Friday, 28 September 2018

Carole Perrin

Carole Perrin is a former single-seater racer from France who has competed most recently in stock car racing in Europe. She was nicknamed “Pink Panther” due to her preference for pink cars.

Her first senior experience after three karting titles was when she tried ice racing in the 2004-05 Andros Trophy, and was third in the Trophée Féminin. She was 18 and also managed to earn the “Ice Girls” rookie award.

She tried to enter Formula Ford in 2006, but the championship was cancelled. Switching abruptly to tin-tops, she found a seat in the Clio Cup in France. Her season lasted four races before she was sidelined by a heavy crash at the Pau street circuit.

She returned to the scene in 2008, in the Formula Academy Euroseries, another single-seater series based on the cars previously used in Formula Campus. Her best finish was 12th at Spa.

She first raced a NASCAR-style stock car in the Racecar series in France in 2009, finishing third once at Albi. She was 16th overall in the championship but ran well in the Open class, scoring wins at Albi and Lédenon. Her final class position was fifth.

In 2010, she continued in Racecar, now running as the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. She finished fifth in the championship, this time in the Elite class. Her best finishes were a third at Le Mans and fourth at Lédenon.

Driving a Chevrolet Monte Carlo in Euro NASCAR in 2011, she scored her first win at Motorland Aragon, as well as a fastest lap. The series had official FIA backing this year. She did not complete the season, and was only 17th overall.

Carole stayed in the Euro NASCAR Elite class for the following season, driving a Chevrolet Camaro. She was 16th overall, with one podium finish: a third at Spa. Her other top-ten finish was an eighth place at Nogaro. A single Open class race at Brands Hatch in May gave her an outright win. As well as her on-track results, she gained some attention for her “Pink Panther”- themed art car, designed by French painter Didier Chamizo.

In 2013, she ran a limited programme in Euro NASCAR, in the Elite class. Her best finish was fifth, having started from a lowly 19th place. One of her team-mates at Autosport 42 was French rallycross driver Caty Caly.

She struggled for sponsorship in 2014 and tried to use crowdfunding to secure a race seat. She made a guest appearance at the Loire meeting of Euro NASCAR and finished one race, in 20th place.

Her sponsorship position was better in 2015; she took part in the whole Whelen NASCAR Euro series, in the Elite 2 class. Her best finish was sixth, at Zolder, one of four top-ten finishes. She was tenth overall. Despite doing quite well in 2015, she did not have enough sponsorship to race in 2016. She had been supported by the town of St Etienne itself, but they pulled out.

She has been absent from the circuits since then.

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Monday, 24 September 2018

Michaelle Burns-Greig

Michaelle Burns-Greig raced in the British Saloon Car Championship in the 1960s, usually in a Mini.

Michaelle (sometimes referred to as Michelle) is from Duns in the Scottish borders. She may have picked up her taste for adventure from her mother, Dorothy, who was a pilot and the first female radio operator to run her own transmission station.

After starting her career in club events and hillclimbs, she had her first BSCC experience in 1963, at the Silverstone International Trophy meeting. Her best finish was eleventh, in the Small Car Trophy at Crystal Palace.

A week later, she raced in the Daily Express’s “Fast Girl Trophy” at Brands Hatch in May, driving the Mini. Despite colliding with Gabriel Konig at low speed during the formation lap, she finished second behind Joey Freeman’s Aston Martin.

In 1964, she entered one BSCC race at Aintree, but it does not look as if she actually raced. At some point during the year she took part in at least one event at Charterhall in Scotland.

She did another part-season in 1965, with a best finish of fifteenth, at Snetterton. After that, she disappears from the touring car entry lists.

A Newcastle local paper describes her as “one of Britain’s only female single-seater racers” in 1967 and says that she raced regularly at Croft for the H&G Robinson team. Details of her potential single-seater career are not forthcoming.

After retiring from motorsport, she followed her mother into local politics in the Borders, where she remained active for many years.

Michaelle was noted for carrying a numberplate reading “SEX1” on her car as she raced.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Megan Verlaque

Megan Verlaque competes in the South African rally championship. She began her own successful driving career after navigating for her sister, Lola.

The Verlaques are a rallying family. Sisters Megan and Lola have been a fixture on the African rallying scene since 2002, with Megan normally the co-driver of the pair to start with. The sisters’ father Edward and brother Oliver also drive and the four have competed together in various combinations.

