Saturday, 31 July 2010

Sarah Fisher



Columbus-born Sarah Fisher was one of the Indy Racing League's best-known drivers in 2001-3, winning the Most Popular Driver title for three years in a row.

Her parents were both involved in the dirt oval racing scene, and their enthusiasm rubbed off on their young daughter. She started competitive motorsport in 1986, at the tender age of five. Her first car was a quarter-midget, and she raced it for three seasons on indoor tracks. She was on the pace very quickly and won a number of races, as well as a track record.

When Sarah was eight she switched to kart-based competition, first on dirt ovals. She sometimes raced at the same meetings as her father, and they usually travelled together.

After making a huge amount of progress in karting, Sarah was ready for the national championships at eleven. Her parents did not push her into higher competition; in fact they had tried to encourage her into other sports and hobbies, with limited success. Her determination paid off handsomely though, as she won the Grand National Karting Championship on her first attempt. The crown would stay with her for another three seasons. In 2004, she also did some endurance karting on some of America's major racing circuits, such as Elkhart Lake.

After learning a good deal from karting, Sarah hit the road with her father and took to sprintcar racing. She moved rapidly through the junior ranks in the World of Outlaws series, winning a Rookie of the Year award in 1995 and an outright championship in 1997. In 1998, she moved in to asphalt racing and took part in three separate championships, winning five major races, and even working on the car herself when her father was injured and unable to perform necessary repairs.

Sarah had always set her racing sights high, and her goal was the Indy 500. She got her chance to prove herself in the big arena in 1999, in the Indy Racing League with Walker Racing. At the time, she was the youngest person to pass the Rookie Test, which she managed with ease, despite her lack of single-seater experience. Her first race, the only one she entered that season, was at Texas Motor Speedway. She started from seventeenth on the grid, but retired on lap 66 with a timing chain failure.

The young Ohio resident was retained by team boss Derrick Walker for 2000. Her programme was expanded to eight races, including the Indy 500. Here, she qualified her Dallara-Aurora in nineteenth, but retired after an accident on lap 71. This came two laps after Lyn St James had crashed out. They were the youngest and oldest drivers on track respectively, and this was (then) the only time in Indy history that two woman drivers had entered the race.

After a string of lower-midfield results, Sarah really made a name for herself at Kentucky, towards the end of the season. She came third overall and was pounced on by the media, both mainstream and motorsport. She had also attracted attention when she tested a McLaren F1 car at the US Grand Prix, the first time a woman had driven a current F1 machine in public for nine years.

The deal with Walker Racing continued into 2001. This time it was for a whole IRL season. After a shaky start at Phoenix, where she retired, Sarah was on the pace. Her second place at Miami was the best of the year, and a female record which stood for several years. Atlanta, the next race, saw her come eleventh, from 18th on the grid. Her second Indy 500 was not a success, ending in retirement, but later in the season she fared better, finishing tenth at Pike's Peak and qualifying in second at Richmond. She ended the year nineteenth overall.

Despite being one of the IRL's most popular drivers, Sarah was struggling to find sponsorship. Walker Racing was not a wealthy team, and could not afford to employ her in 2002 without the extra sponsor's cash. At the start of the year, things looked bleak, but she eventually got a ten-race deal with Dreyer & Reinbold, another small team. Again she started her campaign well, this time with a fourth place at Nazareth. Her second race was the Indy 500, and she surprised many onlookers by qualifying in ninth. However, she was plagued with mechanical troubles and only finished 24th.

Her other best positions were an eleventh at Fort Worth and a pair of eighths at Brooklyn and Sparta, where she also earned her first IRL pole. She was 18th in the final standings.

Dreyer & Reinbold kept the 23-year-old engineering student on for 2003, offering her a full IRL calendar this time. However, this year would not be as successful as the last. Her best result was eighth at Phoenix and her best qualifying place was second at Richmond, although she only came 19th in the race itself. The Indy 500 was pretty much a disaster; Sarah qualified in 24th and later retired. The lack of testing really showed in the number of non-finishes she recorded, and despite winning the "Most Popular Driver" award for the third year running, the press were now turning against her. The amount of bile and vitriol she endured in the following seasons was quite excessive, but she remained strong and usually ignored her critics.

Again, finances let Sarah down in 2004. She was dropped by Dreyer & Reinbold and only competed in one event, the Indy 500, in a one-race deal with Kelley Racing. She was not especially competitive and somewhat out of practice, qualifying in 19th and finishing two places down, in 21st.

No more drives materialised in 2004, and 2005 was shaping up to be the same, when Sarah decided to switch to stock cars. She signed up with the famous Richard Childress team for the Busch Series Grand National Division, a feeder series for the Nextel Cup. At this time, she had one eye on developing a career in Nascar. Driving a Chevrolet, she entered twelve races and acquitted herself well, earning a best finish of sixth at Thunder Hill Raceway. She was also seventh at Mesa Marin.

Despite showing some promise in the Chevy, she decided not to pursue the NASCAR route, and spent the early part of 2006 concentrating on her studies, having switched to Marketing. However, the chance came up to drive in the IRL again, close to the end of the season. Dreyer & Reinbold re-signed Sarah for two races, and she jumped at the chance to renew her acquaintance with the ovals. She also had a female rival now in Danica Patrick, who was still creating a media storm and therefore deflected some of the attention from Sarah, which was probably a good thing. At Kentucky, scene of her previous triumphs, she was twelfth. She was 16th at Chicago in her other race.

Sarah made her full-time return to Indycars in 2007, after Dreyer & Reinbold retained her services. Although the car was reliable enough to get to the end of all but three races, it was not really on the pace, although Sarah herself showed flashes of “what could be”. She finished in the top ten twice mid-season, coming tenth at Fort Worth and seventh at Newton. Mostly, she ran near the back of the field, although she got further forward at Kansas and Chicago, where she finished twelfth. Her return to Indianapolis was solid but somewhat disappointing: she was 18th, after qualifying 21st.

Dreyer & Reinbold released Sarah at the end of the season. After years of struggling for budget, she got together some money to go it alone, launching her Fisher Racing team. On the track, 2008 was another forgettable year. She only made the Indycar start three times, beginning at the Indy 500. She retired close to the end after qualifying 22nd. Much later in the season, she was fifteenth at Sparta and did not finish at Chicagoland.

Fisher Racing remained a going concern for 2009. At the beginning of the season, Sarah entered five Indy races. She joined the series at the Kansas round, and was thirteenth out of 16 finishers. The next event was the Indy 500, which was more slightly positive for her than previously. She qualified 21st and made it to the end of the race in 17th, in front of Mike Conway. She did not attend the Milwaukee meeting, but was 17th out of 24 at Fort Worth. A gap followed, then she was twelfth at Sparta, her best finish of the season. This drive saw her improving ten places on her grid position. After another break, she was fourteenth at Chicagoland.

Fisher Racing also took delivery of a second car in 2009, which meant that Sarah was able to test more fully, with less danger of destroying her race car. This was meant to go some way to making up for her lack of seat time in the past few seasons.

She returned for another part-season in 2010, still with her own team. Out of seven races, she managed four finishes: 17th at Kansas, 15th at Texas and Chicagoland, and 22nd at Homestead-Miami. Although she just qualified for the Indianapolis 500, she did not finish.

With other female IRL racers on the scene, a lot of the media pressure placed on Sarah as a lone woman in the IRL was deflected. Still, she decided to retire at the end of 2010, in order to concentrate on other projects. She continued as the owner-manager of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, running one car in the IRL in 2012. She also gave birth to a daughter in October 2011.

The team remained a going concern in 2013, and had a best Indycar finish of second, with Josef Newgarden, and a second car, driven by Lucas Luhr. This arrangement continued in 2014 and 2015, with new sponsors coming on board. However, Sarah relinquished her joint ownership of the team at the beginning of 2016, after the loss of a major sponsor.

Her latest venture is a new karting track.

(Image source unknown)

Sarah Kavanagh



After her first trip to watch the Le Mans 24 Hour race, Sarah Kavanagh's only ambition was to be a professional racing driver. The 18-year-old art student, who was then living in Brighton, bought herself a racing kart, and announced herself on the scene with a second position in her first ever race. After a year of kart competition, which yielded some excellent results, she decamped to her native Ireland in 1992, and entered the Irish Formula Ford championship. She learnt the art of handling a full-size car quickly and moved up to Formula Opel the following season, where she competed on and off for the next three years. Formula Opel was Ireland's top racing formula at the time, and Sarah was the only woman to have raced in the series, which brought her to the wider attention of the Irish press.

Although it was the roar of sports prototype engines on the Mulsanne Straight that first enticed her to the tracks, Sarah's ambition was now clear. She wanted to drive in Formula One, and in 1995 she moved back to England to climb another rung of the junior formula ladder. In Formula Vauxhall she was up against some future stars, including Formula One star Juan Pablo Montoya, and sports and touring ace Peter Dumbreck. The Irishwoman managed to hold her own in a tough field, and it is said that Montoya congratulated her on her prowess.

Ever-ambitious, Sarah acquired a much more powerful Reynard-Cosworth 95D for the 1996 season. With this car she entered the British Formula Two Championship. Her lack of funding meant that she only started two races: a gearbox failure put her out at Silverstone, but she was sixth at Donington. The starting grid was not brilliant though, and seeking better competition, Sarah started looking abroad for driving opportunities. The Reynard was eligible for the Japanese Formula Nippon series, and she completed another two races in Japan in 1997. She was fourteenth at Suzuka and did not finish at Mine. Competition for established team seats was fierce, and Sarah's sponsorship problems let her down again.

