Friday, 29 January 2010

Christabel Carlisle



Christabel in her Mini, in 1961

For most people in the UK, the archetypal cool 1960s girl was Twiggy. For me, Christabel is the ultimate in cool 1960s ladies. From 1960 to 1963, she gave the boys a run for their money in sports and saloon car races. She is most famous for her exploits in a Mini, but also raced other iconic 1960s cars, such as the MGB and Austin-Healey Sprite, at home and abroad.

Bored by spectating, Christabel had her first race at Silverstone, in a Mini, in 1960. It was her only race of the year and unfortunately, she crashed out. However, the next year brought many more races with the Mini, including a Ladies' Invitation Race at Brands Hatch, which gave her her first win. She competed around the UK in what was to become the British Touring Car Championship, and soon proved that she had the speed and talent to challenge the established stars.

Christabel steadily improved. Her highlights of 1961 were a second in class at Snetterton (John Whitmore won), and an outright second place at Brands Hatch. Vic Elford was first.

In 1962, her Don Moore-prepared Mini Cooper was up there with works BMC drivers such as Whitmore, Tony Maggs and John Love. She collected top three places at the Snetterton and Aintree international meetings and would have won at Crystal Palace, had her clutch not failed while she was leading. She had better luck at Brands again, when she fought back to eighth after spinning and dropping back to last place. Class wins were hers at Goodwood, Brands, and the Roskildering in Denmark. More continental racing beckoned in the Nürburgring 6-Hour race, which earned Peter Galliford and Christabel a second in class. The pair came sixth at the Brands Hatch 6 Hours. On top of this, Christabel also came fifth as a guest in a Morris 1100 race for Grand Prix drivers, including Jim Clark and Graham Hill.

1963 saw her really picking up speed, with fastest laps at Oulton Park and the Nürburgring 6 Hours, in which she scored a class win with Chris McLaren. A lap record for her class was set at Snetterton. More top-three finishes came at Oulton, Goodwood, Crystal Palace and Silverstone, this time during the Grand Prix meeting. Further trips to the Nürburgring brought more success: a second in class with Clive Baker in the 1000km, driving an Austin-Healey Sprite, and a drive in a works BMC Mini at last with John Whitmore. Unfortunately, the pair failed to finish.

Brands Hatch was one of Christabel's favourite stamping grounds, and that year, she and American Denise McCluggage scored a third in class in the 6-Hour race. The partnership continued at the famous Sebring 12 Hours, but that resulted in a DNF.

In addition to her track activities, Christabel did some rally co-driving with Timo Makinen, for the works BMC team, even though neither she nor Makinen spoke one another's language. She also navigated for John Sprinzel in a Sprite in Monte Carlo. In 1963, she and her Mini were second in class in the prestigious Mont Ventoux hillclimb in France.

Sadly, this young woman's career came to an abrupt end in 1963, after a couple of nasty accidents. One was particularly spectacular, with her Mini landing upside-down on top of Peter Harper's Sunbeam. The second caused the death of a marshal and left Christabel with concussion; although no-one blamed her for the incident, she felt she could not carry on competing. After her retirement, she went back to her old job, teaching the piano, took up mountaineering and wrote a popular book: "Mini Racing", her guide to getting ahead in motorsport.

(Image source unknown)

Cathy Muller



Cathy in 1985

France's Cathy Muller had a promising start to her racing career. She competed, mainly in single-seaters, between the ages of twelve and 33, and showed that she had the talent to go far.

Her first victory came in the European Karting Championships in 1979. She remained in karting for a further year before switching to cars in 1981, when she raced first a Renault 5 and then a Volant Elf single-seater. After a learning year, she carried on the Renault connection and drove in French Formula Renault. She scored her first win at Le Castellet that season, as well as four podium positions.

Cathy continued to progress up the motorsport ladder rapidly. Moving up to Formula 3 with David Price Racing and Ecurie Elf, she jumped straight into the European championship. Her best result was a fourth place, at Le Chatre, and she also achieved seventh places at Magny-Cours and Zeltweg. She attempted to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix support race, but could not make it. In November she was eleventh in the Macau Grand Prix race, one of only a handful of women to have ever taken part.

By 1984, she was challenging for wins in Euro F3. Driving first for the Scuderia dei Longobardi team, then MC Racing, she finished the season tenth. Her season had begun well, with a seventh at Donington, and she qualified for the Monaco race this time, finishing in eighth place. Her best championship finish was another fourth, at Knutstorp, but she was comfortably in sixth or seventh for most of her races. Her best finish of the year was due to a guest appearance in the French championship, at Albi, where she won.

She also had her first taste of major sportscar racing, driving a BMW-powered Gebhart JC843 at Sandown Park in Australia. Her team-mates were Margie Smith-Haas and Sue Ransom.

At that time, the British F3 championship was the place to be for aspiring stars, so she decamped to England for a year to drive for David Price Racing in 1985. Although she did not achieve any top-three places, she was still ninth overall. Among her results, which are hard to find, she was seventh at Zolder, ninth at Spa and did not finish at Zandvoort. A trip to the Monaco F3 race ended in another DNF.

Feeling she had learned enough from F3, Cathy climbed the next rung in 1986 and moved into Formula 3000, the last step before Formula One. However, the swift hike in budgetary requirements hit her hard. She could only muster the funds for a part-season with three different teams, with no testing. In her first race at Spa, she came 17th. She was also 17th at Mugello and Le Mans, retired at Imola and failed to qualify for the other four races she entered.

Perhaps disheartened by her experiences, she went back to Formula 3 the following year. Back with MC Motorsport in the French championship, she started her season with a tenth at Nogaro. It took her a while to get back up to her usual pace, having missed out on a lot of racing in 1986, but towards the end of the season, she was back in the top five. Her best finish was fourth, at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit, and she was fifth twice, at Nogaro and Lédenon. 

