Monday, 19 September 2016

Women Drivers in the 12 Hours of Reims

Isabelle Haskell and Annie Bousquet with their Porsche in 1956

The 12 Hours of Reims was a major sportscar race that ran, on and off, between 1953 and 1967. It was held at the Reims-Gueux circuit in France, and was a round of the World Sportscar Championship (or the World Championship for Makes) between 1953 and 1965.

It is significant for the 1956 edition, during which Annie Bousquet was killed in a crash early on. This accident, and the negative publicity that stemmed from it, was the cause of women drivers being banned from major circuit races in France until the early 1970s, although the ban at Reims itself was lifted much earlier.

Yvonne Simon/Jean Hémard (Panhard Monopole) – 14th

Gilberte Thirion/Olivier Gendebien (Gordini T15S) – 14th

Race cancelled

Gilberte Thirion/Roger Loyer (Gordini T15S) – DNF
Gilberte Thirion/Roger Loyer (Gordini T15S) – DNF
Annie Bousquet/Isabelle Haskell (Porsche 550) – DNF

No female entries

No female entries

No race held

Annie Soisbault/Claude Dubois (Porsche 904) – 13th

Annie Soisbault/Gérard Langlois van Ophem (Ferrari 250 LM) – DNF

No race held

No female entries

(Image from

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Ada Pace

Ada Pace was an Italian rally driver and touring car ace of the 1950s and 1960s. She went by the nom de course of “Sayonara”.

Ada was from Turin, which would be her home base throughout her career, and her life. She enjoyed sports growing up, and her earliest memories are of riding on her father’s motorcycle and sidecar. All of her early racing experiences were on two wheels, not four; Ada raced scooters in Italy from quite a young age. In 1947, she started racing her Vespa, in both circuit events and long-distance trials. It was in trials that she really excelled. After 1948, she rode for the works Piaggio team. She would continue in scootering on and off until 1953; she won two Ladies’ 125cc titles in 1952 and 1953.

The date and nature of her first steps into four-wheeled competition is not entirely clear. Some sources claim that her first race was in 1950, when she was 26. Little additional detail is offered, although Ada was said to be disappointed with her own performance, as well as the car’s. The race may have been at the Circuit Piazza d’Armi in Turin, where Ada did drive a Moretti early in her career, although some sources have her first car as a Fiat 1500. Speaking in 1990, she describes the Turin event as her first race, held in heavy rain, although she says it happened in 1953. She did own and race a 600cc Moretti in 1953, which adds credence to her own recollections (or the reporting thereof).

In 1951, she is said to have earned her first win. This is said to have come in a “Torino-San Remo race”. Her car was a Fiat 1500 6C. The nature of this event is unclear; it could have been a time trial rather than a mass- or group-start race, or even a regularity rally. I have been unable to find any official records of this event.

She definitely did race a Moretti in 1953, and was fourth in class in the Sassi-Superga hillclimb.

 The following year, Ada may have entered her first Giro Di Sicilia, driving a Fiat 1100. She is down as a starter, but her finishing position, if any, is not recorded. This is not certain, as another driver called Pace was active in Sicily at this time. Ada certainly did drive an 1100 at some point, but her car in 1954 was the little Moretti. She mainly raced locally, entering the Sassi-Superga climb again and a Coppa Michelin at Torino. She also became involved in the growing women’s motorsport scene in Italy, and entered both the Perla di Sanremo Rally and the Como-Lieto-Colle Coppa delle Dame, a hillclimb. She was second in class in Sanremo.

In 1955, she was fourth overall in the Coppa delle Dame, driving an Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Variations of this model would become her signature car. She also raced a Fiat 1100 in hillclimbs at Sassari and Corallo.

Her next major race was also her first overseas event: the 1956 Nürbrugring 1000km. For this, she teamed up with Gilberte Thirion, in an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce. Gilberte, an experienced international sportscar racer, was the entrant. They were sixteenth, and fourth in class.

The same year, Ada, driving solo and normally in the Giulietta, was becoming a regular figure in Italian hillclimbs and races. She was fifth in the Perla di Sanremo and third in the Coppa delle Dame, as well as scoring some highly respectable finishes in hillclimbs, and the Supercortemaggiore regularity trial. She even tried her hand at a conventional rally, the Rallye dei Rododendri, and was tenth overall.