Staying with the Reynard for another season, she tried her hand at the new EuroBoss series in 1998. This European-based championship was for older, but not historic, F1 and F2/F3000-spec cars, and Sarah entered some rounds in the F3000 class, supported by E-Merge Racing. Her race results have been very difficult to track down, but it is known that she achieved class lap records at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit and at her home track of Mondello Park.

She was showing more signs of her early promise at last, and now had the support of E-Merge, so it was on to better things in 1999. The team bought a Jordan-Cosworth 193 from 1995 and Sarah got her first taste of F1 power for some of the 1999 EuroBoss rounds. After a few trial runs, she was ready to attack the championship in 2000, scoring at least one top-ten position at Donington, and earning some very quick lap times at the same track.

2001 was Sarah's best year yet. There was enough funding to tackle the whole EuroBoss schedule and she was familiar with the Jordan by now. A the end of the season she was ninth in the championship, with two ninth places, a seventh and a superb third overall at Mondello Park. The 28-year-old was now a motorsport news story and her exploits attracted attention from various sources, not least the McLaren F1 team. The British outfit invited Sarah for a performance assessment, and she was judged to be fit enough to tackle F1 competition, to her delight. She now had another string to her bow and this strengthened her claim on a seat in F1 proper.

Unfortunately, nothing came of the McLaren exercise. Although she was linked to drives in F3000 and later, GP2, these did not materialise either, and Sarah did not race competitively for several years. Behind the scenes, she and her manager were trying to put together sponsorship packages and find racing opportunities, but these never came to fruition. In 2004, after more testing and physical assessments, she was said to be close to signing a four-year testing and development deal with the Jaguar Grand Prix team, which could have led to a race seat. However, contractual issues intervened at the last minute, and she spent 2004 on the sidelines again, working as an instructor and motoring journalist.

Sarah's manager has come up with a number of theories as to why her racing career has failed to take off as it might have done. Lack of finances, an issue in itself, has meant that she has rarely completed a whole championship. Despite several years of racing she is still relatively inexperienced, although she has shown flashes of brilliance and clearly has aptitude for driving powerful vehicles. Her perceived reluctance to prove herself in the lower formulae has also worked against her. There are accusations of press negativity in Ireland too which may not have helped her cause.

For 2006, Sarah intended to return to EuroBoss with the Jordan, for as much of the championship as possible. This did not happen. It is a shame that her single-mindedness to succeed as an F1 driver may also be her downfall; if she had opted to prove herself in the more cost-effective fields of GTs or touring cars, she may have had much more of a career by now.

In a 2014 interview, Sarah described herself as "retired". She lives in France.

(Image from www.motorsport.com)

Sara Senske



Daughter of a racer, Sara Senske started young. She began karting at seven, won her first race at eight and her first championship at nine. During her seven years in karts, she won the prestigious IKF Gold Cup three times, and won or scored well in several other state and club championships.

After her illustrious karting career, she was signed by the Lyn St James Driver Development Program, where she honed her racecraft and media nous further in 1994 and 1995. At the age of eighteen, in 1996, she enrolled at the famous Skip Barber racing school, in order to move up to cars. In that year's Skip Barber Western racing series, she won one race and collected five podium finishes. She ended the year as the school's Most Improved Driver.

The following season she stepped up to the popular Star Formula Mazda single-seater series for the last six races. Having learnt the car, she came back the next year for a full season and ended it eighth. Eighth was her final position in 1999 too, after a string of top-ten placings, some podium finishes and two fastest laps, at Irwindale and Pike's Peak. That year she also tried sportscar racing in the Women's Global GT Series. She won once, from pole, at Portland, and came fourth in the championship.

For 2000, Sara decided she had learnt enough from Formula Mazda. Showing her typical self-discipline and determination which she attributes to her Christian faith, she put together funds for a ride in the Barber Dodge Pro Series with Lynx Racing. She had been running with the team for a while and it was a logical step. Her first year was not spectacular, with one top-ten place to her name, but she was a steady and reliable finisher. The following year, her confidence and experience grew and she was rewarded with more top ten positions. starting with a sixth at Lime Rock. Her biggest achievement was at Chicago, where she was second behind Nicolas Rondet, having kept by him for the whole race. That was the first time a woman had mounted the podium in the Pro Series, and Sara joked later about the lack of "podium guys" laid on for her.

At first, Lynx Racing were keen to capitalise on her success with a move into the Toyota Atlantic series, the next step towards CART or the IRL. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, Sara was passed over by the team in favour of someone else. She tested for a few other teams, and tried out for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in a Dodge, but nothing came of it. This must have been a big blow, especially as she gave up her university studies to focus on her racing.

Sara still had ambitions of reaching CART or the Indy Racing League, and kept her hand in by driving the official Pace Car at CART events. She also drove in the 2001 Toyota Pro/Celebrity race as a Pro.

She has now retired from motorsport, and works as a mental health counsellor.

(Image from www.thunval.com)

Sandra van der Sloot



Sandra as a Racingdiva

Like many other Speedqueens, the Netherlands' Sandra van der Sloot was introduced to motor racing by her father, who rallied a Peugeot 205 in national events. She was an adventurous child who preferred the rough and tumble of outdoor play to dolls, and she enjoyed attending races and rallies with her father and Frank Caron, a family friend and racer. It was her ambition to compete herself from a young age, and her own racing career began when she was seventeen, in 1992.

The Citroen AX Cup was a popular starting point for young European drivers, and Sandra did not disgrace herself in her first season. She was winning races almost straight away, and came seventh in the Cup overall, runner-up in the Ladies' class. She continued in the GTI class in 1993, and although she did not lift the Ladies' Trophy, she improved on her overall position with a fifth spot.

Sandra took a break from driving a Citroen to race a Rover and a Fiat the following year, with similar promising results. With the Rover she won the 1400cc class of a Dutch saloon championship, and she was the fastest junior driver in the Fiat Cinquecento Rally Trofeo Cup too, as well as the runner-up overall. She won the Cinquecento junior crown again in 1995 and was third overall, with one win. 1995 was the year she really made her mark on the Citroen AX GTI Cup too, winning three times to claim second on the leaderboard, and the Ladies' Trophy for the first time.

Bigger competition was now on the horizon. Mitsubishi entered the Dutch Touring Car Championship in 1996 with the Carisma, and Sandra was chosen for the works squad. The aim was to raise the profile of the car in the Low Countries, but it was not quite up to the job and Sandra struggled with it. She did not record many good placings and returned to other championships the following year.

For a change, Sandra sampled her first endurance race in 1997, winning her class in the Zandvoort 500km. This was part of the Dutch Supercar Challenge for touring cars and was held in October. Her other notable result of the year was a second place in a European Citroen Saxo Ladies' Race, out of 36 starters who had all done well in their national championships.

The lure of another season in the DTCC was strong, and Sandra returned to the Mitsubishi Carisma team, partnered by Allard Kalff. Neither did particularly well and the car was outclassed again, by BMWs and Renaults.

1999 was a much better year. The Citroen AX had been superseded by the Saxo, but the Saxo Cup was in the same spirit as the AX Cup. Sandra's return to Citroen was triumphant; she won her first outright championship this year, after a string of fine wins. She also won the Ladies' European Final for the Saxo series, against similar opposition to before. In addition to her one-make glories, she finally secured a decent drive in the DTCC, in a more competitive BMW this time. She was twelfth overall, and the third-best privateer driver.

Although she continued to race Saxos in Italy, Sandra moved on to a different marque in 2000. Her first season as an Alfa Romeo driver netted her the runner-up spot in the Alfa 156 Challenge. Proving that she was not just a Citroen specialist, she walked off with the 156 Championship the following year, after a dominant performance. It was her second outright title.

Having hooked up with the Cable1 squad in 2001, she moved on to the Alfa 147 Championship in 2002. Although she was still challenging strongly for positions, she was not quite as quick in 147s and could only come sixth. Endurance racing had not been forgotten either; Sandra took part in a 24-hour touring car race in Barcelona and sampled the SEAT Endurance Cup, a series of two-driver races for SEAT Cupras.

2003 continued in the same vein; a two-pronged attack on the SEAT Endurance and Alfa 147 GTA Challenges. Sandra was still not on top form with the Bleekemolen 147, and could only finish eighth.

The Bleekemolen team, run by Dutch GT and touring car ace Jeroen, moved into the Renault Clio Cup in 2004, taking their lady star with them. The Clio Cup was one of the established European saloon series. Sandra was sixth overall after some good performances, but she was still looking for wins.

2005 saw the Dutchwoman return to winning ways. One of the highlights of her season must have been winning the SEAT Cupra enduro at the high-profile Marlboro Masters meeting at Zandvoort, her home circuit. Her co-driver was 18-year-old Sheila Verschuur, and the duo were sponsored by the Army for their attempt at the SEAT Cupra Cup. The Cup consisted of sprint races, contested by single drivers, and a much longer two-driver endurance race. Both women drove well, and Sandra was second overall in the championship.

When she was not competing with Sheila in the SEAT, Sandra was travelling to Germany for the Toyota Yaris Cup. She claimed the Ladies' Trophy from a field of seven women, and came third overall, after winning the Assen round and scoring well at the other meetings.