Cathy also entered one race in Germany, and drove a Porsche 962C in a round of the World Sports Prototype Championship at the Nürburgring 1000km. She, Bernard de Dryver and Jurgen Lassig were seventh.

She had another stab at F3000 in 1988, resulting in a DNQ at Jerez. It was time for a different challenge now, so she went to America and drove in single-seaters there for two seasons, as well as competing once more in French F3.

This led to a drive at Le Mans in 1991. She shared a Spice Ford with Desiré Wilson and Lyn St James, but the team crashed out early on. She also tried ice-racing, in the Andros Trophy.

After a season's break, Cathy entered the Peugeot 905 Spider Cup in 1993. This was a popular one-make sportscar series in France. In her first season she was fifth, but in her second, she was the runner-up, winning three times.

Remaining with sportscars, Cathy took part in the Ferrari Challenge in 1995 and continued her winning streak. She finished the season in second. It was on this high that she decided to retire from racing and start a family.

Motorsport was not forgotten completely: in 1998, she tested a Ferrari for her old team, to still whether she could still handle it as a mother. It turned out that she could, but after over 20 years, Cathy did not wish to race any more. She was now content managing her own team, and acting as her brother Yvan Muller's manager.

In 2010, she made a partial return, taking on two guest races in the SEAT Leon Supercopa, at Magny-Cours. She was fourteenth and fifteenth. In 2011, she also ran in two rounds of the Andros Electric Trophy, at the Pau event. She was eighth in one race, and did not finish the other.

She is now involved in motorsport management once more, for one of the WTCC teams. 

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Catharina Felser



Cathi in the X-Bow

Catharina Felser was born in Germany in 1982. She began karting at the age of fifteen. Just a year later, her pace was enough to win National races. Despite her fledgling sporting career, she remained a diligent student at school and especially excelled in languages - she now speaks five.

The pinnacle of young Catharina's karting career was her trip to the European Championships in Italy in 1999, where she was seventh overall. This was her last big achievement before moving up to car racing.

In 2000, now aged 18, Cathi raced a Formula Ford, mainly in Austria. Her best results were three third places in the Austrian championship, plus another third in a guest race in the German series. She was fourth overall in the Austrian standings at the end of the year.
The following year, she moved back to competing in her home country, full-time, this time entering BMW Formula ADAC, an established training ground for aspiring single-seater racers. It was tougher going, but she did manage eight top-ten finishes against strong opposition. This was enough to give her 15th in the championship.

She did not stay in Formula BMW after 2002, preferring to test herself further in Formula Three. Her first F3 season was a real baptism of fire and she had to fight for every point she scored. To begin with, she was part of the van Amersfoort team. Their car gave her a best finish of 16th at the Sachsenring. A switch to KMS brought a slight but noticeable increase in performance and her best round was Hockenheim, where she was fourteenth and eleventh. her final championship position was eleventh.

Undeterred by her difficult season, Catharina returned to German F3 in 2003, as part of the Trella setup. She was up to speed straight away and came third and fourth in the first round, at Oschersleben. She could not quite match that at the Lausitzring, but still earned a respectable seventh and fifth place. A difficult couple of races followed: she was 14th and 16th at Hockenheim and her only retirement of the year came at the Nürburgring, although she was tenth in the second race of the day. Another couple of tenths at Lausitz brought her back up to speed, and she was ready for her second podium of the year shortly afterwards, coming third and then sixth at Spielberg. This was a good track for her that year, as the next two races there gave her a solid fifth and fourth place. At the final meeting of the season, Oschersleben, she was ninth and tenth. That season was completely dominated by the Brazilian Joao Paulo de Oliveira, but Cathi managed to put together enough points to finish sixth.

Despite really showing some speed in an F3 car, Catharina's racing career took a sharp change of direction in 2004, perhaps due to financial troubles. She moved into tin-top competition, in the shape of the SEAT Leon Supercopa one-make series. It was another difficult year for her, trying to learn a new car and also a new style of driving, and over the year she was consistently in about thirteenth place overall. In the two-driver rounds at the Nürburgring and Lausitz she shared her car with Daniel Bauer, and tended to do much better; her best result of the year was a fifth in the VLN support race at the classic Eifel circuit. Driving solo, her best finish was eighth, at Salzburg, where she also scored an eleventh position. She was 16th in the final standings.

At the end of the season, she tried to give single-seater competition another go, testing a Barber Dodge car in the USA. However, nothing became of the test and she returned to the German domestic racing scene in 2005.

Having tried team motorsport in the SEAT Leon, Cathi moved into endurance racing in 2005. At this time, Mazda were using female drivers to promote their sportscar range in various ways, and the 23-year-old from Uffing was recruited to drive an RX-8 in long-distance events, as part of an all-girl team built around her, Kati Droste and Steffi Halm. They entered selected VLN rounds at the Nürburgring, finishing well in class, as well as other events, as part of the BFGoodrich Endurance Championship. Assisted by the experienced Nicole Lüttecke, they finished their first 24-hour race together, the ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hours. They were 55th out of about 200 finishers and were fourth in their class.

Early in the 2006 season, the team were reunited for the inaugural running of the Dubai 24 Hours. They did not finish this time. Cathi and Kati Droste later teamed up for the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Their co-drivers were Kathi Konig and Christina Surer, and their car was a SEAT Leon Supercopa similar to the one Catharina had raced in 2004. They ended up third in their class, 62nd overall.

After testing a Lamborghini Gallardo at the end of 2005, Cathi finally got to race one of these exotic cars in 2006. She was invited to take part in the Salzburg round of the Divinol Cup and was eighth in both of her races.

