Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Sylvia Österberg


Sylvia Österberg was Swedish driver active in the 1960s and 1970s, winner of the European Ladies’ Rally Championship in 1963.

Her earliest motorsport experiences were in rallycross, at club level. She only took up rallying after some strong encouragement from her husband, Ingemar. After seeing her drive in treasure hunt-type road rallies, he signed her up for the Swedish ladies’ championship in 1960, and the two competed together during that season. Their first stage rally together, an event for novices, led to a fifth place, with a class win.

Her performances in the Swedish championship caught the eye of the Volvo team management, and she was offered a contract as a works driver for 1962. Her car was to be a 122. Her first major rally in it was the 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland. With Inga-Lill Edenring as co-driver, she did not disgrace herself with a 21st place, narrowly missing out on the Coupe des Dames to her Swedish rival, Ewy Rosqvist. Later in the year, she was tenth in the RAC Rally, driving the same car. This was her first international top-ten finish, and she did particularly well on the forest stages, tying with Paddy Hopkirk for third on the Wark Forest stage.

Her performances in 1962 were enough to convince the Volvo team to keep her on in 1963, with an expanded programme of rallies across Europe. Once again, she teamed up with Inga-Lill Edenring, who would be her regular co-driver for much of her career. She started with a 20th place in the Monte Carlo Rally, losing the Coupe des Dames to Ewy Rosqvist, in a Mercedes. After the Tulip Rally, in which she was thirteenth, she drove in the Acropolis Rally for the first time, and scored another tenth place, ahead of Ewy Rosqvist this time. Her second top-ten of the season came in the Deutschland Rally, along with a Coupe des Dames. The best was still yet to come, however; she then broke into the top five in the Polish Rally, in fourth place. Before the end of the season, she had secured another fourth place, in the Geneva Rally. This was enough to secure her the European Ladies’ Championship.

For most of 1963, she drove the 122 again, although she did have at least one outing in the PV 544, the Midnight Sun Rally, which she does not seem to have finished.

1964 started with another run in the Monte in the 122, in which she was 33rd, a somewhat disappointing result, but not a bad performance in the ageing 122, and ahead of her rival, Ewy Rosqvist. The rest of the season was spent in a PV 544, which was faster, but not quite as sturdy as its predecessor. Sylvia could not finish her first Safari Rally, a brute of an event which almost three-quarters of the field failed to complete. She does not appear to have finished the Acropolis Rally, another car-breaker, or the Midnight Sun Rally, which, despite being her home event, was never her favourite. Later in the season, she was fifteenth in the 1000 Lakes Rally, and back in the top ten for the RAC Rally, in tenth. Her navigator this year was Siv Sabel, as Inga-Lill Edenring was taking some time out from rallying.

After 1964’s ups and downs, Sylvia went back to the 122 for 1965, trading some power for reliability. In February, she was rewarded with a sixth place in the Rallye dei Fiori, among Lancias and Renaults in the top ten. The KAK Rally in Sweden followed, and then the Tulip, which she finished over the time limit. She was in good company, and her Volvo team-mate, Tom Trana, also in a 122, was another on the OTL list. The Acropolis was another non-finish, and she followed it up with a 24th place in the 1000 Lakes, with a Coupe des Dames as a consolation prize. She ended the year with the RAC Rally, but does not seem to have been classified.

She and Siv Sabel stuck with the Volvo for one more rally in 1966, the Rallye dei Fiori, which had been a good event for them last year. They did not finish, and the 122 was promptly replaced with a Renault 8 Gordini, supported by the Swedish arm of Renault. Sylvia picked up another Coupe des Dames in the 1000 Lakes, and was 23rd overall, but did not finish the Alpine Rally. Reunited with Inga-Lill Edenring, she was tenth in the season-ending RAC Rally. On the first special stage, Bramshill, she was second, behind Roger Clark.

