Thursday, 28 February 2019

Rachele Somaschini

Rachele at the 2018 Monza Rally Show

Rachele Somaschini is a race and rally driver from Italy, who drives a Mini. She is the first driver with cystic fibrosis to take part in a World Championship rally.

She started competing in 2012, when she was 18, using a historic Alfa Romeo that belonged to her father. Her first events were hillclimbs.

In 2015, she began racing a BMW Mini, competing in the Italian Hillclimb championship.

In 2016 she took on the Mini Cooper Challenge on the track, and various Italian rallies. She won her class in the Mini Challenge and in the Italian hillclimb series. In rallies, she scored five class wins in Rally Show-type events, with a best overall finish of 22nd (out of 46), at the Motors Rally Show Pavia.

She teamed up with experienced co-driver Alessandra Benedetti in 2017, for more rally shows. Together they tried out a Peugeot 207 S2000 car as well as the Mini.

In 2018, she tackled the Sanremo Rally in a Peugeot 208 R2, finishing 30th. She also drove the Mini and a Citroen DS3 during the year, winning her class at the Adriatico and Due Valli events in the Citroen. It was in this car that she she scored a ninth place in the Tandalo-Vetture Rally, a single-stage hill-based event on gravel. Her first run in an R5 car was at the Monza Rally Show in December, where she was 70th overall in a Peugeot 208 T16..

Her first WRC rally was the 2019 Monte. She was classified 63rd overall in a Citroen DS3 R3T after a solid run, although only the top 56 finishers were permitted to take on the final stages.

She was invited to take part in the W Series all-female Formula 3 championship in 2019, but declined due to worries over her health and a desire to carry on with rallies, which she did throughout the year. She mostly used the DS3 and it was in this car that she had her best result: fifteenth in the Targa Florio Rally. She ended the year the ACI Italian ladies' champion and fourth in the Italian 2WD championship.

Late in the season, she tried R5 power for the first time, driving a Skoda Fabia at the Monza Rallyshow. She was 47th, against some highly experienced WRC drivers.

Rachele uses her rallying as a way of raising awareness for cystic fibrosis, fronting a campaign called “Correre Per Un Respiro” (Racing For A Breath). She maintains her health and fitness through regular sessions with a specialist personal trainer, as well as the home- and hospital-based therapies used by many people with CF.

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Friday, 22 February 2019

Female Rally Drivers After 1950: Portugal

Joana Barbosa and Sofia Mouta in 2018

Ligia Albuquerque – Portuguese driver who started off in the navigator’s seat, in 1989. She co-drove mainly for Vasco Campos, before taking the wheel herself in 1998. For two seasons, she rallied in the SEAT Ibiza Cup in Portugal, with a best overall finish of 18th, in the 1998 Casinos do Algarve Rally. After that, she did some cross-country rallying and made occasional appearances as the course car driver in Portuguese rallies, before returning to stage-based competition in 2015. She took part in the Portuguese Ladies’ Trophy, both as a driver, and as a co-driver to Isabel Ramos. Driving a Citroen DS3, she was second in the Praia da Vitória Rallysprint.

Joana Barbosa - Portuguese Ladies’ rally champion in 2017 and 2018. Both years, her main car was a Ford Fiesta R3T. 2017 was the more successful year overall for her, with four top-twenty finishes. She also entered one WRC rally, the Rally of Portugal, but retired before the third day. Previously, she drove a Fiat 500 Abarth, in which she managed three top-ten finishes in 2016. The best of these was ninth in the Rally Vila Nova de Cerveira, from 20 finishers. In 2019, she earned her first top-ten finish, an eighth place in the Vieira do Minho Rally. Shortly afterwards, she changed back to driving the Fiat and was not quite as fast. Her normal co-driver is Sofia Mouta.   

Margarida Barbosa – has competed on and off in Portuguese rallies since 2011. Her first car was a Citroen C2, and it was in this car that she was ninth in her first major rally, the CAM Rally Festival. In 2012, she used three small cars: the Citroen, a Ford Fiesta and a Renault Clio. Her best result came in the Citroen – fourth in the Rali Santo Thyrso. The Clio was also a good car for her, as she achieved three more top-ten finishes in it. Between 2012 and 2014, she did not rally much at all, although she did manage a twelfth place and class win in the Bombeiros Rallysprint in 2014, driving a Citroen DS3. At some point, she did some sportscar racing. In 2015, she contested the Citroen DS3 Challenge. She was third in the championship, with one class win, in the Viana do Castelo Rally. Her best overall finish was thirteenth, in the Sernancelhe Aguar da Beira Rally.