Cathi had a quiet 2007. Her mount for this season was almost as far from the fuel-hungry and massively-horsepowered Gallardo as it is possible to be: a bio-ethanol-fuelled Renault Megane RS 26, which was quick nevertheless. Her only big event was the Tuner GP in Germany, although she carried out a number of tests in various cars.

In 2008, one of her tests paid off and she was back to racing full-time. The new KTM team had picked her to drive their X-Bow sportscar in the European Cup GT4 series. She was tenth in her first race at Silverstone, but fifth in the second, beating the sister car of her two team-mates. At Monza she was seventh, eleventh and fifth, again finishing once as the leading X-Bow. At Oschersleben, she was seventh, fifth and eighth, while at Spa she struggled somewhat, finishing twelfth and thirteenth in the first two races and recording a DNF in the third. At Brno she improved slightly, with two ninths and a tenth. At Nogaro, she was sixth, eighth and ninth. This rather inconsistent, but competent season gave her third in the championship's Sports Light class.

Catharina was not retained by the KTM GT4 team for 2009, although she continued to drive for the marque. KTM were keen to test their X-Bows in speed events, and Cathi drove hers to third in class in a company-orgnised hillclimb. She was fifth overall.

In order to market their cars to speed eventers, KTM organised a one-make hillclimb championship in Europe. Cathi was a competitor, as well as a racing instructor to the new recruits. She won the championship.

She has also been developing a TV career in Germany, which appears to have taken priority over racing in 2011. In 2012, she worked as a race reporter covering the DTM for German TV.

In 2012, she was also the team manager for Reiter Engineering, in the Blancpain Lamborghini Super Trofeo and the FIA GT1 Championship. She continued to do some driver instruction and co-ordination for KTM, as well as public speaking and media work.

In 2014, she made a small return to the circuits, as a guest driver in the FIA Lotus Ladies' Cup. She scored a second and fifth place at the Oschersleben round, driving under her own team banner.

(Image copyright Laurent Mercier)

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Cassey Watson



Cassey, with the MX-5

Despite her tender years, Cassey is a "veteran" of the junior racing scene, having scored podium positions in all major championships. After several years of karting, she first raced cars in 2006, focusing mainly on the Citroen Saxo-based Saxmax to begin with. She finished sixth overall. Later, she took part in the T-Cars Autumn Trophy and was fifth, after two podium finishes.

Her introduction to Ginetta Juniors came in the form of two guest spots in races, one at the Junior Racing Festival, where she broke the record for the greatest number of races in one day: two races each in Ginetta Junior, Saxmax and T-Cars. She also scored podium finishes in all categories.

In 2007 she did part-seasons in Saxmax and Ginettas, achieving one top-three finish in the Ginetta out of five races. She was eighth in Saxmax and 17th in the Ginetta Junior Championship.

She concentrated on Ginettas in 2008. Her season consisted of twelve rounds of the junior championship. She would have completed the season, but her impending 17th birthday disqualified her from junior competition most of the way through. Her best finish was fourth, at Cadwell Park, and she only finished out of the top ten once. This was an eleventh place at Thruxton towards the end of the season. Cassey was 15th overall when she had to quit the championship on her 17th birthday.

Tockwith Motorsport, who had been running her in Ginetta Junior, kept her on as a driver for two rounds of the senior club Ginetta series. Her results were unspectacular, but it was her first senior experience.

2009 was Cassey's first full year of senior competition. She struggled somewhat for funding, like many around her, but managed three runs in a Mazda MX-5 in the Max5 championship, and two rounds of Britcar. One of the Max5 races, at Thruxton, gave her a third place. In Britcar, she drove a Lunar Racing-prepared MG ZS180. She finished on the podium for her class both times. For her first race, at Castle Combe, she was partnered by Alan Bonner. Despite a spin before the start of the race proper, they finished second in class and 17th overall. Her second race was the Britcar 500, a six-hour enduro, at Silverstone. Her team-mates - Rob Headley, Pete Fairburn and Paul Mclean - only appeared two days before the race, the car had to have a new gearbox, and Cassey narrowly avoided missing her evening qualifying session due to a brake fluid leak. During the race itself, power steering, weather and tyre choice problems, as well as low fuel, affected the team's competitiveness, but they made it to the end, 32nd overall and third in class.

Cassey remained with the Lunar team in 2010, competing in the Zing Trofeo Abarth one-make series. Her car was a Fiat 500 Abarth. She was seventh overall, with a best finish of second, against a strong field which included former BTCC drivers. Her second place was achieved at Snetterton, and she had her best meeting there, scoring a fourth place in the first race. Apart from two DNFs at Brands Hatch and Silverstone, she was never out of the top ten.

The Abarth series was cancelled abruptly in 2011, leaving Cassey without a drive. Lunar Racing put together a VW Golf for her to use in the VW Racing Cup, but it was only ready in time for the last few rounds. Despite no testing time, she managed to score a few points, after a very shaky start during her first meeting, due to a faulty gear linkage.

She does not appear to have raced in 2012, although she remained involved in motorsport in a management role at Lunar Racing. After 2012, she seems to have left the world of motorsport entirely.

She did make a comeback in 2014, contesting the Hyundai Coupe Cup at the Track Attack Race Club meeting. She won one race.

(Image from www.thegrid.co.uk)

Camille du Gast



Camille, driving solo

Camille du Gast was probably the first internationally-known female racing driver. She was French, and drove in grands epreuves between 1901 and 1904.