Her second season in the Gordini was shorter, but more fruitful. In January, she finally managed to pick up a Monte Carlo Coupe des Dames, finishing 25th overall, just behind her countryman and fellow Gordini driver, Harry Källstrom. A non-finish in the Swedish rally followed. She was then nineteenth in the 1000 Lakes Rally, before enjoying a good run in the French tarmac rallies. The Alpine Rally, usually a good event for her, led to a tenth place, and she was sixth in the Tour de Corse. Both times, she was the fastest lady. Her season was to have ended with the RAC Rally, but it was cancelled, due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

After 1967, Sylvia’s career wound down somewhat. She began driving Opel cars, beginning with a Kadett in 1968. She and Ingemar teamed up once more and tackled the Swedish championship. They were thirteenth in class at the end of the year, with a best finish of tenth, in the Jämt Rally.

A couple more seasons in the Kadett followed, although it seems that Sylvia and Ingemar were part-time competitors at this point, rallying within Sweden and not regularly in major events. Another attempt at the Swedish Rally in 1971 led to another non-finish.

Despite her profile being lower than previously, the Opel works team took an interest in Sylvia. In mid-1972, she was part of a six-driver team that attempted a series of speed records in a diesel-powered Opel GT prototype. The tests took place at Dudenhofen in Germany. The other drivers were Marie-Claude Beaumont, Giorgio Pianta, Paul Frère, Henri Greder and Joachim Springer. As a team, they set a whole series of class records for speed, endurance and economy.

1972 saw a revival of Sylvia’s rally career, too. She was once again reunited with Inga-Lill Edenring, her most successful co-driver, and they drove a works Opel Ascona in Europe. The faster Ascona seemed to suit Sylvia’s driving style; after a slightly tentative 26th place on snow in the Swedish Rally, she was seventh in the Olympia Rally in Germany. Sadly, the RAC Rally, one of her favoured events, led to a retirement.

Sylvia’s last major international rally looks to have been the Monte in 1973. She drove an Ascona to 28th place. She carried on competing occasionally until 1975, then retired as a driver. This retirement was meant to be final, but she reappeared about ten years later, as a navigator in historic rallies. She assisted Tom Trana, her old Volvo team-mate, to two historic championships, and carried on in this role until the mid-1990s.

She died in 2012, at the age of 78.

Having been most active in an era where there were some extremely competitive female drivers – first Ewy Rosqvist, then rally winner, Pat Moss – Sylvia’s achievements are overshadowed somewhat. She was a very capable driver, particularly on forest stages and on asphalt, and perhaps would have scored an outright win, had she had a few more opportunities in big rallies and powerful cars.

(Image from http://rallyklassikerna.se/)



Friday, 29 April 2016

Julia Ballario


Julia in Star Mazda

Julia Ballario is an Argentine driver who competes in both single-seaters and touring cars, at home and in the USA.

She was born in 1992, in Marcos Juárez near Cordoba. Her father was a racing driver who had competed in Formula Renault. Taking advantage of rules allowing very young drivers to race as seniors, he got her start in senior motorsport in Formula Renault in Argentina, in 2007, competing in the Plus series. This followed six years of karting.

2007 was a learning year, and although she was not among the frontrunners, she was nominated for a driver award. Detailed results for Julia in 2007 are not widely available. The Formula Renault season itself was shortened that year, due to the death of a competitor.

It was another learning year on the tracks in 2008, but she got on the leaderboard, finishing thirteenth. She was driving for the Baypal Scuderia team. They kept her on for 2009, and she was thirteenth again.

In 2010, she entered both the Plus and secondary Interprovencial series, finishing fourteenth in both.  Judging by her points tally in both, her performances were roughly equivalent. Detailed results are no longer readily available, as before.

2011 started with Formula Renault, driving for the Baypal Scuderia again. She took part in the first four rounds of the Argentine championship, with a best finish of fifth, at Alta Gracia. After that, she took her first steps in saloon racing, driving a Renault Clio in Class 2 of the Argentine National Touring Car Championship. This was somewhat of a baptism of fire for Julia, who finished two of her four races, and had a best finish of 19th at Posadas. Undeterred, she signed up for the last three Buenos Aires rounds of the Turismo Carretera Pista Mouras series, in a Chevrolet. Her finishes were slightly better, with a fifteenth her highlight. At about the same time, she rejoined Formula Renault for the last two races of the season, adding another top-ten to her tally, a sixth at Marcos Juárez, her home track.