The two sisters started rallying together in 2002, driving a Hyundai Coupe in the Total Rally South Africa. Megan was eighteen, Lola is older. They acquired a Subaru Impreza the following season and did a complete South African rally championship in 2005. This was the first of three seasons in the Impreza, followed by runs in the African championship using a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX and a Volkswagen Polo in 2009.

Megan’s first turn behind the wheel was in 2009. That October, she won her class in the Toyota Dealer Gauteng Rally, the eighth round of the South African championship. She was 13th overall, driving a Toyota Run-X (Corolla) with Gerhard Snyman.  

In 2010, she had several more outings in South Africa as a driver. Her programme took in the whole SA championship. Despite retiring four times, she won her class in three rallies: the Rally of South Africa, Osram Rally and Cape Swartland Rally. Her best overall finish was 15th, in the Rally of South Africa. Her car was a Toyota Run-X and her co-driver was her brother, Oliver Verlaque.

Part-way through the season, she also travelled to neighbouring Zimbabwe for the Toyota Zimbabwe Challenge, but did not finish.

In 2011, she started a partnership with Volkswagen in South Africa and rallied a Polo, running in the S1400 class as a young development driver. Again, she won the class four times, out of five finishes. Appropriately, her best event was the Volkswagen Rally in which she was fourteenth, with a class win. The other class wins were achieved in the Total Tour Natal, Toyota Dealer Gauteng and Garden Route rallies. Her usual navigator was Lirene du Plessis, but she was replaced by Hilton Auffray for the last three events of the year. Despite taking some time to adjust to a new car and co-driver, Megan was the S1400 champion.

In 2012, she had a shorter rally season, and moved into the S1600 class in which she was fifth. She finished all of her four rallies, all in the top twenty. Her best finish was also her most frequent: she was 17th in the Garden Route and Polokwane rallies and the Rally of South Africa itself. She was fifth in the S1600 class overall. The car was an upgraded version of last year’s 1400cc model.

In 2013, she continued in the same vein, with five top-twenty finishes in South African rallies, the best of these being 15th in the Total Rally. She was eighth in the S1600 class. She continued to drive a Polo, but was now running as a private entry. Her VW contract had been a two-year development designed to guide young drivers towards their own, sponsored programmes. Megan was reunited with Oliver Verlaque for most of her season.

After one season as a privateer, Megan did not reappear on the South African rally scene for a while. The other members of the Verlaque family also took a break in 2014.

Megan did some navigation for Jose de Gouveia in 2015 and 2016, in the South African championship.

In 2017, she got back to driving, normally with Oliver Verlaque as her co-driver. She only finished one of her eight rallies, scoring a fifth place in the Sam 100 Rally. Her car was an R2-spec Polo, which she drove for the last four rallies of her year. Earlier in the season, she used a Mk3 Golf, which ran as a Classic entry. All four competing members of the Verlaque family ran as a two-car team with two Golfs.

Megan was less active again in 2018. She entered the Top Fry 100 Classic Safari Rally in Kenya, in the Golf, finishing 19th overall and winning her class. The rally was dominated my much more powerful Porsches and Datsuns. Lola and Edward also entered the sister car.

She also co-drove for Jose de Gouveia in his Toyota Corolla.

Both Verlaque sisters entered the 2019 Top Fry Classic event, Megan in the Golf and Lola in a Mk1 Escort. Megan was 18th, one place behind her sister.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Madeleine Pochon

Madeleine, her navigator and the 4CV in 1954

Madeleine Pochon was one of Europe’s top female drivers in the mid-1950s, winning the Coupe des Dames on the Monte Carlo Rally twice.

Frenchwoman Madeleine first appears on the major entry lists in 1951, as a co-driver to L. Pochon in the Tulip Rally, driving a Renault. The driver was presumably her husband. In September, she may have taken part in the Tour de France in a Peugeot 203, alongside a driver called “Madame Mazade”. This may have been Jeanine Mazade who acted as a co-driver later.

In 1952, Madeleine entered the Monte Carlo Rally and was second in the Coupe des Dames standings, driving a Simca Aronde. She was 104th overall. Not long after, she was third in the Paris-St. Raphael Rally, in a Renault. At this stage, she was still switching seats and she partnered Irene Terray for the brutal Liege-Rome-Liege marathon in a Peugeot, named as the navigator. They were 24th.

