Monday, 9 December 2019

Circuit Racers in the Gulf States and the Middle East


The al-Qubaisi sisters (right) with Reema Juffali (left) and Scottish driver Logan Hannah at the 2019 Abu Dhabi GP

The motorsport scene in the Gulf States and the Middle East has only recently opened up to female drivers. In the case of Saudi Arabia, women only gained the right to hold driving licenses in 2019. Reema Juffali is the first Saudi female racer. Hamda and Amna al-Qubaisi have their own profiles.

Other countries have a more liberal policy and have a longer history of female motorsport competitors. 

Noor Daoud – racer and drifter from Israel/Palestine. In drifting, she competes all over the Middle East, in a BMW. She has also been active in mostly unofficial circuit racing in the West Bank since 2010, and is one of the “Speed Sisters”, a group of female racers from Palestine who have had a film made about them. In 2011, she raced a Formula Renault in the first legal Israeli race meeting, Formula Israel, in Eilat. She was third in a women’s race, and may have won another. Noor was born in the USA, and is a former international footballer for Palestine.

Martyna al-Qassab - Polish-born driver who races in her adopted country of Bahrain. She races in the Bahrain 2000cc Challenge and is the first female driver to do so. Her first car was a Renault Clio, which has now been replaced by an Acura DCS. She was fourth in the first round of the 2019-2020 championship. The previous year, she was a leading driver in the Novice class, winning at least one race. She is the founder of a Bahraini women’s motoring organisation, Yalla Banat, which has attempted to hold the biggest-ever women-only track parade at the Sakhir circuit in 2019.

Farah al-Sabah – driver from Kuwait, active in sportscar racing in the Middle East. In 2015, she competed in the NGK Racing Series in the UAE, driving a McLaren GT Sprint with Leon Price, from South Africa. So far, she has recorded two class wins, at Dubai Autodrome. She also races karts in the UAE, in the Sodi World Series.

(Image copyright UAE F4 Official Instagram)


Saturday, 7 December 2019

Ann Moore


Ann leaps over her FF2000 car on Psalm

Ann Moore was a British showjumping champion who had a brief motorsport career in 1976, promoted by John Webb of Shellsport.


Ann won a silver medal in individual showjumping at the 1972 Munich Olympics, riding her horse Psalm. This made her the most successful of Britain’s female equestrians at a time when showjumping had a sizeable TV audience. She was voted the Sports Journalists’ Association Sportswoman of the Year in 1973, having been runner-up in the two years previously.


John Webb was the director of Brands Hatch circuit at the time. He was both sharp to the promotional value of female drivers and supportive of their abilities. He had one of his biggest successes the year before with Divina Galica, a former Olympic skier who would go on to attempt to qualify for a Formula One race in the same year that Ann Moore took the wheel. Ann’s public profile was far higher than Divina’s was due to the relative popularity of her sport. There was also a strong history of successful female drivers having first competed in equestrian events. Pat Moss was a showjumper like Ann, and another of the Webb protegees was Gillian Fortescue-Thomas, a former amateur jockey. The appeal to John Webb and his publicist wife Angela was obvious. Ann was signed up for what was referred to as the Webb “Charm School”.


Ann’s first race was in 1975. She was one of the celebrity racers hired to fill out the grid for the Shellsport Escort Ladies’ series, at Brands. Previous celebrity entrants had included TV announcer Linda Cunningham and actress and porn performer Fiona Richmond. The championship used the Shellsport fleet of Ford Escorts, which was kept at the circuit. Ann was eleventh after a spin. Divina Galica was the winner.


The next phase of her career was a move into single-seaters. It was announced early in 1976 that Ann would compete in “around 30 races” that year in an Elden Formula Ford 2000 car, arranged by the Webbs and sponsored by Rolatruc. She made her debut at the start of the season with two races at Brands, then one at Mallory Park in March.


Among her events that year was a charity single-seater race in aid of a sports-related cause. Ann’s car, complete with her livery and name, is seen being used by boxer Joe Bugner for training. 


The FF2000 car was perhaps not the best choice for a novice; Formula Ford 1600 may have been more suitable, or more outings in the Escort. Spectators of the time remark that Ann was slow and often spun her car. Her much-vaunted “professional” racing career came to a halt after only six races. 