1957 was the year that Ada really committed to four-wheeled competition, and began to race as a professional driver. She underlined her new role with an entry into the Mille Miglia, driving the Giulietta, solo. Unfortunately, she did not finish, stopping near Rome. Later in the year, a run in the Coppa Inter-Europa led to a finish, albeit as the last runner. The race was a one-make affair for Giulietta SVs, at Monza. In November, she did proportionately better in the Targa Florio; she was 48th, out of 129 finishers. This would be the first of four attempts at the Sicilian classic. A season-ending Vallelunga 6 Hours was good for eleventh place.  

This schedule of major events was augmented with a busy calendar of domestic hillclimbs and rallies. These included the Perla di Sanremo, in which she won her class, and the Coppa Colle San Rizzo climb, which gave her a GT1300 class win. She ended the year as the Italian women’s GT champion.

She raced a Zagato version of the Giulietta SV in 1958, supported by the Racing Club 19 team, so-called because it consisted of nineteen drivers. She finished the Targa Florio on her second attempt, sharing the car with Carlo Peroglio and earning a fifteenth place. This year’s Targa was a race of high attrition, and it was an achievement to finish at all. The Vallelunga 6 Hours was a happy hunting ground for her, driving solo this time: she was third. She repeated her podium finish in the Coppa Sant Ambroeus at Monza, finishing third again. Her team-mate, Carlo Peroglio, was seventh, in a similar car. The Giro di Calabria was another good event for her; she was fourth.

That year, she took part in many hillclimbs, and won her class in the Stallavena-Bosochienesanuova event. This helped her to third in the GT1300 class of the Italian hillclimb championship. She retained her national Ladies’ title.

The Sant Ambroeus Cup was moved to May the following year. Ada entered the 1300cc GT race in the Giulietta, and was third again. A run in an Osca S1100 in the 1100cc sportscar race was not as successful; she did not finish. Three weeks later, she and Carlo Peroglio tackled the Targa Florio together for the second time, but did not finish. In June, Ada tried out a new Giulietta, a Speciale, and was fourteenth at Monza in the GT Grand Prix.

In a similar car, she contested the Mille Miglia, now run as a regularity trial. She and Piera Bertoletti were fifth overall, and won the GT1300 class. She managed another GT1300 win in her heat for the Vallelunga 6 Hours, but did not finish the final. She ran well in the Sestriere Rally, finishing second overall. This must have been very satisfying for her, as she dropped out of the previous year’s rally within sight of the finish.

In both the Osca and the Giulietta, she performed well in hillclimbs, including some long classic climbs such as the Catania-Etna event, in which she was sixth. Her best hillclimb moment came in the Veglio Mosso – Mosso San Maria climb, which she won in the Alfa. She was third in her class in the Italian championship at the end of the year, as well as defending her ladies’ crown, and adding the Italian ladies’ Sportscar title to her collection. In the overall Italian racing championship, she was runner-up in both the GT1300 and the Sport 1100 classes.

1960 saw a lot of change happening around Ada, but it seemed to bring out the best in her. She scored her first major race win in October, winning the Coppa d’Oro di Modena. Her car was an Osca 1100. She would later describe this car as her favourite. The same car gave her her career-best finish in the Targa Florio earlier in the year, an eleventh place. She was sharing the car with Giancarlo Castellina, and won the 1150cc Sports class.

Further excitement came from the furthest “away race” of her career. She was invited to Cuba for the Grand Prix, one of only a small number of “Western” drivers to compete there during Castro’s presidency. The race had begun in 1957, but this was the first edition to be run in Communist Cuba. She drove an Osca MT4 and was fifteenth. She also took part in the supporting Formula Junior race, making a rare single-seater appearance in a Stanguellini. She did not finish. Later in the year, she drove a De Sanctis FJ in the Pescara 12 Hours, but did not finish. She did tentatively enter another couple of single-seater races, but did not actually compete.

Once more, hillclimbs made up most of her sporting schedule, both in the Alfa and the Osca. She scored many class wins, and was second in class in the Italian hillclimb championship. A third ladies’ GT championship and a second Sports championship added to her tally, and she was runner-up in the 1150 category of the Italian racing championship.

In 1961, she spent much of the year competing under the name “Sayonara”. Much later, she claimed that this was to make it less obvious that she was a woman. During her early career, she experienced some quite open negativity. This sometimes came in the form of over-zealous scrutineering, based on complaints from other competitors.