Julia’s career was now at something of a turning point. She chose to pursue tin-tops further in 2012, and was signed by the HRC Pro-Team for the TC2000 championship in Argentina. This was only the second time a female driver had raced in the series, after Delfina Frers in 2000. In an interview, she admitted that she might not be able to progress beyond Formula 3 if she persevered with single-seaters. This was a move which paid off, as she was on the pace very quickly in her Peugeot 307, describing it as easy to drive. Her second race, at Rosario, led to a fourth place, and although the season was marred somewhat by DNFs and one disqualification, she was a regular top-ten finisher, and managed her first podium at Salta, in third place. She was fifth in the championship.

Although she had proved a success in touring cars, she still harboured hopes of a single-seater career, perhaps outside Argentina. Her season began in the popular Top Race tin-top series, driving a Ford Mondeo for Schick Racing. Again, it was a steep learning curve, and she managed a thirteenth place at Junin as her best result, from five races. Mid-season, she travelled to the USA to compete in Formula Star Mazda, the entry-level series for the “Road to Indy”. She was driving for the Juncos Racing team, who were running three cars that year. This followed a series of tests in late 2012, in which she performed well. Julia’s four races showed promise, with three top-tens: a seventh at Trois Rivières, and ninths at Trois Rivières and Mid-Ohio.

Her second series of Star Mazda, in 2014, led to better results, the best of these being a fourth place, at Houston, on a wet track. Still with the Juncos team, she had eight top-ten finishes, and was eleventh in the championship. There were three female drivers in the series that year, and Julia was the best of them.
She returned to Argentina for the Top Race series in 2015, and was second in the Copa Damas, just behind Violeta Pernice. Her car was a Chevrolet Cruze, and she was thirteenth in the overall championship. If it had not been for a few DNFs mid-season, she would have been higher up the rankings; she scored three podium positions, including a second place at Río Cuarto.

She also did some TC2000 races in a VW Vento, making guest appearances at Buenos Aires in May. She was fourteenth and seventeenth.

At the time of writing, her 2016 season in Top Race is under way. She is racing a Mercedes for the 3M Racing team.  

(Image from http://www.losandes.com.ar/)

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Irene Schwedler (Charlotte Sadler)


Alvis Speed 20 (not Irene's car)

Irene Schwedler was part of the Brooklands ladies’ racing “set”, and an occasional rally driver. Her later, post-war career was in rallying, and under a new name.

She was born in Germany in 1906, and was originally named Ilse. Her given name was anglicised to Irene as an adult. Her background is now very obscure; it is unclear what her family situation was, and how she came to be living in England. According to her 1937 pilot’s license, she was a German national. At some point, she apparently owned a shop in Luton. Her license, issued by the Royal Aero Club, gives her occupation as “private secretary”. Other records have her as a “garage proprietress”.

Her introduction to motorsport is equally mysterious. The earliest mention of her seems to be as a competitor in the Women’s Sport and Automobile Association (WASA)’s Lands End Trial in 1930, driving an MG.
 She began racing an Alvis Speed 20 at Brooklands at the start of the 1930s, when she was in her mid-twenties. The car was a new model in 1931. A few years later, in 1934, Irene’s Alvis was described as belonging to a C.G.H. Dunham, although this may not be the same car. A small article in the Triple-M Register Bulletin from November 2015 states that Gerald Dunham was a personal friend of Irene’s, and that she raced more than one Alvis from his own showroom. Both Dunham and Irene lived in Luton.

Her first major Brooklands appearance was a Ladies' Handicap in 1931, in which she was third, in a 1645cc Alvis. There were eight entrants in the race, and she was behind Fay Taylour in a Talbot, and Elsie Wisdom in an Invicta.

In June 1932, she took part in the BARC Inter-Club Meeting at Brooklands. She was representing the Women’s Sport and Automobile Association. Her third place in a nine-mile handicap helped the club to second in the Stanley Cup, for the best club team of the day. Her team-mates were Miss Hedges and Margaret Allan.

At the same meeting in 1933, her individual performance was better; she won the Lightning Short Handicap, her first major Brooklands victory. The WASA team was second. This time, she was driving the Speed 20 that probably belonged to Gerald Dunham. At the Whit Monday meeting, she was one of the first female drivers to enter a mixed race organised by the BARC at Brooklands, when she drove in the Cobham Senior Short Handicap.

