Thursday, 22 August 2019

Women in the Toyota Long Beach Pro-Celebrity Race

Dara Torres and Sarah Fisher celebrate

Toyota held its annual Pro-Celebrity race on the Long Beach road course between 1977 and 2016. The race usually featured a selection of professional drivers taking on celebrities over 10 laps in identical Toyota cars. Originally these were Celicas, but this changed to Scions in 2006.

The celebrity drivers normally had a 30-second head start over the pros. Celebrities included faces from the world of sport, cinema and TV. There was usually a motorsport reporter or two involved and often a Toyota employee or prizewinner in a competition. Celebrities who held on to their advantage to win the race were upgraded to Pro status for any subsequent events.

No women were invited to race in the first event in 1977, but stuntwoman and landspeed record chaser Kitty O’Neil became the first in 1978. Most women who have taken part fall into the Celebrity category, but there have been several Pros.

Olympic swimmer Dara Torres is the most successful woman in the race’s history, winning in 2002 and making five appearances in total. Pitlane reporter Jamie Little also managed to win the race in 2008.

Toyota moved its headquarters away from Long Beach after 2016 and the race was cancelled. 

Kitty O’Neil - 8th

Jayne Kennedy - 14th
Kitty O’Neil - 15th

No female entrants

Pam McInnis - 8th
Jennilee Harrison - DNS

Kathy Rude (Pro) - DNF
Jennilee Harrison - DNF

Margie Smith-Haas (Pro) - 6th

Betty Thomas - 13th
Desire Wilson (Pro) - 14th

Kathy Rude (Pro) - 12th
Raechel Donohue - 14h

Ana Alicia - 9th

Jean Lindamood - 6th
Justine Bateman - 15th

Monica Brooks - 12th
Susan Ruttan - 15th
Nicolette Larson - 16th

Cornelia Guest - 14th

Monica Brooks - DNF?

Marsha Mason - 11th
Susan Ruttan - 13th
Leeza Gibbons - 15th

Ellen K - DNF?

Crystal Bernard - DNF?
Mary Lou Retton - DNF?

Christy Carlson - DNF?
Sylvia Aimerito - DNF?
Beth Tuschak - DNF?

Shelly Anderson (Pro) - DNF?
Cameron Diaz - DNF?
Helene Udy - DNF?

Sharon Lawrence - 6th
Kate Linder - 8th

Christy Carlson - 3rd
Carol Alt - DNF?

Kumi Sato (Pro) - 5th
Cameron Diaz - 6th
Cristen Powell - 15th
Junko Mihara (Pro) - 16th
Queen Latifah - 17th
Catherine Bell - DNF?

Angelle Sampey (Pro) - 7th
Melissa Joan Hart - DNF?
Catherine Bell - DNF?
Kim Alexis - DNF?
Lauralee Bell - DNF?

Lyn St. James (Pro) - 11th
Melissa Joan Hart - 12th
Alyson Hannigan - 14th
Ashley Judd - 15th

Dara Torres - 4th
Sara Senske (Pro) - 12th
Elisa Donovan - 13th
Piper Perabo - 15th

Dara Torres - winner
Danica Patrick (Pro) - 3rd
Sarah Fisher (Pro) - 5th

Milka Duno (Pro) - 6th
Shawna Robinson (Pro) - 7th
Angie Everhart - 9th
Leilani Munter (Pro) - 10th
Picabo Street - 11th

Dara Torres (Pro) - 5th
Melissa Joan Hart - 10th
Laila Ali - 11th
Andrea Parker - 12th
Liza Snyder - 14th
Li’l Kim - 16th
Jill Pasant - 17th

Misty May - 8th
Amanda Beard -12th
Paige Hemmis - 16th

Martina Navratilova - 3rd
Shannon Miller - 15th

Martina Navratilova - 2nd
Emily Procter - 8th
Kelly Hu - 9th
Aisha Tyler - 11th
Kathryn Morris - 13th
Robin Quivers - 14th
Annamarie Dean - 15th
Kendra Wilkinson - 17th