Camille was born in 1868. She had a lifelong love of sports; as a child, she was labelled a tomboy. Contrary to prevailing ideas about the role of married women at the time, marriage did not slow her down one bit. Her husband, Jules Crespin, positively encouraged her in ballooning, shooting, equestrianism and a variety of winter sports. When she became the first woman to complete a parachute jump in 1895, he was with her all the way. She jumped from the gondola of a hot air balloon, and her parachute was proudly printed with the logo of Dufayel, a Paris department store of which Jules was a director. She always used her own family name in public, perhaps to avoid the suggestion that her feats of daring and sport were purely publicity stunts for her husband’s business.

Sadly, Jules died at the end of 1895, at the young age of 27. Camille was now a widow, albeit a very wealthy one. Marriage had not slowed her down, and the loss of her husband would not either. Some time between 1895 and 1901, she travelled across Morocco on horseback, alone.

She learned to drive in 1898, and became the second French woman to receive her brevet (license). She owned a Panhard and a Peugeot, one or both of which may have originally belonged to Jules. After watching the start of the 1900 Paris-Lyon race, she became interested in motor racing and was determined to try it herself.

In June, she entered the Paris-Berlin Trail, organised by the ACF. She was the only female starter in the main Trail, although a sister event was held that year, in which Hélène de Zuylen took part. Camille’s car was a Panhard et Levassor with 20hp. It was not a sports racer by any means, being a fairly standard road model. She ran it in the “Heavy Car” class for vehicles over 650kg. Her riding mechanic was Hélie de Talleyrand-Périgord, the Duke of Sagan. Like Camille, he was a habitué of the Paris social scene. The pair were close friends and possibly lovers.

The trail was a road race of 1105km, run in three stages. Camille and the Panhard ran well, and finishing in 33rd place overall, 29th in the Heavy Car class. There were relatively few dramas on the way.

Motor racing was still quite new in 1901, so the Paris-Berlin was her only event that year. She does not seem to have entered any of the hillclimbs or speed trials that were starting to appear across Europe. Camille’s activities for 1902 are not completely certain; some French sources claim that she entered the Paris-Vienna race, but she does not appear on any entry list I have found. It is possible that she attempted to start, but her entry was not accepted. This was the case with the New York-San Francisco race that was held the same year. The burgeoning motorsport authorities in the States were never keen on female drivers, as Joan Newton Cuneo would find out.

It is sometimes written that Camille spent much of 1902 on an “extended cruise” somewhere, although the destination is not mentioned. What is certain is that she spent some of this year clearing her name in the French courts, after it was claimed that she was the model for a painting by Henri Gervex, “La Femme au Masque”. The 1885 picture, which does look somewhat like Camille, is of a woman naked apart from a Venetian mask. The accusers appear to have been family members, and the case went on for a long time, despite Gervex and the model herself, Marie Renard, giving evidence.

Her next grand epreuve was the 1903 Paris-Madrid race, driving a De Dietrich prepared by the factory. The Paris-Madrid trail was halted at Bordeaux after a string of fatalities to both drivers and spectators. She was doing well in this "Race to Death", and had been running as high as sixth in her 30hp De Dietrich. Unfortunately, a stop to rescue her team-mate Phil Stead after an accident dropped her to 77th. He was trapped under his car, and Camille helped to free him.

Her drive impressed the Benz factory team enough to offer her a seat in a works car, but women were barred from competition by the ACF in 1904, so nothing became of it. The dreadful publicity that came with the Paris-Madrid deaths probably had a part in this; the public outrage over the death of a female driver would be considerable. The ACF had one eye on protecting the future of motorsport, although one eye was clearly on keeping women “in their place”. The reason given for the ban was “feminine nervousness”.

After her four-wheeled career came to its abrupt end, she turned to racing motor boats, mostly around France. Her battling performance in the 1904 Toulon-Algiers boat race, which was abandoned due to atrocious conditions, lived up to her nickname in her native France: l'Amazone.

It is sometimes claimed that Camille made a return to terrestrial motorsport in 1905, taking on Dorothy Levitt in a match race, as part of the Brighton Speed Trials. In the available documentation, there is no mention of Camille taking part, although Dorothy and several other women appear on the entry lists. Any race that they had must have been organised privately. Camille was racing one of her boats at the time, and reporting of the two female protagonists at two separate events may have become confused.

After her enforced retirement from high-speed activities, she trained horses, gave piano recitals and founded the French equivalent of the RSPCA, as well as a charity that provided healthcare to disadvantaged women and children, both in France and North Africa. She retained an affinity with the region, and travelled there extensively, sometimes writing about her experiences. Her concern for other women did not just extend to poorer women needing medical assistance; she was a member of, and contributor to, the early French feminist movement, campaigning for the vote and equal rights.

This new, socially-conscious Camille still enjoyed action and danger, however. In 1930, she organised a protest against a bullfight at Melun, in which a group, co-ordinated by Camille, jumped into the bullring, blew whistles and set off smoke bombs.

Earlier, in 1910, she had been involved in action and danger of a less welcome kind, when her own daughter tried to have her murdered, for financial gain. She survived unscathed.

It is the charitable part of her life that is most remembered in France, although her sporting activities are still recognised.

She died in 1942.  

(Image source unknown)

Monday, 25 January 2010

Barbara Armstrong



Barbara with the SEAT

Barbara, an English-based Scot, learnt to drive at a young age. Her parents ran a large farm, so there were tractors for her to practise with, and open spaces so that she did not have to go out on to the road. She took up rallying in 1984, at 18. Her first car was a Talbot Sunbeam and she used it for club events. The farm background must have been a good training ground for rally driving as Barbara's brother, Jock, also took part in the sport.

