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F1's only female winner



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Desiré Wilson


Brands Hatch Racing Williams-Cosworth FW07


Brands Hatch


1980 British GP (qualifying)


Every once in a while the average F1 fan wonders why there aren't any women in Grand Prix racing. Sure, these days you can spot loads of babes in the Whoah! category hovering the pitlane area, even in times when it's near impossible to get your hands on an access-all-areas pass for the weekend. It seems you need other credentials nowadays, preferably two of them. But in the end, the image of a killer babe, clad in the tightest of fire-proof overalls, actually and truly sliding into an F1 cockpit and put in a quick one to reach the sharp end of the grid is even more appealing to many of us - the small female crowd of followers notwithstanding. Imagine Eddie Jordan hiring Melinda Messenger to take on Michael Schumacher on even terms! I bet he wouldn't dare taking her off at the last corner...

But although Bernie Ecclestone might be attracted to the idea, there hasn't yet emerged a single female driver who combines talent with publicity-pleasing good looks. Some thought we got close when Italian blonde Giovanna Amati tried to qualify a Brabham in its last year of competition, while others might disagree.

It's a completely different story with South African Desiré Wilson, a fierce lady driver who was only in F1 for the sport. Up until now, she is the only woman who can claim to have won a post-war F1 race. Shame it happened to be a Aurora AFX race... (so "a race open to F1 machinery" might be a better way to describe it).

Desiré only once entered a World Championship race, the 1980 British GP, held at the venue where she won the second round of the Aurora championship just three months before. For the British GP she abandoned her regular Aurora steed, a Theodore-run Wolf WR3. Instead she stepped into an FW07 entered by Brands Hatch Racing. The same model was also driven by the other private entrant of the event, 1979 Aurora champ Rupert Keegan, who took the wheel of the No.50 entry shared by RAM Automotive and WPGE.

Only Keegan featured well in qualifying, lining up a cool 18th in his semi-works RAM car, actually ahead of a certain Gilles Villeneuve. Desire failed to qualify for her Championship debut, finishing Saturday qualifying dead last, half a second behind a certain Keke Rosberg and only a second behind the reigning World Champion, who qualified a lowly 23rd for a Ferrari team hitting another one of its low patches.

Desiré went to the States later on and became involved in the CART pace car programme. Her last competitive outing was in the now-defunct North American Touring Car Championship.