She had intended to enter the Targa Florio again, in a works Osca, but this did not happen. For circuit racing, she normally used her Giulietta SV. Driving with Carlo Baghetti, she did not finish the Coppa Ascari at Monza, after a spectacular crash on lap 14, which sent the car rolling at 200mph. Ada escaped through a window just before it caught fire. The following month, she did much better in the GT Grand Prix at the circuit. She was seventh, and fifth in class. Breaking with tradition, she drove a non-Italian car in the Pescara 4 Hours: a Lotus XI, albeit Osca-engined. She drove with Roberto Lippi, but did not finish. Alone, she used the Lotus in some hillclimbs, finishing seventh in the Trieste-Opicina climb and winning her class. The Osca 1100 was her usual mount for hillclimbs, scoring some class wins.

It was back to Italian power for the 1962 season, although Ada expanded her car repertoire once more. She drove a Ferrari 250 GT in the GT Trophy at Monza, and was second overall. She was also second in two other events in the car: the Stallavena-Bosochienesanuova and Coppa Fagioli long-distance climbs.

Mostly, she drove a 1184cc Osca, in which she earned another outright win, in the Campagnana Vallelunga. She also had some outings in an Abarth-Simca. Her best result in this car was an eighth place in a GT race at Vallelunga. The Giulietta was sold towards the end of the year.

1963 was spent switching between the Osca and the Abarth-Simca, which she used in the Targa Florio. Driving the Osca, she was third in the Campagnana Vallelunga. This was her best result of the year. She was fifth in the Shell Trophy at Cesenatico, and managed some top-five class finishes in hillclimbs.

1964 was her last year of competition. She drove a Lancia Flaminia for HF Squadra Corse in the European Touring Car Championship, including the Spa 24 Hours. She shared the car with Claudine Bouchet at Spa, but did not finish. The car’s rear axle broke after just over five hours.Her best finish in the championship was eighth, at Zolder. She never really got to grips with the Flaminia and found it hard to drive. Driving for the same team, she drove a Lancia Flavia in the Polish Rally, but did not finish.

In her later years, she took to living alone with her menagerie of rescued dogs and birds. She occasionally appeared at historic races and rallies. At the time of writing, she is still alive, although she has retired completely from public life.

This post would not have been possible without the research published by John de Boer.

(Image from

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Suzy Dietrich

Suzy with her MG TC

Suzy Dietrich raced sportscars in and around the USA in the 1950s and 1960s. In the later part of her career, she took part in major races such as the Daytona 24 Hours.

Suzy began racing in 1953, after her marriage to Charles (Chuck) Dietrich, another racer. Away from the track, she worked as a school librarian, and the Dietrichs ran their own car dealership together.

Her first car was a supercharged MG TC, built in 1948. Her first race was at the Chanute Air Force base circuit. It was a ladies’ race, and she was fourth, winning her class. A month later, she entered another ladies’ race at Cumberland, and was second, behind the more experienced Margaret Wyllie in a Jaguar, who had started racing at the same time as Suzy.

In 1954, she scored two more second places in ladies’ races, at Cumberland and Akron. Both times, she was beaten by Margaret Wyllie again. This year, she branched out into mixed competition, entering some SCCA races at Chanute and a hillclimb at Brynfan Tyddyn. The results are not forthcoming.

Still in the MG, she achieved her first win in 1955, seeing off Margaret Wyllie in her Jaguar C-Type in a Cumberland ladies’ race. At the same meeting, she started a mixed Novices race, but did not finish. This was down to a mechanical failure. Later in the year, she ventured to Elkhart Lake for an SCCA National race at Road America, and was eleventh.

Her racing repertoire expanded further in 1956, with a new car and a first international outing. She drove a Porsche 550 in competition for the first time at the Nassau Speed Week in the Bahamas. In the Ladies’ event, she scored a third and a fourth place. The 550 was probably not hers, although she seems to have picked up its workings quite well. She would later claim that this was her favourite of all of her racing cars.

Among the other women she encountered on the Ladies’ racing scene was Denise McCluggage, who later described her as “an enormously cute librarian”. The two became lifelong friends.

She had some more races in at least two different Porsche 550s in 1957, earning three second places in Ladies’ races, and a twelfth in mixed competition at Watkins Glen, during the SCCA Nationals. This year, she had another new car, in the shape of an Elva MkII which belonged to Chuck. Suzy won a Ladies’ race at Watkins Glen in this car, as well as contesting some SCCA races. At the end of the season, when Nassau Speed Week rolled round again, Chuck and Suzy were supported by the Elva factory. Suzy was fifth in one of the Ladies’ races, but crashed out of another, damaging the car but escaping serious injury herself. She attempted to race again the next day, despite Chuck having to help her out of bed.