A statement made to the press explained that she had not realised how much of her time would be taken up by motor racing, and that she would only take part in occasional celebrity races in the future. It is not clear whether she did appear in any more of Shellsport’s celebrity races, which usually used Escorts, but they were held throughout the season and there would have been plenty of opportunity.


Ann had already retired from showjumping two years previously, aged 24.


(Image by Nick Rogers, copyright Shutterstock)

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Chrissie Ashford


Chrissie Ashford's Vauxhall Magnum

Chrissie Ashford was Britain’s leading female rally driver in the mid to late 1970s, picking up two ladies’ championships in the later part of her career.

She rallied in the UK in the 1970s, starting as a navigator to her first husband, Paul, in around 1973. They competed together in road rallies. By 1974, she was driving a Vauxhall Magnum herself in Yorkshire club events. 

Throughout her career, she favoured Vauxhall cars, including the Magnum, Chevette and possibly a Firenza. She enjoyed the long-term support of Tyreservices garages, a business which had a major depot in her home area of North Yorkshire. At some point, she worked as a fashion model and apparently appeared in Vogue magazine, which helped her from a promotional point of view.

She entered her first RAC Rally, in 1976, driving a Magnum with Tony Gilhome. They do not appear to have finished. Her second attempt in 1977, driving the same car but with Mary Fullerton on the maps, also ended in retirement.

Chrissie also raced on the circuits occasionally. She was invited to take part in the Shellsport Ladies’ Escort Race at Brands Hatch in August 1978, by the BWRDC and promoter John Webb. Against strong opposition including  former ETCC racer Susan Tucker-Peake, she was fifth overall. She also took part in sprints occasionally, including the 1977 Graham Hill Trophy at Curborough. 

In 1978 and 1979, she was the BRTDA British Ladies' Champion. The second championship came after a break while she had the first of her four daughters.

1979 was probably her most successful year of competition. She drove a 2300 Chevette around the UK in rounds of the BTRDA and British National championships. Her best overall result was 25th on the Hadrian Centurion Rally, out of 94 finishers. She was also 31st out of the 84 recorded finishers on the Esso South West Stages.

Shortly after, she left rallying for family life and business interests, although she did make a brief comeback in 1983 when she entered the Lindisfarne Rally. She was 52nd overall in a Chevette. 

After rallying, she concentrated on her business interests in the catering world, heading Danby’s Foods, a frozen-food manufacturer. She later worked with the Food Standards Agency. Her marriage to Paul Ashford did not last and she remarried; in the business world, she was known as Christine Dunn.

She died in 2009, aged 60.

(Image copyright Neil Robins)

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Amna al-Qubaisi


Amna (right) on the podium in Abu Dhabi

Amna al-Qubaisi is an Emirati single-seater driver who races alongside her younger sister, Hamda.


She made her senior racing debut at the start of the 2018 season after winning the 2017 UAE Senior Rotax karting title. 


For her first season, she raced in Italian Formula 4 with Prema Powerteam, which has links to Ferrari. Her best finish was a twelfth place, fourth in the Rookie class, at Adria. She combined Formula 4 with karting. 


At the end of the year, she was invited to test a Formula E car for DS Virgin Racing, as part of the female driver bonus test organised by the Saudi motorsport authorities. At around the same time, she was named as one of the 55 longlisted drivers for the initial W Series race season. By the time the driver assessment events came around in early 2019, she had withdrawn from the selection process for unstated reasons. It could be argued that a driver with a major sponsor like Kaspersky Data Systems did not need the W Series.


Another season in Italian F4 followed in 2019. She was driving for Abu Dhabi Racing this time and her results were broadly similar to before, with a 13th place at Mugello being her best.


At the end of 2019, she became the first woman from an Arab country to win an international single-seater race. Her victory followed a pole position and came in the non-championship UAE F4 Trophy, which supported the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Her sister Hamda, who started racing in F4 that year, was fifth. This is believed to be the first time that a female driver has won a mixed single-seater race during a GP weekend.


Amna and Hamda had previously done the last round of Italian F4 together earlier in the year. Hamda also races for the Abu Dhabi team.


Amna is the first Emirati woman to race at this level, aside from being the first to win. She is a citizen of Abu Dhabi although she was born in the USA and is currently a student in France. Before taking up karting at fourteen, she competed in gymnastics.


Her father is Khaled al-Qubaisi, who previously raced sportscars and won the Dubai 24 Hours twice.


