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Divina Galica


Whiting Surtees-Cosworth TS19


Brands Hatch


Round 11, 1977 Shellsport International Series (29 August 1977)


Unlucky No.13 is a very unusual starting number, the FIA and several other race organizers conspicuously avoiding appointment of the number. In fact, the history of excluding No.13 as an entry number goes back to 1926, when Giulio Masetti died in a Maserati carrying the No.13 when taking part in the Targa Florio. Since then, the number is not issued by organizers of motorsport events, even though a driver has the right to request it.

Which is exactly what Divina Galica did when entering the Shellsport International Group 8 series for second-hand F1, F5000 and F2 machinery and second-rate drivers, unofficially called the "British F1 championship" but essentially a F Libre series. For 1978, the series would grow into the Aurora AFX championship, a 12-round series which lasted until 1980 and in the meantime provided the few remaining traditional British non-championship F1 events such as the Race of Champions and the International Trophy with healthy grids.

In the 1976 British GP Galica had the honour of reintroducing the dreaded No.13 to the Grand Prix world, entering her Whiting-run Surtees TS16 from the Shellsport series, after the number was issued only once before: to Moises Solana at his home GP of 1963. As for the No.13, it's not the only number acting as a bad-luck charm. Back in the eighties, Satoru Nakajima refused to take the No.4 Tyrrell, even though this was the logical choice for a number two driver. As 4 is Japan's unlucky number, Europeans Jonathan Palmer and Jean Alesi had no trouble in relieving Naka-san of the curse hanging over his head...

In 1977, Divina's team boss Nick Whiting acquired a TS19 te replace the ageing TS16. The new car had been the works team's spare and featured an intrinsic vibration the team crew mischievously called Trimmer's Tremor, after their most feared opponent in the championship. She raced the car for the first time at Brands during the 1977 Race of Champions. This edition certainly had a class entry. Contrary to 1976 Ferrari failed to show up, but the field still comprised of several British-based World Championship regulars entering single cars for Hunt (McLaren), Peterson (Tyrrell), Scheckter (Wolf), Andretti (Lotus), Watson (Brabham), Regazzoni (Ensign), Brambilla (Surtees) and Ribeiro (March), mixed with the finest the burgeoning British F1 racing scene could provide. As said, Galica entered her TS19/04 chassis, with Tony Trimmer's Melchester entry taking the 05 tub.

Other local heroes who would only enter Championship races on occasion that season were BRM with Larry Perkins, Rupert Keegan in the Hesketh, Purley in the LEC Pilbeam, with RAM Racing entering Dutchman Boy Hayje. Meanwhile, Bob Evans did a one-off in the Hexagon Penske. The event even saw a one-time return to the cockpit by Jackie Oliver, taking a remarkable 5th for Shadow only months before deciding to split up with the team to form Arrows. Another Shellsport regular, Brian Henton in his British F1 Racing Team March 761, did rather better than Trimmer and Galica, Henton finishing 4th, one lap down on winner James Hunt.

The return to Brands in August for a round of the Shellsport series proved bitter-sweet for Divina, as she remembers it still as the race of her life. On a sad note it was the event that took Brian McGuire's life, the Australian crashing his McGuire BM1-née-Williams FW03 at Stirlings in the warm-up. On a high note, it was the race Galica started from the front row, outdragging poleman Trimmer's similar Surtees into Paddock and pulling out an enormous lead in the early part of the race, in the process setting fastest lap of the race on lap 3. She immensely enjoyed leading an F1 race before the feared Trimmer Tremor came back with a vengeance, a blistered tyre badly affecting her handling by mid-distance, to the point Galica thought she had a puncture. Divina was first caught and passed by her nemesis and then by Emilio de Villota, who also had taken Trimmer at the start and had severely defended Galica's lead before the Spaniard had to succumb to Trimmer's pressure. Thus the man to beat took another win, with Galica taking a well-deserved third, just as she did at Snetterton the race before.

Later in the year she went one step up with a second at Donington, after reeling in Trimmer but coming up a lap short. It was proof of what a greatly enlarged budget could do. Before acquiring sponsorship from Olympus the team had done the whole season on a 10,000 pound budget, according to Nick Whiting. Still, the Whiting crew were essentially a bunch of enthusiasts, eager with jealousy over the fact that Tony Trimmer was an engineer! With no idea how to dial out the 04 chassis' vibration and intrinsic understeer they just carried on with it, even though Trimmer could see the danger of what turned out to be a tyre flexing under the pressure of a fast corner.

Galica only entered a couple of World Championship events and essentially remained an F1 driver in the Tony Trimmer mould. Two entries in the 1978 Hesketh team, on its back feet after it was cut loose by Lord Hesketh and Harvey Postlethwaite, remain her most serious attempts: here she is seen failing to qualify for the Argentine GP. After that she reverted to her trusted TS19 to enter the fledgling Aurora championship mid-way at the Zandvoort Whitsuntide race, emulating her best result ever. Then she swapped the Surtees for a McLaren M23 with which she returned to the series, only to take a poor seventh at Thruxton in September.

With Desiré Wilson taking over ladies' honours in the Aurora championship, Divina effectively bowed out of her single-seater career, a part season of F2 followed by the step into sportscars and later truck racing. In the nineties she went back to embrace her old love, as Galica once started her sporting career as an alpine skier, competing at the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Winter Olympics. In the 1972 edition at Sapporo she finished seventh on the Giant Slalom discipline, for which she was granted an MBE. A guest drive in a 1974 celebrity race at Oulton sparked off her racing career. Within two seasons she sat in an F1 car, combining it with S2000, the national sports racing category in which she took 10 wins in 1977. Galica's need for speed is ever-present, as she converted to speed skiing in this decade, to become the seventh fastest woman on skis with a speed of 119.4 mph!