The Elva served her well again in 1958, helping her to Ladies’ wins at Dunkirk and Watkins Glen. This was the car she used in the Road America 500 Miles, sharing it with Charles Kurtz. They were eleventh overall, and second in class. At various times, she also raced Bernard Vihl’s 550; her best result in this car was a third in a Ladies’ race at Cumberland.

The next two seasons were much quieter for Suzy. The Dietrichs took delivery of at least two new Elva models, a IV and a V, which she used to good effect in a select few Ladies’ races.

It was back to a fuller competition schedule for 1961, and with a new car. The Dietrichs had acquired a Porsche 356, in which Suzy attacked the SCCA National championship. This time, it was mostly in the main races, rather than against the other women. Her best finish was fifth, at her lucky circuit, Watkins Glen. Mid-season, she dusted off the Elva and won the Ladies’ race at Dunkirk in it.

In 1962, she switched to single-seaters and campaigned a Cooper in Formula Junior in the States, among other cars. She used an Elva FJ much of the time, and was eleventh in the Governor’s Cup at Marlboro in this car.

The Cooper proved to be another good car for Suzy; she won a Formula Junior race outright at Dunkirk in it, in June 1963.

For the next couple of seasons, things were quieter on the racing front for Suzy. She was absent from the major entry lists until 1966, when she made quite a dramatic comeback, entering her first Daytona 24 Hours. She was part of an all-female team with Janet Guthrie and Donna Mae Mims, driving a Sunbeam Alpine for the Autosport team. Suzy enjoyed driving European cars, like the Porsches and the Cooper, so the Alpine probably suited her. The car was not a highly-tuned race machine, being barely more than showroom trim. Suzy and her team-mates finished the race in 32nd place, and were the only team in their class to finish at all.

In 1967, the all-woman team had become the “Ring Free Motor Maids”, sponsored by the Ring Free oil company. Suzy narrowly missed out on a spot in the main “Motor Maids” car for Daytona, a Ford Mustang, but raced a satellite Jim Baker ASA 411, which was another production car, albeit provided by the factory. Her team-mate was Donna Mae Mims. They were not classified. They raced the same car together in the Sebring 12 Hours, and were 25th, not far behind Liane Engeman and Anita Taylor in a Matra Djet, the other Ring Free ladies’ car.

Ring Free also supported Suzy in some single-seater races, driving a Lotus 20. She raced in Formula A and Formula Continental. She had been competing in the Lotus since at least 1965.

At about this time, Suzy and Chuck went their separate ways and eventually divorced. This was one of the reasons why Suzy’s racing career really wound down after 1967. According to friends, she regretted the end of her relationship. She went back to working as a librarian, although she did make a comeback as a team owner in 1970, running a Brabham BT21 in Formula Continental under the “Team Suzy” banner.

She died in 2015 after a stroke, at the age of 88. For the last few years of her life, she lived in a care home, and in 2011, she auctioned off her memorabilia collection to pay for this.

(Image from

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Inès Taittinger

Inès at Le Mans

Inès Taittinger is best known for her appearance at Le Mans in 2016. She mostly races sportscars in her native France.

She made her debut in 2009, driving a Ligier prototype in the VdeV championship, at Magny-Cours. This was her only race of the year, and she was 22nd, driving the car with her father, Hugues. They were sixteenth in class. She had been encouraged by her godfather, Philippe Alliot, who had let her drive a Ferrari a few years earlier.

She continued in this car in 2010, supported by the Blue One team, and scored her first points at Aragon. She entered five races that year. In the first race, at Jarama, she and Hugues finished, but were unclassified. Inès did not race at Mugello, but was eleventh overall at Aragon, tenth in class. Another non-classified finish followed at Lédenon, then a line-up change for the Paul Ricard race gave her a fourteenth place. Olivier Dupard partnered her instead of Hugues. Back together with her father, she did not finish at Dijon. Blue One entered two Ligiers at Magny-Cours, and  Inès was seventeenth, with Philippe Alliot and David Tuchbant. The last round, at Estoril, led to another DNF.