(Image copyright Victor Besa/The National)

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Reema Juffali




Reema Juffali was the first Saudi woman to race cars competitively, in the modern era at least. Shortly after the Saudi government allowed women to apply for driving licenses in 2018, she entered her first race, albeit in Abu Dhabi. She was 26. 


She took part in the first two rounds of the Toyota TRD GT86 Cup at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina in late 2018, earning a second and third place in class. In the next round, also held at Yas Marina, she scored her first win. She was fourth in the championship.


As well as the one-make Toyota cup, she entered the same car into the UAE Touring Car Championship, driving for Dragon Racing and scoring two class podiums.


Not content with production sportscar action, she entered her first single-seater races at the start of 2019, making an appearance in the final rounds of the MRF Formula 2000 championship at the Madras circuit in India. Her first race in the MRF F4/F3 hybrid car began with a spin and she finished last. During the other four races, she struggled with the car and was penalised for obstructing other drivers.


Some surprise was expressed when Reema signed up for the British Formula 4 championship, given her lack of single-seater experience and advanced age compared to her rivals. She drove for Double R Racing and although she was not among the front-runners, fairly soon, she was close to the pace. Towards the end of the season, she scored eighth places at Thruxton and Knockhill. She took advantage of any opportunity to test and became a competent racer. 


At the end of 2019, she made more history by becoming the first Saudi woman to take part in a circuit race in her home country, against a mixed field. She was invited by Jaguar as one of its guest drivers for the I-Pace eTrophy, a one-make electric saloon series which supports Formula E. Her two races at the Ad-Diriyah street circuit ended in a tenth place and a retirement.


Her second Gulf region appearance of 2019 made history again. She raced for the Dragon team in the Grand Prix-supporting UAE F4 race and took to the track alongside three other female drivers: Amna al-Qubaisi, Hamda al-Qubaisi and Logan Hannah. Her race results were a twelfth and a sixth place.

Her Abu Dhabi outing was a prelude to a run in the UAE F4 championship. Her best finish so far has been a fifth place in Dubai, and she is a much more competitive presence now, if not yet a frontrunner.


Although her family has always been involved in the automotive world, Reema only became seriously interested in motorsport in 2017, after meeting Susie Wolff at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Previously, she had only been involved as a spectator at bigger events. She is from Jeddah, although she was educated in the United States and works in the UK.


Her motorsport career goals include racing in the Le Mans 24 Hours.


(Image copyright AFP)

Thursday, 21 November 2019

The Twingo R1 Coupe des Dames


Twingo podium in 2014

The French rallycross championship has included a dedicated women’s trophy since 2014. It runs as part of the one-make Twingo R1 Rallycross Cup and is supported by Renault. A Coupe des Dames race is held at each championship meeting for women drivers only, in addition to the regular Twingo heats and final. Most of the Coupe des Dames drivers participate in both series and crossover is encouraged. Almost all of the women’s cup entry did both in 2019. A few women contest the main Twingo Cup and do not enter the Coupe des Dames.

The Twingo ladies’ cup follows the same format as the Citroen Challenge Feminin that existed between 2003 and 2006, although it obviously uses a different car. 

Champions

2014
Lucie Grosset-Janin

2015
Coralie Moreau

2016
Sabrina Souchaud

2017
Megane Hardonniere

2018
Gaelle Moncarre

2019
Alizee Pottier

(Image from https://centre.franceolympique.com/)

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Luisa Rezzonico


Luisa Rezzonico was a Swiss-Italian driver who died following a crash whilst competing in the 1954 Autogiro d’Italia, driving a Lancia Aurelia. 

She started racing at the age of nineteen, in 1951. After only a couple of years of major competition, she won the 1953 Perla di Sanremo women’s rally, and the Como-Lieto Colle hillclimb, another ladies’ event, both in the Aurelia. She won the Como-Lieto Colle event three times; it ran as an “International Coupe des Dames” and sometimes had a short circuit race attached to it. Research into this event and which editions Luisa participated in is made more difficult by the fact that the Como-Lieto Colle hillclimb course was also used for mixed events from 1948.

The same year, 1953, and in a similar car, she was fifth overall in the Circuito Ospedaletti road race, and second in the 2000cc GT class. Her other outings included the Venice Lido Rally and the Cesana-Sestriere hillclimb. During one of her early races, she reportedly had a lucky escape when her car crashed and caught fire, although it is not entirely clear on which event this happened.

