If your idea of a girl’s day out is a million miles away from a spa-based snooze-fest, you’ve probably already got a Ferrari driving experience on your to-do list (if not, why not?). In case you didn’t know it, women have been competing at the same level as men in motorsport – and more often than not, beating them, since the year dot. Here are a few examples…
Women have been involved in motorsport right from the beginning and Dorothy Levitt was one of the early trailblazers. She actually started out in motor boats – having clocked up the first water speed record in 1903. By this time she had her sights set firmly on the motor racing world – coming top in the Southport Speed Trial in a Gladiator. She narrowly missed out on a gold medal in the Hereford 1000 mile trial and went on to compete internationally.
The 24-Hours Le Mans race has seen a steady flow of female participants over the years and Odette Siko was the first. Along with Marguerite Mareuse, she was part of the first ever all-women crew in 1930 and finished seventh overall in a Bugatti Type 40. Two years later, Siko was back at Le Mans and finished fourth in an Alfa Romeo 8C.
Sister of Stirling, Pat Moss was also a member of the British show jumping team. In 1954, she bought a Triumph TR2 and never looked back. She came fourth in the RAC Rally in 1958 and later achieved the same position in the Rome-Liege rally. Further success followed in the Coupe des Alpes, the East African Safari Rally, and the Rallye Deutschland. In 1961, she married fellow rally driver, Erik Carlsson and the pair went on to compete in 11 international rallies.
Without doubt the most successful female rally driver ever, the Frenchwoman clocked up a total of four World Championship rally wins, nine podium placings and 162 stage wins. Her career began in 1973 and she won three European Women’s Championship titles in a row in the mid-seventies. Mouton’s greatest triumphs occurred when she joined the Audi team. The first of her four World Championship wins came in 1981 in Sanremo. Three further victories came in 1982 – in addition to coming second in the RAC Rally, Portugal and Sweden. Michele Mouton currently heads the FIA’a Women & Motor Sport Commission, which aims to get more women involved in motorsport.
Lyn St James and Danica Patrick
While women are yet to make their mark on Formula 1, the same is not true of US motorsports. In 2008 for instance, Danica Patrick became the first female winner of a race in the IndyCar Series. A year later, she notched up the highest finish by a woman in the Indy 500 – coming third in the table overall. Lyn St. James was a big role model for aspiring female drivers in the 1990s. Two victories in the grueling 24 Hours of Daytona race and a win in the 12 Hours Sebring sportscar race was followed by five Indy Racing starts. St. James also competed in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Susie Wolff and Simona de Silvestro
Are we about to see a woman take her place on the starting grid for a Grand Prix World Championship race? Only two have ever achieved this in the past: Lella Lombard in the 1970s and Maria Teresa de Filipis in the 1950s. Currently, there are two names to watch very closely. The 31 year-old Scot, Susie Wolf drives for Williams whereas de Silvestro, a 25 year-old from Switzerland has recently signed with Sauber after gaining plenty of IndyCar experience.
The four decade wait for a woman to take her seat at the top table of Formula 1 could be about to end.