In 2011, she remained in VdeV, driving another Ligier JS51 for two rounds, for Springbox Concept this time. She and Amandine Foulard were nineteenth overall at Dijon, seventh in the Open class. At Magny-Cours they were tenth and third in class, one above Hugues in a similar car.  

Driving for a different team, she also raced a Formula Renault in the VdeV series’ Monoplace (single-seater) Challenge, at Magny-Cours. She took part in three races, with a best finish of seventeenth.

Away from VdeV, she drove in the SPEED Euroseries for Springbox, partnering Amandine Foulard in a Ligier again for four rounds, at Paul Ricard and Silverstone. Their best finish was seventh, at Paul Ricard, and they were 49th in the championship.

2012 proceeded in a similar manner, with Springbox, although the car had been updated to a Ligier JS53. She raced at Dijon and Paul Ricard, sharing the car with Amandine Foulard and Jonathan Cochet respectively. She and Amandine were twentieth, but Inès and Jonathan Cochet did not finish. In the SPEED Euroseries, she entered the Paul Ricard and Spa races, four in all. She was eighth at Paul Ricard and ninth at Spa, leaving her in 37th in the championship.

For 2013, she returned to VdeV full-time, in the modern Endurance Challenge. Her car was a Norma prototype, run by CD Sport, and her team-mate was Kvin Bole-Besancon. She started well, qualifying second at Catalunya, and finishing in eighth place. Despite qualifying quite well at Mugello and Paul Ricard, she did not finish at either circuit. She and her team-mates were then sixth at Dijon, and an impressive third in the Aragon 12-hour race. Inès finished the season with a sixth at Magny-Cours and a fifteenth place at Estoril. She and Kvin Bole-Besancon were eighth in the championship.

As well as a full season in VdeV, she took part in the TTE touring car series, which confusingly has a prototype class. She won one race at Albi in the Norma, and was third in a six-hour race at Magny-Cours. Proving that she had a taste for real endurance, she drove in the Fun Cup 25 Hours at Spa, as part of a six-driver Kronos Racing team that included Margot Laffite.

She drove the CD Sport Norma in VdeV again, in 2014. Her season started well enough with ninth at Barcelona. By the fourth round, at Dijon, she was really getting into her stride, and was third overall. She was then a disappointing 23rd at Aragon, where she had run so well the year before. A little later, she was back on the podium at Magny-Cours, with second place. Her inconsistent but not bad season was enough for thirteenth in the championship. 

2015 was the year that she started setting her career sights higher. She stated her aim to race at Le Mans in 2016. For the past few seasons, she had been working on her fitness and stamina, which had paid off in VdeV. Grabbing any chance she could for a Le Mans race seat, she signed up for a racing reality TV show called “Race to 24”, where the prize for the winning driver was to compete at the Sarthe classic. The show never made it into production, but Inès used the publicity generated to raise her public profile, with several TV appearances. This made her a more attractive prospect for sponsors, especially when public reaction to her was very positive.

She did do some racing in 2015, competing for CD Sport in VdeV, in the Norma again. Barcelona was a forgettable race for her and her team-mates, and Mugello was slightly more encouraging, despite being far from what Inès was capable of doing. Things improved at Dijon with an eighth place, but then she did not finish at Paul Ricard. The season ended well, with sixth place at Magny-Cours and tenth at Estoril. She was 23rd in the championship.

Everything changed at the start of the 2016 season. Inès left the CD Sport set-up and joined Pegasus Racing. Her former team-mate, Amandine Foulard, had been part of the team for some time a few seasons ago. She would be racing a Nissan-engined Morgan in the LMP2 class, both in the European Le Mans Series and at Le Mans itself. Her team-mates were Léo Roussel and Rémy Striebig. In interviews, she stated that her aim for 2016 was to learn, and it was certainly a tough beginning to the season, when the car only lasted 90 laps at Silverstone, after setting some strong times. She was twelfth at Imola, again setting very competitive lap times. The Austrian round was another disappointment, retiring after 123 laps. A seventeenth place at Paul Ricard was a little more promising.

Inès’s individual performance at Le Mans itself was barely criticised, but during one of her stints, the Morgan caught fire, meaning a risky trip back to the pits and instant retirement. Still, she was the only Frenchwoman to race that year, and her profile was higher than ever, which bodes well for future sponsorship.

Throughout her racing career, she has supported the French charity, Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque, which helps children born with heart defects. This is a cause close to her own heart, as she was born with cardiac problems herself. This has not stopped her from pursuing a sporting career at the highest level.