In 2006, Sandra was triumphant once more. She claimed the SEAT Cupra Cup Netherlands crown for the first time, partnered by Sheila Verschuur. They were once more sponsored by the Dutch Army. As well as home-based competition, Sandra was also running a parallel campaign in the Spanish GT Open Championship. Her co-driver was Jose Luis Bermudez de Castro and they were driving his works-supported Marcos Mantis. They won their class outright.

2007 began in a similar fashion. Sandra and Sheila continued to drive together for Verschuur Motorsport in the SEAT Cupra Cup, supported by the Army. Although Sandra could not hang on to her championship, she still won four times, and mounted the podium nine times. She was second overall.

In the off-season, she did two races of the Dutch Winter Endurance Championship in the Cupra, and managed one podium.

It was time for a change in 2008. Sandra, still sponsored by the Army, returned to Renault Clios and enrolled in the Dunlop Sportmaxx Clio Cup. She was competitive, and scored two wins, six podiums and two fastest laps over the course of a season. However, she was not quite competitive enough for the overall championship, and had to settle for third.

After a single race in the Winter Endurance Series, Sandra continued with her Clio mission for the Army. This time, she won four times and walked away with the championship.

Her last season with the Army team gave her a second position in the Clio Cup, after she was narrowly beaten by Addi van de Ven, despite not posting any wins. Team-mate Sheila Verschuur was not far behind.

In 2011, she had a new car, a Clio RS 197 run by the Day V Tech team. This time, she was not among the frontrunners, with only one podium finish and a fastest lap to her name. The podium was a third place at Assen.

For 2012, Sandra joined forces with some old friends and rivals in the Dutch Racingdivas team: Sheila Verschuur, Paulien Zwart, Liesette Braams and Gaby Uljee. Their car was a Clio. Their first major race together was the Dubai 24 Hours, in which they finished 39th, fourth in class. The team was Sandra's own idea.

For the rest of the year, the Racingdivas undertook fundraising and media work together, but did not have enough budget for a full racing season. Sandra entered two rounds of the Dutch Clio Cup, and scored enough points for 19th overall.

The story for the Divas was similar in 2013. They only had one competitive outing together, the Dubai 24 Hours, driving a Schubert BMW 320D with Liesette Braams, Paulien Zwart, Gaby Uljee and Sheila Verschuur. They were 26th overall, with a class win. They also took part in the Rotterdam Street Races, but that event is more of a demonstration run.

Sandra remained involved with the Racing Divas in 2014. The team was working on sponsorship, but they still struggled. Again, they took part in the Dubai 24 Hours, in a Schubert BMW, and won their class again. They were 31st overall.


In 2015, they entered the Dubai 24 Hours again, in a BMW 325. For the first time, the driving squad included a male driver, Max Partl. Gaby Uljee and Liesette Braams made up the four-driver team with Sandra. They were 23rd overall, and won their class. Away from Diva duty, Sandra, driving a BMW 132 with Robert van den Berg, did some races in the Dutch Supercar Challenge. Her best finish was seventh, at Spa, in the Supersport class. She was 16th in the championship.


(Image from www.racingdivas.nl)

Samantha Reid (Zanotto)



Samantha races single-seaters in Australia. After a long career in karting, from the age of eight, she began in Formula Ford in 2004, in her State's championship. She was 17 years old.

In 2005, she moved up to National competition, but only had the budget for three races. She was ninth in her first race, and ninth again later in the season. Her other race yielded a thirteenth place.

Using the same Van Diemen RF03, she spent a whole year in the National series in 2006. She managed four top-ten finishes. At the end of the season, she was 18th in the championship. Her season was blighted by car problems, and she had to sit out some of the races after her car suffered accident damage.

In 2007, she dropped back down to State competition, for part of the season. She took part in three Australian Formula Ford races, but was out of the major points positions. Later, was called up for the Bathurst 12 Hours, as part of an all-female Holden team. Her co-drivers were Leanne Tander, Lauren Gray and Christina Orr. Their car was a diesel Holden Astra. The team was running in the top twenty after Samantha’s stint, but failed to make the finish. Samantha also put together the funds to enter three Formula Three races with Scud Racing, which paid off handsomely. Competing in three rounds of the Trophy class, she won one and finished on the podium in the other two.

In 2008, buoyed by her pace in the Trophy class, she moved up to the National class of Formula 3, driving for Garth and Leanne Tander’s TanderSport operation, but only managed two races. Her results were a fourth and a sixth place at Adelaide.

Despite an enthusiastic promotional campaign and support from the Australian Institute of Sport, Samantha's career hit a dip in 2008, probably due to budget constraints. She was studying engineering at university in Australia as a backup. In 2009, she took part in five National Improved Production Car races, driving a Mazda RX-7.

She returned to Formula Ford in 2010, dropping back down to National level events. These included the Phillip Island Cool Drive Formula Ford Finale, in which she scored an overall second place.

In 2011, she tried a different route into top-line motorsport: a reality TV show. Samantha was one of ten contestants in Shannon's Supercar Showdown, competing for the prize of an entry into the Bathurst 1000 with Grant Denyer's team. She did not win, but managed to raise her profile by staying on until the penultimate round. Shortly afterwards, she was offered a drive in the Aussie Racing Car series, after another driver dropped out. She was 28th out of 46 entrants. Later in the year, she drove in two rounds of the Australian Formula Ford championship, finishing thirteenth and tenth.

For 2012, Samantha signed with Dreamtime Racing for the V8 Supercar championship, as a driving coach as well as competitive racer, although she did more coaching than racing. At the start of the season, she got involved in the Red Bull Race Off, competing against the likes of David Coulthard and other Red Bull adrenalin sports personalities. She managed a fourth and fifth in a Renault Megane, despite some very rough driving by other entrants. Later in the season, she took part in three races in the Australian Swift Racing Series, in a Suzuki Swift.

Her media profile is reasonably high, and she has undertaken some motoring journalism as well as her racing. In 2013, she did some testing, but spent most of her time on media work, promoting both women in motorsport and road safety.

In 2014, she did more of the same, but had one competitive outing in an electric Nissan GT-R Nismo. She drove in a "Time Attack" at the Clipsal 500. She is now known as Samantha Zanotto.

Samantha is currently Australia's representative to the FIA's Women in Motorsport Commission.

(Image from www.samanthareid.com.au)

Sabine Schmitz (Reck)



Sabine Schmitz grew up in the Eifel region of Germany, close to the famous Nürburgring, where her parents ran a hotel. It is perhaps not surprising that she gravitated towards motorsports, especially as she was the youngest in a trio of racing sisters. Susanne and Petra both raced at club level, and in the VLN.

Sabine first took to the tracks at the age of eighteen, using a VW in slalom competitions. She gained her full racing license on the 'Ring itself a year later, in 1988.

By 1989, she was ready to take on her first championship, on the 'Ring of course. She entered the Nürburgring's Veedol Trophy (VLN), run on the famous Nordschleife. She was mainly in a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth, but she also did one race alongside her sisters in their Vauxhall Astra. Her first attempt at the championship's blue riband event, the 24 Hour race, brought her a 31st place, but a good second in the class for production vehicles over 2.5 litres. A visit to the Spa 24 Hours, then a touring car event, gave her and the Sierra 28th place.

Sabine's new project for 1990 was the Ford Fiesta Mixed Cup, a European racing series for two-driver, male-female teams. In her first year she partnered Franz-Josef Bröhling and was third overall. In 1991 and '92 she drove with Thomas Marschall. The pair made an excellent team, taking six wins in their first year, including the Nürburgring round, naturally. This was enough to take second place. They won the trophy the following year, with five wins, three seconds and one third place.

During this time, the Mixed Cup was not the only award Sabine won. She was the 1990 VLN Ladies' Champion in the Sierra. The 'Ring was never far off her sporting radar and she completed three more 24 Hour races, in the Sierra and her Fiesta.

In 1993 she left the Ford camp and joined up with BMW, in a car/driver combination that would prove very useful on the track. She started in the junior team, driving a production M3 with Astrid Grünfelder. They were an effective team in the VLN, and scored four class wins in six races. Sabine also sampled more Bavarian power in the ADAC GT Cup, driving an M3 GT.

She drove a variety of BMWs in 1994, in the VLN, ADAC GT Cup and the German Touring Trophy. She was given a 325i for the Nürburgring 24 Hours and scored her best finish yet - eighteenth.

After competing around Europe for several seasons now, Sabine got a change of scene in 1995 when BMW sent her to South Africa to contest the ZA Super Touring Cup. Later, she also did two part-seasons in Brazil, racing in the Espron Series for sports cars.

1996 was the year that the the name of Sabine Schmitz (or Sabine Reck as she was then known), became public property. Driving Johannes Scheid's M3, with Scheid and Hans Widmann, she became the first female winner of the Nürburgring 24 Hours. What was more remarkable was that she repeated the feat the following season, assisted by Scheid, Peter Zakowski and Hans-Jürgen Tiemann.

1998 was another victorious season for the new "Queen of the Nürburgring". Although she only came fourth in the 24 Hours, she won the VLN trophy outright in an M3 E36, with nine class wins and one second. She had previously been runner-up in 1996.