Vera Cardoso - Portuguese driver who rallies a Fiat Uno. She has used this car in events in her home championship since 2016. Her best result in it so far has been a 21st place in the 2017 Pedras Salgadas Regional Rally, although she did manage a class X1-8 podium in the 2016 Uniao Rally. She rallies on asphalt exclusively, like many other Spanish and Portuguese drivers. Her most frequent co-driver is Ana Rita Faria, although Helena Maia sat with her more in 2019.

Mariana Carvalho – competed extensively in Portugal between 2009 and 2013, before reappearing in the Portuguese Ladies’ Trophy in 2015. Her first rally car was a Suzuki Ignis, and she was third in the Portuguese Junior championship in 2009. Her best overall was a fifth place, in the Rali Vila Nova de Famalicão. After that, she switched to a Peugeot 206, a car she still uses today. In 2010, she scored her first top –twenty finish, a 17th place in the Rali Cidade de Gondomar, and by 2013, she was a regular top-twenty driver, with a best finish of fifteenth, in the Rali Cidade de Guimarães. After a break, she returned to the stages in 2015. She won the Ladies’ Trophy in the Rali Vidreiro, in which she was tenth overall, and was second in that year's Ladies' championship. She was also twelfth in the Rallye Serras de Fafe. In 2016, back in mixed competition, she was 49th in the Rali BVF de Vila Nova de Famalicao, in a Citroen C2. She did some more rallies in the C2 in 2017, picking up a 20th place in the Castelo Branco Rally. Her only event in 2018 was the Famalicao Rally, driving the C2. She was 38th.

(Ana) Sofia Correia - Portuguese driver who appears to have started rallying in 2008, after some years of karting. Her first car was a Skoda Fabia. In 2009, this was upgraded to a Peugeot 206 GTI, and in 2010, she continued to use this car. Her activities are centred around the Madeira Rally Championship, including the Rali Vinho de Madeira, a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. As a Madeira resident, this is her home rally. Her co-driver was Susana Sousa. She did not compete in 2011, but returned in 2012, driving a Citroen C2. She rallied in the Madeira championship, and finished in the top ten in five out of her seven events. In 2013, she was in the top ten for four of her five Madeiran rallies, with a best finish of sixth in the Rali Municipio do Funchal. She was sixth in the Madeira championship. In 2016, she rallied a Renault Clio, and was tenth overall in the Circuito Municipio de Calheta.

Carla Costa – Portuguese driver from the Azores, who won the Azores Ladies Trophy in 2015, driving a Citroen Saxo. She won the Especial Sprint da Rivieira, which was a female-only event, outright, and was third in two more ladies’ rallies. Her 2015 success came after a long lay-off; she was previously active in the Azores championship in 2005, driving a Renault Clio. She competed in the Ladies’ Trophy again in 2016, and won the first two rounds, the Rali Regional Vila Nova and the Rali Praia da Vittoria. A retirement in the third round dropped her to third in the championship. Her navigator since 2015 has often been her daughter, Barbara Costa. With Rul Avila, Carla won two "Ladies & Veterans" rallies outright in the 2017 Azores championship. She was back in mixed competition in 2018, still in the Clio. She earned two top-twenty finishes in the Sical and Ilha Graciosa rallies. In 2019, she was second in the Azores ladies' championship, with a best finish of 22nd in the Acoreana Rali.

Carolina Costa - competed in the Madeira Rally Championship in 2009, assisted by navigator Rubina Goncalves. Their car was a Group N Renault Clio. During this year, she took part in the Vinho Rali Madeira, a round of the IRC, but retired with mechanical problems. She does not appear to have competed in 2010 or 2011, but was back on the stages in 2012, driving a VW Golf. She appears to have entered the Funchal Rally, but the result cannot be found.