(Image copyright Frédéric Veille)

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Natalie Goodwin

Natalie in the Lotus 7/20

Natalie Goodwin is most famous for racing in Formula 3 in the 1960s. The British Women Racing Drivers’ Club’s annual racing trophy is named after her.

Natalie was from a background that was both privileged and sporty. Her mother, Marjorie, was a member of the Cussons family, and the Marketing Director of the Cussons toiletry firm in the 1970s. She played hockey for England. Natalie’s cousin, Nick Cussons, started racing GT cars in 1959. However, her initial first love was music; she played piano to concert standard, and performed in a jazz band with her brother. After losing a fingertip in an accident involving a door, she had to stop playing professionally, and seek other things to do.

She bought her first racing car in 1961, when she was twenty-one years old. It was a boyfriend, rather than any of her relatives, that stirred her interest in motorsport. Her racing career started very badly, reversing into a pit wall at Silverstone, but she carried on and finished the race, not even in last place. Among her first cars were a Mini Cooper, Mini Marcos and an Austin-Healey 3000. Soon, she was winning club races.

For the first few years of her racing career, she often drove Lotus cars. The 7, initially painted black, carried her through her many of her early days in British club racing. Between 1962 and 1964, she raced the car both as a self-entry, and as part of the Ashley Smithy Garage team, which necessitated a change of paintwork to a McLaren-esque orange. The three drivers used custom number plates for racing, reading “NAT1” (Natalie), NIT1 and NUT1. As well as racing for Ashley Smithy, she worked for them, handling paperwork.

In 1964, she bought a Lotus 7/20, one of only two built, although at least four replicas were produced. It was a Lotus 7 with independent rear suspension and the brakes from a Lotus 20 Formula Junior.  Hers had previously been owned and raced by Colin Chapman, David Porter and Wendy Hamblin. She sold her original 7 to the team, and kept the 7/20 for three seasons, before selling it to an American collector.

1965 was the year that she switched her attention to single-seater racing, acquiring the first of her Brabham Formula 3 cars. Not stopping there, she purchased two more, and set up her own three-driver team to take on the European Formula 3 circuit, along with her brother. John Cardwell and Dave Rees were her other drivers. Managing the paperwork at Ashley Smithy had proved to be useful training.

Her first outing on the European stage appears to have been the Pau Grand Prix, which she entered in a Brabham BT15, but did not qualify for. Her first Formula 3 finish was at Magny-Cours, where she was twelfth. The best of the Goodwin Racing Brabhams was driven by John Cardwell, who was third. Goodwin Racing then took three cars to Zolder, and Dave Rees was third, in a BT9. Natalie had planned to race, but did not. The team had its best race of the year at Chimay, the Grand Prix des Frontières: John Cardwell won, Natalie was seventh and Dave Rees, ninth. At Caserta, John Cardwell was second. Natalie did not finish, despite coming third in her heat. It was a similar story at Monza, although Natalie did not qualify this time. None of the Goodwin cars finished at Rouen, and the team then pulled out of the Ville Nevers Grand Prix, at Magny Cours. A few more entries for John Cardwell followed, but Natalie did not race herself.

As well as its European forays, the team competed on and off in F3 in Britain. Natalie’s best finishes were a pair of second places, at Oulton Park and Aintree, which she earned in 750MC and BARC races. She was also seventh in a BARC event at Aintree.

Goodwin Racing went even more international in 1966, starting the year with a race in Buenos Aires for John Cardwell. He contested the Argentine F3 series in a BT15, with some top-five finishes. After this, he parted ways with Natalie and her team.

At Pau, a Brabham BT18, driven by Charles Crichton-Stuart, was added to the team. He had moved over from Stirling Moss’s SMART team. Natalie, driving a similar car, made her first appearance at the Barcelona GP, but did not finish. Monza in May was a similar scenario. Natalie’s first finish of the year was at Chimay again, where she was thirteenth. She did not qualify at La Châtre, after not finishing her heat, and lost out at Vallelunga, too. At Caserta, Charles Crichton-Stuart broke into the top ten, but Natalie struggled again. Neither BT18 qualified at Monza in June. Driving solo, Natalie entered the 1900 F3 championship in France, and finished fifteenth at Rouen. After another couple of DNQs, she was tenth at Hockenheim, in the Touring Car Grand Prix support race. After another couple of disappointments, Natalie earned another finish at Zolder, a fifteenth place. This was during a spell of competition in Belgium with Charles Crichton-Stuart, and it was her last finish of the year.