Jamie Little - winner
Beccy Gordon (Pro) - 15th
Sarena Traver - 16th
Nancy Liebermann - 18th

Jamie Little (Pro) - 9th
Annamarie Dean - 12th
Mary Lynn Rajskub - 14th
Raven Symone - 18th

Tika Sumpter - 14th
Megyn Price - 15th

Megyn Price - 11th
Jillian Barberie Reynolds - 17th

Kate del Castillo - 10th
Jillian Barberie Reynolds - 12th
Eileen Davidson - 15th

Kate del Castillo - 10th
Melanie Troxel (Pro) - 12th
Jenna Elfman - 13th
Jessica Hardy - 15th
Wanda Sykes - 18th

Tricia Helfer - 10th
Vanessa Marcil - 15th
Lisa Stanley - 17th
Carmelita Jeter - 19th/DNF

Dara Torres (Pro) - 5th
Tricia Helfer - 13th
Donna Feldman - 15th

Dara Torres (Pro) - 14th

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Friday, 16 August 2019

Jonna Eson Brådhe

Jonna Eson Brådhe is a Swedish rally driver active since 2010. She is the third generation of female drivers in her family, after her grandmother Margot and mother Liz.

She started as a teenager navigating for her father Johnny, and began rallying a VW Golf in youth events in 2010, aged 16. 

In 2011, she was Sweden’s top female youth rally driver. Her co-driver was her mother.

She earned her driving license in 2012, and used it to enter Swedish club rallies in a Peugeot 309, with mixed results. The Peugeot was soon replaced by a Subaru Impreza, which was faster, and scored her some decent positions in the Class C Cup. This was a welcome diversion from her roll on the Kolsva Rally in the Peugeot; she had been on course for ladies’ award when she crashed.

She got the hang of the 309 in 2013 and finished her first Swedish championship rallies. Her best finish was 54th place in the East Swedish Rally and she also finished the Uppsala Rally. It was this year that she came to the attention of Uppsala Rally winner Ramona Karlsson, who recruited her into her female driver training programme alongside six others. This lasted for a couple of seasons.

Later, she had her first taste of WRC power, albeit as a co-driver,  in a Skoda Octavia, in which she and Nils Jensen were 17th in the Fixussprinten  rally. 

Jonna became more consistent in the 309 through 2014, picking up more Swedish Championship finishes in the Uppsala and South Sweden events. This was her last year with this particular car.

In 2015, she travelled to the Middle East for the FIA Women in Motorsport Qatar Desert Challenge, competing against other elite female drivers for a spot in the Sealine Desert Challenge. She was not one of the winners. Back in Sweden, she had a new car, a Ford Fiesta which she used for the Swedish Junior Championship. She was ninth in her class at the end of the year and her best finish was probably a 46th place in the Rally Uppsala, out of 64 drivers.

Her second season in the Fiesta brought her mixed results. Her first rally of the year, the Rally Bilmetro, ended early due to a lost wheel and a broken driveshaft put her out of the LBC-Ruschen. In between, she was 34th in the Ostersund Winter Rally and secured her best-ever career finish, 21st in the Rally Gotland. Her preferred South Swedish Rally was the scene of a career-best 33rd in a Swedish Championship event before the car was updated to an R2-spec machine. Her best result in it was a 22nd place in the Violenrallyt.

Her car for 2017 was a Peugeot 208, another R2 car. She was sixth in her class in the European Rally Trophy championship, with a best finish of 27th, in the East Sweden Rally. She also won her class in the SM Vaakuna Rally, in Finland. This was her first overseas event, the first of two rallies in Finland that year. The second was the Real Park Lake City Rally, in which she was 48th.

In 2018, she entered her first Rally Sweden in the 208, finishing 47th. This was her first World Championship rally. She also competed in Germany, taking part in the International Lausitz Rally and coming in 49th under Superrally rules. She was third in the OT2WD class of the Swedish championship at the end of the year, winning 10,000 krona. 

She continued to compete in Sweden in 2019, still driving the 208. Her best finish was a 20th place in the Rikspokalen rally, from 167 finishers.

