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Women driving motorsport

Exploring some of the women who live life - quite literally- in the fast lane

Contrary to popular opinion, women drivers have long held pole-position with their male counterparts. For decades, women have forged successful paths at the world’s road rallies, Formula One Races and Grands Prix.

Michèle Mouton

Once dubbed ‘the fastest girl ever' (1), French rally driver Michèle Mouton long held a great passion for driving and is often quoted as saying ‘I didn’t choose motorsport; motorsport chose me’ (2). She began her career as a rally co-driver aged 22 and it wasn’t long before she shifted seats to a life behind the wheel.

In 1980, Mouton’s career shifted into top gear when Audi surprised the racing industry by choosing her (over her male rivals) to drive their new Audi Quattro for the 1981 season (3). The car that would revolutionise motorsport was now in control of the ‘fastest girl’ and things would never be the same again. Mouton competed in the World Rally Championship for Audi and cleared an impressive four victories.  She is famously the first woman to have won a world championship in rallying.


As one of the very few women to shine in top-level rallying, Mouton recently became the first president of the FIA’s Women & Motor Sport Commission, and was appointed FIA's manager in the World Rally Championship in 2011. An exciting role model, Mouton continues to inspire new generations of both men and women in motorsport.

Leena Gade

It’s undoubtable that Michele Mouton’s legacy was of great influence to a young Leena Gade. Record-breaking Gade was the first female race engineer to win the Le Mans 24 Hours for the Audi Sport Factory Team. No mean feat considering the race is the most prestigious endurance sportscar challenge in the world. As lead engineer, Gade deals with strategy, drivers and mechanics, manages fuel and pit stops and analyses the data. And the responsibility for all of this rests firmly on her shoulders (4).

Gade admits to a teenage obsession with motorsports. As a youngster, she feverishly followed the careers of superstar drivers Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell (5). Audi took her on in 2007, and the first taste of delicious victory followed in 2011. Gade has now won Le Mans three times and with no shortage of focus, ambition and determination, it’s safe to assume that further victories in endurance racing are on the horizon.

And if Mouton helped inspire a young Leena Gade, she herself plans on doing the same for young girls today. Her infectious passion for racing is raising interest among schoolgoers and she has a number of young fans, both male and female. Gade believes in giving back and despite how busy her schedule is, she is generous with her time, even making time to judge national school science and engineering competitions (6).

Mouton and Gade are just two of a number of women doing great things behind the wheel but thanks to their inspirational stories there should be no shortage of turbo-powered females entering the fast lane today.

Tanya Sweeney

Watch the video or read more to find out about the campaign that's challenging the meaning of 'women drivers' and get involved.

1. Imanullah, Riklyasa "Group B Rally: Michèle Mouton, The Fastest Girl Ever"

2. Kamal, Hassan M "On track with Michèle Mouton, the fastest woman car rallyist"

3. Whitten, Peter “Interview: Michele Mouton" RallySport Magazine.

4. Richards, Giles "Leena Gade's long road to success as a female motorsport engineer" The Guardian

5. Moore, Covy "Lady Le Mans: Leena Gade ready for third Le Mans win"

6. Richards, Giles "Leena Gade hungry for Audi victory in World Endurance Championship" The Guardian