Friday, 26 July 2019

May Cunliffe

May Cunliffe was particularly known for her exploits in a Sunbeam or a Bentley on sand in the 1920s.

Born in 1906, she was only sixteen when she first drove at speed. Her father Alfred and older brother Jack were already involved in speed trials and May was soon joining in, using the family’s 3000cc Bentley.

The Bentley was a standard road-going model that the Cunliffes always drove to the circuit and back. She won her class at the 1926 Southport Speed Trials in this car, over a kilometre from a standing start. 

Later on, May wanted more power and became the first driver to own a factory-modified, supercharged Bentley in 1926. This 3000cc car, originally built as a normally-aspirated model in 1923, was the precursor to the more famous Birkin “Blower” Bentleys that raced at Le Mans. May won her class in this car at Shelsley Walsh and the Southport Speed Trials.

Her next car arrived in 1928, another supercharged model. It was a 2000cc Sunbeam built in 1924.

The first part of her career ended that year, when she was involved in a serious accident at the Southport 100 Mile race on the beach. She was part of a battle for the lead with Raymond Mays’ Vauxhall-Villiers when the Sunbeam, travelling at about 100mph, became bogged down in ruts created by previous contestants in the sand, causing it to flip over and land on top of its crew. May was injured but her father, who was acting as her riding mechanic, was killed. 

Not long after the accident, she married Harry Millington and had her son in 1932. Unable to leave the sport behind, she began sharing a Frazer Nash with Philip Jucker in 1935, racing at Donington and Shelsley. Jucker replaced the Frazer Nash with an Alta in 1936 and May raced this car too. An accident that ensued at Shelsley in the Alta spelled another temporary end to her career; the throttle got stuck open, propelling her through a barbed-wire fence and leaving her with facial injuries.

It was a long time before she got back behind the wheel again, but she did make another comeback in 1953, racing a Cooper-Norton in the Brighton Speed Trials. She shared the car with Stuart Lewis-Evans. 

May’s son Tim inherited his parents’ love of speed and in turn, passed it on to his own son.

She died in 1976.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

The Toyota Vios Lady Cup

The Toyota Vios Lady Cup is a one-make championship for the Toyota Vios in Thailand.

Toyota has been using one-make racing series to promote the 1500cc, compact Vios throughout southeast Asia and actively encourages female drivers, including celebrities, but Toyota Thailand has the only dedicated women’s championship.

In 2019, the Lady Cup runs as part of the Thai Super GT package and shares a grid with the Toyota Altis one-make series, which is open to men and women. This has varied a little by year; some seasons it has been part of the Division 2 Vios Cup.

The championship began in 2008 and has been held every year since then. It currently consists of five rounds, held at Saphan Hin Park, Bangsaen, Korat, Chang (Buriram) and the 700th Anniversary Stadium. Races are 20 laps long. Grid sizes fluctuate between about eight and twenty cars.

Tanchanok Charoensukhawatana has been the series’ most successful driver in recent years, winning at least two titles. In 2019, she moved onto the main Vios Cup grid. The championship has several long-term competitors, including Bamisa Busitarnuntakul and Danielle Char, who is from Hong Kong. Most of the drivers hail from Thailand, although a few like Danielle Char and Japanese champion Rina Ito come from abroad to race. Other Japanese entrants have included drifter Michie Mimoto and former grid girl Miyu Kitabayashi. Although there is no celebrity class as in the Philippines, celebrity drivers seem to be welcome and have included Anglo-Thai model Nathalie Davis in the past.

Below is a highly incomplete list of Vios Lady Cup champions, which will be added to when more information is found.

2019 Thammalapa Praewphan
2018 Tanchanok Charoensukhawatana
2017 Rina Ito (Japan)
2016 Tanchanok Charoensukhawatana
2015 Praewphan Thammalapa

(Image copyright Boxza Racing)

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Susanne Kottulinsky

Susanne Kottulinsky was Sweden’s leading woman rally driver in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Her best WRC finish was thirteenth, in the 1986 Swedish Rally. She was driving a Volvo 240. This was one of ten World Championship rallies she entered, five of them in Sweden and five in the UK. Her best year for the RAC Rally was 1985, when she was 17th and first in Class A8, also in the Volvo. The RAC was also her first WRC event in 1982, before she even entered her home rally. She was 47th overall in an Opel Ascona.

She sampled a number of cars during her long career (over 20 years), but was most competitive in the Volvo, her regular car between 1984 and 1986, and the Audi 200 Quattro she used in 1987 and 1988. She picked up multiple top-ten finishes in both of these cars. 

