Saturday 2 December 2023

Maite Caceres

 


Maite Caceres is a Uruguayan driver who has done most of her racing in the USA. 

She entered the 2022 US F4 championship, driving for International Motorsport, after testing an F4 car as part of an event organised by W Series. She was not selected to go further with W Series testing. Her best result in US F4 was a twelfth place at Road America. She missed several races in the middle of the season. 

As well as F4, she entered the last part of the USF Juniors championship, managing eleventh places at Road America and COTA. 

Previously, she raced in the Uruguayan F4 series, beginning in late 2021. She scored one third place at El Pinar. She was ninth in the championship.

For 2023, she competed in the all-female F1 Academy F4 championship, driving for Campos Racing with Nerea Marti and Lola Lovinfosse. It was not a good year for her and she was 15th in the final standings, out of 15 drivers. Her best results were two eighth places, achieved at Monza and Paul Ricard. 

As preparation, Campos had entered her into the Formula Winter Series at the beginning of the year

Her brother is Juan Caceres, who raced in Champ Car.

Image from rginternetpress.com

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Helene Bittner

 

Helene Bittner was an Australian driver who raced single-seaters in Formula Libre events in the 1960s. 

She began in 1961, at her home track of Mallala which had opened recently. Her car was a 1200cc Vitesse-Ford. In her first year, she entered the Australian Grand Prix, which was then run as a Formula Libre race. Sadly, she retired after only one lap, with a broken gear lever. 

She raced the car on and off for the next couple of seasons, finishing eighth in the Australian Gold Star championship round at Mallala in 1963. In 1966, the Vitesse was replaced by the 1500cc “Rebelle” special, also Ford-engined. 

Helene was the only woman racing at the level she did and that in itself attracted attention, but she was also known for her glamour in the car and the paddock. She favoured open-face helmets and always wore red lipstick. According to Wayne Wilson in the Historic Sports & Racing Car Association newsletter, a rumour abounded that scrutineers objected to the lipstick in case it proved flammable. Another commenter, Wes Dayton, remembers her using a cigarette holder in the paddock.

Mallala was one of her favourite circuits. She entered a round of the 1966 Australian Gold Star series there in the Rebelle, finishing seventh. In 1968, she qualified for the same race but did not finish.

She continued to race this car until the 1970s. Her best major result in 1970 was a fifth place in the Advertiser Trophy at Mallala, although she continued to finish strongly in club races. She was second at Mallala in a short race for racing cars held at the SCC Trophy, then won the handicap race at the same meeting.

She competed in three more Australian Grands Prix, and finished one, in 1970, in thirteenth place. These races were part of the Tasman series.

In 1972 she was second in another club race at the Adelaide International circuit. This was a race on scratch, supporting a round of the Australian Sports Car Championship. She followed this up with another second at the next ASSC meeting. 

Later, she raced historics, still in the Rebelle, until 2011. She died in 2012.  

(Image copyright Peter Schell)

Friday 17 November 2023

Ayla Agren

 

Ayla Ågren is a Swedish/Norwegian driver, born in Norway who has done a lot of her racing in the USA. 

She won the US F1600 championship in 2014 after taking three wins and five podium positions. This was her second season in F1600, having finished fourth in the series in 2013. 

2013 was only her second season as a senior racer, having graduated from karting in Scandinavia at the end of 2011. Like many single-seater racers in the States, she began in the Skip Barber championships. 

Between 2014 and 2019, she did not do quite as much active racing, but was involved with the Mazda Road to Indy training programme, in the hope of getting onto the oval racing ladder. To this end, she took part in the Cooper Tires USF2000 series, for three seasons. She did the full season in 2015 with Pelfrey Racing, who had helped her to her F1600 title. In her first season, she was tenth overall, with a best finish of sixth, achieved at Indianapolis and Mid-Ohio.

In 2016, she switched to John Cummiskey’s team and did three-quarters of the season, missing the Toronto and Laguna Seca races. Her best finish improved to fourth at Road America and she was eleventh overall. Back with Pelfrey for a third year, she only managed seven rounds on her budget. The best of these wasa seventh at Indianapolis.

She also worked as a spotter for Paretta Autosport and other teams in oval-based series, and drove the safety car for Indycar races.

In 2019, she attempted to qualify for the W Series but was unsuccessful at the first selection. Despite expressing some misgivings about the event, she tested again at the end of the year and was accepted for 2020. She was also awarded a significant scholarship by World Rally champion Petter Solberg.

The 2020 W Series season was deferred until 2021, but she took her seat and finished 17th overall. This was not helped by missing the Spa race due to a six-car qualifying crash, but her best finish was only ninth at Circuit of the Americas and she was not one of the drivers automatically invited back. 

At the start of the season, she also drove at Duqueine prototype in the Le Mans Cup, finishing 19th in her class at Paul Ricard. 

