International Women's day is many things – a cause for celebration, a reason to pause and re-evaluate, a time to honor loved ones, a time to remember, an excuse to forgive and forget or a reason to get inspired to do extra-ordinary things.
Team OnCars, marks this beautiful day for the ever luminous being by compiling the names of some of the most iconic women drivers of all-time for their abilities, achievements and courage and who have proven throughout history that they can be just as fast behind the wheel as a man and can lap out, race out and leave many male drivers behind in the dust.
A man may have invented the wheel, but a woman too, knows how to spin it. Therefore, we salute to the finest creation of almighty in the name of fast cars and racing.
Lyn St. James
St. James has had an accomplished IndyCar career. In her forties, she qualified for and drove in her first Indianapolis 500 in 1992. She became only the second women in the history of the IndyCar circuit to qualify for the race and to complete the tough course, finishing eleventh in a starting field of 33 professional drivers. Her real success comes from closed-wheel racing though; she bagged two victories at the 24-Hours of Daytona, one at the 12-Hours of Sebring and two entries at Le Mans, among other achievements. Furthermore to her racing accomplishments, St. James is also a write-columnist, teacher, businesswoman and a professional piano player.
Image credit – caranddriver.com, indianapolismotorspeedway.com
Marietta Helene Delangle or as she was later known Helle Nice was born on December 15, 1900 in France to some pretty unassuming parents. The lovely woman didn't start out as a racecar driver, intact she started her career as a model and a dancer. She had the opportunity to participate in a race at a local fair put on by Parisian entertainers and she loved it. So much so that after breaking her knee in a skiing accident she began racing full-time. She would go on to meet Ettore Bugatti and join his roster of factory-backed drivers. Her career was however, cut short after she was involved in a life-threatening accident in Brazil in 1936. She took a year off before returning to racing in France until World War II broke out. At her first postwar race event, she was accused of being a Gestapo spy by Louis Chiron. This ended her racing career. But while she was at it, Helle had undoubtedly, lived an exciting life as a dancer/model turned race car driver from about 1916 to 1929 and also managed to buy her own home and a yacht – something, women in that era, just didn't do!
Image credit – hellenicefoundation.com, espnfi.com
Donna Mae Mims
Donna Mae Mims or more popularly known as the “Pink Lady” for her penchant for pink helmets, pink jumpsuits and pink cars usually embellished with the phrase “Think Pink” was known best for her early racing career. She was the first woman to win a SCCA Championship in 1963 behind the wheel of her pink Austin Healey Sprite and continued racing for another 12 years. She participated in the fourth and final cross-country Cannonball Run, but did not finish due to a teammates crash. Adrienne Barbeau portrayed her in the 1981 movie version of the race. The automotive world lost its iconic “Pink Lady” on October 6, 2009 as Donna Mae Mims died of complications from a stroke at the age of 82. Besides her fondness for the color pink, Mims was also known for her blonde hair, gorgeous looks and aggressive driving, always charging and never letting the boys push her around during her 14-year racing career.
Image credit – Photographer Bill Ray; autoblog.com
Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney
“Cha Cha” Muldowney is the first woman to receive a license to drive a top fuel dragster by the NHRA and bagged the NHRA Top Fuel Championship in 1977, 1980 and 1982. She has been christened the “First Lady of Drag Racing.” In 1984 after getting involved in a horrific crash “Cha Cha” returned to the drag strip in the late 1980s. She continued to race, mostly with without sponsorships, throughout the 1990s in IHRA competition, as well as match-racing events. She is ranked No. 5 on the National Hot Rod Association Top 50 Drivers list and in 2004 she was included into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. In 1983, actress Bonnie Bedelia starred in a film titled “Heart Like a Wheel” that covered the life and racing career of “Cha Cha” Muldowney.
Image credit – photographsbydarrell.com
Born in 1982, Danica Sue Patrick is probably the most well known female driver in the modern times who is inspiring millions of female drivers around the world. She is well know for her on the track performance and a highly accomplished resume in the IndyCar and NASCAR circuits and also for her off the track ad campaigns and appearances. Danica set a record for the highest finish ever by a woman in the Indy Car at the Indianapolis 500 circuit in 2009. In 2005, Danica was named the IndyCar Rookie of the Year and for three of the last four years she has been IndyCar's most popular driver. After balancing being full time competitor in the IZOD IndyCar series and as a part-time driver in the nationwide series, she has made the leap full time to NASCAR in 2012. Danica will now compete in the nationwide ranks while making her debut in the Sprint Cup Series.
Sabine Schmitz came to the attention of the world because of her outrageous skills behind the wheel of a BMW M5 Ring Taxi at the Nurburgring in Germany. The hot-footed Schmitz drives adrenaline junkies around the Ring at high speeds and gets paid for it. She is so good at her job that she has earned the nickname “Queen of Nurburgring.” Her speed-frenzied accomplishments do not end with her taxi job. She won the 24-Hour race at the Ring in 1996, beaming the first woman to do so and has also won 45 races at the Nordschleife.
Image credit – twbrit.com
Born in Caracas, Venenzuela, Milka Duno is the first Latin American women driver ever to be classified as an expert driver. Apart from being featured on covers of magazines worldwide, Duno has proved year after year that she is one hell of a race driver. Milka competed in Grand-Am and ARCA among other series before heading to IndyCar in 2007. She was only the third female driver to start an IndyCar race when she debuted in 2007 and competed in three Indy 500s. She is the first woman to win a Ferrari Challenge race in the USA, first woman to race the fastest cars in the Open Telefonica World Series, the first woman in history to ever finish in the American LeMans Series racing a Dodge Viper GTS and securing the third place, first woman to win an overall a major international sports car race in North America and many more. In addition to being a racecar driver, Duno is a naval engineer who holds four master's degree and has published a book for young children on the impact of an education.