Prior to the Giro, Luisa had entered the 1954 Paris-St. Raphael Rally, another high-profile women-only event. She was driving a factory-supported Aurelia and was tipped by some as a potential winner, but picking up car both car damage and penalties early on dropped her out of the running. 

Luisa was driving in the Giro with her co-driver Franco Simontacchi, using a newer Aurelia B20 with which she was not overly familiar, run by the Sant Ambroeus team. She had originally planned on driving a Zagato-bodied Fiat 1100. The third stage of the event ran between Napoli and Bari and Luisa’s accident happened at or near the end. Some Italian newspapers describe her as having overshot the end of the stage.

She and Simontacchi were killed instantly when the Aurelia crashed into the wall of a church at Castellana. They had been running second overall at the time.

The Como-Lieto Colle Coppa Dames was named the “Luisa Rezzonico Trophy” in her honour in 1955.

(Image copyright formulapassion.it)

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Gabrielle Renault


A Renault R8 Gordini from 1966, similar to those rallied by Gabrielle

Gabrielle Renault, often known as Gaby, competed in European rallies in the 1960s. She was the winner of the Paris-St. Raphael women’s rally in 1961. 

She competed on at least two Monte Carlo Rallies, winning the European Championship Coupe des Dames in 1961. She recorded another finish in 1966, starting from Lisbon with Colette Gassier who was her regular navigator that season. The team was captured on a Pathe newsreel film that focused on the British entrants. They tackled the Rally dei Fiori in the Gordini later in the year and finished 14th. 

The Paris-St. Raphael appears to have been one of her favourite events. Following her 1961 victory, she was second in the 1962 running, driving a Dauphine. She was third in the same car in 1963.

She usually drove Renault cars, normally a Gordini-engined Dauphine or R8 for rallies, but she also competed in hillclimbs in other cars. In 1964 she raced an Alpine A108 in the Mont Ventoux hillclimb, finishing 16th. The A108 was based on the Dauphine, but with a sporty fibreglass body. The following year, she drove a Ford Lotus Cortina at the Mont Ventoux climb and was twelfth. 

Among the other cars she sampled are an Alpine-Renault A110 at the 1969 Ronde Cevenole and a rotary-engined NSU Ro80 in the 1970 Tour de France. This proved less successful; she and Francoise Brun were disqualified for being too slow. 

Her career continued until at least 1972, when she entered the Mont Ventoux hillclimb again in an Alpine A110, finishing 37th.

Gabrielle always appeared on entry lists as “Madame Renault”. Her own family name is unclear and it is equally vague as to whether she was married to a member of the Renault motoring family. 

(Image copyright Hagerty Insurance)

Friday, 8 November 2019

Marie-Pierre Palayer


Marie-Pierre Palayer is a multi-talented French driver who raced between 1968 and 1973. She is most famous as a member of the all-female Team Aseptogyl rally squad.

Considering the time period, Marie-Pierre began her career very early. She first appears in hillclimbs in 1968, driving a BMW 1600Ti. She was 18 years old at the time. This led to a BMW works drive in France in 1969, which included the Ronde Cévenole, Tour de France, Criterium Jean Behra and the AGACI 300 at Montlhéry, in a 2002 Ti. She was sixth, with a class win, at Montlhéry. 

In 1970, she switched to a Porsche 911 S run by the works team, and was 15th in the Tour de France, with Ginette Derolland. She also performed very well in rallies, finishing tenth in the Rallye de Lorraine and seventh in the Geneva Rally, in the Porsche, as well as an eighth place in the Lyon-Charbonnières-Stuttgart-Solitude Rally in the BMW. Her best result in open competition was a fifth place in the Rally of Picardie, but her first win came from the women-only Paris-St. Raphaël Rally. She ended the year second in the French ladies’ rally championship.

After 1971, rallying became her main focus as she joined Team Aseptogyl. Aspetogyl founder Bob Neyret had competed at Mont Ventoux against Marie-Pierre in 1968. She mostly drove one of the team’s pink-and-red Alpine-Renault A110s. A highlight of her first year with the team was a fifth place in the Geneva Rally, with Christine Rouff. Back in the familiar Porsche, she was fourth in the Paris-St. Raphaël. 

She was part of a works Peugeot team for the 1972 Bandama Rally in the Cote d’Ivoire, driving a 304 with Ginette Derolland. This event was unusual in that it had no finishers at all. Her going over the time limit was no real shame as she was one of at least six drivers who ran out of time.