During her racing career, she often drove alongside other female drivers in the team relays and match races which happened at Brooklands. Her best performance in a relay was third, in the 1934 Light Car Club event, driving an MG Magnette alongside Margaret Allan and Doreen Evans. Despite their superior performance, they were denied a Le Mans place in favour of Kay Petre's Singer team, who had exploited a loophole in the rules that the Ladies' Cup, and the Le Mans entry that went with it, was not awarded to anyone finishing in the top three. The Singer crew had found a copy of the MG pit notes, and successfully intercepted their pit signals, allowing them to maintain position behind their rivals, and claim the Le Mans spot. Irene, although a capable driver, never seems to have competed internationally.

In 1934, she took part in the Brighton Speed Trials, driving Gerald Dunham’s Alvis. She was second in the Ladies’ class, behind her regular rival, Kay Petre, in her Bugatti.

As well as circuit racing, she occasionally drove in rallies in the UK in the 1930s. In 1935, she entered a Rover Speed Pilot into the RAC Rally, starting at London. She used the same car and start point the following year. For the 1938 RAC, she used a Hillman Minx, and began at Leamington. This year, she is recorded as finishing in 154th place. She drove the Hillman again in the 1939 RAC Rally, before rallying ceased for World War II.

Her last Brooklands appearance was in 1938, the year before the circuit closed. She drove a Talbot 10 in a one-make Talbot race, during the August Bank Holiday meeting, but she was not among the leaders. Her friend Gerald Dunham also entered.

After the war, she reappeared in the entry list for the 1947 JCC Eastbourne Rally, driving an Alvis, presumably one of her earlier cars.

Some time later, in December 1947, she formally changed her name from Ilse Schwedler to Charlotte Sadler, adopting her erstwhile middle name. This followed her naturalisation as a British citizen in November. She seems to have competed a little in sprints and hillclimbs in 1948, driving an Alvis Speed 20 in the Brighton Speed Trials. This was the start of the second part of her career, as the rally driver, Miss Charlotte Sadler.

After 1950, she was something of a regular on the Tulip Rally. In 1950, she drove a Hillman Minx, with Hazel Dunham and a Mrs. Plummer. It is likely that Hazel was the daughter of Gerald Dunham, Charlotte’s earlier supporter. They were 37th overall.

The Sadler/Dunham pairing tackled the Tulip again in 1951, assisted by Mrs. DM Alcock. Driving solo in the Minx, Charlotte also tackled the Scottish Rally. The following year, Charlotte and Hazel in their Rover won the Closed Car Ladies’ Cup in the RAC Rally, as well as finishing 31st in the Tulip. Another appearance in the Tulip in 1953 seems to have been their last major event together.

Away from the race track, she was quite an experienced pilot, flying from Brooklands and being awarded her license by the Royal Aero Club.

As a probable German national still, it is possible that Irene was interned during the War, as a “hostile alien”, although there are no easily available records of this. Her general activities during wartime are completely unclear, as is most of her personal life.

She apparently died in the late 1970s.

This post was created with help from the TNF Nostalgia Forum, particularly the users “Vitesse2” and “ReWind”.


(Image via Flickr, copyright user “growler2ndrow”)

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

La Journée Féminine de l’Automobile


Colette Salomon in her Bugatti

France between the wars had a thriving women’s motorsport scene. As well as comparatively high levels of female participation in Grands Prix, rallies and other races, there were a number of dedicated women’s events. The best-known and longest-standing of these was the Paris-St. Raphaël Rally, which began in 1929. The competitions varied from celebrity gymkhanas to races for serious drivers in highly prepared cars.
One such contest was La Journée Féminine de l’Automobile, one of the biggest of its kind.

This event was held at Montlhéry, from 1927. It was organised by the newspaper, Le Journal, who promoted it and ran the Concours d’Elegance. The French Women’s Automobile Club also had a hand in it. The first event was officially started by the Duchesse d’Uzes, Anne de Rochechouart de Mortemart, who was the club’s founder, and the first French woman to obtain a driving license.

The first event was held on the twelfth of June in 1927. Contemporary reporting of the Journée concentrates mainly on the Concours d’Elegance part, which attracted both female motorists, such as the rally driver, Madame Mertens, and music-hall celebrities such as Mistinguett, who won one of the categories. There were cars bedecked with flowers, driven by members of the Women’s Automobile Club, cars and drivers in classical-themed decor, and interiors made from exotic materials.