Joana Fernandes - began rallying in 2006, in the Toyota Yaris Cup of Portugal. She soon became one of the leading lady drivers, and continued to a Coupe des Dames in 2007, navigated by Sofia Pereira. In 2008, she switched to a Citroen Saxo, which she has used ever since. Her rally activities are mainly centred around her home island of Madeira, and she has taken part in the Rali Vinho Madeira on four occasions, and had a best finish of 37th in 2007.

Marlene Ferreira – Portuguese driver based in the Azores. In 2015, she began rallying in the Azores Ladies’ Championship, in a Renault Clio. This was exchanged for a Megane after her first rally, the all-female Praia da Vitória Rallysprint. Her best finish was third, in the women-only Especial Sprint da Riviera. She did one rally in the main Azores championship: the Rally Além Mar, in which she was 21st. In 2016, she entered the Azores Ladies’ series again, still driving the Megane. She won the championship, taking two wins in the Riviera and Motorshow rounds.  She entered the Azores Ladies' championship again in 2017, scoring several second places in the Megane.

Carla Guimarães - Portuguese driver, active in the early 1990s. She drove a Citroen AX in Portuguese rallies in 1991. Although she had some non-finishes due to accidents, her highlight of the year was an eighth place in the Rali Sintrense. She changed the Citroen for a Nissan Sunny GTI-R in 1992, but did not finish either of her major events, due to mechanical trouble. She does not appear to have continued in rallying after 1992.

Marta Neves – Portuguese driver currently competing in the Portuguese Ladies’ Rally Trophy. She began rallying in 2009, in a Citroen Saxo, and had a best result of ninth in her first season, in the Cidade de Gondomar Rally. In 2008 and 2009, she used a Peugeot 206, and managed another top-twenty finish, 19th in the 2009 Gondomar event. This earned her some points in the Portugal Open championship. After a break, she returned to rallying in 2013, driving a Peugeot 205 and 306 at the CAM Rally Masters Festival, before re-entering the championship, usually driving the 306. Her best result was 23d, in the Guimarães Rallysprint, where she won her class. She also won her class in the União Rallysprint. This was enough for a class runner-up spot at the end of the season. In 2015, she achieved one fifth place in the all-female Praia da Vitória Rallysprint, and a class win, with a 17th place overall, in the Cidade de Guimarães Rally. Her car is a Citroen Saxo. She was fifth in the Ladies' championship. In 2016, still in the Saxo, she switched to mixed competition, and had a best finish of 16th, in the Rali Nova de Cerveira. Her only 2017 event was the Penafiel Racing Fest, in which she was 22nd overall in the Saxo. She entered the Gondomar Rally in 2018 but did not finish.

Diana Pereira – took part in the Peugeot 206 Cup (Formula Peugeot), as part of the 2006 Portuguese Rally Championship. Her best overall result was 29th, in the Rally of Portugal. Her position within the Peugeot Cup was fourth, another season’s best. She ended the year just out of the top ten. After that, she has not rallied competitively, although she has driven the course car on a couple of occasions, once in a Mitsubishi Lancer. Her navigator is Inês Ponte. Diana is also known as a model.

Isabel Ramos - another Madeira-based driver. As well as the Madeira championship, she has also entered events on the mainland. She has been competing since at least 2002, when she drove a Toyota Yaris in the Rali Vinho Madeira. Much later, in 2007, she reappears with a Citroen C2. The C2 was retained the following year, and used in a number of events, including the Rali Vinho Madeira, until the 2009 Rali da Calheta, when it was changed for a Renault Clio R3. This has been her regular car since then, into 2011. Her best result is 12th, in the 2010 Rali da Calheta. In 2012, she contested the Madeira championship, and was seventh or eighth in all of her events, apart from the Rali Vinho de Madeira, from which she retired. In 2014, she drove the Clio R3 in rallies in Madeira, including Rali Vinho da Madeira, a European championship round. She was twelfth. Her best outright result was fifth, in the Porto Santo Line Rally, and she achieved five more top-ten finishes, many of them class wins. She was the winner of the Portuguese Ladies' Trophy in 2015, after two class wins, and a victory in the all-female Praia da Vitória Rallysprint. In addition to this, she continued to perform strongly in the Madeira championship, winning the Ladies' and RC3 class titles in her Renault Clio. Her best overall finish was seventh, in the ZOOM-TRAP Rally. She defended her championships in 2016, and was eleventh in the Madeira championship, with four top-ten finishes. In 2017, she won another Ladies' title, and was fourteenth in the Madeira championship. She managed two tenth places, in the Maritimo Machico and Municipio de Santa Cruz rallies. In 2018, she was second in class in the Madeira championship with a best finish of eleventh in the Municipio de Sao Vicente Rally.