She continued as a reserve driver in W Series in 2022, making one appearance for the Puma team at Singapore, substituting for the injured Tereza Babickova. She was 16th. After W Series was cancelled, she did not race in 2023.

(Image from vg.no)

Saturday 11 November 2023

Annie Neil



Annie Neil, alongside her navigating sister Chrissie, rallied in the 1950s. Their first international event seems to have been the 1953 RAC Rally, driving a Morgan Plus 4, which was given to Annie by Peter Morgan, in recognition of her performance in a trial. 


Annie’s given name appears to have been Ines or Innes and she was sometimes known as Andy as well. Chrissie was also known as Kiki. She was awarded a Silver Garter in recognition of her being the “best woman driver in Britain” in 1953, following her Coupe des Dames in the Hastings Rally.


Having been interested in motorsport for a while, Annie entered her first rally and named her sister as her navigator, even though Chrissie could not drive. Her niece Candy says that she had to take a week-long crash course in order to be allowed to compete. They initially rallied mostly in Scotland and in the north of England, including the Morecambe Rally.


Quickly they became popular local media figures and even donned Edwardian outfits for a Glasgow-Largs-Kilmarnock veteran car race in 1957. They were driving a 1912 Vulcan.


As well as the RAC Rally in 1953, the Neil Morgan made an appearance in the Daily Express Rally in November. It had been successfully repaired after a roll on the RAC event.


The sisters competed abroad for the first time in January 1954, driving the Standard Vanguard they would become associated with in the Monte Carlo Rally. The Scotsman described them as being welcomed with flowers by spectators. The Morgan came out again for the MCC National Rally later in the year. 


In 1955, they entered the Monte Carlo Rally again, but retired after a lighting failure on their Standard Vanguard in Belgium. They drove the same car in the 1956 Monte, but appear to have retired again, possibly after missing a time control at Besancon. As ever, the reports of their Monte adventures mentioned their matching tartan-lined ski suits and tartan berets.


They are on the list of finishers for the 1955 Scottish Rally but their final position is not noted.


The Neil sisters were regulars in Scottish rallies until 1957, when Annie retired from major competition to start a family. Her daughter Candy was born in early 1957. Chrissie carried on for a short while, co-driving for her brother-in-law, Annie’s husband Frank Dundas.


Both were involved in motorsport administration as well as competition and were committee members for the Lanarkshire Motor Club. Chrissie even ran a local rally with an all-woman organising team in 1954, calling it “La Flop Des Dames”.


Annie had learned to drive during the War, and after her rallying days were over, ran the family pig farm in Tollcross. She died in 2004 aged 80. Chrissie became a fashion designer. She died in 1991, aged 64.


Listen to a podcast featuring Candy and Donald Dundas here. Photos from the same page.

Saturday 21 October 2023

Lindsay Brewer

 


Lindsay Brewer competes in the  Indy Pro 2000 championship in the USA, a part of the Indycar development ladder.

She has raced single-seaters, touring cars and sportscars. After some races in the Skip Barber series, she entered the 2022 Indy Pro 2000 championship with Exclusive Autosport. She did not do a full season. Her best finish by far was eighth at Indianapolis and she was 15th in the championship. 

Early in the season, she also did some guest races in the F1600 championship, driving a Spectrum. Eighth was her best finish there too, at Barber. At the end of 2022, she tried out for the all-female W Series, using an F4 car, but was not selected.

Her second Indy Pro 2000 season was also run with Exclusive Autosport. Sadly, she did not do as well and finished 18th overall this time. Her best finishes were a pair of eleventh places at Indianapolis and Portland.

In 2021, she raced in the TC America touring car series, driving a Honda Civic Type R run by the Skip Barber school team. She did the first four rounds of the championship, with a best finish of eighth at Circuit of the Americas. The team was second in the TC championship, mostly thanks to Eric Powell, but Lindsay was fourteenth overall. 

Throughout her career, Lindsay has been accused of not being a real racing driver and of using motorsport to further her internet influencer presence. She responded to comments made by NASCAR driver Hailie Deegan about female drivers who are Instagram models first and racers second by challenging Deegan to a race, which did not happen. Her commitment to the Indy Pro 2000 series since 2022 should have gone some way to dispelling some of this negativity, but a series of newspaper reports describing her as “the world’s sexiest racing driver” have not helped.

She entered one race in the 2019 Saleen Cup after taking four years away from competition to attend college. Before that, she raced Legends at club level, as well as testing stock cars. She had raced karts from an early age and finished fifth in the PSL Racing TAG Minimax championship in 2009, when she was twelve.

At the end of 2023, it was announced that she would join the IndyNXT (formerly Indy Lights) grid in 2024.

(Image copyright Times10)

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Dorothy Patten


 Dorothy Patten was a British driver who mainly competed in rallies, but also raced before and after the war. 