She continued to compete at this level for several years, until she was awarded a place at a Norwegian rally school on merit in 1990. Soon after this, she got herself a drive in the Peugeot Challenge and was the best female in the series. She was also runner-up in the 309 class. Not content with the Ladies' Trophy or the second place, Barbara pushed harder and won the 309 class outright in 1991, as well as another ladies' award.

After a couple of years spent working mostly as a race and rally driving instructor, Barbara's career took a leap forward in 1996, when she was picked to be a member of the new SEAT rally team, driving the Formula Two-spec Ibiza. With Roisin Boyd as her co-driver, she utilised all of her skills to help develop the car, which made its appearance on the UK rally scene towards the end of the year. Its first appearance was at the Lurgan Park Rally in Ireland. The Trackrod Rally, a Mintex National Championship counter, was an early triumph: the pair scooped a class win and 25th overall. It was time to take on the RAC Rally for the first time, and Barbara did not disgrace herself with 47th overall, thirteenth in class, out of a large start list.

With development out of the way, SEAT entered the British Rally Championship in 1997. Barbara gained a new co-driver in Lisa Addy, and the two women made a reasonable start to their season at the Welsh Rally, coming 24th. They were a disappointing 45th in the Pirelli Rally and failed to finish the RSAC Scottish or Ulster Rallies, but they ended the year on a high note with a pleasing twelfth in the Manx Rally. They were better placed in some non-championship events: second in the Galloway Hills Rally in Ireland, and fifth in the Jersey Rally.

They continued in the same vein the following season, with a battling tenth overall in the Welsh forests. The Pirelli Rally was kinder to Barbara this time and she was 16th, and although she could only manage 51st in the Scottish event, it meant that she had a 100% finishing record that year. Despite the disturbance of a change of navigator, she finished the season strongly, coming 19th in the Ulster and a career-best seventh on the Manx event. Barbara won the first of her British Ladies' Rally Champion titles this year. Outside the BRC, she also claimed one of the results she is most proud of: a fourth overall in the Silverstone Rallysprint.

Having formed a strong partnership with her new co-driver John Richardson, Barbara, now based in the Midlands, returned for another crack at the BRC. Her team-mate was the Welsh star Gwyndaf Evans, as it was in 1998. The Ibiza was 24th in Wales, but failed to finish the Pirelli. A pair of fourteenth places in the Scottish and Jim Clark Memorial Rallies followed, which must have been pleasing as Barbara was on home turf. She was 20th in Ulster but fared much better on the Isle of Man: sixth overall. She defended her Ladies' crown but did not score as well in the championship as previously.

The SEAT contract came to an end in 2000, and Barbara did not compete much that year. She concentrated on other things in her life, such as garden and interior design, and did some instructing and after-dinner speaking. It was time for a change of direction, which came in the form of circuit racing with the elite Parr Motorsport team. Parr were putting together a line-up for the Porsche Cup and Barbara, despite her lack of competitive track experience, fit the bill. She proved a natural in the Porsche 911 and was soon taking on much more experienced sportscar racers like Mark Sumpter and Peter Chambers. Her best finishes were eight third places, and she was eighth in the championship after showing some real aggression and determination on the track.


Barbara in the Porsche Cup

Her Porsche successes brought Barbara back into the spotlight towards the end of the season. Rallying had been hit badly by that year's foot and mouth disease outbreak, but some events were still taking place. Formula Rally, a series for Super 1600-spec cars, had taken the place of the cancelled BRC, and she was drafted in by Peugeot at the end of the season to give the new S1600 206 its first outing. She and new co-driver Ieuan Thomas were eighth on the Banbury Rally, bringing the car home safely.

More work for Peugeot followed in the form of the World Cup Rally, a long-distance event for S1600 and smaller cars, which followed a route across Europe and North Africa more familiar to Paris-Dakar competitors. Barbara teamed up with experienced navigator Alyson Marlow in a works-provided 206 and the pair were one of the favourites to win. In the early European stages, they led the rally, and continued to put in good stage times despite flash floods in Morocco and very difficult terrain. After almost a fortnight of gruelling competition, one of the con-rods in the Peugeot's engine went. This left Barbara with only three cylinders coming back across France. She nursed the car to the end, but the win was handed to Donie Keating in a VW Polo, who was ahead by three minutes by the time the crews reached Brooklands.

After an exciting end to 2001, 2002 was very quiet on the competition front. Barbara renewed her links with SEAT and did some racing instruction for the marque, as well as driving the safety car for the international Porsche Cup round at Spa. She also attended the Wild West Rally in the USA, with the view to putting together a programme for 2003 in the SCCA Pro Rally Championship. Several British drivers, including David Higgins and the late Mark Lovell, had achieved considerable success over there. She intended to use a Subaru Impreza after sampling some Japanese power at a rallysprint event at Silverstone in 2001.

The American deal did not come off, and some testing she did for the ASCAR stock car series did not lead to a full-time drive, either. Much later, in 2004, she worked as a team manager and spotter to Kelly-Jayne Wells at Rockingham.

Later in the season, she accepted a guest drive in the Binbrook Stages Rally, and renewed her acquaintance with the Peugeot 205 after a gap of more than ten years. Barbara made a storming start to the rally, and proved she still had the touch by posting the first female fastest time in a rally since Louise Aitken-Walker in 1981. However, the engine in the 205 gave up on the next stage, which was unfortunate.

Barbara's active career comes to an end here. Since 2004, she has been involved in motorsport as an administrator, as the championship co-ordinator for first, the SEAT Cupra Cup racing series, then the UK Formula Ford Championship, an acknowledged breeding ground for stars of the future. In 2005, she was set the arduous task of revitalising the Formula Ford series, which had fallen behind other one-make series of late. She also works as a driver coach, and a rally organiser.

