Thursday, 31 August 2017

Patrizia Sciascia

Patrizia in 2004

Patrizia Sciascia was the Italian Ladies' Rally Champion in 2005. She has driven in five WRC rounds: all five San Remo rallies between 1996 and 2000. Her best finish was 32nd, third in class, in 2000.

She was born in 1971 in Sanremo. Her father was a rally driver and she was interested in the sport from an early age.

Fittingly, the Sanremo Rally was her first big international event, in 1995. Her car was a Peugeot 309 and she does not appear to have finished. She returned to Sanremo in 1996 and got to the finish this time, in 41st place. Her car was an Opel Corsa.

Her next two Sanremo Rallies, in 1997 and 1998, ended in retirement. She used a Ford Escort Cosworth in 1997, and a Renault Clio Williams in 1998. The Clio became her regular car for the next four seasons.

She continued to compete in Italian national rallies, with her annual WRC outing at Sanremo. In 2000, she finished in the top ten for the first time, coming in tenth in the Rallye Limone e dei 100,000 Trabucchi, held in Piedmont.

It went a little quieter for Patrizia for the next two seasons, but one highlight was a seventh place in the 2002 Rally Alba. She was driving the Clio and was one of 71 finishers.

In 2003, she took another step forward in her rally career with her first podium. Driving the Clio again, she was third in the Andora Rallysprint. That year, she alternated between the Clio and an Opel Astra, with the familiar Clio giving her better results. She was 19th in the Rally della Lanterna and won class N3 in May. The Astra may have been more difficult to drive, but it was in this car that she ventured back into international competition, after a break of two years. She entered the San Marino Rally, a European Championship round, and was 49th, eleventh in class.

For 2004, she settled on Cristina Biondi as a co-driver. The two had worked together on and off in 2003. Patrizia went back to the Clio as her car of choice; she only drove the Astra once, in the Rally Prealpi Trevigiane Terra. She was 39th and second in class. Again, the Clio suited her better. She was third in the Andora Rallysprint at the start of the season, and third again in the Rally del Valli Imperiesi in October. In between, she had her best-ever finish in the Sanremo Rally, which was no longer a WRC round. She was eleventh, and won class A7.

Between the end of 2004 and the start of 2005, Patrizia was announced as the winner of the “Woman in Blue” prize. Subaru Italy was keen to recruit an all-female crew for a shot at the Italian ladies’ championship, and she was judged to be a better bet than Monica Burigo, who started rallying at about the same time.

Patrizia duly won the ladies’ prize in 2005. Her car was a Group N Subaru Impreza and her best results were two fourteenth places, in the Sanremo and San Marino rallies. She was a frequent top-twenty finisher and was also sixteenth in the Mille Miglia, which had been revived as a stage rally.

In 2006, she stayed on as a Subaru Italy driver. Her programme was shorter than in 2005, but still included some of the big Italian rallies. She was 20th in Sanremo, co-driven by Samantha de Colle this time. Her best result was another third in the Rally del Valli Imperiesi. She was the leading Group N competitor.

Her contract with Subaru ended after 2006 and she returned to rallying the Clio. She was fifth in the Andora Rallysprint and contested some Italian sealed-surface events. The best of these was the Beta Rally Oltrepo, in which she was 19th. She was 27th in Sanremo.

2008 started in the same fashion. She drove the Clio in the Targa Florio and Mille Miglia, finishing 23rd and 27th. This led to a ride in a Peugeot 207 S2000 car. Its first outing was Sanremo, where Patrizia did not finish. Later, she entered the Rally del Valli Imperiesi again. This was always a good event for her, and she was fourth this year.

She was fifteenth in the 2009 Targa Florio, driving the Peugeot, and later used it for the Sanremo Rally. It wasn’t one of her best Sanremo drives, but she was solidly midfield in 32nd place. In between, she had a one-off drive in the Impreza for the San Marino Rally, and drove the Clio in the Rally Friuli Alpi Orientali. Both of these yielded more midfield finishes.

After 2010, she became a very occasional driver. She picked up another Peugeot 207 seat for Sanremo in 2010, finishing 30th. It was a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) this year.

She was 15th in the Ronde di Andorra in 2011, driving a Clio. Later in the year, she won her class in the Ronde Enna, Sicily. She was sixth overall.

In 2015, she came out of retirement for a guest appearance at the Monza Rally Show, driving a Peugeot 207. She did not finish.

Away from motorsport, Patrizia works as a lawyer. She has been involved in motorsport-related cases, including disputes with the Italian motorsport authorities.

(Image copyright Rally Company)

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Romana Zrnec

Romana with the Renault 5

Romana Zrnec is a Slovenian driver most famous for winning the Croatia Delta Rally outright in 1986. Her car was a Renault 11 and her co-driver was Spela Kozar. This was one of four rallies that she won outright during her career.

Romana was born in 1961. At that time, Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia. Cars were not a huge part of her upbringing. Only her mother drove in her family. The young Romana looked up to her mother, but only discovered motorsport as an adult.

Her first car was a Mini Cooper. She did two rallies in it, finishing one with a class fourth. After that, she was picked up by Renault, who were looking for a female driver to rally one of their cars as a marketing exercise. She proved so effective that they kept her on.