Sabine raced two different BMW M3 E36 models during 1999. Although she scored eight different class wins and three thirds, she was only eighth in the championship. The 24 Hours at the 'Ring was also uneventful and she was nowhere near the podium this time. Towards the end of the season, she tried a different sort of race, accepting a guest spot in the final of the Ferrari Challenge, driving a Ferrari 355.

The following year was a quiet one. Her highlight was another drive in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, this time as part of an all-female team. She was sharing a Honda S2000 with touring car aces Ellen Lohr and Tamara Vidali, and sportscar racer Vanina Ickx.

Sabine returned to full VLN action in 2001, driving a VW Bora Turbodiesel this time. This car was not really capable of challenging for outright wins, but its driver pushed it hard nonetheless, scoring a class win and a third as her best results of the year.

Sabine did not race at all during 2002, concentrating on other activities instead. However, she was soon back on track at her beloved Nürburgring, in yet another different car. This time it was a new MINI Cooper, as raced throughout Europe. Her best result in it was at the 24 Hours, where she was 91st overall (out of around 200 drivers!) and fourth in class. She used the same car the following year, but not to such good effect.

2005 saw her move more into sportscar territory, racing a Lotus Elise and a Porsche 996 in VLN events. Still at the Nürburgring, she entered a Porsche 997 into the Castrol Haugg Cup time-trial series. On a more exotic note, she also accepted a guest drive in the Maserati Trofeo Europa with Italian Fabio Babini. The pair made a good team and were second.

Sabine stuck with Porsche power for 2006. She shared her 997 Cup with Klaus Abbelen, her partner in life as well as motorsport. Their best result in the VLN this season was third overall, which they achieved twice. They entered the 24 Hours, but were not near the top of the leaderboard.

The arrangement continued for 2007 and played out in almost exactly the same way: two third places and a string of class seconds and thirds. Sabine’s car for the 24 Hours was a 911 GT3 this time, but she was still out of the top ten. For a change, she made a guest appearance in the Nürburgring round of the Polo Cup.

It was business as usual again in 2008, in the 997, although this time, Sabine managed another podium in the 24 Hours, coming in third. She also did some touring car racing in America.

In 2009, Sabine continued to race, now driving for Team Frikadelli. The team, consisting of Sabine, Klaus, Edgar Althoff and Kenneth Heyer, were sixth in the 24 Hours behind the works Audi entries and Porsche prototypes. Their 997 has given them a fifth, three sixths and two sevenths overall in the VLN. In the Nürburgring 24 Hours, they were second in class SP7.

The team carried on in 2010, and were still competitive. Their best finishes were a fourth, a fifth, two sevenths and an eighth. They did not finish the Nürburgring 24 Hours.

The "meatball" (frikadelle is a German meatball) flew again in 2011. The team had expanded to two cars, with  Sabine and Klaus driving the Porsche GT3 R "Big Meatball". They showed they still had the touch with a sixth place in the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Their best finishes in the VLN were a second and third. Their championship run was not as successful, due to some retirements.

Sabine had no intention of retiring, and the Frikadelli team was set on its first win in 2012. They started inauspiciously, with the first race red-flagged due to bad weather, after Sabine had earned them a driving penalty anyway. They were a solid sixth in the second round, their first preparation for the Nürburgring 24 Hours. It was fortunate that it went well, as they had to pull out of the next race. In the end, it did not matter much; they were sixth overall, best Porsche and best privateer team in the Nürburgring 24 Hours. The remaining VLN races gave the team a fourth, fifth and a DNF.

Frikadelli's mission continued in 2013. Sabine and Klaus were sharing the Porsche with Duncan Huisman. In a familiar script twist, they went out of the first round, after only nine laps. However, despite Klaus being substituted for Patrick Pilet, they were fourth in the second round. The usual team also failed to score in the third round, which was red-flagged after a fatal accident. In another frustrating (for Sabine) plot twist, the team did manage its first win, but with Sabine out with a knee injury. On her return, for the six-hour mid-season race, they did not finish, due to low oil pressure. The usual trio were then seventh at the Grenzlandrennen, then second in the Barbarossapreis, the 250-Mile race and the Munsterlandpokal, a rainy event which demanded tactical experience. The team won the SP9 class of the championship.

The Nürburgring 24 Hours was also troubled by adverse weather, and was actually stopped for nine hours by the Clerk of the Course, due to heavy rain. Sabine drove well in the rain, after a pair of pit stops, before the halt. However, too much time had been lost, despite Sabine's battling and Patrick Pilet's early speed, and they were 16th overall.

Team Frikadelli continued to race in 2014, keeping the same trio of drivers. They started very poorly, with a crash by Duncan Huisman putting them out of the first VLN round, but their season picked up immediately, with a win in round two, running as a quartet with Patrick Pilet. A mistake by Sabine herself, speeding in the pit lane, with its associated penalty, dropped them to sixth in the third round. A third place followed, in a race marred by a red flag, but despite preparation, the team had to retire from the 24 Hour race. There were multiple problems with the Porsche, including overheating, a broken radiator hose, and electronic failure. However, two VLN wins went some way to relieving the team's disappointment. Two accidents followed, but a second place in the final round was enough to rescue their season, and secure the VLN Speed Trophy.

The Frikadelli team expanded to four cars in 2015: the 996, a Porsche Cayman, a Renault Clio and an Audi TT. Sabine drove the 996, and her focus this year was a good finish in the Nürburgring 24 Hours. The lead Frikadelli Porsche ran extremely well throughout the race, and was leading at the 23rd hour, but a crash following a sudden rainfall put them out of the race. After a rebuild of the damaged "Meatball", Sabine, Klaus Abbelen and Duncan Huisman won the next round of the VLN outright. They were also third in the next race.

As well as "Queen of the Nürburgring", Sabine is, or was, also known as "the world's fastest taxi driver", due to her infamous "Ring Taxi". This is a V8 BMW M5, tuned by the Bavarian factory's own team, in which she gives very high-speed taxi rides around her home track. A good lap is believed to take around eight and a half minutes. She stepped down from taxi driving in 2011.

She also works as a performance driving instructor, runs a helicopter shuttle service to the track and until recently, ran a restaurant nearby. In recent years, Sabine has worked as a TV motorsport commentator, known for her dry humour in describing others' misfortunes on track. After a couple of appearances on BBC's Top Gear, she has also become known in the UK. Famously, she told presenter Jeremy Clarkson that she could do a better lap than his in a van - and he was driving a Jaguar. Although she couldn't quite post the sub-ten minute time she wanted, she still beat Clarkson.

There has even been some speculation that she might have been Top Gear's mystery test driver, The Stig, on one or more occasions. In 2016, she joined the presenting line-up of the new version of Top Gear, and became one of its more popular hosts.

Due to her Top Gear filming commitments, she did not take part in all of the VLN races in which the Frikadelli Porsche appeared. She did, however, start her first Daytona 24 Hours in January, in the Porsche. She was 27th overall, with Klaus Abbelen, Duncan Huisman and Norbert Seidler. In the VLN, the team fell foul of engine restrictions, and did not perform to their full capability for the first part of the season. Improved performances towards the end helped them up to sixth overall.

(Image from www.honestjohn.co.uk)

Ruth Senior



2003 was an important year for Ruth Senior. The fifteen-year-old club karting champion beat off stiff competition to win the T-Car Scholarship, a year's competition in the BRSCC T-Car championship for junior drivers. Judges decided that Ruth was the best candidate for the touring car series, following a series of driving and written tests. Past T-Car drivers have included BTCC stars Tom Chilton and Tom Boardman. Others have gone on to race single-seaters.

Ruth had rather a mixed season in her Building Environmental Services-sponsored car. Her best finish was third, towards the end of the season. Several times she fought back well after spinning, like she did in only her second-ever race. Most of the time she was a solid midfield finisher, and she enjoyed her racing a great deal. She finished sixth in the championship.

2004 promised even more, and Ruth scored her first win in the series. Will Bratt was the runaway winner of the championship, but consistent well-placed finishes, against strong opposition. allowed Ruth to take the runner-up spot.

For 2005, Ruth made the switch to single-seater competition, in the BRDC Single Seater Championship, a junior Formula Ford series. Although she surprised many with a third place in the season-opening non-championship race, the actual season was not a lot of fun for her. A couple of nasty crashes put her out of some of the rounds and she struggled to keep pace with her more experienced colleagues. Nevertheless, she chalked it all up as experience and pronounced herself ready for the challenge of the British Formula Ford Championship proper in 2006.

Ruth’s first appearance in Formula Ford was at the second round, at Donington. Her first race resulted in a DNF, and she was 20th in Race Two. At Snetterton, she was thirteenth and tenth. At Brands Hatch, she could only limp to the end in 28th, before sitting the second race out. Her season was not going to plan. She did not attend the Rockingham meeting, but returned for the second Brands Hatch round. Again, she went out early in the first race, and could not take part in the second. At Knockhill she managed to start both races, and was fourteenth and eleventh. She was fourteenth and thirteenth at Silverstone. She managed another thirteenth at Castle Combe after missing the Thruxton meeting, but did not finish the second race.

After this lacklustre season, plagued by damage to her car, Ruth took a step back from motorsport and concentrated on her other sporting interest, athletics. She placed well in AAA junior championships for both track and cross-country. Later, she went to Loughborough University. In 2009, she returned to motorsport as a member of their karting team. After that, she moved to the States, where she continues to study, work and compete in athletics.

Ruth has also appeared on the BBC's Techno Games, operating a climbing robot designed and built by her father, a former Lotus race engineer.

