Thursday, 13 November 2014

Nicole Sol

Nicole Sol, left, with Yvette Fontaine, in 2013

Nicole Sol raced in Europe, mainly in Belgium, in the late 1960s. She was a contemporary and rival of Yvette Fontaine and Christine Beckers, although she is not as well-known as either of them.
Nicole got her start in motorsport in quite an orthodox way. She enrolled in the Volant Shell driving school in 1965, learning the craft of single-seater racing. It was a surprise to some that she was ranked seventh out of the 105 aspiring racers, especially as she was the only woman. Her first race was the Benelux Cup at Zandvoort in 1965. Her car was a Formula Three Merlyn Mk V. She was second overall.
Despite her obvious knack for single-seaters, she ended up racing in saloons in 1966. Her first race in the Belgian Touring Car Championship was the Coupe Terlaemen at Zolder. She was fourth overall, in a Ford Lotus Cortina. This was her only race in the series. In a different car, an Alfa Romeo 1300 TI, supported by Alfa Romeo Benelux, she was 19th in the Spa 24 Hours, with Yvette Fontaine.
In 1967, she made a proper attack on the Belgian Touring Car Championship. Driving an Alfa Romeo 1600 GTV, she won the Group One class of the first round, the Grand National at Zolder. In a GTA, in Group Two, she was second in class in the Belgian Cup. Back in the GTV for the Coupes de Spa, she was 16th overall. For the Chimay 500km, she teamed up with Yvette Fontaine in a GTA, run by Lucien Bianchi’s team, and was second , behind the GTA of Serge Trosch and the ailing GTA of Daniel Dezy, whom they overtook late in the race. The last round was at Zolder, and she switched to a Ford Lotus Cortina, in Group Two. This gave her fifth in the qualifying heat, and ninth in the final. She was fourth in the championship.
Using the Cortina, she also took part in the Spa 24 Hours, with Tom Sol (her then-husband). They did not finish, due to a broken con-rod. In the Alfa, she drove in one round of the European Touring Car Cup, at Zolder, and was ninth.
In 1968, Nicole was absent from the Belgian championship results lists, but she was still racing, as an Alfa Romeo Benelux driver. She and Christine Beckers drove a 1750 Berlina in the Spa 24 Hours, and made the finish, in 23rd place. Nicole also drove in hillclimbs, and won at least one, the Marche climb, in an Alfa Romeo TZ prototype. She was fifth in the Bomerée event.
This year, Nicole took part in the TAP Rally of Portugal, with Brussels as her starting point. It is unclear whether or not she finished, or even which car she drove (it was very likely an Alfa). Her co-driver was Nadine Kerkhove.
In 1969, she returned to the Belgian Touring Car Championship. She was in a Lotus Cortina again, supported by Ford of Belgium. At around this time, Ford were using female racing drivers to promote their cars. In the UK, Anita Taylor was one such driver. In common with Nicole, who had worked as a model, she was attractive, and this increased her publicity value. Of course, Nicole (and Anita) also had a couple of seasons of competitive racing under her belt, and some wins.
In the first Belgian Cup race, she was sixth in Group One, as team-mate to Jacky Ickx, in an Escort. After missing the Zolder Grand Prix, she was 19th overall in the Coupes de Spa, and 17th at Chimay. The Grand National was run as a multi-heat and final event this year; Nicole won her heat, but was only 35th in the overall classification. She then missed the Benelux Cup, and was 21st in the North Sea Trophy. The second Belgian Cup race gave her a fourth in class.
Away from the circuits, she took part in the Rally of Portugal again, starting at Brussels, but this time, as a navigator. The driver was Gilbert Staepelaere, and the car was a Ford Taunus 20M. They did not finish. 
After this, she stepped down from professional motorsport, although she has remained involved to the present day, in club and historic events and promotional drives for various marques. In 1983, she came out of retirement for the Monte Carlo Rally, driving an Alfa Romeo Alfasud TI. This was as part of the last incarnation of Team Aseptogyl, and she and Marie-Francoise Placq were running as Team Belgium. Nicole did not finish.
Most recently, she drove a Bentley Flying Spur in the Star Rally, an all-star, televised Belgian event, in October 2014.
She also appeared as a character in the long-running motorsport comic Michel Vaillant, particularly in one story arc, involving a group of female touring car drivers. She also makes at least one appearance as a rally co-driver, with Gilbert Staepelaere.
(Image from

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