As well as the European calendar, Goodwin Racing was a semi-regular presence in British Formula 3, with either Natalie or Charles Crichton-Stuart as driver. Natalie’s British season did not really get going until late on, and she managed a best result of fifth, in the Louth Trophy at Cadwell Park. She was also eighth at Silverstone and Mallory Park.

The following year, she proved she could cut it as a driver as well as a team owner, and apparently won her first major F3 race. Unfortunately, the details of where this win happened are proving hard to find.

In the UK, Goodwin Racing was mostly represented by Natalie, as a single-car entry. She was particularly effective at the more northerly circuits, such as Oulton Park and Rufforth, close to her Cheshire home, and particularly after she swapped the BT18 for a newer BT21. Her best result was third, at Oulton Park.

In Europe, she dismissed the BT18 and made her debut in May, at her favoured circuit of Chimay, in her new car. She was fourteenth overall. At the Prix de Paris at Montlhéry, she was third in the “B” race, which left her classified 21st in the main standings. A fifth followed at La Châtre, at the beginning of June. A run in the Coupe de Paris gave her an eleventh place in September.

After running a car in the Argentine championship the previous year, Natalie got to drive there herself in 1967. Her best result was seventh, at Mar del Plata.

The same year, she tried her hand at endurance racing, and entered the Spa 24 Hours. She drove a Goodwin Racing Ford Lotus Cortina with Cyril Williams. They finished, but were unclassified. A second Goodwin Racing Lotus Cortina did not get to the end.

In 1968, she had another go at endurance racing, sharing Jean Denton’s MGB at the Nürburgring 1000km. They did not finish. Jean and Natalie had previously raced against each other in Formula 3, in 1965.

For much of the year, she was still campaigning the BT21 for Goodwin Racing. In the UK, they entered the MCD Lombank Championship, with principal driver, Cyd Williams. Williams served the team well, winning some races, but Natalie was no slouch behind the wheel either, earning herself a second and third at Oulton Park, her favourite British circuit, and a fourth at Rufforth.

During the early part of the season, she raced in Spain, but struggled to qualify or finish her races there. In April, accepting a drive from the Paul Watson Racing Organisation, she was fourth in the Sprite Cup, at Jyllandsring. She was also eleventh at Roskilde, driving a BT21 for Tony Birchenough’s team. As a Goodwin Racing entry, she was eighth and seventh in the Prix de Paris races at Montlhéry. A couple of weeks later, she was fourth again at Jyllandsring. At the start of June, she was sixth at Chimay, another circuit at which she usually ran well. During the year, she also raced in Portugal and Finland, although she did not do as well there.

Natalie and Cyd Williams continued as a two-car Goodwin team for the 1969 season. Driving the BT21, Natalie was ninth at Barcelona in May. Later in the month, Chimay gave her a seventh place, and she was ninth at Reims in June. She did enter more races, in France and Sweden, but either did not finish, or did not qualify. That year, she competed at Monaco, and was almost prevented from starting by police, who refused to believe she was a genuine driver. Graham Hill ended up vouching for her.

British F3 was not her major priority in 1969, although her team remained a regular presence. A Chevron had been added to the Goodwin stable, which was driven by Alan Rollinson, among others. Natalie declined to race herself for most of the season, although she put in an appearance at the Oulton Park BARC race, and was sixth overall.

1969 was her last season of active competition. During her time in F3, she had raced against the likes of Piers Courage, François Cevert, Patrick Depailler and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, sometimes getting the better of them.

Between 1964 and 1967, she was Britain’s highest-performing female driver, and won many awards from the British Women Racing Drivers’ Club, of which she was a founder member, alongside Mary Wheeler. In recognition of her success, the BWRDC awarded their original racing trophy to her in perpetuity. Natalie responded by donating three silver trophies to the club, which are still named the Goodwin Trophies, and are awarded to this day. She was also a Vice-Chairman of the club for many years.

(Image copyright Ferret Fotografics)

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Female Drivers at the Macau Grand Prix

Tatiana Calderon in 2014

The Macau Grand Prix is the longest-standing motorsport event in Asia. It started life as a motorised treasure hunt, then became a sportscar race, before evolving into a single-seater event. It ran under Formula Libre rules from 1961 to 1973, then becoming part of the Formula Pacific championship in 1974. Since 1983, it has been a Formula 3 race, and has been contested by Formula One hopefuls from around the world, including Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.

