Top 10 Most Famous Female Racers of All Time

Top 10 Most Famous Female Racers of All Time

The top 10 female racing and rally drivers of all time includes entries from all over the world, including perhaps an unknown heroine or two, and a few historical pioneers. was included. But a look at the cold, hard statistics about the best and fastest women of the time reveals a different picture. Without trying to draw an equation between the Brookland races and rallies of the 1930s and modern racing, even in modern times the proportion of women’s success in motorsport is much greater than we realize. It has become.

These drivers were the best, not the first, most popular, or most important. This list is biased towards Europe, with half of the riders here being active in her 1970s. Compared to youngsters in F1 academies and W Series, who are not far along in their careers, they are much older, often reaching peak performance in their 30s or later, and may not take up the sport until adulthood.

Like recent World Endurance Championship contenders, including Iron Dame, they are often most successful in sports cars or partnered with co-drivers in rally cars. Interestingly, all-female teams have proven to be almost as successful as mixed teams.

There are only 10 spots on this list, and inevitably one of the 10 he deserves will be left out. The top 20 would have looked completely different and even more widely spread across eras and countries of origin. The argument has disappeared. After all, that’s the point of this article, and it just shows the strength that exists on the female side of motorsport.

10. Annie-Charlotte Varney

Most important success: 6th place at Le Mans in 1981

The record for the most starts for a female driver at Le Mans is also held by the highest-placed female finisher in the modern era. Nine of her ten appearances in Porsches between 1974 and 1983 were self-driven, with a 935 K3 that she shared with Bob Garretson and Ralph Kent-Cooke serving as her vehicle for 1981. Driving in both mixed and all-female teams, Verney did barely enough to finish outside the top 10 in 1975 when driving a Carrera RSR alongside Yvette Fontaine and Corinne Tarnaud. As Joel Gouhier and Vic Elford’s teammates, she spent her last 24 hours in a working Rondeau, but they were unable to complete.

Her career included stage rallies, rally raids, sportscars, and touring cars. It concluded in 1990 with a last run in the Spa 24 Hours. This was in a Nissan Skyline driven by Hideo Fukuyama and Naoki Hattori, both of Japan, and they finished in 12th place.

Verney escaped getting stranded in the desert with Mark Thatcher during the 1985 Dakar, during the rally-raid phase of her career, and went on to compete once more for Mitsubishi and Mercedes. On this list, her name is the only one that had a character appearance in The Crown.

Verney preferred all major endurance tests, but Le Mans was always her greatest event and produced her best results.

9. Yvette Fontaine

Key success: 1969 Belgian Saloon Car champion

At the wheel of a much-copied yellow-and-green Chevron Ford Escort, Fontaine, 23, won the Zandvoort and Zolder races to claim the overall Belgian sedan title. This came as a surprise to those who had been following her since the beginning of the year, when she was shunted out of the team to replace Jackie Ickx.

This was her only championship for Fontaine, but she won two more races in 1970 in Belgian Limousine and again in Escort. Another highlight for her in 1969 was her victory in the Division 2 European Touring Car race held at Zandvoort. Although her sponsorship did not necessarily extend to many international races, she tried many Escorts and Capris, sometimes alongside Hanelore Werner in German Ford colors.

Sponsorship was always tight for Fontaine, but his relationship with Chevron led to his participation in Le Mans in 1974. The Seiko-sponsored team of Fontaine, Christine Beckers and Marie Laurent finished 17th overall in their Ford-powered Chevron B23. Win their class. Before ending her professional career in 1975, she won her class again with the Le Mans Women’s Team, finishing 11th with Verny and Corinne Tarneau in the Porsche Carrera.

8. Janet Guthrie

Key Results: 1978 Indianapolis 9th place in 500

For several decades, the Indianapolis 500’s highest female finisher was the same woman who started the race in 1977. Guthrie made it onto the starting grid on her third try, and she managed to hang on for 190 laps, ending inside the top 10, ahead of Mario Andretti and Johnny Rutherford. There was general hostility at the time because women were not even allowed to access the Indianapolis pitlane.

Guthrie finished two places in the top ten over her four-year, eleven-race career, but she never had a sufficient amount of time behind the wheel to prove her worth. Her highest placing in Milwaukee in 1979 was seventh.

