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 www.allansporttelevie.be)


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Ice Racing outside the Andros Trophy


Laia Sanz and Ingrid Rossell in 2014

The Andros Trophy is the best-known ice-racing series, in Europe at least, but it is not the only one. There is a long tradition of ice-racing in Russia, and in recent years, a women’s championship has been held once a year. The G Series, held in Andorra, is another yearly championship, which attracts several female participants, as well as many MotoGP riders.
Here are short profiles of some non-Andros ice racers.

Berta Bigordá – Andorran driver who competed in Andorra’s G-Series in 2013 and 2014. She raced in the G-Series 2, for Volkswagen Golfs. In 2013, she managed to score a few points in each round, and was 28th overall. In 2014, she was 17th, with a best finish of fifth. As well as ice racing, she took part in the Panda Raid in 2014, as co-driver to Carlos Bigordá.

Anna Hvostova – winner of the Russian women’s ice racing championship at Cherepovetz, in 2011. She was driving a VAZ 2108. In 2012, she did some more ice-racing, at Vologda, finishing fifth in a round of the Russian Cup. Further information about Anna is not forthcoming, due to language barriers and the resulting inconsistent spelling of her name.

Katerina (Ekaterina?) Intke - competes in ice racing in Russia. She won the women’s championship at Cherepovetz Stadium in 2014, driving a VAZ 2108, despite only finishing second in the Superfinal. The same year, she was thirteenth in the main Cherepovetz race, and ninth in the Russian National class. Information about Katerina is hard to find, due to language barriers, but Intke may be a married name, and it is possible that she has been part of the ice-racing scene since 2011.

Mariona Julià Rich - Spanish driver who races in the G Series in Andorra. In 2013, she raced a VW Golf in the G Series 2 category, and was 19th overall, scoring points in each round. She shared the car with Joaquin Rodrigo. In 2014, she returned to G Series 2, and did somewhat better, with a best finish of fourth place. She was eleventh in the championship, still in the Golf. Mariona was part of the Rabbit Team, with Ingrid Rossell and others. Away from ice racing, she may well also compete in motorcycle sport of some kind.

Ingrid Rossell - Andorran driver who mainly competes in ice racing. She began in 2013, at the age of 17, in the G Series, Class Two. Ingrid managed three third places, giving her seventh in the championship. Her car was a Volkswagen Golf. In 2014, she returned to the G Series, in an updated Golf. Although she improved her best finish to second, and scored three more third places, the championship was more competitive this year, and she was ninth. A race she had against Laia Sanz, another female driver, brought her some wider attention. Laia Sanz was the winner. In 2014, she returned to the G Series, in a VW Golf. She was driving for the same team. In 2015, she did another season in the G Series, in the G Series 2. She drove a regulation VW Golf. Despite not scoring any points in the final round, she was fourth in the championship, after two third places. In 2016, she did some more G Series events, although she does not appear to have completed the whole championship. Her car was a Mini, after several years in the Golf, and she was 30th in the championship. 2017 saw her back in G Series 2, and a much stronger driver, finishing fourth overall. She was driving a prototype built bu GIAND. In addition to ice racing, Ingrid has also competed in rally raids. In 2013, she took part in the Panda Raid in Morocco, driving a Fiat Panda with Manuel Saa. 

Polina Samylkina - active in Russian ice racing since at least 2011, when she was joint third in the Cherepovetz women’s championship, in a VAZ 2106. In 2012, she took part in the Vologda round of the Russian Cup of ice racing, but it is not clear whether or not she finished. In 2014, she was third in the women’s championship. In 2015, she was fourth, driving a VAZ 2108. In the same car, she raced at Vologda and Cherepovetz in 2016, with a best finish of fourth, at Vologda. As well as competing, she is one of the organisers of the ice racing meeting at Cherepovetz.

(Image from www.soymotero.net)


Sunday, 2 November 2014

Zoe Wenham


Zoe and team-mate, Declan Jones, in 2013

Zoe Wenham is one of Britain’s most promising sportscar racers, and has the awards and results to prove it.
She raced karts from the age of nine, then took advantage of the 2000s boom in under-17 touring car series by entering the SaxMax championship, in a regulation Citroen Saxo. At the time, she was still only fourteen. Her first season was 2008, and she was 16th overall, as one of the youngest drivers on the grid. Her most promising result was a fifth place at Snetterton.
In 2009, she moved over from her family team, to Ferguson Motorsport. This resulted in a more successful year in SaxMax, with a ninth place overall at the end of it.
In 2010, she only competed in the first two rounds of SaxMax, as she decided to graduate to senior competition, still aged only sixteen. She took part in the 2010 VW Racing Cup, driving a Polo GTi. As she was not yet 17, she was the youngest person ever to race in the series. At the end of the season, she was 21st, with a best finish of eleventh.
In 2011, she continued in the VW Cup, in a Golf this time. More power, and experience, again helped her up the championship table, and she finished eighth overall, after her first podium place.
The following year, she made the switch to sportscar racing, and it proved to be a good call. She raced a Ginetta G50 in the British GT Championship in 2012, for Century Motorsport. In contrast to previous debut seasons in a new car, she was on the pace almost immediately, with a fourth and a third at Oulton Park. Further podium positions, at Snetterton, Rockingham, the Nürburgring and Donington, three of these being second places, were enough to give her second in the championship. She did not finish out of the top five all season. Her team-mates were Mike Simpson and Dominic Evans. In recognition of her excellent debut season, she was awarded the BWRDC’s Gold Star.
She returned to the championship in 2013, in the Century Ginetta, with expectations of her high. She did not disappoint, and this year, she had her first wins, two of them, at Oulton Park, and another two podiums, at Snetterton and Rockingham. Despite a somewhat less consistent season, partly due to reliability and technical problems, she was still in the running for the GT4 title, until she had to miss the Zandvoort round, for undisclosed reasons. Although she returned for the finale at Donington in a different Ginetta, in which she finished seventh, it was not enough to rescue her title campaign, and she was fifth. Her team-mate, Declan Jones, was second. This was the end of her time with the Century team.
Later on, she was selected as the British entrant into the FIA Women's Scirocco-R cup shootout, with a view to racing in Europe in 2014. She was not chosen; the award went to the French driver, Lucile Cypriano.
After being left without a GT drive for 2014, Zoe was determined to race something. She ended up in the Volkswagen Fun Cup, an endurance series for VW Beetles, driving alongside her younger brother, Guy. They were part of Team O’Br, driving as the “Young Guns”, with other young drivers. Zoe’s endurance experience paid off, and they were second in their first race, at Oulton Park. It was an up-and-down season, with some setbacks, like their fourteenth place in the third race, but they were strong enough to be in a secure runner-up position after the final race of the season.
Mid-season, she was even invited back to Century Motorsports for the Britcar race at Snetterton, in the Ginetta once more. She was seventh and eighth, driving with Stephen Fresle. They teamed up again at Silverstone, and managed two class wins. They were second overall in Class 3.
In 2015, she raced in the Fun Cup again, with Guy and Stephen Johansen. The trio were fourth in the championship, with a best finish of second, in the first round at Silverstone. They were also third in the last round, at Oulton Park. She did at least one Fun Cup race in 2016, but also worked for a tour company during the Monaco Grand Prix.

Zoe continued to be active in promoting female involvement in motorsports, through the BWRDC and Susie Wolff's Dare To Be Different.

(Image from www.centurymotorsport.com)