Her origins are rather obscure and “Dorothy” was not her real given name. It is likely that she was originally named Alice Minnie Patten and had come from a working-class background. Both of her parents died before she was ten and she and one of her sisters were sent to St Mark’s Home for Girls, a domestic science school where Minnie trained as a maid. 


A 1939 summons for speeding close to Brooklands in the name of Dorothy Minnie Patten, in her car, seems to prove her identity. 


Alice Minnie Patten was born in 1906 in Flintshire. As a teenager, she worked as a housemaid in a surgeon’s house, but at some point in the 1920s or early 1930s, she seems to have come into some money and moved to the south of England.


She got her start in motorsport very early, in 1933. Her first car seems to have been an Alvis, which she drove in that year’s Alpine Rally, finishing fourteenth in class and 53rd overall. She tried again on the 1934 Alpine but does not seem to have finished. 


Starting from John O’Groats, she tackled her first Monte Carlo Rally in 1935, still with the Alvis. She was 79th overall.


Another of her early cars was a British Salmson, which was the first she used for circuit racing. She was second in the Unlimited Standard Sports Car class for women in the 1936 Brighton Speed Trials in it, narrowly beaten by Kay Petre in a Frazer Nash. The following year, she raced it at the Crystal Palace circuit, finishing third in an Unlimited Sports Car handicap at the United Hospitals and University Motor Club meeting.


She drove the Salmson in the 1936 RAC Rally and the 1937 Monte Carlo Rally. The same, or a similar, car, also finished the 1938 Monte. This car belonged to Rainer Dorndorf. It took her to a 43rd place in the 1937 Monte, from 81 finishers. Some results lists have Dorothy entered as a co-driver to Rainer Dorndorf in a Salmson in the 1938 Monte and crashing out, but this sounds unlikely given her own entry.


She was named as a car entrant for R.E. Dorndorf's special-bodied Darl’mat Peugeot in the 1939 Sydenham Plate. This was a car that Dorothy didn’t race much herself at the time, although she used it in rallies. Her first major result in it was probably an eleventh place in the 1939 Paris-St. Raphael Rally. She was fourth in Class B, for drivers with no previous podium finishes.


Later, she married Rainer Dorndorf, a German based in Ireland, and began styling herself “Baroness von Dorndorf”, although her husband does not appear to have held such a title. As a British national married to a German, she was briefly interned during the war, although she was soon cleared of being any risk and released. By 1942, the pair had divorced and Dorothy was apparently engaged to Captain Anthony Ryan. They never actually married. It was claimed in the Tatler that Rainer Dorndorf had died in a hunting accident in 1938, but this was untrue.In 1947, she did remarry, to David Treherne. 


Unlike many of her contemporaries, Dorothy was able to resume her career after the war. She entered the speed trials held at Elstree Aerodrome in April 1946, taking the Peugeot to a class win. She covered the quarter-mile course in 22.8s.

The following year, she went back to the Brighton Speed Trials, but could only manage 17th in class and sixth-fastest lady. Her only circuit race in this car seems to have been a three-lap contest at Goodwood in 1948, although her finishing position is not recorded.


She died in 1975, aged 68.


Thanks to Adam Ferrington for information.



Tuesday 26 September 2023

Bianca Bustamante

 


Bianca Bustamante is a Filipina single-seater racer who began racing cars in 2022. 

She was selected for the third season of the all-female W Series and finished 14th overall, scoring a couple of points for the W Academy team. This followed some guest appearances in the 2022 USF Juniors championship and a spot in the FIA’s Girls on Track shootout in 2021. She did the first two meetings in USF Juniors with IGY6 Motorsport and had a best finish of tenth. 

Later in the 2022 season, she drove for the Bangalore Speedsters in the Indian Racing League and was 17th in the individual standings. The Speedsters were fifth out of six teams. 

Moving back to F4, she joined the Prema team for the 2023 UAE F4 series. Although she was usually a backmarker, she did manage a tenth and ninth place at Kuwait and Dubai. This was preparation for a season in the 2023 F1 Academy with Prema, another all-female championship using F4 cars. She won two races at Valencia and Monza. F1 Academy coverage shows her combative and determined driving style, although she also had some scares, including a collision with Chloe Grant’s flying car at Monza. She was seventh in the championship.

Her second part-season in USF Juniors gave her a pair of ninth places at Circuit of the Americas, driving for Exclusive Autosport. In a busy year, she also replaced Aurelia Nobels for one round of the Italian F4 championship, finishing 19th twice and 25th once at Spa.

For the 2024 season, she switched teams in F1 Academy, moving to ART. She was also chosen as McLaren's supported driver in the series, despite some controversy at Christmas over some tweets about Lance Stroll.

Before switching to cars, she raced karts with some success in the Philippines and the USA throughout her childhood. 

(Image copyright Vogue Philippines)