In addition to this, Barbara has never formally announced her retirement, so we may not have seen the last of her behind the wheel. However, her personal website has not been updated since 2010.

(Image from www.barbaraarmstrong.com)

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Anny-Charlotte Verney



Anny-Charlotte at Le Mans

Being a resident of La Sarthe, hometown of the Le Mans track, you might expect France's Anny-Charlotte Verney to have visited the 24-hour race a few times. In fact, she holds the female record for the number of participations in the legendary event. Between 1974 and 1983, Anny-Charlotte was there - ten races in all. Her grandfather, Louis, was one of the people behind the setting-up of the 24-hour race, so it was perhaps in her blood, although her immediate family were not involved in motorsport at all.

This unrivalled ten-year record is the easiest place to start, when examining Anny-Charlotte’s career. Her first attempt at Le Mans, in 1974, earned her a respectable thirteenth place. She was driving a Porsche, with Martine Renier and Pierre Mauroy. Porsches of various types, usually privately entered by herself, were her favoured machinery until 1983. She used a similar car in 1975, as part of an all-female team with Corinne Tarnaud and touring car ace Yvette Fontaine. They were eleventh and second in their class, as well as being the first of three women’s teams that year. Anny-Charlotte, driving alongside Hubert Streibig and Helmut Kirschoffer in Louis Meznarie’s Porsche 934/935, was also eleventh in 1976, and fifth in class. Driving her own Carrera RS again the following year, she was not as successful, finishing 18th with Streibig, Dany Snobeck and Rene Metge.

In 1978, the Verney Porsche was backed by BP Racing, and Anny, Xavier Lapeyre and Francois Servanin were once more on the pace. They were twelfth and first in class. Switching back to the 934 in 1979, wholly self-financed this time, resulted in a 19th overall, third in class, for the team of Patrick Bardinon, Rene Metge and Anny-Charlotte, despite the car’s undoubted power. It was exchanged for a Malardeau Kremer 935 K3 in 1980, but this car’s gearbox failed after 18 hours.

Her best result was sixth in 1981, driving a Porsche 935. Her co-drivers were Ralph Kent-Cooke and team owner Bob Garretson. They were second in class. She seemed to prefer driving alongside men; some of her regular cohorts included Hubert Streibig, Rene Metge and Xavier Lapeyre.

A drive in the same car in 1982 brought another eleventh place, fifth in the IGTX category this time. Kent-Cooke had been substituted for Ray Ratcliff.

On her last attempt at Le Mans, Anny-Charlotte finally won a works drive with the dominant Rondeau team, along with Joel Gouhier and Vic Elford. Unfortunately they retired during the tenth hour with valve trouble.

She began her motorsport career as a rally driver, around 1972, although the date of this has been impossible to find. At around the time she would perhaps have started competing, there was an increase in the number of female rally (and circuit) drivers, possibly influenced by the relaxing of the rules about women competing in France. In common with  with the likes of Corinne Tarnaud, with whom she shared cars later, she seems to have developed her career partly within Bob Neyret’s Team Aseptogyl, in which many of her female contemporaries got their starts. She was not one of the big names on Aseptogyl’s rallying roster, but she remained loyal to them for some time.

In 1974, she won her class in the Paris-St Raphaël womens’ rally, driving a Porsche 911 Carrera RS. She finished second overall. Before that, she seems to have stuck to local French events, as her name does not appear as a driver in the entry lists for the big international rallies of the time. However, she is listed as a co-driver for Christine Dacremont and Raymond Touroul on the Bandama Rally, in 1973 and 1972 respectively. 

In 1974, her name begins to crop up in the entry lists of both rallies and circuit races. On the rally side, she made occasional international appearances throughout the 1970s. In 1976, she rallied a Ford France-backed Escort RS 2000, and entered the 1000 Lakes and Moroccan rallies. She did not finish either of them. In 1977, back in a Porsche Carrera, she was fourth in the Tour de France Auto, with Denise Emmanuelli. In 1979, with the same co-driver, she retired from the Monte Carlo Rally.

Alongside her Le Mans efforts, and in parallel with her rally career, she was also a regular in the other big sportscar races of the time. In 1974, as well as Le Mans, she did the 1000km race at Le Castellet, in a Chevron B23, with Daniel Brillat. They were 20th, from 32nd on the grid. In a different Porsche Carrera, she was fourteenth, driving in the GT class with Marie-Madeleine Fouquet. 

In 1975, she entered the Giro d’Italia in a 911, with Bernard Pasquier, and was eighth.

In 1976, she teamed up with Hubert Streibig in Louis Meznarie’s Porsche 934, for most of the European rounds of the World Championship for Makes. Sadly, apart from Le Mans, they did not finish any of them, due to various problems, including fires. For the Dijon race, near the end of the season, they swapped the 934 for a familiar 911 Carrera RSR, but the clutch failed. The following year, as well as Le Mans, they were fifteenth in the Le Castellet 500km. 

The Streibig/Verney partnership continued for the first part of 1978, with a fifteenth place in the Dijon 6 Hours in Anny-Charlotte’s Porsche, and a DNF in Hubert’s TOJ SC303 in the Monza European Sportscar Championship round.

1979 saw her enter two 24-hour races: Le Mans and the Spa 24 Hours. She renewed her connection with Ford France and drove an Escort, backed by BP, at Spa. Her co-drivers were Jean-Pierre Delaunay and Cyril Grandet. They did not finish. 

She did yet another 24-hour race at Daytona in 1980, coming ninth with Bob Garretson and Skeeter McKitterick in a Porsche 935 K3, similar to the one she would later drive at Le Mans, run by Dick Barbour Racing. At the Dijon race in September, she got together with Hubert Striebig again, and shared his TOJ prototype. They did not finish.

