Friday, 9 April 2021

The Women's Rally in Ena


The Women’s Rally in Ena is a women-only stage rally that takes place every year in and around the city of Ena, Japan. It began in 2018 at the Women in Motorsport L1 Rally and assumed its current name in 2020. It takes place towards the end of the year and is a standalone event, rather than a round of a championship.

It runs over a single day and has a compact, although multi-stage format. 

Drivers must be female, although men are allowed to take part as co-drivers. Entry requirements for drivers are fairly basic and correspond to those of Japan’s Monte Carlo Auto Sport Club, the organiser of Japanese championship rallies.

The majority of drivers at Ena are Japanese, although occasional crews from China and Taiwan have taken part, most notably Mingwei Hung of Taiwan who competes regularly in Japan. She was third in the 2019 event.

Drivers have a variety of experience levels, from first-timers to regulars in the Japanese championship. Cars are similarly varied and included Toyota GT86s, Mitsubishi Lancers and small cars such as the Toyota Vitz.

The rally seems to have begun as part of a series of preparations for Rally Japan being held in and around Ena in 2018.


2018 ?

2019 Hiroko Menjo/Yuta Nakamura (Toyota Vitz)

2020 Saori Ishikawa/Suguru Kawana (Toyota GT86)

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Emily Linscott


Emily Linscott is an ambitious single-seater racer from the UK who began her career very young.

She first raced a car in 2017 when she competed in the last three rounds of the Ginetta Junior championship. This was only her second season in motorsport full stop, having taken up karting in 2016, aged 13. She also had a shaky start in cars; only the second time she drove on a circuit, she was taken off at Snetterton by an F3 car. The Ginetta was written off and she had to have a spare car brought from the factory.

Her best Ginetta Junior overall finishes were a pair of twelfth places at Brands Hatch and Silverstone, although she scored far better in the rookie rankings. 

Richardson Racing saw her potential and she was signed by the team for the 2018 Ginetta Junior season, earning a best finish of ninth and 16th in the championship. This was in spite of a crash in practice at Knockhill which left her with heavy bruising. The car’s brakes failed going into the hairpin and Emily narrowly avoided going into the barrier head-on. After seeking clearance from the track medics, she was back on the circuit for qualifying and her two races.

At the end of the season she travelled to Malaysia for a guest appearance in the Southeast Asia Formula 4 championship, finishing seventh twice at Sepang even though her car had gearbox and electrical problems. She did not finish the third race of the meeting, having collided with another driver while running in second place. 

In 2019, she travelled to the USA at weekends for the Lucas Oil Formula Car race series, where she was being mentored by Pippa Mann. She was eighth in the championship, with two second places at NCM Motorsports Park. At the end of the year, she was third in the series' Scholarship shootout. She also took part in a couple of rounds of the Dunlop Endurance Championship with Peter Bassill, driving his Ginetta G55 at Oulton Park. They won their class in both of their races. 

Her focus switched again to single-seaters for 2020 and she stayed in America for the Lucas Oils Formula Car Championship, supported by Indycar driver Pippa Mann. She was seventh in the championship, with one podium finish at New Jersey. 

She is racing in US F4 in 2021, driving for Teena Larsen’s Kiwi Motorsport. Once again, she is being supported by Pippa Mann and her Shift Up Now initiative. Part of Emily’s season is being financed through crowdfunding and the rest by a scholarship from PMH Powering Diversity.

Her time training in the US seems to have paid off; her third race at Road Atlanta gave her a debut top-ten when she finished eighth. She also impressed by moving strongly up the field after qualifying problems.

(Image copyright Emily Linscott)

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Sandrine Nahon


Sandrine Nahon raced single-seaters in France up to Formula 3 level in the 1990s.

Her single-seater career began with Formula Ford in 1988. After reaching the finals of the Volant Palmyr Formula Ford driving school at Ledenon, she won the “Premier Pas” series for newcomers and was fourth in the “B” class of the main French championship.

She continued in 1989 and 1990, driving for the AMEF and Graff teams. She won at least one race at Montlhery in 1989 and was second in the Federal Trophy on the strength of this. She was second in the B championship the following year. 

Her earliest racing exploits had been in karting from the age of 11, winning ten championships at club and national level between 1981 and 1987. In 1987, aged 17, she also tried rallying, co-driving for her father, Christian. Later, she did try a couple of rallies as a driver, including the 1990 Monte Carlo Rally. She drove a Ford Sierra Cosworth and was 82nd, from 112 finishers.