Celeste Roda - Portuguese driver who competed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Her signature car was a Datsun 100A. Her best result was a 17th place in the 1980 Volta a Madeira, then a round of the European championship. She competed in the Madeira Rally at least five times during her career and also rallied in the Azores, taking part in at least two editions of the Sao Miguel Rally.

Daniela Rodrigues – Portuguese driver who has been rallying since at least 2009. Her first rally car was a SEAT Marbella. Between 2009 and 2011, she was part of the Portuguese Junior championship, finishing ninth in 2011. Her best result was eleventh, in the Santo Thyrso ConVida Rally. In 2012, she was eighth in the same event, driving a Citroen Saxo this time. In the same car, she was fifth in the CAM Rally Festival. Since then, she has continued to rally the Saxo. In 2013, she re-entered the Junior championship, and was fourth, after a thirteenth place in the Cidade de Guimarães. In 2014, she rallied mainly in the Azores, and in 2015, competed in the Portuguese Ladies Rally Trophy. Her best finish was third, in the all-female Praia di Vitória Rallysprint. She was also 16th in the Castelo Branco Rally, and won her class.  She won her region's Ladies' title in 2018, driving the Saxo, earning an eleventh place in the Amarante Baiao Rally.

Filipa Sanguedo – Portuguese driver active since 2011. Initially, she mainly entered rallysprints, first in a Ford Escort, then in a Peugeot 306. In 2013, she scored her first top-ten finish, a sixth place in the Mesão Frio Rallysprint, driving the 306. In 2014, she drove an Opel Adam Cup car in Portugal, and achieved three more top-ten finishes, including a ninth in the Rallye Aguiar De Beira Sernancelhe. She was also tenth twice, and won her class, in the Castelo Branco and Mortágua Rallies. This earned her fourth in the Centre Regional championship. In 2015, she rallied both the Adam and the 306, using the 306 in the Portuguese Ladies’ Trophy. She was fourth in the first round, the Praia da Vitória Rallysprint, competing against her usual navigator, Sofia Mouta, and sixth overall in the Trophy. The Adam was her preferred car for other Portuguese rallies. The best of these, for her, was the Águeda Rally, in which she was 18th overall. The Adam was somewhat unreliable in 2016, but it did help her to a seventh place in the Arganil Rally. She used it again in 2017, and was fourth in the Templarios Rally Classic. In 2018, she finished one of her three rallies in the Adam, coming 18th in the Vidreiro Rally. She finished both of her events in 2019, with a best finish of 19th in the Castelo Branco RAlly.

Diana Soares - experienced co-driver from Portugal who has recently switched seats to drive herself. As a navigator, she competed often with Manuel Texeira in the Portuguese championship. In 2018, she started rallying her own Nissan Micra. Due to the car’s size and low power, it is not capable of challenging for wins, but she scored a pleasing fourth in class in the Vila Medieval de Ourem Rally. Her overall classification was 46th. She rallied the Micra again in 2019, entering three rallies.

Paula Veloso Amaral - Portuguese driver in the 1980s and 1990s. She entered five Portuguese championships, and contested her home World Championship round three times. The first time, in 1988, she was 31st, ninth in Group N, driving a Renault 11 Turbo. She returned in 1993 in a Lancia Delta Integrale 16V and was 26th, again ninth in class. In 1998 she did not finish in her Skoda Favorit. Her co-drivers were Cabral Serrano and Ariana Silva. She now works as a journalist.

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Friday, 15 February 2019

Junior Rallying

Alice Paterson and Amy McCubbin

Junior rallying for 14-17 year olds is a relatively recent innovation, mainly found in the UK and Scandinavia. Girls are often involved. Below are profiles of some of the youngest rally drivers in Europe.