For a change, competed in the Spa 24 Hours in a Ford Capri in 1981. It did not provide her, Alain Ferté and Jean-Louis Schlesser with a finish, after its engine blew.

Another race at Daytona was planned with the Garretson team for 1982, but it did not happen, although she did join the team for Le Mans. Another planned drive with Desiré Wilson, in a BMW, in the Spa 24 Hours, did not come to fruition. 

It was a similar story for 1983; a planned BMW drive at Spa did not come off, and her last Le Mans appearance was her only big race. 

After this, her circuit-based exploits were focused on French touring car races, and she raced sportscars only sporadically. In 1984, she was twelfth in the Vallelunga 500km in a BMW 635 CSi, with Roger Dorchy and Philippe Haezebrouck. 

In 1986, she was part of an all-female team for the Spa 24 Hours, driving a Toyota Corolla with Chantal Grimard and Henny Hemmes. They were 25th. 

Her last big circuit race was the 1990 Spa 24 Hours, in which she shared a Nissan Skyline GT-R with Hideo Fukuyama and Naoki Hattori. They were twelfth.

If this was not enough, Anny-Charlotte was not only racing sportscars. In 1976 and 1977, she tried single-seaters, in the Formula Renault European Challenge, alongside some big names, such as eventual winners, Didier Pironi and Alain Prost, and her rally rival, Jean Ragnotti. She was not among the front-runners. 

At was at this time that she also started racing touring cars, apparently beginning with a Ford Capri in 1977, which she used in most of the French Touring Car Championship, finishing seventh at Magny-Cours. 

In 1978, she drove a BP and Ford-supported Escort RS2000 in the French Touring Car Championship, She scored fifth places and class wins at Montlhéry and Le Mans, and was fourth in the championship. 

In 1979 and 1980, the results for French touring car races are very hard to find, but Anny-Charlotte appears to have carried on in the RS2000, and some sources describe her as winning some production car races. 

In 1981, she is said to have driven a Peugeot in the French championship, but no results are forthcoming. In 1982, she certainly did drive a Peugeot 505 in the FTCC, but she was not as competitive as she could be, and had a best result of eighth, at Croix-en-Ternois. This was enough to defend her French ladies’ title, which she had held since 1976, from Jacqueline Dantec. 

In 1983, the year of her last Le Mans appearance, she switched makes again for the FTCC, driving a BMW 635, run by Bodard Race and Tuning. Although she did quite well in some of the heats, her best performance in a main race was eighth, at Rouen. 

In 1984, she drove a little Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV/6 in that year’s production-based championship, but only did part of the season, winning the ladies’ prize with two tenth places at Montlhéry and Nogaro. 

In 1985, she drove a turbocharged Peugeot 505 again, which seems to have been rather unreliable. She did not finish on several occasions, and had a best finish of ninth, at Nogaro. This seems to have been her last year in the FTCC.

From 1982, yet another of Anny-Charlotte's new challenges was rally-raids. She seemed to enjoy endurance-based events more than high-speed sprints. Notoriously, that year, she just managed to live down the indignity of navigating for Mark Thatcher, son of the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and getting lost in the desert. It was her first attempt at the marathon rally. She returned to the Dakar in 1985 and was 56th overall in a Mercedes 280 GE.




(Image from The Times)

In 1986, she drove for the Toyota works rally-raid team. She was 20th overall in that year’s Dakar, with a diesel class win, a career best for her. She also won the Coupe des Dames in the Pharaons Rally, and appears to have been third overall.

The following year, she drove a Mitsubishi in rally raids, including the Atlas Rally, and achieved some good class finishes. She also used a Mitsubishi for the 1988 Dakar, but did not finish. After that, she moved on to a Nissan Terrano, and was more successful, with good showings in class, a stage win on the Baja 1000 and a second Pharaons Rally ladies’ award. The Nissan team would remain her motorsport home for the next three seasons, mostly as part of their marathon rally team, but occasionally appearing on the circuits, too, as in her 1990 Spa 24 Hours appearance.

She retired from active participation in 1992, aged 48. For quite a long time, she was rather a reclusive figure, but in recent years, she has given interviews, and also appeared on television in the UK, talking about her Dakar experiences.

(Revised 8/2/2014)

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Annie Templeton



Annie in the BTCC

As a car-mad teenager, Annie Templeton had to make do with Scalextric and bombing around fields with her sister in their £10 banger. It was only after her marriage to husband Jim that she began competing.

The pair's honeymoon was spent on a muddy hill in a trials car. From 1987 to 1998 Annie made her name as a skilled trials driver, with several prestigious outright wins to her name. A switch to classic trialling in an Allard J2, and then a 1933 MG KN Special, brought her into more high-speed competition. The MG was capable of more than 150mph, with no seatbelts, and Annie was hooked on the adrenalin. She and Jim attacked the classic racing circuit with style, and she made off with some impressive trophies. In 1995 she won the Kimber trophy for the best pre-war car of a meeting, and in 1997 she won the VSCC's coveted Brooklands Memorial Trophy after a win at one of their meetings. At a 2001 MGCC meeting she also won the Kimber race outright. She is justifiably proud of her performances in allcomers races, where she was able to get the better of modern machinery in the MG.

A couple of nasty accidents made her and Jim think hard about continuing in historic racing, and in 1998 Annie switched to the MGF Cup for the bulk of the season. She continued in the series until 2000 and showed herself to be a competent driver in a modern car, too. Her best finish in this well-supported championship was eighth. She was driving for Tech-Speed Motorsport/Freightmaster, and one of her team-mates was Suzi Hart-Banks.