Actual racing played a supporting role. There was at least one major race, a handicap, for which three prizes were awarded, for the overall winner (the Coupe de l’AC), the winner on scratch (Coupe du Journal) and a production car prize. As well as wheel-to-wheel racing, a prize was awarded for the best time in a speed trial. The drivers were a mix of enthusiasts and genuine racers, including Lucy O’Reilly Schell, Jannine Jennky in her Bugatti, the Belgian driver, Madame Mertens, in her Lancia, and Albertine Derancourt, in a Salmson. Colette Salomon, an actress and dancer who also raced, was crowned the winner.

The races were all handicaps, with the fastest cars being penalised. The handicapping was arranged the day before the Journée, and was carried out by a group of male professional racing drivers, who drove each car and assessed its chances.

The next Journée was held on the eighth of July, 1928. It incorporated a sprint speed trial as well as the handicap races. There were fewer established names this year, although Charlotte Versigny and Marie Depret, who later raced at Le Mans, performed well. This was also the competitive debut of Hellé-Nice, then still a nightclub performer. She was driving a Citroen.

A third Journée on the third of June, 1929, saw Hellé-Nice scoring her first win, in the “Grand Prix Féminin”. She won ahead of the favourite, Violette Morris, in a Donnet. This year, the blue riband event was the “Championnat Féminin”, run over 150km. There was also a “Grand Prix Féminin” of 50km in length. The Grand Prix was for the five fastest cars in the championship race. The focus of the 1929 event was more on the sporting side, the novelty value of an all-female race meeting having worn off. Marcelle Leblanc, a regular at Montlhéry at the time, won the Championnat, despite some disputes over handicapping from a Madame Le Bigot. Other famous names present included Lucy O’Reilly Schell and Gwenda Stewart.

By 1929, there were at least nine circuit races run, according to Miranda Seymour’s The Bugatti Queen. Le Journal in 1930 mentions a “Challenge” and “interclubs”. A club prize was certainly awarded in 1930, to a three-woman team from the Automobile Club de l’Île-de-France.

The 1930 meeting did not attract quite as many of the top names, although the grids were healthy. The event was retired for a year in 1931, and, according to Miranda Seymour and the documents of  Hellé-Nice, reappeared in 1932, for at least two more editions. At this point, Le Journal may not have been involved, as there is little reporting of the event in its pages, apart from a few references to a 1933 Journée, in a discussion of a one-make Renault series for women, held in 1939.

As well as motor racing, there was an array of other entertainment on show, including dancers, air displays and celebrity appearances.

Below are the available results of the major races.

1927
Coupe du Journal: Colette Salomon (Salmson)
Coupe de l’Auto Club: Marguerite Dupêchez (Amilcar)
Production car class: Madeleine Bachmann (Chatou)

1928
Coupe de l’AC: Mme Johnston (Steyr)
Coupe du Journal: Marie Depret (Lorraine)
Speed Trial, open cars: Charlotte Versigny (Bugatti)/Marcelle Leblanc (Peugeot)
Speed Trial, closed cars: Mlle Sauer (Amilcar)

1929
Championnat Féminin: Marcelle Leblanc (Peugeot 5CV)
Grand Prix Féminin: Hellé-Nice (Omega Six)
Speed Trial: two class wins for Violette Morris in two different cars, one for Madame Mertens.

1930
Championnat Féminin: Comtesse de Lesguern (Simca-Standart)
Grand Prix Féminin: Marion Rogée (BNC)
Coupe du Journal: Madame Véniel (Chenard-Walcker)
Interclub Challenge: Automobile Club de l’Île-de-France (Comtesse de Lesguern, Mlle du Verger, Mme Lemaitre)

This article was made possible by the Le Journal holdings at http://gallica.bnf.fr/
(Photo by George Hoyningen-Huené, first appeared in French Vogue in 1927.)

Friday, 8 April 2016

Female Single-Seater Drivers Around the World: Argentina


Maria Jose Lorenzati in 2013

In the past ten years, a number of female drivers have come through the junior single-seater ranks in Argentina. Some remain in open-wheel racing, whilst others moved into saloon-based competition. This post consists mainly of material split from the Single-Seater Drivers of the Americas post. Julia Ballario now has her own post.