The race is held on the Guia street circuit in Macau, a Chinese special territory. Speeds reached at Macau are can be extremely high due to the circuit’s long straights. As well as the single-seater race, the event hosts a major touring car race (previously the finale of the WTCC), a motorcycle Grand Prix and a number of support races for saloons, sportscars and local single-seater formulae.

Women drivers have been a distinct rarity throughout the history of the Grand Prix. More have contested the Guia touring car race, or the other support races, and there have even been pro-am women’s races on the bill in the past. Anne Wong won the touring car race in 1970, in a Mini. However, only a handful of female drivers have contested the blue-riband Grand Prix. 

Below is a list. It may be added to in future, as the results for the earlier runnings of the race are not easy to find.

Diana Poon  - DNF?

Desiré Wilson (Ralt RT1) – 6th

Cathy Muller (Ralt RT3) – 12th

Tatiana Calderon (Dallara-Mercedes) – 13th

(Image from

Friday, 5 August 2016

Robyn Hamilton ("Charlie")

Robyn at Bathurst, with Frank Gardner and Ralph Radburn

Robyn Hamilton raced in saloons and Formula Ford in Australia, with some success, in the 1970s. She was famous for using the nom de course of "Charlie", after her sponsor's perfume. Her reputation on-track was an aggressive one.

She began racing on circuits in 1976, although she had been involved in the illegal street drag racing scene for some time, having started during her undergraduate studies. Apparently, “a brush with the law” caused her to enrol in Frank Gardner’s racing school.

Her first wheel-to-wheel circuit experiences came in the Formula Gemini one-make series, for Holden Gemini saloons. The championship had a reputation for crash-happy driving, and on her third-ever race, Robyn was involved in a nasty-looking shunt at Calder, in a race which had seen a six-car pile-up in the first lap. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in 1978, she claimed that the male drivers deliberately ran into her to scare her, and dissuade her from racing.

A second season of Formula Gemini in 1977 led to her first win, which was one of two that year, including one at Calder. She had learned from her peers in 1976, and soon developed a reputation for the sort of hard driving the series was known for. Some went as far as describing her driving style as “dirty”, so willing was she to take risks.

In 1977, she also drove in the Renault Newstar one-make series, and was regarded as one of its stars. She won three races, at Winton, Adelaide and Sandown. She came quite close to winning the title, which would have meant a trip to Europe to attend a prestigious racing school.

A one-off Ladies’ Invitational Race was held at Oran Park that year, which had a decent grid of fifteen experienced racers, mostly from touring cars. They drove Renault 12s. Robyn was the winner, and walked away with a thousand dollars, provided by Ansett Airways. In mixed competition, she was 23rd in the Phillip Island 500k, driving a Gemini.

In 1978, she took part in the Bathurst 1000 with Ralph Radburn. Their Holden Torana failed to finish, following an electrical failure, although they were classified in eleventh place. 

Never one to shy away from publicity, Robyn appeared in some quite famous images during her time at Bathurst. She had had a race suit made for her, after complaining that existing suits were dull and did not fit her feminine physique correctly. The resulting set of overalls proved very figure-enhancing, and Robyn’s back view made the papers. She claimed afterwards that this was not deliberate, and that the suit was too tight.

After 1978, she moved away from saloons and into single-seaters. It was during the 1979 season that she raced under the nom de course of “Charlie”. This was intended as a publicity stunt to promote Revlon’s Charlie perfume line. Robyn had approached Revlon with this marketing idea, but they were not keen on it immediately. She changed her name nevertheless, in a move designed to persuade them to sponsor her anyway. The final aim of this career move was to secure funds to race in Europe.

On the track, she proved a very capable driver. In her first full season she was fourth in the Formula Ford Driver To Europe series, driving an Elfin 620B. She scored one podium finish, a second place at Oran Park.
In 1980, she continued to be competitive, finishing in the top three, three times. She was fifth in the championship, and her media profile remained high.

After the 1980 season, her career tailed off sharply. She ended up leaving motorsport behind, and threw herself into business instead. She was a make-up artist, working for Revlon, then later founded her own beauty salon, and a company that runs three catamarans sailing around the Sydney bay area. As of 2016, she is still sailing catamarans.

(Image from Robyn’s Facebook page)