This engineer, nuclear physicist, and prospective astronaut candidate had experience in sportscar racing. In 1966, she drove a Sunbeam Rapier as a member of the all-female “Ring Free Motor Maids” squad, and she was among the first women to start the Daytona 24 Hours. She won the much more masculine NASCAR after winning her stripes in Indycar, helped along by banker Lynda Ferreri and Charlotte promoter Humpy Wheeler, who entered a car even though she had no experience with motorsports and only thought the team was a good idea.

Guthrie raced between 1976 and 1980, with a best finish of sixth at Bristol in 1977. It is still the greatest finish for a female driver; Danica Patrick achieved the same thing in Atlanta in 2014.

7. Bryner Lilian

Key success: 1st at Spa 24 Hours in 2004

Bryner, one of the less well-known people on the list, was never given the opportunity to compete alone; instead, he was always a member of a team. This Swiss woman, a former Olympic equestrian and airline pilot, started racing in her forties, first with her partner Enzo Calderari in Porsches and later in Ferraris. They raced a Ferrari 333SP for BMS Scuderia Italia from 1998 to 2001, sharing the car with various co-drivers. They won a race in Spa in 2000 and finished sixth in the Sports Racing World Cup.

Bryner would have his best on-track moments at Spa. She and her teammates finished second in the 2003 Spa 24 Hours, just losing to a smaller GT2 vehicle in the wet, after trading in the aging prototype for a 550 Maranello GT car. She shared the victory in the race with Calderari, Fabrizio Gollin, and Luca Capellari the next year. They had taken the lead before the 12-hour mark and were the only team still on the lead lap.

Bryner participated in four Le Mans races, driving Porsches in 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1997. She still holds one of the finest female results of the modern era with her ninth place finish in the 1994 event.

6. Danica Patrick

Key success: 1st at IndyCar Twin Ring Motegi round in 2008

Despite being an unpopular figure off the track, Patrick is the only female Indycar race winner. Due to a portion of the grid being at the CART Long Beach race, an inevitable clash during the IRL/CART reunion year, her 2009 victory in the Indy Japan 300 at the wheel of an Andretti Green car is sometimes ridicule as a lucky win. However, she defeated competitors like Helio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon, and Scott Dixon with a combination of astute pitstop strategy and wet-track skills.

During her five seasons with Andretti, she finished on the podium five more times, including third place at the 2009 Indy 500. In her first attempt at the Indy 500 in 2005, she broke Janet Guthrie’s record of 9th place with a 4th place finish. She wasn’t always a consistent driver, but she was a capable one. Although she wasn’t one of the true indie legends like Castroneves or Wheldon, she more than held her own.

In 2012 he moved to NASCAR and drove for his team Stewart-Haas. Although she was able to finish inside the top ten most years, it was clear that her single seater was her real strength. However, she also showed promise in sports cars, finishing eighth in the 2009 Daytona 24 Hours in a Pontiac Prototype alongside Andy Wallace, Casey Mears, and Rob Finlay.

5. Lella Lombardi

Key success: 6th in the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix

Being the first (and so far only) woman to score a point in Formula 1, Italian Lombardi will always be the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question. However, since the race was truncated due to Rolf Stommelen’s horrific accident, she only scored half a point. Between 1974 and 1976, she drove an F1 car, generally a March, but her accomplishments were not great, which was reasonable given her tight budget and the lack of training this required.

But the quiet and enigmatic Lombardi was more than just a brave Formula One gambler who had been swept away by Motor Racing Developments’ wizardry thanks to John Webb. She has three World Sportscar Championship wins to her credit in addition to being the inaugural Shellsport Ladies’ Escort Challenge racing series winner. She won the Enna-Pergusa 6 Hours in 1979 while driving an Osella PA6 with Enrico Grimaldi. Four laps ahead of her closest competitor, she repeated the victory at Vallelunga with Giorgio Francia.

In 1981, the Osella PA8 combination of Lombardi and Francia won one more race, the Mugello 6 Hours.

He made three starts at Le Mans, peaking in 1977 when he finished 11th alongside Christine Beckers in an Inalterra prototype. The previous year, she and Christine D’Clemont drove a pink Lancia Stratos for the all-female team Aseptgil, finishing 20th.