She was third in the Paris-St. Raphaël Rally in 1973. That year, the podium was completely filled with Alpine-Renault drivers. This was the second to last of the original Paris-St. Raphaël rallies

She retired from driving herself after the 1973 season, and her last event was a rally raid, the Nice-Abidjan-Nice. She drove an Iveco truck. However, she continued as a navigator until 1975, partnering Claudine Trautmann and Christine Dacremont. Even after her disastrous 1972 Bandama, she usually competed on the rougher African events as a co-driver and helped Marianne Hoepfner to eighth in the 1973 Bandama, driving a Peugeot 504.

(Image from a Team Aseptogyl promotional shoot)

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Deborah Renshaw



Deborah Renshaw raced in NASCAR in the 2000s. She was most successful in the Truck series but her career was overshadowed by controversy. 

She began racing in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series in 2001, quickly becoming successful. Between then and 2002, she achieved thirteen top-ten finishes and became the first female driver to lead a race in the series. 

In 2002, she had two serious brushes with trouble. The first was when some of her opponents protested about her car at Fairgrounds Speedway, Nashville. The protesting team, which included driver Mark Day, had entered a car into the race with the intention of finishing behind her so the complaint could be lodged. Deborah was accused of being a “bad driver” when the question of sexism arose, and the protest also covered her team-mate Chevy White, a man. Deborah and her team were sanctioned for an engine irregularity, which apparently comprised a cylinder head that was 0.006 inches too wide. Day admitted to having been in a dispute with Deborah earlier in the season and had made various statements about the ability of women to race.

Later on, this would pale into insignificance. She entered the ARCA Series for six rounds, in a Ford, driving for Bob Schacht’s team. In September, at Charlotte, she was involved in a fatal accident during practice, in which Eric Martin died after being hit by Deborah’s car. He had crashed and was stranded in the middle of the track, although he was uninjured. Deborah came unsighted around the bend at high speed and collided with the driver’s side of the stricken car, killing Eric Martin instantly. Deborah was injured herself and needed surgery on her foot. She has always maintained that she cannot remember anything about the crash itself, other than sliding on fluid dumped by the stationary car. Investigations by ARCA led to recommendations that spotters be compulsory for qualifying as well as races; at the time of the accident, the team spotters were mostly not active. ARCA’s action indicates that spotter coverage was identified as the main cause of the accident, but Deborah came under attack from many sides, with some suggesting that she be tried for manslaughter and banned from racing again. She sat out the rest of the season.

Despite this, she made a small return in 2003, although she only finished one race. Her best result in the ARCA ReMax series the year before had been a seventh place at Nashville, one of three top-tens she picked up. On her return, she managed one 24th place at Daytona, despite having qualified tenth.

Prior to the October accident, she had had a deal with Rick Goodwin to race in the Busch Series in 2003, but these plans were shelved for reasons not made public. As well as losing her Busch drive, she had been dropped from a Dodge diversity programme, which had lost its main funding. 

In 2004, she moved over to the Camping World Truck Series after an ARCA drive with Braun Racing fell through, driving a Ford for Bob Keselowski’s team in the second half of the season. Her best finish was 15th, at Martinsville. 

She had another season in Trucks in 2005, managing a twelfth place at Dover, but her main sponsor, Easy Care Service Contracts, dropped out at the end of the year, leaving her without funding. She had run almost a full Truck season in Ray Montgomery’s Dodge.

In 2007, Deborah did some Late Model racing, and made a guest appearance in the Nashville ARCA race, in a Ford. She has not raced since and now pursues a retail business career under the name Deborah Renshaw-Parker.

(Image from http://bennysims.fanspace.com)

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Female Drivers Around the World: Korea


Kwon Bo Mi

This page has been created to document the increasing numbers of women racing cars in Korea. It will be expanded but the profiles below have been split off from Circuit Racers from Southeast Asia.

Kwon Bo Mi – Korean driver who races saloons in her home country. She began senior competition in 2011, after some years of karting. She only started karting to get herself out of depression due to her music career faltering. Her first season was interrupted by her car catching on fire during her first race, and broken ribs from a crash in a subsequent one. In 2014, she raced in the Veloster Turbo Cup in Korea, as well as acting as a coach to younger drivers. This is a Hyundai one-make series. As well as racing, she is a motoring TV presenter.