Lina Björklund - currently competes in the Junior class of Swedish rallying. She started her rally career in 2013, in a Volvo 940, and was 53rd in her first event, the LRD-Ruschen. This was enough to attract the attention of Ramona Karlsson, who named her as one of her “Young Female Drivers”, who are being mentored by Ramona. In 2014, she undertook a wide programme of Swedish rallies, and enjoyed a best finish of eleventh, in the Föneruschen event. She also scored three Youth class wins, quite early in the season, and was a strong contender for the championship. She also managed another, separate class win in the Kullingstrofén, and was 75th overall. In 2017, she did not manage many rallies, but was twelfth in the Jamtrallyt, in the Volvo. Prior to taking up rallying, Lina competed on the circuits for three years, in the Renault Junior Cup. In 2012, she was second in the championship, with three wins.

Jenna McCann – Irish driver who came to prominence competing in the Junior championship in Ireland. In 2017, she won the Irish Junior Tarmac Championship. She started her 2015 campaign in a Peugeot 106, which gave her a best finish of sixth in the Cavan Stages Junior Rally, but became increasingly reliable. A Ford Fiesta R2 proved more reliable, and gave her two fifth places, in the Clare and Wexford Junior rallies. She was seventh in the championship overall, and the only female driver. A move into the Irish National Championship in 2016 led to a win her class in the Cavan Stages, finishing 47th overall. She finished all ten of her events. She won her first rally in 2017: the Cork 20 International Junior Rally. In 2018, she mostly took part in senior events in her Fiesta, in both Eire and Northern Ireland. Despite this, she went back to Junior competition for the early part of 2019, earning two more top-tens in Irish events driving the Fiesta. Later, she sampled the power of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX on the Cork Forest Rally, but did not finish. Her first experiences with rallying came from navigating for her father, James McCann, in 2013.

Letisha Conn - rallies in Scotland and Northern Ireland in junior events. She began in 2019, aged fourteen. Her car for the Northern Ireland Rallysport championship was a Citroen C1, and she managed a win at Aghadowey as well as a third at Nutts Corner. In Scotland, she normally drove a Peugeot 107, in which she was not quite as competitive, picking up two fourth places in the Condor and Crail Stages. She is rallying in Irish gravel events in 2020.

Amy McCubbin - active in junior rallies in the UK since 2016, when she was fourteen years old. In her first season, she was eleventh in the 1000 Junior Ecosse championship, driving a Nissan Micra. Her best finish was ninth in the ABR Travel Services Junior Rally. In 2017, she improved dramatically, and became a regular top ten finisher, despite swapping her Micra for a Skoda Citigo. Her best finish has been fifth, in the Granite Junior Stages, driving the Citigo. She was seventh in the 2017 Junior 1000 Ecosse Challenge. In 2018, she continued for another season as a junior, in the Citigo.

Kasia Nicklin - one of the youngest-ever rally drivers in the UK. She began rallying in 2010 in Junior F1000, aged fourteen. Her car was a Nissan Micra, and her best result was fourth in the Junior class, in the Hall Trophy Stages. In 2011, she continued in the same series and the same car, and was a more consistent top-ten contender, with multiple fourth places. In 2012, she continued in the Junior class, and achieved second places in the Honington and Woodbridge Stages. She was seventh in the junior class. She did three major rallies in 2013, in the Micra. Her best finish was 20th on the Woodbridge Stages, where she won her class. She does not appear to have competed in 2014, but she managed to get out again in the Micra in 2015. Her best result was 24th, second in class, in the Flying Fortress Stages.

Alice Paterson - started rallying at the age of fourteen in 2016. She contested the 1000 Junior Ecosse Challenge and was twelfth overall, driving a Peugeot 107. Her best rally result was thirteenth, which she achieved on five out of her six rallies. She stuck with the same car for 2017 and earned some better finishes; four out of her five rallies have ended in top tens. The best of these was a fifth place in the 5 Star Junior Stages. Both Alice and Amy McCubbin spoke out in the Scottish papers against David Coulthard when he cast doubts on women’s ability to race cars. Her 2018 season was quite similar, although she did suffer a couple of retirements.

Erica Winning - took part in junior rallies in the UK in 2018, driving a Nissan Micra. She mostly competed in Scotland, in the Junior 1000 Ecosse Challenge. From seven events, all of which she finished, she managed four top-tens, the best of these being two ninth places in the Condor Memorial Gardens and 5 Star Junior Stages. 2018 was her first season as a rally driver. Her second gave her five top-ten finishes in junior events in 2019.

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