her heart on a T16, and sat the season out rather than try her luck in another car.

After the 1986 season, Group B was banned, so she never got her T16 drive.

Her career finishes here, apart from one run in the 1987 Rally Deutschland, in an Opel Kadett. She did not finish. After her retirement from rallying, she worked as a safe-driving instructor, often working with other women, and had children. Much later, she worked in the field of complementary medicine, and opened her own clinic.

(Image copyright McKlein)

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Simin Bıçakcıoĝlu


Simin in 2015

Simin Bıçakcıoĝlu is Turkey’s leading female driver in its domestic rally championship. She has won the Turkish ladies’ award four times.

She began by racing a Honda Civic and a Fiat Palio in rallycross and autocross, in 2008. Her first championship was the Safari Cup.

She tried out hillclimbs and more autocross before entering her first stage rallies in 2010, when she was 21. Her first rallies were in the three-round Istanbul Championship, and she was sixth, second in the ladies’ standings.

Driving a Ford Fiesta run by the Go Race team, she took part in the Turkish championship in 2011, and finished four of the seven rounds. Her best result was twelfth in the Yeşil Bursa Rallisi, and second in class. The Hittite Rally gave her 19th, a second top twenty position. She picked up another class runner-up spot in the Istanbul Via/Port Rally, and was 21st overall. At this time, Burcu Cetinkaya was Turkey’s leading female driver, and she picked up the Coupe des Dames. Throughout her career, Simin has always had a rival for the Ladies’ award.

In 2012, she switched to an S1600 Fiat Punto, which proved more reliable. It was run by Pegasus Racing. She was twelfth in the Hittite Rally, and scored her first class win. This was one of two, as she picked up another in the Ford Otosan Kocaeli Rally. She was also fifteenth in the Yeşil Bursa Rallisi. At the end of the year, she was 27th in the championship and the ladies’ champion. Burcu Cetinkaya was rallying in the Middle Eastern championship this year, but Simin still had competition in the shape of Burcu Burkut Erenkul, who was the same age as her, and appeared at the same time. As well as Turkish rallies, Simin drove in the Mabanol Rally Sliven, in Bulgaria, and was 21st. The Pegasus team had her carrying out some testing for their IRC car at some point, too.

She concentrated on the Turkish championship in 2013, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII. In this car, she achieved a class win in the Kocaeli Rally, and 18th overall, and her first top ten, a tenth place in the Bosphorus Rally. After that, she switched between the Lancer and the Fiesta, scoring one more fifteenth, in the Hittite Rally, in the Lancer. The Fiesta was less reliable for her, and she only finished one rally in it. She defended her ladies’ title and was fourteenth in the Turkish championship, and eleventh in the Balkan Cup.

In 2014, she upgraded the Lancer to an Evo IX. She took part in the Turkish championship, and finished in the top twenty of every rally she entered. Her best result was a thirteenth, in the Ford Otosan Kocaeli Rally. Although she did not manage any top tens this year, she was very consistent. Her navigator this year was a new one for her, Gurkal Menderes. No official ladies’ prize seems to have been awarded this year; Burcu Burkut Erenkul was out on the stages again, but did not record as many good finishes as Simin.

Another season in the Turkish championship in the Lancer in 2015 gave her a Turkish Ladies' title. Burcu Cetinkaya had returned to the Turkish series, but was not quite as fast. Simin’s best overall finish was eleventh, in the Istanbul Rally. she was fifteenth in the Turkish championship, third in Group N.

She defended her Turkish ladies’ title again in 2016, and was a consistent presence in the top twenty of Turkish rallies, driving the Lancer. She was thirteenth in the Marmaris Rally Turkey, and tenth in the Ipekyolu Rally. This was enough for second in Group N.

She is not rallying in the Turkish championship in 2017, but is planning some other activities, still with the Go Race team.

(Image from http://www.siminbicakcioglu.com)

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Delfina Frers


Delfina and Marily Schwander

Delfina Frers is an Argentine former actress and model, who has raced saloons extensively in South America.

She has been racing since the mid-1990s, starting out, as many Argentine female drivers did, in the Copa de Damas women-only series. She won her first Copa de Damas race in 1994, during her first season in the competition. Her car was a Nissan Sentra. She took part in the Copa for the next couple of seasons.