By the age of 22, she was involved in national-level rallying. Throughout her career, she remained quite loyal to the Renault marque. Her car for 1983 was a Renault 5 Alpine. Right from the start, she was competitive. In September, she was fifth overall in the YU Rally, the Yugoslav national rally, and ninth in the Rally Saturnus. Her other international rally was the Barum event in what was then Czechoslovakia. She was 25th.

In 1984, she began a partnership with a new co-driver, Suzanna Bagari, which lasted for two seasons. The duo competed in Austria, scoring one tenth place in the Atrium Sauna Karnten Rally and winning their class. They also tackled the Semperit Rally, and were 32nd overall.  

Romana upgraded the Renault 5 to a Renault 11 for 1985. This resulted in her first outright win, on the Rally Velenje. This was part of her home championship. She also tried out some more rallies abroad. The best of these for her was the Albena Rally in Bulgaria. She was 29th overall.

She concentrated most on the 1986 Yugoslav championship; her only big European outing was the Bohemia Rally, in which she was 33rd in the Renault 11. Early in the season, in the spring, she won two more rallies outright: the Rally Riviera Opatija and the Ina Delta Rally. Her Delta win was against Vojko Podobnik in the much more powerful Porsche 911. At the end of May, she was ninth in the Rally Saturnus, one of her favourite events. The season ended with another podium: a third place in the Rally Prijateljstva. Romana was the runner-up in that year’s Yugoslavian rally championship, behind Vojko Podobnik.

She spread her wings again in 1987, driving the Renault for the ARD Kompas team. She improved her Saturnus result to second, behind Polish driver Andrzej Koper in another 11. This was also frustrating, as she had been leading until the final stage when a turbocharger went. In July, she entered her first Rally Poland, and was fifth overall. Three months later, October was a busy month for her. She won another Rally Prijateljstva, then travelled to the Iberian peninsula for the ERC rallies there. Sadly, she did not finish either the Catalunya or the Lois Algarve events.

She had a new car in 1988: a Renault 5 in GT Turbo trim, run by the HB Rally Team. Using this car, she was thirteenth in Poland and eighth in the YU Rally, the Yugoslav national rally.

1989 was split between domestic and European rallies. Romana was fourth in the Yugoslavian championship, with a best finish of second in the Ina Delta Rally. She was also sixth in the YU Rally. In Europe, she was fourteenth in Rally Poland. Her other big European event was the Rally Piancavallo in Italy, which she did not finish.

This was her last season driving a Renault. In 1990, she started the year in a Ford Escort Cosworth prepared by ARD Kompas. In this car, she was 17th in the Rally Riviera Opatija, but did not finish the Saturnus Rally. Mid-season, she drove a four wheel drive Lancia Delta Integrale, in Group N trim, on the Polish Rally. She was fourteenth again, second in class.

The Polish Rally turned out to be her last event. She became pregnant with a son in 1990, and did not return after his birth. An added issue that kept her away was the difficulty in putting together a budget to rally at the level of which she was capable.

Romana now runs a metal manufacturing company and was involved in politics in the 2000s.

(Image from

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Sue Ransom

Sue with Lella Lombardi

Sue Ransom mainly raced saloons in Australia, in the 1970s and 1980s. She drove a variety of cars and entered the Bathurst 1000 five times between 1973 and 1980.

Her earliest big races seem to be in 1973, in an Alfa Romeo GTV 2000. She drove this car at Bathurst, then running as the Hardie-Ferrodo 1000, sharing with Christine Gibson. They did not finish. The same pairing drove in the Phillip Island 500, but did not finish there either.

The Australian touring car scene in the 1970s is not particularly well-documented. Sue does not appear to have entered the Bathurst 1000 in 1974, but she was eleventh in 1975. Her car was a Ford Escort RS2000, run by Jubilee Motors and shared with Bill Brown.

She was fifth in the Australian Supercar Championship in 1978, driving a Ford Capri. Her best finish was seventh, at Waneroo, and she was second in the under 3000cc class. This was one of four top-ten finishes, from seven starts.

In between, she had driven the Capri at Bathurst in 1977 with Russell Skaife. They just finished the race, but were unclassified.

During the 1980s, she moved more into drag racing, and even raced a jet car in 1981 and 1982. At the time, she was the only woman to do so. She still holds the outright speed record at the Tasmania Dragway in this car. A little later, she tried her luck in the USA and competed in NHRA Top Fuel events.

However, she did make one return to the circuits and teamed up with Cathy Muller and Margie Smith-Haas for the World Endurance Championship race at Sandown Park in 1984. They drove a BMW-engined Gebhardt JC843, but retired early on, due to suspension failure.   

She continued in drag racing for a while. After her retirement from active competition, she remained involved in motorsport for many years.

(Image from

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

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.

Sue was still racing the Hughes Motorsport Radical in 2017. She drove in some rounds of the Australian Prototype Championship. Her best finish was twelfth at Sydney. This continued in 2018, although she also added some rounds of the Australian Radical Cup to her schedule.

She raced in five rounds of the 2019 Australian Prototype series, with a best finish of eighth overall at The Bend.

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)