(Image source unknown)

Rosemary Smith



Rally winners, Rosemary Smith and Val Domleo

Growing up in Ireland, Rosemary Smith had little interest in cars. Her great ambition was to be a fashion designer, and after leaving school she studied hard to achieve her dream. While working as a junior dress designer, her classic good looks did not go un-noticed, and she was soon modelling the creations as well as designing them. It was only by chance that she fell into motorsport.

Delphine Bigger was a friend of Rosemary's in the business, who was a keen amateur rally driver. Left without a navigator one weekend in 1959, she roped in Rosemary to fill in, and inadvertently started a new career for her. It did not start well though, as she proved pretty incompetent at map-reading and soon got the pair lost. Delphine hurriedly switched seats with Rosemary and took over the maps herself before they were completely lost, after it was found that she had been holding the map upside down. Once the roles were reversed, Rosemary really got into the driving and was scoring respectable times. The arrangement with Delphine continued for a couple of events, with Rosemary going over the start line in the passenger seat and then switching when the duo were out of sight. However, she soon wanted to enter rallies as a driver in her own right, after realising that she enjoyed driving and wanted to do more. The two swapped places and continued to compete together for a while, until Delphine was injured in a serious crash, and Rosemary had to go it alone.

Between then and 1962, Rosemary accepted drives in various rallies, sitting alongside drivers including Sally Cooper in Monte Carlo, and a fully-recovered Delphine in the RAC in 1961, driving a Morris. Eventually, she was offered a works contract with Rootes, after a strong performance in a private Sunbeam Rapier on the 1962 Monte Carlo Rally. She and Rosemary Seers, an experienced navigator, competed together in a Sunbeam on that year’s RAC Rally.

The two Rosemarys’ first Monte together in the works Rapier was an ordeal. They crashed out and had to be rushed to hospital. Thankfully, no long-term harm was done. In a similar car, Rosemary tackled the Tulip and Alpine rallies. Elma Lewsey was her navigator for the Alpine event and Margaret Mackenzie was on the maps for the RAC Rally. Although Rosemary gained experience this year, good results were not yet coming her way. An exception was that year’s Tour de France, in which she was third in the 2000cc GT class, tenth overall. Margaret Mackenzie was co-driving once more, and the car had been upgraded to an Alpine.

In 1964, Rootes had developed a rally homologation of the tiny Hillman Imp, inspired by the Mini, and Rosemary found her true metier driving this car. She began the year with a drive in a Rapier, in the Tulip Rally, but sampled the Imp in the RAC Rally. After a lacklustre initial performance, she switched to a Sunbeam Tiger for the Geneva Rally, and was 15th.

By the time 1965 came round, she had learned the car more fully and was able to drive it to its true capacity. In the inaugural event of the season, the Monte, she and Margaret were fourth in class, after a battle against terrible weather which accounted for 205 of the 227 starters. Assisted by Sheila O’Clery, she took the Imp to her home rally, the Circuit of Ireland, in which she was the top lady on many occasions.

Driving with Sheila Taylor, she won the GT class in the Alpine Rally and was a fine fifth overall in the Scottish Rally. The RAC was never her best event, and Rosemary could only manage 25th. In Canada she was up against more snow for the Canadian KLG Rally, and was eighth overall, first in class. Atrocious weather also helped her to her greatest triumph during this season. Assisted by Valerie Domleo, she drove through snow and storms on the Tulip Rally and took advantage of the prevailing handicap system, to power the tiny Imp to an outright win.

She did not repeat her achievement with the Imp in 1966, but it was an impressive year nevertheless. It started poorly, when she was disqualified from the Monte for a technical infringement, but soon picked up. In contract to last year's snowy escapade, she was first lady on the Acropolis Rally and third in that summer's Scottish event. She and Valerie Domleo also won their class. Another class win was in order in the Gulf Rally, and she and Val were second in the 1300cc class in the Circuit of Ireland. With Margaret Lowrey, she could only come 14th on the RAC; it was never her favourite event. The Alpine was another disappointment, as the Imp’s sump sprung a leak. Rosemary and local girl Anne Coombe fared much better in Rosemary's second visit to Canada. She entered the Shell 4000 marathon across the country and as part of the rules the pair had to do all servicing themselves. They handled the task admirably, coming eighth overall, and first in the 1150cc and under class.

For 1967 Rosemary had a new co-driver, in the shape of Susan Seigle-Morris. In her last year as a Rootes works driver, her best results were fourth overall on the Scottish Rally, and seventh overall on the Circuit of Ireland, with a class win both times. Back with Ann Coombe, she was thirteenth in the Shell 4000 event, driving a Rapier. A reunion with Margaret Lowrey gave her tenth on the Alpine, in the Imp. True to form, she and Val Domleo did not excel in the RAC Rally, finishing 58th.

1968 began with another run in the Monte Carlo Rally in the Imp, but not long after, Rosemary transferred to Porsche, to drive the powerful but unpredictable 911. Her time there was not as fruitful as her Rootes days and she jumped ship to Ford before the end of the season. This led to her being entered in the famous London-Sydney World Cup Rally in a Lotus Cortina. She was paired with the Frenchwoman Lucette Pointet and made it to the finish after a number of scrapes. A misfiring cylinder sapping the power meant that she could only summon enough revs to get up the Khyber Pass in reverse, and angry locals made off with the oil supplies when they found out that neither Rosemary nor Lucette was carrying any jewellery. They were the first female finishers.

By 1969 Rosemary was winding down her career. She had got married and her husband did not approve of her "ego trips", as he called her rallying activities. She went out with a bang by winning the Cork 20 International Rally, back in a Hillman Imp. Another highlight was her sixth place in the Scottish Rally, driving a Ford Escort. Her apparent swansong was the 1970 World Cup Rally, in which she drove an Austin Maxi to tenth overall, with a class win. She and Alice Watson also entered the Scottish Rally in the Maxi.

However, we had not seen the last of Rosemary Smith. Her desire to drive really fast lasted longer than her marriage, and she was back on the scene only a year later, in 1971, driving a Lancia Fulvia to 18th on the Monte, with Alice Watson. In 1972, she accepted a Ford Escort drive on the RAC Rally, navigated by Pauline Gullick. She remained a fixture on the international circuit for a few more years and then became a part-time driver, accepting drives in both races and rallies.

She still races to this day, usually on the track in a Hillman Imp or Sunbeam Tiger. She is a regular visitor to the Goodwood Revival and also crosses the Atlantic to revisit Sebring on occasion. As well as their rally cars, Rosemary also drove sportscars in the big American races at Sebring and Daytona, although she preferred the variety in rallying. She was entered for Le Mans once in a Sunbeam, but was not allowed to drive as the French authorities would not permit women to take part. This was ostensibly due to Annie Bousquet's fatal accident at Rheims in 1956.

Her first big circuit race was the 1966 Daytona 24 Hours, where she shared a Sunbeam Rapier with Smokey Drolet. They were 30th overall. Later, in 1969, Rosemary and Smokey raced together again, in the Sebring 12 Hours. They were 26th overall in a BMW 2002. By far the most notable of Rosemary's circuit excursions were those she made as part of the Ring Free Oil Motor Maids team, beginning in 1970. That year, she was partnered with Janet Guthrie and Judy Kondratieff for the Sebring 12 Hours, in an Austin-Healey Sprite which was little more than a showroom model. The all-female team got the car to the finish, and were 19th overall. The following year, at Sebring, Rosemary drove a better-prepared Chevron B19 for the team, with Janet Guthrie, but did not finish. It was during one of these races that she caused some consternation in the team pits, as the mechanics were noticing coloured scrapings that they thought were coming from bodywork rubbing somewhere. The real cause was a bored Rosemary, picking off her nail polish as she raced.

As well as her racing activities, Rosemary now runs an organisation promoting road safety and good driving practice to Irish teenagers.

(Image from a Rootes promotional shoot)

Romana Bernardoni



Italy has produced its fair share of racing drivers, including several Speedqueens. It has also produced many legendary marques, among them, Alfa Romeo.

Romana Bernardoni was born in Milan in 1965. She started racing at the age of twenty-five, in historic cars. After a year of this, she became involved with Monica Sipsz and the Nordauto setup. Originally, Nordauto was an Alfa Romeo touring car team, run by Sipsz and her husband, for an all-female driving squad including Romana and Tamara Vidali. In 1991, they entered the Italian CIVT touring car series, and Romana guided her Alfa Romeo 33 16V to fifth in class N5. She could not better her result the following year, but was still sixth in class. This was perhaps her motivation for a change of scene after 1992.

For a year, Romana raced another Alfa, an SZ, in the Italian GT championship and came seventh in the final standings. Her best finish was fifth at Varano. She also drove in a few international GT races in the same car, but did not score highly.

1994 saw her back in CIVT, this time in a Honda run by the Racing Box team. The break had done her good; she won class N5 overall. This was her busiest year of competition so far as she was racing in the Italian Mini Cooper Cup too, in which she came an excellent third.

1995 was a quiet year, but Romana was back in CIVT in 1996. Still with Racing Box, she steered her Rover to third in class N4, her best score yet. She stuck with the Racing Box Rover 200 the following year, but could only manage nineteenth in class. It was time for a change again.