From the beginning of her international career in 1982, Susanne always seemed to run best in Germany and Austria, better even than on the Swedish snow rallies in which she would be expected to excel. Her first international top ten was a tenth place in the Eisenwurzen Pyhrn Rally, held in Austria in 1983. She was driving the Ascona. The same event in 1984 gave her a sixth place in the Volvo and she followed this up with her first big German finish, an eighth place in the ADAC 3-Städte Rally. After a year spent competing all around northern Europe in the Volvo in 1986, she began to concentrate almost exclusively on the German championship.

Her first season proper in Germany coincided with her move to Audi as a works-supported driver for VAG Sweden. She was following in the wheeltracks of 1986 champion Michele Mouton and part of a strong cohort of female talent that was finally being taken seriously again. The season started well, with a fifth place in the Sachs Winter Rally. This was five places better than her future husband, Jerry Ahlin managed and the best of the group N finishers. Two more top-tens and a class win in the Rallye Hessen were enough to secure championship fifth.

Although Susanne became a more consistent top-ten finisher in 1988, the podium places were locked out by fellow Audi driver Armin Schwarz and Ronald Holzer’s Lancia Delta Integrale. She was fifth again, with another fifth place at Baden-Wurttemberg as her best rally finish. 

After this, she appears much more infrequently on the entry lists. She married Jerry Ahlin and the pair teamed up as “Team Ahlinsky” for a few rallies in Sweden and Germany between 1990 and 1991, using an Audi. Susanne earned a sixth place in the 1991 Berglagsrallyt in Sweden.

After a long lay-off, she proved that she still had it in 2002. She was eighth in the ADAC 3-Städte Rally, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer, despite not having driven in a major rally since 1995. Since then, she has occasionally come out of retirement for German rally show events, driving the Audi.

Her daughter is touring car racer, Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky. Mikaela is the third generation of Kottulinskys in motorsport, alongside her brother Fredrik Ahlin who competes in rallying. Susanne’s father was Freddy Kottulinsky, who mostly rallied in Sweden, and even her mother Barbel had a go at navigating.

(Image copyright Audi/VAG Sweden/

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Mia Flewitt

Mia Flewitt is the 2018 and 2019 Pure McLaren GT4 champion.

She completely dominated the first season of the one-make series, winning five races outright and only finishing off the podium once out of twelve races. 

In 2019, she retook her place at the head of the Pure McLaren leaderboard. She won the first two races at Spa, then made up for a DNF in the first Hungaroring race by winning the other two.

In June that year, Mia joined up with Balfe Motorsport for the Silverstone 600 rounds of the British GT championship. Her car was a McLaren 570S, shared with Stewart Proctor. The pair were 29th overall after experiencing car problems. She returned to the team for the Donington and Spa rounds, finishing 15th and 18th.

Mia is from Sweden and got a late start to her competition career, which only really began when she married McLaren Automotive CEO Mike Flewitt. Her background is in engineering; she worked for Volvo initially and ended up at Tom Walkinshaw Racing in the 1990s. The last major project she worked on for them was the V6 Renault Clio.

She and Mike raced a Lotus Elan together in historic events for several years before Mia tried her hand at modern motorsport in the 2018 Mini Challenge, making a guest appearance at Donington. She still races the Elan, one of three owned by Mike.

Wanting more international experience, Mia entered the Gulf 12 Hours at the end of 2019, with the Balfe team. She and her team-mates were second in the GT4 class, 19th overall.

She will share the McLaren with her erstwhile driver coach Euan Hankey for the 2020 British GT championship, with Balfe again.

(Image copyright

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Ronja Assmann

Ronja Assmann is a Swiss driver who mainly races saloons in Germany and has competed in the Nurburgring 24 Hours as part of the all-female “Girls Only” team.

She often races a Renault Clio in Germany, driving for her family team, usually with her father, Winfried.

She began her motorsport career in 2012, at the age of 17, in a KTM X-Bow, driving in the rookie championship of the X-Bow Battle series. She was 18th overall after four races. These were her first legitimate races, although she had been learning and training in a Volkswagen Polo for a year beforehand, until she was old enough for a senior license. Unusually, she did not come through karting and jumped straight into cars. 

In 2013, she acquired the Clio, and used it in the Bohemia Clio Cup, with a best finish of eleventh, at Most. She was 20th overall and fourth in the Junior rankings, as well as becoming the championship’s youngest ever female driver.

Back in Germany, she competed in some rounds of the German Touring Car Cup, in the 2000cc and under class. She normally ran well compared to the other Clios in her races, and her best finish was eleventh overall, at Lausitz. 

In 2014, she continued to race in the same series, and used the Clio to begin with. Later, she changed it for a Porsche GT3 Cup, which gave her better results, averaging about tenth. She did not complete the season. The Porsche was run by Flying Horse Racing, her family’s team. She sampled several different championships in it, including the Porsche Sports Cup and the P9 Endurance series.