Min Jin Lim - Korean driver who races in the GR1 class of the Super Race championship. She has been involved with the series since 2018 and drives a Cadillac 6000 for the One Racing team. Her best result in 2019 seems to have been a tenth place towards the end of the season. Language barriers have prevented further information about her and her career being accessible.

Hyemin Moon – South Korean driver who competes in the TCSA (Touring Car Series Asia). She started out in 2015, racing a Toyota GT86 in a one-make championship. 2016 was her first season in the TCSA. Her car was a Honda CL7, and she did a full season, with at least one Independent class win, at Motegi. In 2017, she was second in one round of the TCSA. Unfortunately, language barriers have prevented any further effective research into Hyemin’s activities.

(Image copyright rpm9.com)

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Zenita Neville


Zenita Neville  raced in the USA and Canada in the 1920s. She was one of IMCA’s earliest “Champion Woman Drivers of the World”.

IMCA (International Motor Competition Association) was America’s leading promoter of oval racing from about 1910 up until WWII. Many female drivers competed in their events after the “official” US competition board, the AAA, banned women from taking part in sanctioned races and trials. Zenita Neville was one of its earliest female stars.

In 1920, she won her first race, at Combination Park in Massachusetts. The track was a half-mile dirt oval. A couple of weeks later, she won again at Fitchburg Fairground, also in Massachusetts. Her car was a Hudson and this was her regular car between 1920 and 1922. During this time she won at least nine races, all in the northern states and mostly on the East coast. 

In 1922, she also raced a Peerless and an Essex. She travelled to Canada this year, appearing at tracks in Calgary and Edmonton, where she raced against Sig Haugdahl. Photographs show her with a Peugeot at Daytona, but I have been unable to find any results for her in this car. A Canadian paper (the Leader Post from Regina) claims that she won a long-distance race “the Florida beach” the year before. In 1921, Zenita herself claimed to have driven “close to 100mph on the beach at Daytona”. News reports local to Daytona itself make no mention of her at all.

Her normal racing venues were fairground tracks, and she often competed against a driver called Bill Endicott. Their match races would sometimes be preceded by a public disagreement in the local press, usually with Endicott in his capacity as IMCA’s “Dean of Racing Drivers” wishing to bar women from competing and “Miss Neville” defending herself and other women drivers. It was a less well-known fact that “Wild” Bill Endicott, previously known as “Farmer Bill”, was Zenita Neville’s husband.

She was described as the “Champion Woman Driver of the World” and IMCA publicity sometimes claimed she was the only professional female driver in America. 

It is hard to assess how good a driver she actually was. IMCA and other dirt-track promoters were not above stage-managing their events to create more drama and column inches. There are no records of Zenita crashing her car; she seems to have been competent in her handling of it. She often took part in speed trials as well as races, these were harder to influence and may prove a better way of assessing her talent. She won one of these trials at Combination Park, Medford, in 1921, completing two half-mile laps two seconds faster than her nearest rival and appears to have got the better of Endicott over similar distances.

After 1922, she disappears from the entry lists. Her post-motorsport life remains a mystery but we do have some clues as to her previous occupation. Newspaper articles from 1911 talk of a young actress with the same name. The Marshall County News-Democrat described her as hailing from Chicago when she played the lead role in “The Wyoming Girl”. A year later, she crops up in Iowa in the Denison Review, playing the trombone in the Aulger Bros Band. 

(Image copyright Minneapolis Star)

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Veronika Cicha (Jaksch)


Veronika Cicha is a Czech driver who races a GP2 car in the BOSS and MaxxFormula championships in Europe. 

She began her career in hillclimbs, driving Mitsubishi Lancers. Between 2011 and 2014, she competed extensively around central Europe in both a Lancer Evo IV and a WRC05 Lancer. In 2014, she also had a go at rally co-driving in a similar car, sitting alongside Karel Stehlik in the Rallye Liberec. 

In 2015, she started competing in the BOSS series, in a GP2 car from 2005. This car ran in the Formula class, alongside that of her Top Speed team-mate and partner, Wolf Jaksch. She was eighth overall in her first season, with a best finish of fourth in class at Assen. 

In 2016, she only did a part-season and was 18th. This was partly due to a string of non-finishes mid-season and Monza and Assen. Her best result was sixth in the Formula class at Hockenheim. 

She struggled with reliability again in 2017, but has also managed two seventh places and one ninth. She was fourteenth overall. Mid-season, she changed teams from FXtreme to H&A Racing and also changed cars, from a 2005 to a 2008 Dallara GP2.