A change of championship and a switch back to Nordauto brought Romana's winning streak back. Reunited with Nordauto and Alfa Romeo in the Italian Touring Master Cup, she won Class 2000. However, her excellent year was again followed by a mediocre one. She was thirteenth in CIVT in 1999, driving an Alfa Romeo 156 TS.

Never ones to let a set-back bother them, both Nordauto and Romana made the giant step up to European Touring Car competition in 2000. By this time, Nordauto was a successful concern employing a couple of male drivers, as well as Romana. In her first year of the ETCC she was eclipsed by her team-mates Fabrizio Giovanardi and Gabriele Tarquini, and finished the season in fifteenth. She tested hard and really raised her game in 2001. Driving an Alfa Romeo 156, she was tenth in Hungary, eighth in Austria, eighth at Monza and ninth at Brno. This race was also her best ever qualifying position - eighth. At Silverstone she had trouble and was fifteenth. The penultimate race at Magny-Cours brought a worse kind of trouble. On the second to last lap, Romana was duelling with her countryman Paolo Zadra for position, when she went off the track in a spectacular mid-air roll. She was not seriously injured, but had to sit out the Estoril race. This dropped her down to twelfth in the final standings.

She returned to the ETCC in 2002, after some rest and recuperation, in a 156 again. However, the crash seems to have affected her confidence, as there were no more top-ten finishes. The negative media response to the accident cannot have helped either. After a season as a perpetual backmarker, she was replaced and only made a couple of undistinguished guest appearances in 2003's ETCC.

Romana does some TV work here and there, and has accepted a few guest drives in races in Italy, since her ETCC career ended.

(Image from http://web.tiscali.it/eurostc/estc1024/i%20protagonisti/i%20piloti/STC/bernardoniromana.htm)

Rhonda Trammell



In 2003 Rhonda was unable to race at the level she thought herself capable of, so launched a singing career. Her album was quite warmly received and is still available.

Rhonda has been writing music and poetry for a long time, but she has also been in motorsport for over twenty years. She began karting in 1983 at the age of eighteen, encouraged by her then-boyfriend. Compared to some, she was a late starter, but five years later she won the International Superkart Championship. This was followed by two years at the very top of the karting ladder, as none other than World Karting Champion.

She continued in karts in 1991, and scored two World Championship wins. She also enrolled at the famous Skip Barber Racing School and finished in the top ten of its Formula Ford Series in her first year of car racing.

For the next two years, Rhonda tried several junior formulae across America. She raced extensively in Barber Saab, and won her first race in Formula Russell. Keen to progress, she passed her Indy Lights Rookie Test in 1992, but lacked the funds to go further. The story remained the same for another five years, with Rhonda racing part seasons in the junior series, picking up a growing collection of good finishes along the way.

In 1998 she tried her hand at saloon car racing in the higher-profile PPG Chrysler Neon Celebrity Challenge. She won one race, at Minneapolis. This brought some welcome sponsorship opportunities and she was finally able to progress into the Barber Dodge Pro Series, the first step on the ladder to CART racing. She entered two races in 1999 and six in 2000.

2001 brought Rhonda's first full year in Barber Dodge, driving a Reynard single-seater. Her results were not spectacular, but she proved herself capable of finishing races and defending her track position at this level. She also contested that year’s Toyota Grand Prix of Detroit, and was fifth in a pro-celebrity race.

Klein Tools continued to sponsor her for the 2002 season, and some good results started to appear. She finished in the top ten in the first race of the season and was one of the top twelve finishers four times. Her performances were comparable with that year's champion John Fogarty the previous year. In order to learn the tracks better, she also kept her hand in lower down the US motorsports ladder, and won a Skip Barber Race Series event at the classic Sebring road course.

Rhonda planned to graduate to Toyota Atlantic in 2003, and tested with Lynx Racing at Buttonwillow, but the funds were not forthcoming and her plans were shelved. She had resigned as one of the PPG CART pace car team's elite female drivers in order to concentrate on her racing. Toyota Atlantic's loss was country-flavoured guitar pop music's gain.

For several years, Rhonda stated that she intended to return to motorsport once she had raised enough sponsorship. However, she is now described as “retired”.

(Image from www.thunval.com)

Rachel Green



The Caterham 7 must be one of the most-raced cars in Europe after the Mini. Only a few years after she started racing, Rachel Green had become one of Europe's most accomplished Caterham drivers. She got started in the Caterham Academy, a programme of driver training, races and speed events organised by Caterham. Her Vauxhall-engined car was built by her father.

After coming through the Academy, Rachel signed up for the Caterham Graduates racing series in 2001. She showed she had pace immediately and was one of the front-runners. She finished the season ninth overall in the championship and rounded the year off with her first win. This was in a non-championship race at the tricky Spa-Francorchamps circuit, a favourite of Formula One drivers.

A second season of Graduate racing saw Rachel really gathering speed. By the second race she was on the podium in third. Second places followed, and then finally the first of four wins. One was a really superb showing at Anglesey; she waited patiently in third, before pouncing on the last lap to take the chequered flag. A win in the final round was enough to give her the championship. She was the first female champion in the history of Caterham racing.

Moving on for 2003, Rachel moved up to the Super Graduate class, and began the season at Silverstone the way she left off: with a win. The next round at Rockingham gave her a second place and fastest lap, and later in the season she scored a class win in the European Trophy. However, towards the end of the season things did not go well for the production manager from Surrey. A series of low finishes and DNFs dropped her to thirteenth in the championship.

She was not deterred though - in 2004 she was set to race in the Caterham R400 Eurocup, the fastest and highest level of Caterham racing. Rachel had always run well abroad and had won twice in France, so chances looked good for her. However, the season proved difficult and she was off the pace. Her highest finish was sixth, although she did manage one start from pole. She was tenth in the championship.

A reinvigorated Rachel contested the UK and European R400 championships in 2005. She totally dominated the Oulton Park meeting, winning the first race from fifth on the grid and pulling off a masterful lights-to-flag victory in the second. Unsurprisingly, she also scooped the Oulton lap record. Three seconds and one third, alongside her wins, were enough to take her to seventh in the championship. In addition to the Oulton Park lap record, she set unsurpassed lap times at Spa, an impressive achievement.

At the start of the 2006 season, other opportunities beckoned. Rachel's Caterham R400 was left to one side as she sampled more powerful cars. With former BTCC star Anthony Reid, she tested a Dodge Viper for Pouchelon Racing, and was on the pace straight away. The duo made a good partnership, and Rachel commented on how friendly the team were. The test led to a seat in the Pouchelon team for the first round of the European GT3 Championship at Silverstone. She started well and was sixth for a while, before tyre trouble dropped her to a solid twelfth in the first race. She and co-driver Luc de Winter had to retire after only four laps in the second, after being hit by another car.

Caterhams were not forgotten; Rachel had equipped herself with a Cosworth-engined Superlight and tackled the Caterham Eurocup. Her best result was third at Spa, followed by a fifth and a seventh at Donington, although competition was intense and she found herself battling for honours at the head of the pack on a number of occasions. She also did some Superlights racing in the UK, and normal service was resumed with two wins. She was sixth overall.

The season-ending Britcar 24 Hours saw Rachel's debut in a Mazda. The rotary-engined RX-8 had proved a competitive machine in earlier Britcar rounds and the Mazda works team entered three. Rachel shared her car with Richard Chamberlain and Andy Shephard, and was sponsored by the Financial Times, her employer. Unfortunately, she was hit from behind by a Mosler, and had to pull in for a lengthy pitstop. The car finished the race, despite crash damage and electrical trouble, and Rachel was shaken but unharmed.

In 2007, it was back to Caterhams. Competing in Superlights again, she won one race and finished on the podium eight times. This gave her second in the Superlight Challenge. For her achievements, she was awarded the Wakefield Trophy for the highest-performing woman in motorsport that year. She was also the BWRDC’s racing champion.

She returned to Superlights for the 2008 season, but was not as successful, with only four top-three finishes and seventh overall. However, this may have been due to the distraction of the other racing and testing in which she took part this year.

In 2008, Rachel made her second attempt on the British GT championship, driving a Team Modena Lamborghini Gallardo this time. She finished the race at Donington in fifth position, a marked improvement on her 2006 result. Her co-driver was Piers Johnson. Unfortunately, the Gallardo was only fit to start one race of the two-race meeting. The car also expired during the Silverstone and Donington rounds.

As well as British GTs, Rachel also paid visits to the British VdeV series, and the season-ending Britcar 24 Hours. She was second in class at Donington in VdeV, driving a Bicknell PS7. In the 24-hour race at Silverstone, she drove a Marcos Mantis to eighth in Class Two, 29th overall. She was driving for Topcats Racing. This year, she won a Gold Star from the BWRDC, and won its racing championship once more.

Rachel continued her association with Topcats in 2009, and made a move to the Britcar GT Championship full-time. She was driving the team’s first-string Mosler MT900R. Her first race was at Silverstone, and, despite a poor qualifying performance and a spin, Rachel was heading for a top-three finish when the car overheated. This dropped her back down to fifth. Her second race, at Rockingham, did not go to plan either. An innocuous-seeming crash into the Armco put her and her team-mate Luc Paillard out of qualifying, and they did not make the start.

Sadly, this was to be Rachel’s last race in the Mosler, as her funds were insufficient to allow her to continue to compete at this level. In between her Mosler trials, she made a guest appearance in the Silverstone round of Caterham Superlights. In her first race, she was fourth, but she spun off during the second.