Elsewhere, she was part of the dmsj–youngster-Team for the Rundstrecken Challenge (RCN), at the Nürburgring. In a Vauxhall Astra, she achieved one win in the Junior class. During the season, she also drove the Clio and a Honda Civic in the RCN.

The dmsj team retained her services in 2015, and she competed in the VLN, in the Astra. She was twelfth in the OPC Astra Cup class of the VLN, as part of a team of three. She finished the Nürburgring 24 Hours on her first attempt, and was fourth in the Cup1 class, with Winfried and two Flying Horse team-mates. They were 61st overall. 

It was back to the RCN for the 2016 season, in the Flying Horse Porsche. She did two races in the series, as well as a decent run in the Porsche Super Sports Cup, finishing eighth in the main championship and fourth in the Endurance class. During the winter season, she travelled to the Netherlands for the Winter Endurance Championship, and was second overall in a race at Zandvoort. 

In 2017, she did her first races in the Porsche Carrera Cup, making two guest appearances at the Lausitzring. She was driving for the Cito Pretiosa team in its debut year. 

She was also fourth in the Cup 3 class of the Nürburgring 24 Hours, driving a Porsche Cayman. This was run by Arkenau team and shared with her father, Kai Riemer and Peter Scharmach. 

She did not race much in 2018, but did some training and planned to return in 2019, which she did. Ronja became part of the “Girls Only” WS team for the VLN and the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Girls Only was led by Carrie Schreiner and driving duties were shared between her, Ronja and Jasmin Preisig. The car was a Volkswagen Golf GTi, run by an all-female engineering and management team.

The Nürburgring 24 Hours was meant to be their showcase event and in a way, it was. The Golf suffered problems and had to retreat to its garage for a full engine replacement, but the team got it back on track. The car took the finish but was not classified.

The VLN was a mixed bag of outcomes. They were second in the SP3T class in the first race, although they were only 79th overall. The second race in April was abandoned due to snow, then they did not enter the third. Ronja joined another team for the ninth round, driving a Porsche Cayman alongside her father. They were eighth in the Cup 3 class.

As well as the VLN, she raced a Porsche 911 in the Porsche Super Sports Cup in Germany.

(Image copyright Ronja Assmann)

Friday, 5 July 2019

Josefina Vigo

Josefina Vigo races touring cars, mainly competing in Argentina’s Top Race series where she is one of its most prolific female drivers. 

Although she is known for racing saloons, her first senior events and the first few years of her career were spent in sportscars. Between 2012 and 2015, she raced in GT2000 in Argentina straight out of karting, driving an ADA prototype for Jonas Lodeiro’s team. She was on the pace, or very near to it, straight away, finishing fourth in her first race at La Plata.

From eighth overall in 2012 to fifth in 2013, Josefina made rapid progress in the ADA, powered by either a Ford or Honda production engine. She scored her first podium, a second place at La Plata, and only finished outside the top ten once. The following year, she drove a Honda-engined car for Jotam Racing and doubled her podium tally with thirds at La Plata and her home track of Olavarria. 

Her first Top Race car in 2015 was a Chevrolet Cruze, and she was 21st in the championship after completing the second half of the season. Her best finish was seventh at Rio Hondo. Switching from a prototype to a touring car was a steep learning curve. 

Josefina described 2015 as a learning year, and hoped to be more competitive in 2016. 2016 turned out to be an up and down season in the Cruze; she was disqualified from the first round, then managed a sixth place a few weeks later at her lucky circuit of Rio Hondo. She was 20th in the championship. 

In 2017, she drove a Mercedes for ABH Sport, having moved from the SDE Competitcion team that had run her for two seasons. She had a similar midfield year and her best finish came at San Juan, where she was ninth. She was also tenth twice, but this was countered by four non-finishes, including one that put her out of the next race. Budget was also a problem.

She switched back to a Chevrolet for the 2018 Top Race season, with another new team in the shape of Olivieri Racing.  She did not manage a top-ten finish. This was another inconsistent season not helped by missing some races. The last event of the season ended in an ankle injury that had still not healed by the time the 2019 season came around, forcing her out of the first round.

For 2019, she continued to race a Chevrolet in Top Race, returning for the second round where she was eleventh. It was not one of her best seasons, with too many DNFs and disqualifications for her to make an impact on the leaderboard, although she did earn a fourth place late in the season at Concordia. She was also seventh at Buenos Aires.

Prior to her senior debut in 2012, she raced karts, and was Sudam Atlantic champion in 2011.

(Image copyright Prensa Pro)