Maria Abbate - Argentine driver who started in motorsport in 2007, at the age of 27. She contested two races of the Argentine Formula 4 (Formula Renault) championship. In 2008, she entered more races with the Casalins team, and was 17th in the final standings. The following year, she continued with Formula 4, driving for Scuderia Ramini, but could only manage 28th after a disastrous season with one finish. She also guested in the GT2000 Championship, driving a Scorpion, and scored her first career podium, a second at Olavarria. For 2010, she switched to saloon competition in the Top Race Junior series, and scored a best finish of twelfth at Salta, in her Ford Mondeo. She returned to GT2000 in 2011, in a Honda, but only appears to have driven a part-season, scoring no points. Her activities since 2010 have been curtailed by an injury she picked up during the Top Race season, and she has apparently retired.

Maria Jose Lorenzati - Argentine driver who has competed in Formula Renault since 2008. She began in the Interprovencial series, and was thirteenth overall, after some visits to the top ten. In 2009, she improved her finishing position to sixth. She maintained this position for the 2010 season, as well as stepping up to the more competitive Formula Renault Plus. In this championship, she was eighth. In 2011, she only managed to enter five races, and her final position suffered badly. She switched to touring cars in 2012, driving in the Argentine Turismo Nacional series in a Renault Clio. After six races, she was 32nd in the championship, with a best finish of fourteenth. As well as this, she had one guest run in Formula Renault Plus, although she did not finish. In 2013, she ran a limited schedule, with two races in TC2000 in a Peugeot 308. She also took part in one Mini Cooper Challenge race. The following year, she returned to TC2000, in a Fiat Linea. Her best finish was ninth, at Parana, and she was 24th overall. In 2015, she raced a Renault Fluence in TC2000, for a part-season, and was 28th overall. She was recently described as Argentina's most successful female driver. Language barriers have prevented more detailed investigation of her career.

Ana Paula Morales – raced in Formula 4 in Argentina in 2011, when she was eighteen. She took part in eight rounds of the series, and had a best finish of thirteenth, at La Plata, towards the end of the season. She was 41st in the championship, the first woman to race in Formula 4. Since then, she does not appear to have competed in circuit racing, although she may have done some karting.

Maria Jimena Oviedo – raced in Formula Renault in Argentina, in 2013 and 2014. Both times, she did part-seasons, driving for the Barovero Racing Team. Out of both seasons, her best finish was eleventh, in 2013, at Cordoba. In 2014, she managed a best of fourteenth, at La Rioja, and was 29th in the championship. She started karting in 2006, and did some saloon racing in a Fiat 128 before moving into single-seaters, in 2013.

(Image from http://www.diaadia.com.ar/)

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Samín Gomez


Samín Gomez is a Venezuelan driver, who until recently raced in GP3.

She was born in 1992, in Maracay. When she was seven, she started karting. After ten years of junior kart competition, she made the switch to cars in 2008, at sixteen. As a junior, she mainly raced in South America, but her first steps in single-seater racing were made in Asia.

She was supported for much of her career by the state-owned oil company of Venezuela, PDVSA, who were investing in motorsport quite heavily, most visibly for Pastor Maldonado.

Her 2008 season started with two guest spots in Formula Renault Asia Challenge, driving for the March3 team at Shanghai. She was twelfth and thirteenth in her two races. After a short gap, she reappeared in the Formula Asia 2.0 series, another Formula Renault championship. March3 entered her into the first five rounds, all held at Sepang. Although she was off the pace set by her team-mate, Felix Rosenqvist, who was the eventual winner, she did manage to get into the top ten twice, in ninth and tenth place. She was thirteenth in the championship.

An expanded season in Asian Formula Reanult followed in 2009, still driving for March3. Samín was in the top ten from the start, with a tenth and eighth place at Shanghai. By the end of the season, she had secured her first top five finish, a fifth at Zhuhai. She was ninth in the championship.

Driving for a different team, she also made a couple of appearances in Ford Formula Campus in China. She was driving for the “Perfect Beauty” team, and managed one third place, and a DNF.

Her third and final season in AFR was a very positive one. She drove for Top Speed Racing, and started off her campaign with a fifth place, at Zhuhai. Towards the end of the season, she had a run of three podium finishes, also at Zhuhai: a second and two thirds. She was third in the championship, her best-ever result.