She hoped to continue to race for Topcats as a third driver in the longer Britcar rounds, as she still had one sponsor, but this did not happen.

In 2010 she entered the Ginetta G50 Cup with Team GCR. She managed a fifth and two fourteenths at Thruxton, and a ninth, eighth and twelfth at Rockingham, before seemingly having to drop out of the series.

She does not appear to have raced since, and her website is no longer being updated.

(Image source unknown)

Priscille (Delecour) de Belloy



Priscille in her Fiat days

To anyone who follows fashion or watches French TV, Priscille is an ex-model and TV presenter. To rally fans, she is known as Francois Delecour's partner and gravel noter, and driver in her own right.

Her story starts before she met Delecour. Until the age of sixteen, she trained as a gymnast. It was only while she was studying at college that she became interested in rallying. A friend who worked for Fiat France tipped her off about a new one-make series for the Cinquecento they were organising, and Priscille signed up in 1992, much to her parents' disbelief. She started as a complete novice, but in 1994 she won the Cinquecento championship. This shocked some observers, especially as Priscille was now a catwalk model as well as a rally driver. As well as her Cinquecento win, she drove in her first World Championship rally in 1994, finishing 34th in the Tour de Corse.

The Cinquecento series' prize was a Fiat works drive in the French championship. This meant that Priscille also took part in two World Championship rounds, Monte Carlo and Corsica, and finished both. She was 56th in Monte Carlo and 31st in Corsica. Assisted by Sophie Betrenas, she was also 28th in the Rallye Mont Blanc-Morzine.

After her first year as a works driver she was signed by Peugeot in 1996, where she remained for two seasons. She scored some good finishes in French national rallies and drove in the Tour de Corse both years. In 1996 she came a career-best eighteenth, but retired the following year. As well as the WRC, Priscille was an impressive seventh in the Rally Mont Blanc-Morzine in 1996. She also took part in the Rally du Touquet, but I have been unable to track down the result. In her second year, she was thirteenth in the Mont Blanc event and retired from the Rallye Antibes Rallye d’Azur. Her car during her time at Peugeot was a 106 Maxi, and her co-driver was Laetitia Jourdan.

For 1998, she signed as a development driver for Ford's Puma rally project, alongside former world champion Stig Blomqvist, which took her to another world rally in Catalunya, and also to Ireland's popular Lurgan Park tarmac rally. By this time she had met Delecour and started making gravel notes for him on WRC rounds. This meant she got to drive all of the World Championship stages and report back on their condition. For Priscille it was a different but equally demanding challenge, and meant she could travel with her partner.

Her last competitive outing was the 1999 San Remo Rally, where she drove the Puma but retired. That year, she had also retired from the Catalunya Rally. She continued as a gravel noter and test driver for Ford, then Mitsubishi, until 2002. Francois Delecour has now retired from full-time competition, but still appears occasionally in historic events, sometimes with Priscille as his navigator. She still works in TV, as a stunt performer as well as a presenter. More recently, she has taken up competitive duathlon.

In 2016, Priscille and Francois swapped seats for the Balagne National Rally. Priscille was nineteenth, second in class, driving a Renault Clio.

(Image source unknown)

Prisca Taruffi



Prisca has competed as a rally, touring and sportscar driver. She is the daughter of Piero and Isabella Taruffi.

During the 1980s, she competed extensively around Italy, winning various ladies’ awards in racing and rallying, and picking up some wins in one-make events.

Her first steps in organised motorsport came in the 1984 Coppa Renault 5 Turbo, in which she was sixth in the junior drivers’ standings. In 1985, she was the fourth-best junior driver. That year, she also branched out into rallying in the Renault, and won her first Coupe des Dames, in the Trofeo Nord.

After that, she concentrated more on rallying. Her best result in 1986 was tenth on the Monza Rally, with another ladies’ award. In 1987, she competed in her first edition of the revived Targa Florio, as well as other Italian rallies. She had picked up speed now and was third in Group N in the Rally del Salento. In 1988, she continued to rally around Italy, and the following season, she was crowned Ladies’ Champion of Italy. Even better, she was third in the Italian Group A standings and second in the European Ladies’ championship. This was after five top-five finishes in Italian events, including ninth on the Targa Florio, and fourth in the rallies of Salento and Messina. She also achieved a pair of sevenths in the Rally della Lana and the Rally Piancavello. Her car was a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth.

In 1990, she was less active on the competition front, but she still managed an eighth in the Mille Miglia, driving the Cosworth.

In 1991, she returned to circuit racing. She was competing in the Campionata Italiano Velocita Turismo (CIVT). Her best finish was third at Varano, as well as a pair of fourths at Misano and Vallelunga and a fifth at Magione. Rallying had not been forgotten either, and she won Group N in the Rome Rally.

1992 was a similar story. Prisca was the ladies’ champion in the Italian Renault Clio Cup, and won the Mugello Slalom event outright in a Fiat 500. On the stages, she was fifth overall in the Rome Rally, and first lady.

Between 1993 and 1997, Prisca took a step back in her motorsport activities and concentrated on testing and media work. She did attempt some races, such as the Alfa Romeo SZ Trophy in 1993, but she did not challenge for any championships. In 1998, she made a confident return to the CIVT in an Alfa Romeo 156. She was seventh in class and third in the Ladies’ standings. Another hiatus in her career followed, which lasted until 2001, when it took another turn.

International sportscars were now the focus of her activities. She was 15th overall in a Porsche Supercup round at the Monza Grand Prix, and then she drove another Porsche GT3 in an FIA GT round at Jarama. Sadly, she did not finish, due to a broken driveshaft. Her team-mate was Paolo Rapetti. Later, she entered one round of the VW Fun Cup at Vallelunga, and was the second female finisher.

In 2002, she did some karting in Monte Carlo, and had her first big rally raid result in the all-female Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles. She was first in class in her Kia Sorrento. Elsewhere, she tried her hand at historic racing in the Carrera Panamericana, driving an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint. She won her class again.

After another season off, Prisca returned to rally raids in 2004. She drove a tiny Kia Picanto on the Pharaohs Rally in Egypt, and won the Ladies’ class of the Biella off-road rally, in a Suzuki. She tackled the Pharaohs event again in 2005, but in a Fornasari special this time. After a hike in power for 2006, she was eighth in Egypt, driving a Nissan Pickup, as well as the first Italian across the line. She was also eighth and first Italian in the Gazelles rally, in a Kia Sorrento this time.

2007 was a busier year. She travelled to the Middle East for the Pharaohs Rally and the Dubai Desert Challenge, but retired from both events, driving two different Nissans. She had better luck in the Gazelles event, finishing third in class in her Hyundai Santa Fe. Mid-season, she returned to Italy for a very special historic event, the Mille Miglia Storica. She drove the Ferrari 315S in which her father (and mother) won the original Miglia in 1957. Since then, she has driven the Ferrari in other historic events.

2008 and 2009 saw a mixture of the Gazelles rally and historic racing for Prisca. She was third in class once more in the Gazelles in 2008, driving a Mitsubishi Pajero.

She continued with her media work, and now plays golf competitively.

(Image from www.topspeed.com)

Pernilla Walfridsson




Pernilla (right) and Ulrika

Sweden's Pernilla Walfridsson was born, like many drivers, into a rallying family. Her uncle is the well-known driver and team manager Stig-Olov, and other Walfridssons are involved in the sport in various capacities. Her father, Per-Inge, is a multiple rallycross champion, and it was through him that Pernilla got her first experiences in a rally car. He competed in classic events, and she acted as his navigator.
For most of her teenage years, Pernilla was more interested in horses, although she did enjoy rallying. She rode competitively, in show-jumping, spending time in the UK as well as Sweden.

Navigating for her father brought out her interest in motorsport, and she started driving at the age of eighteen, in 1991. Like so many Scandinavian drivers, she competed in the Volvo Original Cup in her formative years, and then spent a while in her national championships. Her car seems to have been a Volvo 240. Results from this period have, so far, largely not been forthcoming. She is recorded as a starter in the 1996 Berslgsrallyt, a club event, in a Volvo 242. Her navigator was Ann Greth Eriksson.


In 1997 she started taking part in bigger rallies, using a Mitsubishi Lancer provided by her uncle’s team.  Her first major result was twelfth in the Rally Finnskog Norway. She was also 21st in the South Swedish Rally, and 50th in the Ypres-Westhoek rally in Belgium. She and her sister Linda Walfridsson were tenth in class N4 in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3.

In the same car, Pernilla and Linda also tackled their first World Rallies. The snow-bound Swedish Rally resulted in retirement, but the season-ending Network Q RAC Rally in the UK gave them a 21st place overall, sixth in Group N. Pernilla scored her first FIA points in the Production Cup, and was listed as 52nd in the standings that year.

1998 saw a few changes. The ageing Evo 3 was replaced by the newer Evo 4, and Pernilla found a new navigator, Ulrika Mattson. Their international calendar contained visits to Finland and the UK, as well as their home WRC event, and the positions were good. They were 28th in Sweden and 21st again in Finland and the RAC Rally. Even better, they were eighth, third and fourth in Group N respectively. Their only real disappointment was a non-finish on the German AVD/STH Hunsrück-Rallye, but eleventh in the FIA Production Cup, amongst drivers who had entered more events than them, was a good consolation.