Her first major experience of mixed-sex motorsport was the 1997 TC2000 championship, in an Audi-engined Ford Escort XR3. She was not normally among the frontrunners, although she claimed at least one second place in the Light category, at San Juan. After her second TC2000 season, in 1998, she was 21st, in a different Ford Escort, with a more standard Zetec engine.

Later on, in 2000, she made some guest appearances in TC2000 in a Honda Civic, but this was the end of her involvement. She entered 42 TC2000 races over four years, picking up a few points in 1998. Over four years, she picked up twelve class podium finishes. Unfortunately, she is more remembered for some spectacular crashes, including a multiple roll at San Juan in 1997. She was never seriously injured.

After that, she went back to Ford power for the 2001 Fiesta Ladies’ Championship, in Brazil, finishing sixth overall. This championship was organised by Maria Helena Fittipaldi for AMPACOM, the Brazilian women’s motorsport association. Delfina does not appear to have been quite at the level of Suzane Carvalho and Maria Cristina Rosito, but she was on the pace, and scored at least a couple of fourth places. Interestingly, she shared a background in showbusiness with Suzane, and they both got into motor racing quite late. They had shared an Aldee for the 1997 Mil Milhas in Brazil, finishing eighth overall. This was their second attempt at the event, having gone out in 1996, in a team with Marisa Panagopoulo.

A break followed, but she came back in 2004, driving in one round of the Top Race series, in Argentina. She took part in the Mar del Plata race, in a Chrysler Neon, as the first woman to enter the series. At this time, she was already a grandmother.

In 2008, she also guested in the TC NOA series, although details of this are hazy - she only did a part-season, and it is not clear which car she used.

In 2010, she got back behind the wheel again, in the Fiat Linea Cup. She was 22nd in the Alta Gracia race.

After that, she seems to have switched to rallying for a few years, navigated by Marily Schwander. The pair drove an Alfa Romeo Giulietta TI in the 2010 Argentine Historic Grand Prix, a historic long-distance rally. The following year, Delfina did some modern rallies in a Subaru, including the San Antonio Areco Rally.

After her retirement from motor racing, she remained involved in sport, and was the director of the cycling Tour Femenino de San Luis, after taking a competitive interest in cycling and triathlon. In 2016, she managed the Xirayas women’s international cycling team.

(Image from http://www.rectaprincipal.com.ar)

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Sara Christian



Sara Christian was the first woman to race in NASCAR, in 1949, at the Charlotte Speedway. She was from the NASCAR heartland of Atlanta, Georgia.

Her first NASCAR race was actually the first official NASCAR race. The series was then known as Strictly Stock. She drove a 1947 Ford and finished fourteenth, possibly sharing in the car with Bob Flock.

Sara was married to Frank Christian, who raced himself, and was involved in NASCAR as a car owner until 1955. She got into racing in 1948, and one of her earliest races was a “powder puff derby” at the newly constructed New Atlanta Speedway. She raced against two other women: her sister Mildred Williams, and Ethel Flock Mobley, who had taken up the sport a few years before. Frank Christian was one of the founders of the track, alongside Bob Flock (Ethel’s brother) and Charlie Mobley (Ethel’s husband).

She took part in six races in 1949, with a best finish of fifth, at Heidelberg Speedway in Pittsburgh. She was also sixth at Langhorn Speedway. For this race, and the North Wilkesboro event, she used an Oldsmobile, instead of the Ford. Out of the six races, she finished five, only crashing out once, at Hillsboro. Her second-ever race, at Daytona, was noteworthy, because it was the only time in NASCAR history that three female drivers were on track at the same time. The other two were Ethel Flock Mobley, who was twelfth, and Louise Smith, who was 20th. Sara was 18th. At the end of the season, she was thirteenth overall. That season, Sara also became part of the first married couple to race against each other in a NASCAR-sanctioned event, when she and Frank took the track together.

In 1950, she competed in one more NASCAR event at Hamburg, New York, but did not improve on her best result, finishing fourteenth. This was her last track outing. After her retirement, she may have helped Frank with some of his other business concerns, which included a motel and a farm. She was the most successful of the early female NASCAR racers, but her reputation was eclipsed by the more colourful Louise Smith in later years.

She died in 1980, at the age of 62.


(Image from http://www.legendsofnascar.com)