4. Pat Moss

Key Achievements: Won the 1960 Liège-Rome-Liège Rally

   Although Moss won three significant international rallies during her career, what really set her apart was how successful she was in both the high-speed rough-stuff era and the calculated regularity era. Her victories in the 1962 Baden-Baden Rally and the 1966 Sestriere Rally came from an agile Mini Cooper and a more refined Lancia Fulvia. Her driving in the Liege-Rome-Liege was in a works Austin Healey 3000, which is considered a beast of a car.

From an early age, she was a very good equestrian competitor; had she dedicated to rallying over horses more quickly, she might have won much more. She was never one to slow down, even after dating the renowned Swedish driver Erik Carlsson. She had been working for more than 20 years when she eventually announced her retirement in 1975.

3. Wilson with Desire

Main achievement: 1980 Aurora F1 Brands Hatch race saw the first female driver win a race using F1 machinery.

Although he was a pioneer, South African Wilson was also a class act, and this was never meant to be a list of firsts. Her attempts to qualify a RAM Williams FW07 for the British Grand Prix were severely hindered by a last-minute car adjustment; one qualifying session was not enough to get the hang of ground effect and she did not start. However, strong Aurora F1 finishes as well as her 1980 race win in a Wolf led to a chance at an F1 championship race.

Openly sceptical of female drivers, Ken Tyrrell saw Wilson’s ability and extended an invitation for her to drive in the 1981 South African Grand Prix, which was held as a non-championship event because of the FISA-FOCA disputes. She finished the race in sixth place after getting into a fight with Nigel Mansell on lap 51. Tyrrell extended a seat offer to her for 1982, but she was unable to get enough sponsorship to accept it.

Both adaptable and blazingly fast, she drove Alain de Cadenet’s De Cadenet-Ford prototype to two World Championship for Makes wins in 1980—the Monza 1000km and the Silverstone 6 Hours. She also gave IndyCar a shot, besting her performance with a 10th place finish at Cleveland in 1983.

2. Kleinschmidt, Jutta

Key success: winning the Dakar Rally in 2001

The last known Paris-Dakar was an arduous 6600-mile a marathon that took place between the two cities across France, Spain, and the Sahara desert. Germany’s Kleinschmidt triumphed by two minutes and 39 seconds over her Mitsubishi teammate Hiroshi Masuoka, showing the value of persistence and consistency.

Again, this triumph was no fluke; penalties to Masuoka and Jean-Louis Schlesser, her strongest opponent and former partner and teammate, helped her. Prior to scoring a final podium for Volkswagen in 2005, she had finished third for Mitusbishi in 1999 and second for the company in 2002.

In addition to winning the Baja Deutschland outright in 2001, she also achieved several stage podiums. Kleinschmidt originally followed the Dakar on her own bike without entering the race officially, which is how she got involved with rally raids using motorcycles.

She continued to compete in rally raids until 2016, when she finished fifth in an X-Raid Buggy at the Sealine Qatar event. She went back to the dunes in 2021 at the age of 59 and raced in the all-electric Extreme E series, initially for the Abt Cupra XE team and subsequently as a backup championship driver.

1. Michele Mouton

Key success: 2nd in thee World Rally Championship in 1982

It’s never easy to overestimate four World Rally Championship victories and the possibility of competing in a major FIA series. Mouton’s victory in the 1981 Sanremo Rally, the first for the Audi Quattro—which would go on to become even more legendary than she—seemed to have launched her into stardom and possibly marked the beginning of the era known as Group B, which was eventually disastrous. She was able to challenge Opel driver Walter Rohrl for the championship in 1982 after wins in Portugal, Greece, and Brazil; however, a roll in Cote d’Ivoire destroyed her prospects, and she had to settle for second.

This was no simple instance of better equipment destroying rivals either: Mouton won rallies with an Alpine-Renault A110, a Fiat 131 Abarth, and a Porsche 911 between 1973 and 1981. She left the WRC and went on to win the 1986 German title driving a Peugeot 205 T16. Her Audi swansong the previous year was a triumph in the Pikes Peak hillclimb, the first ever for a woman, a European, and a rally car driver. Although she was more at ease on the rougher surfaces, she could also drive a sportscar and, in 1975, she and Christine Dacremont drove a Moynet-Simca to victory in the Le Mans class.

She later founded the Race of Champions and was for many years president of the Young FIA Women’s Motorsport Committee.





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