Car racing has been a predominantly a male pastime, but there have been many women that have made a name for themselves past and present. Here I highlight some of the most talented (and beautiful) women that I have come across that have graced the car racing scene. If I have missed anyone out, please let me know.
In no particular order.
Danica Patrick (USA)
First woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 (2005), highest finish by a woman in the Indianapolis 500 (3rd in 2009) first woman to win an Indy car race (Twin Ring Motegi, 2008), and the highest-finishing woman in a NASCAR national touring series (4th place at last weekend’s Las Vegas Motor Speedway Nationwide Series race). While certainly not the first lady to compete at this level, she’s definitely the one who has opened the floodgates for others to follow.
Milka Dunno (Venezuela)
Milka Duno is a Venezuelan race car driver who currently competes in the Indy Car Series. She is best known for holding the record of highest finish for a female driver in the 24 Hours of Daytona. Duno is a former model and has thus attracted much attention. Her racing career is unusual because of her late start. She was introduced to the sport when she was invited to a driving clinic by a car club in Venezuela and did not start racing until she was 24. Prior to racing her background was primarily academic. Duno holds master’s degrees in Organizational Development, Naval Architecture, Maritime Business, and Marine Biology, and she has prior experience working as a naval engineer.
Courtney Force (USA)
The statuesque 22-year-old has lots of seat time in a Top Alcohol Dragster, just as big sister Ashley did before moving up. In fact, it was Ashley who has been tutoring her in the finer points of wrestling a nitro-gulping, carbon fiber-bodied beast down the dragstip.
Brittany Force (USA)
Brittany earned her NHRA competition driver’s license in 2003 after graduating from Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School. After suffering a mild concussion when her BrandSource dragster hit the guardwall during testing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway prior to the start of the 2007 season, she enjoyed her most productive outing when she was one of the last 13 Super Comp survivors from an original field of 103 at the CSK Nationals at Phoenix, Arizona.
Susie Stoddart (Scotland)
Born December 6, 1982 in Oban. Stoddart is a Scottish racing driver. She was British Woman Kart racing driver of the Year in 1996. Competed in Formula Renault UK from 2002. In 2003 was a finalist in the BRDC McLaren Autosport young driver of the year Award and selected as BRDC Rising Star. From 2006 has been racing for Mercedes in the German touring car series DTM.
Cyndie Allemann (Switzerland)
Born April 4, 1986 in Moutier. A Swiss female racing driver, who began her career in karting, she moved to cars in 2004 in Formule Renault 2.0 Suisse and finished 6th. The next year she moved to the more highly regarded German championship for the same cars and finished 12th. In 2006 she moved up to the Formel 3 Cup, finishing in 9th place and winning the pole position at EuroSpeedway Lausitz. The following year she drove in the Formula Three Euroseries for British team Manor Motorsport racing a Dallara-Mercedes, but despite participating in all 20 races, failed to score points and was not classified in the season standings.
Rahel Frey (Switzerland)
When Mercedes-Benz driver Pierre Levegh and more than 80 spectators perished in an accident during the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans, the fallout was huge. Switzerland actually banned motor sports altogether, a ban that remains in place to this day. But that hasn’t stopped some inhabitants of the landlocked nation taking up racing as a career, including 25-year-old Rahel Frey.
With wins in Swiss Formula Renault (a series whose races are all run outside Swiss boarders, of course) and German Formula 3 (the first woman to win in that series) as well as A1GP and FIA GT1 World Championship on her resume, this wavy-haired, blue-eyed cutie will be contesting her first DTM season at the wheel of an Audi A4 this year. Her motto is apropos for any racing driver: “Go fast and never give up.”
Ashley Force Hood (USA)
After graduating from Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School, she spent two seasons in the entry-level Super Comp class and three more in Top Alcohol Dragster before becoming just the 10th woman in NHRA history to earn a license to compete in the Funny Car division. In Top Alcohol, she won five NHRA national events including the biggest event in the sport, the 2004 U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind.
Notable: Ashley was a Top 10 finisher in national points in each of her three seasons in Top Alcohol Dragster. When she won the 2004 World Finals at Pomona, Calif., she shared the winners’ circle with her dad as the first father-and-daughter champions in the history of the NHRA series. Now, she has moved up to race against her father at the wheel of one of the most challenging vehicles on the planet – an 8,000 horsepower Funny Car.
Leilani Munter (USA)
When you think of auto racing, you don’t usually expect to see environmentally-conscious vegetarians showing up at the track, a place where fermented dinosaurs are wantonly burned and superheated livestock parts are ingested by the truckload. But Leilani Münter not only shows up at the track, she races. The Minnesota native has competed in stock car racing at levels ranging from local short track to ARCA, and competed in what’s now the Firestone Indy Lights Series in 2007.
Not surprisingly, Münter is a big proponent of alternative fuels in racing, and when she isn’t suited up and behind the wheel, she’s behind a microphone speaking on behalf of environmental and animal rights organizations and agitating for the creation and passage of green legislation. She’s also the sister-in-law of The Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir and used to body double for Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Catharina Felser (Germany)
Born October 2, 1982, a German race car driver born in Siegburg, North Rhine-Westphalia. Catharina started her career in karting during 1997, moving up to Austrian Formula Ford in 2000. Her performances there resulted in one race in German Formula Ford, also during 2000. In 2001 she competed in German Formula BMW.
Felser continued to advance her career, stepping up to German Formula Three in 2002, driving for the van Amersfoort and KMS teams. She moved to the Trella team in 2003 before leaving the series and single-seater racing in 2004, joining the German Seat Leon Cupra Cup to drive the number 16 car.
Alison MacLeod (USA)
Born June 29, 1989. Since stepping foot into her first go-kart at age 7, Alison’s passion in life has been to go racing. Graduating from 4-cycle sprint karts to 80cc shifter karts by age 11; Alison proved she was not just a competitor but a champion. By 2004 Alison had racked up numerous championships and caught the attention of Ford Racing as an up-and-coming competitor.
Alison was given the opportunity to showcase her talent in the Ford Racing Sponsored Driver Development Program managed and operated by renowned open wheel car builder Bob East, of B. East chassis. Competing in the USAC Ford Focus division Alison scored her first victory in 2005, just 3-weeks after her 16th birthday.
Alison has again proven herself in 2009 with another successful season in the USAC Regional Midget Division. Alison scored 2 victories in her first Regional Midget season, along with 2 more victories in 2009. Alison continues to hold the title of USAC’s Winningest Female Driver in history.
For the 2010 season, MacLeod was looking for funding to run in the NASCAR Canadian Tore Series or ARCA.
Madalena Antas (Portugal)
Racing through the desert is not for the faint of heart. Rough terrain, dust, sweltering temperatures, venomous critters, and bandits are just some of the things that can ruin your day. But that hasn’t stopped Portugal’s Madalena Antas from making a name for herself, blasting over the dunes in Nissan pickups and SUVs. The 34-year-old Antas is actually following in the footsteps of her late mother, Teresa Cupertino De Miranda, by competing in the Dakar Rally and other rally raid events. She’s also a painter and, more relevant to the purposes of this list, off-the-charts gorgeous.
In putting together this blog post I came across many useful websites, most comprehensive for information was the Speedqueen blog.
Who have I missed out? I am sure there are many more talented female racing drivers. Let me here form you…