It was time for a move into the higher-profile world of European racing. 2011 was a transitional year for Samín, who spent time competing in both Asia and Western Europe. On the European front, she signed up with EuroInternational for Formula Abarth, based in Italy. She was registered for both the European and the Italian championships, with her main focus being the European series. This was a rather mixed experience for her, starting with a tenth place at Valencia, with a highlight of one seventh place, at Monza, plus another tenth at the Red Bull Ring. She was 17th overall. In the Italian series, she was one place better, in sixteenth.

In Asia, she drove for the Jenzer team in Formula Pilota China. This was the beginning of a longer-term partnership between driver and team. Formula Pilota used very similar cars to Formula Abarth. 2011 was the first year it ran. Samín took over from Romanian driver, Robert Visoiu, half-way through the season. Her best finish was third, at Sepang, and she was tenth in the championship.

She continued with Formula Abarth in 2012, moving to the Jenzer team full-time. With a best finish of third, achieved at Imola and Valencia, she was sixth overall, just behind one team-mate, and ahead of another. Her performances were not completely consistent, but she showed improvement, and was normally in the top five.

After a solid, if unspectacular performance in tests at the end of 2012, Jenzer entered her into GP3 for 2013. This was a big step up and somewhat of a baptism of fire, and her best result was thirteenth, at Catalunya. The lowest point was probably her crash with Adderly Fong at Monza, although she was classified as a finisher. Fong ran over her wheel trying to overtake, causing his car to become airborne. Neither driver was hurt. She was unplaced in the championship, having not managed the necessary top-ten finishes.

In 2014, she made two appearances in Auto GP, at Monza. She finished one race in ninth place, driving for the Swiss Zele Racing team. Her second race was ended by a crash, when she was sent into the gravel by another car.

The following year, she had another try at GP3, racing for a part-season with the Campos team as their third driver. Unfortunately, she only managed a 16th place in Austria as her best position. There was additional unwelcome drama at the Red Bull Ring in June; Samín got caught up in a starting grid incident and sprained her wrist. In the second race, she received a penalty for speeding in the pitlane. These goings-on were only two of several incidents that year, which attracted criticism of driver discipline in the series. She was 30th in the championship.

After her 2015 run in GP3, she has not raced competitively. The sponsorship from state-owned Venezuelan oil company that she relied upon dried up, due to the worldwide economic downturn.

(Image from http://hoyvenezuela.info/)

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Charlotte Berton


Charlotte (right) and Sabrina de Castelli with the Porsche 997 in 2015


Charlotte Berton has been French ladies’ rally champion four times, between 2010 and 2012, and in 2014.

Her rally career began in earnest in 2005, when she was one of the winning young drivers selected for the Rally Jeunes competition, alongside Sebastien Ogier. The following year, she was supported by the Peugeot factory, and competed in the Volant Peugeot one-make cup. Her car was a 206. It was a tough year for the whole Volant Peugeot field, as that season was marred by a series of accidents, involving both participants and spectators. It proved a steep learning curve for Charlotte, who was 26th in the Volant Peugeot standings. Her best result was thirteenth in class, in the Antibes-Azur National Rally. She was 30th overall, which was another personal best. Away from the championship, she had the honour of driving her Peugeot as a course car, in her “home” event, the Rouergue-Aveyron Rally.

A second season in the Volant Peugeot series seemed to suggest that the 206 did not really suit Charlotte. She could only manage a class fifteenth in the Le Touquet-Pas de Calais event, and 40th overall, as her best result. She was 30th in the championship.

A final year in the 206, in 2008, gave her a fifth in class in the Critérium des Cévennes, but she was only 97th overall. Her second attempt at her home rally sadly ended in a crash. She was not registered for Volant Peugeot points this year.

It was time for a change in 2009. She took a sideways step into the Suzuki Rally Cup, driving a Swift. Her new regular navigator was Cécile Pagès, the beginning of a partnership that still occasionally competes together. It was a decent debut in the Swift, and Charlotte improved steadily as the season progressed. Her best Cup finish was fifth, in the Rallye Le Touquet-Pas de Calais. She was 53rd overall. Her best rally, in terms of outright results, was her home event of Rouergue-Aveyron. She was 43rd, and sixth in class. At the end of the season, she was eighth in the Suzuki series.