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Sunday, 11 August 2019

Alma Cacciandra

Alma Cacciandra was an Italian driver who competed in sportscars in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Like her contemporary and one-time team-mate Anna Maria Peduzzi, she raced almost exclusively in her home country and always in Italian cars, mostly Alfa Romeos.

It is not clear when she started racing. A CSAI document from 1956 lists her as a driver in the second category, restricted to certain cars and races, but gives no indication of where she competed. She is known to have owned an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce in 1956, one of the first 100 to be produced.

She first appears on a major entry list in 1959, driving an 1100cc Fiat Zagato in the Coppa Ambroeus for 1100cc GT cars. She was sixth. She did better in the 1300cc race at the same meeting, finishing eighth out of ten drivers in an Alfa Romeo Giulietta SV. Later in the year, she drove a Giulietta SS in the Coppa Inter-Europa 1300cc race. She was fifth, from twelve finishers. All of these races took place at Monza, her local circuit and her usual haunt.

The Coppa Ascari was her first race of the 1960s, held at Monza. This was a race for small cars and she shared a Fiat 500 with Vittoria Maffi. They were 31st and ninth in the T500 class. After that, her relationship with the Scuderia Sant Ambroeus begins.

The Scuderia was an Italian team that aimed to help mostly Italian drivers get into a position to enter Formula One races. It was founded by a group including Alberto della Beffa and Elio Zagato, who also raced its cars. Alma’s first finish of them seems to be an 18th place in the Coppa Inter-Europa, driving a Giulietta SZ. She was later eleventh in the Coppa FISA at Monza in the same car.

She used an Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ for the 1961 season, and was fifth in the Coppa Sant Ambroeus race for 1300cc cars. 

She also teamed up with Anna Maria Peduzzi for one of her last races, the Coppa Ascari, but they did not finish. The pair had raced against each other in the previous year’s Coppa.

The race had more non-finishers than finishers and was marred by a fatal accident to Glicerio Barbolini, who was driving another Alfa. Alma was entered for at least two more races that year, including the Monza  GT Grand Prix, but she did not make the start. Whether this was due to car damage, personal or financial reasons is unclear.

Although she was usually entered by Scuderia Sant Ambroeus, she normally owned the cars she raced herself and had done since her first Giulietta, the SS, in 1959.

In 1962, she was fourth in the 1300cc GT Trophy Monza and 17th in the Coppa d’Autumno. The SZ was obviously the car to have in the GT Trophy as five of the top eight finishers drove one. The Coppa d’Automno was also held at Monza and Alma finished one place above a 19-year-old Arturo Merzario, driving a Giulietta Spider.

It appears that she then took a break from motorsport for a season, before returning in 1964. Driving a Giulia TZ this time, she was tenth in the 2000cc Coppa Inter-Europa race, with Alberto della Beffa of Sant Ambroeus. This was a round of the World Sportscar Championship and even the more powerful TZ was no match for the Porsches this year.

She was also tenth in the Trofeo Bettoia, held at Monza. This was a non-championship race, but it ran as a three-hour enduro and Alma drove solo like everyone else.

Monza appears to be the only circuit where she raced, but she seems to have competed in hillclimbs too. She entered the Trieste-Opicina climb in 1964 in the TZ but did not finish. Earlier, she is recorded as having finished 94th in the 1962 Trento Bondone hillclimb, in the SV.

In 1965, she continued to compete in the TZ, which she had bought new from the manufacturer in 1964. She drove again in the World Sportscar Championship, entering the Monza 1000km with Alberto Della Beffa. The car only made it to 24 laps before the engine blew, with Alma at the wheel. She disappears from the entry lists after that and the TZ did not appear again until it was bought by Austrian driver “Udo” in 1970.

Like her team-mate Anna-Maria Peduzzi, Alma was somewhat of an enigma and faded very quickly from what public life she had had. Despite her membership of the Ambroeus team, she kept a low profile and was very selective in what events she entered. Few pictures exist of her, and the best-known one, used here, shows her approaching her car in a knee-length skirt along with her crash helmet and racing jacket, carrying a handbag.