Her second Tour de France ended in a 17th place, from 57 finishers. She was part of a three-woman crew in a Renault 4CV 1063 with Mesdames Boucher and Trott, whose forenames are not given. Mme Boucher was a regular driver and co-driver throughout the 1950s and beyond.

Madeleine won her first Monte Carlo Coupe des Dames in 1953, driving a Renault 4CV to 49th place overall. Irene Terray took her turn as navigator this time.

As well as this, she competed on the Alpine Rally in a Renault, probably the 4CV. Her result has been lost, but she did not win an Alpine Cup. The fuel pump in her car gave up part-way through and she was penalised for being late to a time control.

That year, she entered a rare circuit race, taking on the 12 Hours of Hyères with Jane Bagarry. They were tenth overall in a Renault 4CV, fourth in class. This appears to have been her only major circuit race.

In 1954, she repeated her Monte Carlo achievement and finished seventh overall. Her co-driver was Lise Renaud.

She was a career-best 13th in the Tour de France in September, driving a 1900cc Alfa Romeo with Marie Honoré.

She switched to the Alfa Romeo for the 1955 rally season and entered the Monte once more, although she was not the top lady this time. Her great rival Sheila van Damm finished five places above her in eleventh, while she and Marie Honoré were 16th. This was still an achievement, as she had come off the road in the Alfa and gone over the time limit on at least one stage.

Sheila and Madeleine had been vying for the Monte Coupe des Dames for the past three years. In her autobiography, Sheila praised Madeleine’s ability.

That year, she is also listed as an entrant in the Mille Miglia, driving the same car.

1955 was to be her last season. In October that year, she died suddenly from a heart attack, aged 36.

Madeleine is much less well-known than her chief rival Sheila van Damm now, possibly due to the shortness of her career and the fact that she rarely competed outside France. Sheila van Damm noted that Madeleine did not speak English and looked “anything but strong”. She was apparently uninterested in the European Ladies’ Championship and only entered the rallies she liked. Had she been more interested in forging an international career, she would probably have gone much further and won many more awards.

(Image from

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

The Kyojo Cup

The Kyojo Cup is a one-make series for female drivers in Japan. It uses a small sports prototype built in Japan by West Racing Cars, called the VITA-01.

The series was launched in 2017 at Fuji Motor Speedway. It was contested over three rounds, all held at Fuji. The 2017 season was shortened to two rounds due to a typhoon disrupting the final one. For 2018, it was extended to four rounds.

The name “Kyojo” translates as “competition girl”, and suggests grid girls rather than female drivers. It is also very similar to a word meaning “madwoman”.

The first Kyojo Cup featured only Japanese drivers and was won by Miki Koyama. She usually competes in the Japanese Formula 4 championship and has done so since 2015.

Beitske Visser became the first overseas driver to race in the Cup when she entered the first round of the 2018 series. She was second overall, behind Miki Koyama. Miki won the 2018 Cup too, ahead of Mako Hirakawa, despite only finishing eighth in the final round.

Miki Koyama was busy in the W Series in 2019, so a new champion was crowned. Hinako Muramatsu won from Miki Onaga, despite only winning the final round.

Drivers have tended to have some motorsport background; Rina Ito campaigns a Toyota Vitz in Japanese rallies, Miku Ikejima has competed against Miki Koyama in F4 and Yuri Hayashi entered the Japanese Porsche Supercup in 2016.

Yuri Hayashi, like several other Kyojo Cup entrants, has been involved in previous women’s motorsport initiatives in Japan. She was part of a Mazda female driver selection in 2015 and raced in the Super Taikyu Cup with the chosen team. Rina Ito has taken part in the Toyota Vios Lady Cup.

Several are from motorsport families and have more famous brothers and husbands who race. 2018 debutant Makiko Hirakawa is the younger sister of 2017 Super GT champion Ryo Hirakawa. Yuka Hosokawa, who deputised for Rina Ito in the second race of 2017, is married to Shinya Hosokawa, another driver.

The championship is unusual in that it offers a generous prize fund: 30,000 yen (about £1200) for race winners, plus smaller awards for podium finishers.

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(Thanks to Tobietta Rhyman for help with Japanese translation)