2010 continued in a similar fashion, with Charlotte continuing to inch her way up the Suzuki standings. This year, at the Critérium des Cévennes, she scored her first Suzuki podium, finishing third. Her overall position was 45th. She also managed three more fifth places, and was fourth in the championship. This was enough to secure the first of her French Ladies’ titles.

In 2011, she mainly competed in the French Tarmac championship, mostly in the Swift and the Suzuki Cup, although she switched to a Ford Fiesta later in the season. This year, she won her first Cup rally, the Lyon-Charbonnières. She was 73rd overall. Two more Suzuki podiums gave her second in the championship. One of these was a third in the Rallye Antibes Côte d’Azur, in which she was also 23rd in the combined standings. She used the Fiesta in the Rallye du Var, and was 43rd.

At the start of 2012, she entered her first WRC round: Monte Carlo. She was 48th, ninth in class, in the Swift. That year, Charlotte moved away from one-make competition, although she continued to rally the Swift. In it, she won her class in the Rouergue-Aveyron Rally, and was 56th overall. Her other car this year was a Peugeot 207, which she did not get to drive much, although she finished the Lyon-Charbonnières Rally in it, in 57th place. She won a third Ladies’ title, and was 19th in the French Tarmac Championship.

A works drive beckoned for her in 2013, albeit not for one of the championship teams. GM were  using their new Opel Adam model to promote environmentally sound rallying, and picked Charlotte as one of their faces of eco-motorsport.. Her first outing was running as course car in the Rallye Le Touquet, but she was soon in action at the Lyon-Charbonnières. Her best overall finish was 27th in the Criterium des Cévennes, and she was also 28th in the Rallye National de la Plaine. Her new regular co-driver was Charlène Gallier. During the winter, she was also a guest driver in the Andros Trophy.

In 2014, she carried on rallying the Adam, and regained her French Ladies' championship, from Charlotte Dalmasso. Her best overall result was 35th, in the Limousin Regional Rally, and she was in the top twenty French Tarmac championship drivers on two more occasions. Her final position was fifteenth in the French Tarmac series.

The end of 2014 was something of a turning point in Charlotte’s career. She was becoming increasingly frustrated with one-make championships, and driving cars that had absolutely no chance of challenging for the top positions. Her Ladies’ titles were a consolation, but as her only real rival in 2014 was Charlotte Dalmasso, it was only a small one. The second factor that influenced her change of direction was one over which she had little control; a communications company pulled the plug on her sponsorship for 2015, and left her seriously lacking in funds, as well as some of her own money. Her deal with Opel France also ended abruptly.

For much of 2015, she did not rally at all, but the Yacco 2B team gave her a chance in September, offering her a seat in their Porsche 997 for the Mont Blanc-Morzine Rally. GT rallying in France was still quite new, but growing, and she relished the opportunity to drive a powerful car. In between, as preparation, she entered the Rouergue-Aveyron Rally in May. Her car was a Renault Clio. Although she liked the car, a mechanical problem meant that she could not finish the rally. She had set at least one top-ten stage time.
The Mont Blanc Rally was a worthwhile exercise. It was overshadowed by the death of a driver, but was allowed to finish. Charlotte won the GT10 class from six other drivers. She picked up another Coupe des Dames for her collection, and was 31st overall.

The Porsche drive did not lead to any more rally entries, but in October, Charlotte went back to the Clio. She was also reunited with Cécile Pagès as co-driver. The Clio suited Charlotte’s driving style, and she was 25th in the Criterium des Cévennes, seventh in class. At the end of the season, she was 30th in the Amateur Trophy, and 38th in the French Tarmac championship.

Since then, she seems to have made a move into the world of rally raids. In November 2015, she travelled to Qatar to take part in the FIA Women in Motorsport Cross Country Selection. The winner would receive a supported drive in the 2016 Sealine Cross-Country Rally. Initially, she was not one of the three winners, but Molly Taylor dropped out, and Charlotte will take her place, co-driven by Yasmeen Elmajed. She also plans to do some French tarmac rallies, and make her annual appearance in the Rouergue-Aveyron Rally.


(Image copyright DDM)