Christian Nahon was instrumental in Sandrine’s career development. Her early enthusiasm started to turn into real talent in a Formula Ford and Christian sought to push her further into the limelight. In 1989, when she was still only 19, he attempted to broker a seat in a Courage prototype for Le Mans, but another driver pulled out and it did not happen.

Christian had worked for Renault and run the company’s southern African operations; Sandrine was born in Zambia. After impressing in Formula Ford, she was offered drives in Formula Renault, but preferred to go the Formula 3 route. Christian was in negotiations with a major oil company sponsor for his daughter but could not agree terms and the firm went with another female driver instead. This meant that Sandrine’s F3 efforts were largely self-financed.

She moved up to Formula 3 in 1991 and joined the French championship as a private entry. Despite a reliable car, she struggled for speed and ran at or close to the back of the grid. Her best result was probably a 20th place at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit, ahead of Bernard Cognet and Marc Rostan. 

She returned in 1992 for a part-season, driving the same Reynard 903, but did not get into the top ten. The 903, not one of Reynard’s most celebrated creations, was less reliable this year: the engine failed at Albi and a throttle problem put her out of the Coupe de Bourgogne at Dijon. Her best result was an 18th place at Magny-Cours.

As well as the French F3 championship, Sandrine drove her Reynard in French hillclimbs, winning at least three Coupe des Dames awards in 1991 and 1992.

Afterwards, she took a break from circuit-based competition, before reappearing in 1994 at the wheel of a Peugeot 905 Spider. She was team-mate to Cathy Muller and finished sixth in the Spider Cup in France. This was not her first experience with a Peugeot. In 1989, she had raced a 309 in a French one-make series.

Another hiatus followed, chiefly due to the death of her father in 1995.

1998 appears to have been her last year of competition, when she took part in some Formula Ford 1800 races, winning at least one round of the French winter series. She had raced on and off in this formula since 1996, when she returned to the tracks with the support of her partner, Frederic Martin. After this, she hung up her helmet at the age of 28.

Frederic Martin has shared a lot of information about Sandrine on the Autodiva forums, for which I am grateful.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Charlotte Birch


Charlotte Birch is a British sportscar racer who is most associated with Ginettas.

Her career started early. She began racing cars at fourteen. Unusually, she stepped straight into junior motorsport without having done any karting beforehand. 

Her first destination in cars was the Junior Saloon Car Championship in the UK in 2017. In her first year she had a best finish of tenth, at Rockingham, Knockhill, Croft and Brands Hatch. She was fourteenth in the championship.

This improved to second in 2018, at Anglesey, plus a third place at Rockingham. The Anglesey podium came after a tenth-place grid start. She continued to improve in spite of quite a nasty accident at Silverstone at the start of the season. A couple of missed races and some indifferent finishes meant that she was thirteenth overall, a final leaderboard position that did not quite demonstrate her ability.

Her aim is to race in the BTCC or endurance racing and she took her first step towards this by competing in the senior Ginetta G40 championship in 2019. She was seventh in the championship after contesting all of the rounds apart from the Zandvoort away weekend and had a best finish of seventh, which she earned three times, at Oulton Park and Brands Hatch. 

In 2020, she raced a Vinna Sport Ginetta in the Britcar Trophy with Adriano Medeiros. Charlotte led the championship mid-season but dropped scores meant that she was fourth in the end, third in class. Charlotte was often the fastest driver in her class and ran as well as the highly-experienced Adriano Medeiros. 

She will race the Vinna Ginetta again in 2021, attempting to continue her form as a solo driver in Britcar. Vinna and Charlotte have also founded a prize for the best female driver in the JSCC.

(Image copyright Charlotte Birch)

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Jacqueline Evans de Lopez


Jacqueline Evans de Lopez was a British-born Mexican driver who competed in five runnings of the Carrera Panamericana between 1950 and 1954. 

She is most famous for her drives in a Porsche 356 in 1953 and 1954, although she was disqualified for going over time limits on both attempts. In 1953 she was excluded for the offence at Oaxaca, despite appealing the decision with the race directors. The Porsche was her own car and was painted with a tribute portrait of Argentine first lady Eva Peron, who had died in 1952.

Her best result was 37th in 1952, driving a Chrysler Saratoga. 

She used Chrysler models, a Saratoga and a Windsor, for her other two entries, finishing once in 1950, in 45th place. The car was a 1947 model and she started from 17th place to reported huge cheers. Her time was just under 36 hours and she drove the whole distance solo.

She crashed out the following year and retired due to injury, albeit not serious. Her car hit a rock close to Tehuantepec. According to contemporary press reports, her co-driver Sergio Diaz was seriously injured.

