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Motorsport is among the few sporting activities where you find both men and women competing alongside each other. However, women are often under-represented and under-reported in racing competitions. Nonetheless, you can look at the history of motorsport, and there’s a clear record proving women can excel in motorsports. In recognition for their feats, here are 4 of the most successful and talented female racing drivers over the years.
1. Pat Moss
In the UK, motorsport has been there since the start. And Pat Moss, a pioneer in Motorsport racing, comes from there.
Everyone who knows about racing legend Stirling Moss probably also knows about his sister Pat Moss. But she was epic all on her own, even without that family link. In 1958, she impressively took fourth place at the RAC Rally. It was a big deal given the huge event spanned a lot of Great Britain and back then it was known for being unpredictable for weather, leading some drivers to slide or even get out of control.
It is from then that Pat Moss changed the perception of women on motorsport’s racing. Especially as she continued to race. That same year, she took fourth in the Liege-Rome-Liege Rally. In that race, she was driving an Austin Healey 100/6. With that win, Moss becomes the first woman who ever finished top 10. Her successful rally career continued through the ‘60s.
2. Michele Mouton
When talking about female racing drivers’ excellence, the name Michele Mouton comes up naturally. She is a four-time World Championship Rally winner. Wow.
This French trailblazer first became interested in rallying in 1972, through her friend Jean Taibi who asked her to help him practice for rallies. Her dad soon suggested she switch to driving instead as he wasn’t a fan of Taibi’s car. He bought her a car, specifically a Renault Alpine A110. It was under the under the promise that she would make a name in motorsport for herself within a year. And so she did.
Michele Mouton became the first woman to win a world championship. As a female racing driver outnumbered by men, she took four championship rallies during her awesome career. She was the first woman to win a World Rally Championship (WRC), and still holds the honor of being the last female to do so. It was 1981, and her co-driver was Fabrizia Pons.
Mouton also claimed nine podium finishes, won a bonkers Pikes Peak Hill Climb and 160 stages win. It’s important to note here that motorsport rally was not for the faint of heart at this time; it took courage, and people died in these races. Pikes Peak, for example, had no guard rails and several drop-offs.
Driving among some of the most enduring cars in the history of motorsport rally, the name Michele Mouton was a driver who was up for a challenge.
3. Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick is a motorsport legend. Born in Wisconsin, she has been in the motorsport for over a decade.
One of the coolest things about Danica is that her curricular activities include FHM photoshoots and appearing in various hip-hop videos. Having received some misogynistic abuse, she didn’t lose hope and chalked her feet on the racetrack. She had a chance to battle with IndyCar and NASCAR – the world’s best.
She rose in standings to become Rookie of the Year in the 2005 IndyCar Series and also in the 2006 Indianapolis 500. Also among her success in motorsport, she won the 2008 Indy Japan 300, making her the first woman to win an IndyCar series race. Then, she continued to blaze ahead, racing stock cars in 2010.
Come 2011, she had stopped IndyCar racing to take on stock racing full-time. Her determination is amazing as one of the leading female racing drivers in history. Before retirement, she was in two huge 2018 events – both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500 that year.
4. Keiko Ihara
With a passion for motorsport, Keiko Ihara started her racing career in 1999, leaving behind her position as a race queen. She was one of the first female racing drivers in Japan and remains among a handful of women from Japan who race internationally at such a top level.
She rose up the ranks in a male-dominated sport. In 1999, she got the title of Most Improved Driver in the Ferrari Challenge Championship when she got the 8th spot out of 120 entrants from around the world.
It could be said that she carries the same pioneering spirit as her home country that is known for its technological firsts. For example, Keiko Ihara was the first woman ever to get a podium finish in the WEC (World Endurance Championships) in 2014.
Also that year, she was the first Asian woman to finish the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s oldest sports car race for endurance drivers. All this just one year after being the first female racing driver in the FIA World Endurance Championship of 2013.
Final Words on Female Racing Drivers
So, the next time someone questions whether men and women have equal abilities in motorsport, well, you can point out any of these women (and there are many others!) to illustrate the answer is a firm YES.
Are there other women in sports history that you would like us to write about? Or a list of top women in a certain field? Let us know in the comments below.