In 2001, Tech-Speed transferred their operations to the British Touring Car Championship, and Annie secured enough sponsorship to go with them. She competed in the bright yellow Peugeot 306 GTI for two seasons, in the Production class. She had an excellent finishing record in the highly competitive series, which meant that she was able to pick up any stray points at the end of a race. This gave her a best result of fifth in class. If there was a scrap to be had for those points, she was there and up for it, but she lacked the pace to challenge for overall honours. In 2001, she was 19th overall in the Production class, and in 2002, thirteenth. Nevertheless, she enjoyed her racing, and being part of a big championship. At a Mondello Park BTCC round, she also got the chance to do some rallycross when local driver Dizzy Ryan offered her a drive. Of course, she took it.

For 2003, she was part of a well-publicised all-female team in the British GT Championship, with Amanda Stretton. The pair had a best finish of sixth at Silverstone, before the sponsorship money ran out halfway through the season. Their other results were a eleventh at Donington and a seventh at Snetterton. However, Annie had struggled with the Chamberlain-backed "Girlpower Racing" Chrysler Viper, and was off the pace set by her team-mate and the rest of the field.

A return to historics in the summer brought happy times, including another win in the MG.

Annie was off the motorsport scene for a while, but came back in 2005. She entered the Formula Woman Nations Cup, representing England in a Caterham 7 against other female drivers from around the world. Since then, she has been active in the MG in historic meetings, winning several trophies, including one in an MG race at the SeeRed Festival at Donington. She is now more commonly referred to as Anne Templeton.

In 2009, the MG KN was put up for sale, but the Templetons obviously had a change of heart, as Anne was seen racing the car at the 2010 Silverstone Historic Festival. She retired and moved to France shortly afterwards.

(Image from www.carpages.co.uk)

Annie Bousquet





The name of Annie Bousquet is no longer well known, although she was a very influential driver, albeit in an unfortunate way. Adopted Frenchwoman Annie died following injuries sustained in a crash at the Reims 12 Hour sportscar race in 1956. Subsequently, women were barred from ACO-sanctioned events in France until 1971, due to fears for their safety. This chiefly meant the Le Mans 24 Hours. The ban had an impact on many female drivers' careers, like Maria Teresa de Filippis, who was unable to drive in the French Grand Prix.

Annie was born in Vienna, Austria, in the mid-1920s. Her exact date of birth is debated. Prior to her marriage to a Frenchman, Pierre Bousquet, she was known as Annie Schaffer. Pierre also raced, and it seems to have been through him that she got involved in motorsport.

Her first forays into competitive motorsport were in 1952. She entered the Alpine Rally in a Renault, but does not appear to have finished. As well as this, she entered other rallies in Europe, with varying degrees of success.

Annie's death put paid to a promising racing career, as well as making life difficult for other women drivers. She began circuit racing in earnest in 1953. Alongside the Belgian Gilberte Thirion, she came 16th in the Spa 24 Hours, using a Fiat 1100. Prior to that, Annie and the veteran Simone des Forest made the finish of the Mille Miglia in Annie's Renault 4CV. Annie, driving solo, also entered a race at Agen in a DB-Panhard, but it ended in a bad crash in which she was injured.

The Bousquet/Thirion pairing were to compete again the following year in the Mille Miglia, in a Gordini T17S. This time they were 55th and fifth in the 1500cc class. They owned the car together and it was Annie's regular mount that year. She came sixth in the Agadir Grand Prix in Morocco and continued her African adventures in the Senegal GP. Closer to home, she won a qualifying heat for the Nimes GP, but failed to start the final with car trouble. There was more bad luck for Annie and Gilberte in the Sebring 12 Hours. The authorities were not keen on female participants and did not accept their entry. She had a better run in the Tour de France, in which she was eighth with Marie-Claire Beaulieu, driving a Porsche 550. This was one of her best results.

Although Annie and Gilberte were still joint owners of the Gordini through 1955, they did not race it together. It was reported that the two had become very jealous of one another, whenever one got a better drive than the other. They competed separately from now on.

The powerful Porsche gave her her best-ever finish, second in the Bol D'Or at Montlhèry with Josef Jeser in 1955. However, she was only an active participant for the first four hours or so of the race. Another driver had to have a leg amputated at the scene due to a serious accident, which made her lose her nerve and sit the rest of the race out.

She was less successful in Agadir and crashed the Porsche, which had already suffered damage in an abortive speed record attempt at Montlhèry.

1956 was a turbulent year. Early on, Pierre Bousquet died in a traffic accident after skidding on ice. Annie, naturally, was badly affected and withdrew from competition for a while. During the spring, she resumed her career and accepted an offer to have another crack at the Mille Miglia in a Triumph TR2, driving for the works team this time. She came 95th. She also took advantage of an invitation to drive Alejandro de Tomaso's Maserati 150S in the Paris 1000km race. De Tomaso was her team-mate. They did not finish.

The 550 that brought Annie her greatest success would also be her downfall. The Reims 12 Hours was her first major competition of the year in the car and she was sharing it with Isabelle Haskell, the American driver who was the partner of Alejandro de Tomaso. She crashed heavily on lap 27 and was thrown out of the vehicle. Although she was rushed to hospital, she was pronounced dead on arrival. Fellow competitors blamed fatigue on Annie's part, as she had competed in two very long races in succession as well as driven to the Porsche to and from a workshop before qualifying at Reims. This meant that she had probably not slept for two nights. During her life, Annie was considered a very competitive driver, sometimes excessively so, who was keen to prove herself against men and often took risks to do so. Certain observers claim that this competitive streak turned to recklessness following her husband's death, but this is conjecture.

The turn at the Reims circuit where the accident happened is now named after Annie, and the Annie Bousquet award, for high-performing women in French motorsport, was created in her honour.

(Image copyright PA)