Details of other races she may have entered are sketchy. A report in the Manchester Evening News on the 17th of February 1954 describes briefly an accident where her car, a Jaguar, hit a railing in Mexico City.

At one point she claimed to be Mexico’s champion woman driver and that a cup had been named after her, although this has proved hard to verify.

She was born Grace Alice Evans Antrobus in 1915. She may have started acting while she was still in the UK and is sometimes described as having won a singing contest, or having entertained troops during the war. In 1946, she emigrated to the USA and quickly discovered Mexico on a holiday the year after. She often joked that she went for a vacation and stayed 40 years. Newspaper reports, however, suggest that she did return to live in London in the late 1950s, studying method acting at the Stanislavsky Studio in Chelsea in 1960. In 1958, she was reported to be staying in Chelsea with another Mexican actress, who had to rescue her when she was overcome by a gas leak.

Her name was often given as Evans on cast lists, although she included her married name, Lopez, on her early race entries. Her husband Fernando is normally described as being a Mexican bullfighter. They divorced some time in 1951 and some reports suggest she remarried, only to be widowed in 1956.

Away from the tracks, she was an actress in Spanish-language TV and films from 1947. This may have been her link to Eva Peron, who was also a radio and TV actress before her marriage to Juan Peron. She later played Eva Peron’s mother in a 1981 TV film starring Faye Dunaway.

She continued to act until 1986, when she made a rare appearance in a British film, Murder in Three Acts, which was set in Mexico. 

Among her other achievements were reportedly publishing her own newspaper in 1951, which is sometimes described as being a “golf magazine”. She spoke in interviews of writing songs and a play.

She died in Mexico in 1989, aged 74.

Friday, 12 March 2021

Lydia Walmsley


Lydia Walmsley is one of Britain’s leading female Mini racers.

She has been racing a BMW Mini since 2018 and has recorded wins in the UK Mini Challenge.

After a successful stint as a junior karter, she started her career in cars in 2016, driving a Citroen Saxo in the Junior Saloon Car Championship. She was fourteen when she entered the championship and combined her part-season with karting. Her best result was a sixth place, at Knockhill. After four races, she was 26th in the championship. 

She returned to the JSCC in 2017 and proved a competent driver. Her best finishes were two fourths at Silverstone and Rockingham at the start of the year. A roll into the tyre wall and subsequent non-start at Knockhill interrupted her momentum somewhat, but she was still seventh overall.  

In 2018, she graduated to the Mini Challenge, competing in the Cooper Pro class. At sixteen, she was the youngest driver on the grid. She was ninth overall. 

This improved to third in 2019 and included her debut win at Snetterton, in the last race of the season. Her win followed four other podiums. She was second at Donington and Croft and third at Oulton Park and Brands Hatch. Her qualifying pace was often good and she started near the front of the grid.

Although she did not win again in 2020, she was third in the final standings, despite missing one race at Thruxton. Her best finishes were two second places at Oulton and Snetterton. Seven of her eight race finishes were top-tens, with five of these being top-fives. She was the leading female driver in the championship. This year, the Mini Challenge ran alongside British Touring Cars and Lydia’s races were shown live on television.

She was awarded the British Women Racing Drivers’ Club’s Goodwin Trophy for 2020 as the club’s highest-performing eligible member. Not long after, she was named as one of Motorsport UK’s “Academy Class of 2021-2022”, having been chosen as a particularly promising young driver worthy of further support.

(Image copyright

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Diana Poon


The 1976 Macau Grand Prix

Diana Poon is a Hong Kong driver who was the first woman to race a single-seater and the Macau Grand Prix.

She entered several of the big Formula Pacific races held in southeast Asia in the 1970s. 

In 1976, she became the first female driver to race in the Macau Guia, in a single-seater. She was also part of the only couple to race against each other there, with her husband, Albert Poon. They always raced together, or to be more accurate, against one another.

Her car was a Formula 3-spec machine, almost certainly a Brabham BT40 with a 1600cc Hart engine, formerly raced by her husband and Australian Kevin Bartlett. Her finishing position is unclear. 

Later, in 1979, she drove the Brabham with some small successes. She was apparently based in Malaysia that year. Her best finish was fifth in the Penang Grand Prix, and she was also ninth in the Malaysian Grand Prix, held at Batu Tiga. She did not finish the Selangor Grand Prix. 

After that, she seems to vanish from the starting lists. The Poons separated at some point and this may be the reason. A future owner of the Brabham found that it had been badly damaged at some point, which could be another explanation.

Very little information about Diana is easily obtainable. It is unclear what her background was, whether she remarried or whether she is still alive. 

(Image copyright Motor Sport Magazine)