In European events, their season was mixed. Pernilla was eighth in the Rally Finnskog and second in Group N, but retired from the South Swedish Rally. Later in the season, she was 21st in the Golden Tulip event, in the Netherlands.

Pernilla was now a popular figure in world rallying, in Scandinavia and the UK especially, after she had also driven in some British rallies. These included the Manx Trophy Rally, in which she was second. She was tipped as a possible future star and had a growing number of fans. With support from her family team behind her, she embarked on her most ambitious rally programme yet in 1999. Sadly, it was not a success. She failed to finish in any of her WRC rounds: Sweden, Portugal, Catalunya, Finland and Britain. Even a switch to a more powerful Lancer Evo 5 after Sweden could not help her.


Her only consolation was a string of excellent performances in the Norwegian championship. She did not finish the Rally Finnskog, but was seventh in the Solor Rally, ninth at Numedals and sixth at Trondelag. With Ulrika, she was third in Group N in the Norwegian championship. Away from Norway, a switch to an Evo 5 brought her better fortunes: she was fourth in the South Swedish Rally, and won Group N.

Not to be deterred, Pernilla returned the following year, with a mixed programme on WRC, Swedish and Norwegian events. She had upgraded the car to the all-conquering Evo 6. with which Tommi Makinen had dominated the WRC. (Throughout her career, she was very loyal to Mitsubishi.)

During that year's snow season, Pernilla and Ulrika were 24th in Sweden, seventh in Group N, and retired from the Rally Finnskog. A move to sunnier climes in Catalunya resulted in another retirement, but things picked up after that. Twenty-one seemed to be Pernilla's lucky number as she was 21st again in Finland and sixth in Group N. Slightly closer to home, they were a strong eighth in the Renault South Swedish Rally, fourth in class.


The Norwegian championship was where she really shone again, this year. Apart from retirements in the Rally Finnskog and the Solor Rally, she was never out of the top ten. Her best finish was third, achieved at Larvik and Trondelag. She was also fourth at Flesberg, and fifth at Hedemarken. This was enough to win her the Group N title. 

Near the end of the season, Ulrika and Pernilla parted company after facing two years of ups, downs, offs and modest successes together. For the RAC Rally, Charlotta Thorszelius-Babbington was drafted in to read the notes. The pair did quite well on their first big event together, coming 35th and ninth in Group N. Pernilla’s final position in the Production (Group N) WRC was 37th.

It turned out that 2000 was Pernilla's last year of active competition. She had struck up a relationship with works Subaru ace Petter Solberg and gave birth to their son Oliver in 2001. The couple married after Petter became World Rally champion in 2003. Pernilla was still a face on the WRC scene, but in a supporting role. More recently, she and Petter have begun competing in historic rallies together, with Pernilla as co-driver, in a Ford Escort MkII.


Image from http://www.motorsportivarmland.nu/pernilla.html, copyright Anders Ekstrom)


Penny Mallory



Penny is a familiar face in Britain, thanks to appearances on Channel 4's rally coverage, and numerous motoring programmes. She has not always just talked about rallying though; in 1993, this former advertising executive was British Ladies' Champion. She used her ad-making experience to put together sponsorship deals with the likes of Vidal Sassoon hair products, and managed to compete at a high level.

She has driven in the Rally of Great Britain four times, finishing twice. She first entered in a Ford Sierra in 1993, then switched to a Lada Riva for 1994. Surprisingly she finished. It was back to Ford power in 1995, but that led to retirement. After a long break, Penny and co-driver Sue Mee became the first female team to drive a World Rally Car in competition, a works Ford Focus. The rally began inauspiciously with a collision with a tree, but the British women recovered and finished 34th, with the Ladies' Cup and Journalists' Cup.

Penny is also a TV and film stunt driver and was the driving double for both "Papa" and "Nicole" in the famous Renault adverts.

(Image copyright Steve Yarnell)

Paulien Zwart



Paulien in the Lotus Ladies Cup garage

Born in 1978, Paulien is the daughter of historic Formula One racer, and Ascari sportscar team boss, Klaas Zwart. Although she is Dutch by birth, she spent her formative racing years in Scotland, as a karter and novice single-seater driver. She was fifth overall in the Scottish Kart championships in 1994, and came third in the Jim Russell Racing School championships in 1995, her first year of car racing.

A lengthy hiatus from the track followed while the young Paulien concentrated on other areas of her life, but she was back in 2000, and enrolled in the Renaultsport racing school to get back up to speed. She was fourth in its end-of-term championship. With more experience under her belt, she entered some Dutch Citroen Saxo Cup races as well.

In 2001, Paulien entered three different one-make touring series, with varying degrees of success. She took part in three Dutch SEAT Ibiza Enduro Cup events without great results, but in the Dutch Clio Cup she secured her first podium. She described the Renault Clio as her favourite ever racing car to date and used one to contest two rounds of the Dutch Supercar Challenge that season too. However, her main focus for the year was the Toyota Yaris Cup, in which she came an excellent fourth overall.

2002 was even better. After being at the head of the Yaris standings for part of the season, Paulien was third overall in the championship. More outings in the Clio netted her two podium positions in the Supercar Challenge, and she earned her first major wins: two first-place finishes in the Dutch Winter Endurance Cup in a Renault Megane. This was good for third in the championship. For a change, she raced a Radical sportscar as well, and was linked with a Le Mans drive in her father's Ascari squad alongside Vanina Ickx, which never happened.

After competing in the British Formula Ford Winter Series in the off-season, it was back to business in 2003. Paulien's main drive of the year was the Alfa Romeo 147 Challenge one-make series. Unfortunately, it took a while for her to even record a finish, following a series of accidents and mechanical gremlins. At the end of the season she had recorded some good finishes in the Olympic class, but it was not one of her more polished performances. Two races in the Yaris Cup World Series yielded an eleventh and ninth position, and she also ran a few races of the Dutch BMW Compact Cup.

Despite 2003 not being a vintage season, she gathered enough support and funding to run in the European Touring Car Championship in 2004. She was driving for the Carly BMW team, and although she had yet to match the performances of team-mate (and boyfriend) Tom Coronel, she was learning the car and making progress when disaster struck. A high-speed testing crash at Magny-Cours for Carly left her with a broken pelvis and ankle. Her place in the team for the next meeting was taken by her father.

Paulien's injuries were severe, but she recovered in time for the start of the 2005 racing calendar.

She paired up with Renate Sanders to contest the SEAT Cupra Cup in the Netherlands. They scored a number of fine top-ten finishes, although Paulien was not always able to match the pace of her experienced team-mate in the single-driver sprint races.

After a good recovery year, Paulien took another break in 2006, as she was pregnant. She returned in 2007, to the SEAT Cupra championship. Her team-mates was Jeroen den Boer and Daan Stots, and they were racing in the Dutch Army’s promotional car. They managed to finish in the top ten on several occasions, but did not challenge for overall honours. They lagged far behind their sister car, driven by Sandra van der Sloot and Sheila Verschuur. At the end of the season, Paulien also enlisted in the Dutch Winter Endurance Championship. Results for this series have proved hard to track down.

The 2008 main season was spent in the Dutch Diesel Touring Car series. Paulien was driving for her partner’s racing operation, with Gaby Uljee, who is the partner of Tom Coronel’s twin brother, Tim. They competed as the Coronel Ladies, and their car was a BMW 120d. They finished the season third in the championship, after a string of solid top-ten finishes.

During the off-season, Paulien entered the Winter Endurance Championship once more. She returned to the Diesel Cup in 2009, still driving for the Coronel team in the BMW, but with Ruben van Doorn. She improved on her 2008 performances and recorded her first win in the series at Zandvoort, in the Pinksterraces endurance event. As well as her win, she scored four more podium places, and was ninth in the championship.

She did not race in 2010, due to her pregnancy with her second child. However, she returned to the scene in 2011, and to the Diesel Cup. She was driving a BMW 123d for Equipe Verschuur, with Liesette Braams as her team-mate. She was fourteenth in the championship, with a best finish of third at Zandvoort. She also drove in the Barcelona 24 Hours in the same car, but did not finish.

In 2012, Paulien became a Dutch "Racing Diva", as part of a team with Gaby Uljee, Sandra van der Sloot, and Liesette Braams. Their first event together was the Dubai 24 Hours, in a Renault Clio. They were 39th. Paulien and Liesette also intended some rounds of the Diesel Cup again in the BMW, but they did not have enough funding. Paulien competed in the Salzburg round of the Lotus Ladies Cup in Salzburg, which supported the WTCC race. She was fifth in both races.

Paulien continued as a Racing Diva in 2013, although the team's schedule was seriously cut short by a lack of funding. Her only real competitive outing was the Dubai 24 Hours, driving a Schubert BMW 320D with Liesette Braams, Sandra van der Sloot, Gaby Uljee and Sheila Verschuur. They were 26th overall, with a class win. They also took part in the Rotterdam Street Races, but that event is only a sprint.

She continued to race with the Divas in 2014, hoping for an increased schedule, but their season was again restricted to the Dubai 24 Hours. Driving the same car as in 2013, with Sandra, Gaby, Shirley van der Lof and Natasja Smit Sø. They won their class again, and were 31st overall. The Divas appeared together at the Zandvoort Easter meeting for promotional and charity activities, but did not race. 

She did not join the Divas for the 2015 Dubai race, but she did go to the event to support them, and Tom Coronel.

(Image from http://www.mcsatorna.hu/)