Women Take the Wheel in the Supercar Industry


With gender clichés rapidly becoming a thing of the past, discover the proud tradition of women in motor racing and supercars


by Julian Roup for Barnebys, the world’s leading auction aggregator

There is a quiet revolution underway in that bastion of male dominance – the car industry – say Barnebys, the auction house search engine that monitors classic car sales around the world.

Barnebys, a Swedish owned company which offers no fewer than 1,600 auction houses under one roof, makes it dead easy to see who is selling what classic car where and for how much (besides art, wine, whisky, jewelry and many other collectables). The company has been tracking the gender change that is bringing the male dominated car world into the 21st century.

Barnebys points to a key moment when Anna Maria Peduzzi, one of the greatest female racecar drivers of the 1950s, became Ferrari’s first female driver. She was the first woman to have raced for Scuderia Ferrari, the most successful racing team in history. The sad story behind the great yet enigmatic Peduzzi, is that little is known of her today, even her exact death has never been confirmed. Peduzzi competed in over 50 races at a time when motor racing was something of a blood sport, with no seat belts, lightweight helmets and no power-assisted steering or brakes. As a woman, Peduzzi’s strength on the track would have been considered something of a spectacle at the time.

In 2014, women had been out of F1 for 22 years, which all changed when Williams announced that Susie Wolff would be the first woman since 1992 to take part in an official F1 session. Prior to Wolff, Giovanna Amati for Brabham, at the Brazilian Grand Prix, was the last woman to compete in an F1 race weekend.

In F1, women have not only been behind the wheel, but at the helm as in 2012 Sauber made Monisha Kaltenborn F1’s first female team principal.

Born in Dehradun, India, Kaltenborn’s family emigrated to Vienna when she was a child, where she took Austrian citizenship. In 2000, Monisha started at Sauber’s legal department, where she moved up the ranks to become CEO in 2010. In 2011, Peter Sauber, the team principal at the time, gifted Kalteborn 33.3% of the team’s equity, a sign that she would take on his role.

Other great women drivers include Helle Nice of Bugatti fame, maybe the greatest of them all, also Pat Moss, sister of Sterling Moss won the Monte Carlo Rally back in the late 50s and early 60s. and Divina Galica, a British female F1 driver who competed in the late 1970s. She wasn’t that successful in F1 because her car wasn’t very competitive but she’d been very good in saloon car racing, having previously been a member of the UK Winter Olympic team.

Women have also been making their presence felt in the car design. Last year, 34-year-old Michelle Christensen designed the new Acura NSX, which was made to compete with Ferrari. Christensen was the first female exterior designer at Acura, with her career in car design beginning in 2002 when a determined Christensen took night classes in car design to earn her a place at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design’s automotive design programme.

Michelle’s first job was as an intern at Volvo and by 2005, just ten years later she was hired by Acura and her redesign for the NSX was applauded by her industry peers.

For 20 years, Alexandra ‘’Sandy’’ McGill has been the lead colour designer for the BMW Group DesignWorksUSA. McGill is responsible for designs for BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and is the creative genius behind iconic colours which have adorned some of the world’s most popular and desired cars. A lot has changed for McGill since she first joined BMW.

‘’When I got to Munich [with BMW] in 1991, there were only two women in my design group, now there are many more.’’

Petrol heads it seems no longer only come in one gender.

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