She is known to have lived in Milan and was sometimes referred to as Alma Cacciandra Bordoni. She was likely born Alma Bordoni in 1909 and married Giuseppe Cacciandra in 1929. There were drivers racing at the same time as her called Franco and Domenico Bordoni, who may have been relatives.

The reasons for her retirement from motorsport are unknown, although she was well into her fifties by the time 1965 came round.

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Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Angela Ruch (Cope)

Angela Ruch, previously known as Angela Cope, races in the NASCAR Truck series in the USA. She is one of the more controversial figures in the stock-car world. 

At the beginning of her career, she always raced alongside her twin sister, Amber Cope. The twins are the nieces of Derrike Cope, another divisive figure in US oval racing.

Angela and her sister began their forays into motorsport in a conventional way, growing up around the family workshop and racing karts from the age of nine. They both raced Late Models from the age of 15, before they had their road traffic licenses.

Angela and Amber had their first major races in 2006, when they started making occasional appearances in the ARCA REMAX series. Their relationship with Derrike Cope, indifferent pace and blonde, glamorous appearance rubbed many observers up the wrong way. A Bleacher Report article by Sandra McWatters from 2012 directly accuses both sisters of using NASCAR as a promotional tool for their other commercial interests, which at that time included a clothing line and a beauty salon. 

Angela took part in more races than Amber, due to her seven NASCAR Nationwide events in 2011 and 2012. Sadly, many of these ended in DNFs. Her best finish was in New Hampshire in 2011, where she was 25th. Prior to the Nationwide series, she did one race in the Camping World Truck series, and three ARCA events, between 2006 and 2010. Her Truck appearance in 2010 ended with her stopping on the circuit, the truck leaking fluid onto the track surface. This race was the NASCAR debut of both sisters and marked the first time that identical twins had taken to the track together.

The pair moved up to the NASCAR Xfinity (then Nationwide) Series together in 2011. Angela’s first race was at Iowa; she was 28th at the end, 20 laps down. Her next outing the Mark Smith-owned Chevrolet was Loudon, in which she did better, finishing only 6 laps down in 25th. She did not qualify at Chicago, then retired from the Kansas and Charlotte rounds due to a crash and vibration issues respectively.

Her 2012 season was a little worse, with her two races at Charlotte ending in non-finishes. The first was down to engine trouble, but later in the year, Angela managed to crash on the first lap, driving Jason Sciavicco’s Toyota. She had finished at Michigan in the same car earlier in the year in 28th place.

During their career as a twin sister duo, both Angela and Amber were accused of “start and park” antics during their races - pulling in nowhere near full race distance to be recorded as a starter. In fairness to Angela, she did not engage in this sort of behaviour and although she was not often on the lead lap, she carried on to the flag whenever she could. 

She made a comeback in 2017, initially as a charity fundraiser. Her car was a BJ Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro and she did four rounds of the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Two of these races ended in finishes, the best of them being a 30th place at Kentucky. 

She entered three Xfinity races in 2018, finishing one at Loudon. She was 30th, having begun from 40th on the grid. The others ended in an oil leak and a rare start-and-park.

2019 came around and it looked as if Angela was up to her old self-promotion tricks. After two rides in a Joe Nemechek-owned truck, she started racing a different truck promoting “The Ruch Life”, a new reality TV concept based around Angela’s life as a racing driver and as the new adoptive mother of a baby. 

Her early season with Nemechek proved that she could actually drive; in a hugely crash-afflicted Daytona season-opener, she kept her nerve and finished eighth. She was then a creditable 16th at Las Vegas, from 28 finishers. She even became the first female driver to lead a Truck race at Daytona.

After her switch to Al Niece’s truck in time for the Fort Worth race, she has not done quite so well. At both Fort Worth races, she crashed out fairly early. She was 16th at Kansas, from 19 finishers, and 23rd at Charlotte, out of 26. Her contract with Niece was meant to be for ten races, of which she completed eight, never finishing higher than 16th and crashing four times.

Angela continues to be the subject of ridicule, particularly from the media. Her two races with in the Nemechek truck show an intriguing glimpse of what could be if she had access to decent equipment and probably, fewer distractions.

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