2018 was a better year; she was seventh in the championship and earned one second place at Assen, back in the 2005 car that she knew best. 

At the end of 2018, she was announced as one of the 55 initial candidates for the all-female W Series. Despite her experience in handling very powerful single-seaters, she did not make the initial cut at the first selection event. She did not seem overly concerned and concentrated on her new venture for 2019, a debut season in the MaxxFormula championship. This series is very similar to BOSS. She also married Wolf Jaksch and began racing under the name Veronika Jaksch.

She continued to use the GP2 car and was rewarded with two second places at Zandvoort to start her season, having qualified fourth. These were her best finishes, the next best being several fourth places.

(Image copyright BOSS GP)

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Marie-Odile Desvignes


Marie-Odile Desvignes is a rally driver and one of the original members of the all-female Team Aseptogyl as well as one of its longest-serving. 

She began her rally career with the team in 1971, alongside her twin sister, Anne-Marie, as a complete novice. Aseptogyl founder Bob Neyret selected the sisters not only due to their experience with Alpine mountain roads, achieved through their jobs in ski resorts, but also because blonde identical twins were a handy media draw. Anne-Marie was only part of the team for a very short time, but Marie-Odile proved herself to be one of Aseptogyl’s most effective members.

For major rallies, she usually acted as a co-driver for Claudine Trautmann, until she retired in 1975, but she was also a decent driver in her own right.

Her first year in the navigator’s seat was spent next to Claudine Trautmann at the wheel of either an Alpine-Renault A110 or for rougher events, a Renault 16. The two Frenchwomen were particularly skilled on very difficult, car-breaker rallies and finished third on that year’s Bandama event, held in the Ivory Coast.

Throughout her career, she was often partnered by Francoise Conconi. Christine Rouff and Brigitte Carrier also sat beside Marie-Odile in 1971 and 1972, in the Chataigne, Bayonne and Rallye de l’Ouest events, plus more on the French calendar. One of Marie-Odile’s biggest events of 1971 was the Criterium des Cevennes, which she entered with Francoise. Marie-Pierre Palayer sat beside Claudine.

She also had a short but successful partnership with Annick Girard, another of the original Aseptogyl team. They were eighth in the Antibes Rally and fifth in the National section of the Alpine Rally. 

Marie-Odile and Francoise were entered into the 1972 Paris-St. Raphael Rally and were third in the National standings. The same year, they won the Coupe des Dames in the Criterium des Cevennes. Marie-Odile did her first Neige et Glace Rally as a driver, having co-driven for Claudine Trautmann the previous year in one of their earliest events together, finishing twelfth. She encountered more snow on the Lyon-Charbonnieres event and seems to have finished, although the result is not forthcoming.

Although she is mainly associated with Aseptogyl, Marie-Odile did drive for other teams and in other cars. She did some French rallies in an Alfa Romeo 2000 and finished the 1973 Rally Mistral in 54th place. She also sampled a Porsche 911 for the 1973 Tour de France, assisted by Brigitte Carrier.

In her Aseptogyl Alpine, she entered the Ronde Giraglia in Italy.

1973 to 1975 were mostly spent in the navigator’s seat. As Claudine Trautmann wound down her career, Marie-Odile shared co-driving duties for Christine Dacremont with Francoise. She usually took on the rougher events, as before. She and Claudine were fourth overall in the 1974 World Cup Rally, which took a very circuitous route via the Sahara desert between London and Munich. Only 19 out of 70 cars finished, and Claudine’s Peugeot 504 was the second of three Aseptogyl entries. Co-driving in a non-Aseptogyl 1800 Alpine-Renault, she helped Michel Alibelli to a win in the 1974 Bayonne-Cote Basque Rally.

After 1975, she seems to take a step back from motorsport. One of her latest events seems to have been the 1975 Rallye Côte-Côte, driving a Peugeot 504 with Yveline Vanoni. A reference on the French “Forum Auto” is made to a serious accident on the Rallye Antibes, which may have something to do with it.

She was part of a later iteration of the Aseptogyl team in 1976, driving an Autobianchi A112. She entered the Monte Carlo Rally with Jacqueline Perrin on the maps, although they did not finish. 

Much later, in the 2010s, she came out of retirement to do some historic rallies in an Alpine A110. 

(Image from the “Team Aseptogyl” Facebook page)