To celebrate the 2020 International Women’s Day, we take a look at the history books to acknowledge and recognize the female drivers that have raced in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
The celebration of International Women’s Day, celebrated every 8th of March, proved to be a focal point in the movement for women’s rights across the world. The day allowed the world to not only recognize the achievements made by women, but also brings up awareness to the obstacles that women had to face in order to achieve equality in their everyday life.
For NASCAR, the history of female drivers’ participation in the sport has been started ever since 1949. On that year, Sara Christian, Ethel Mobley, and Louise Smith all competed in NASCAR’s inaugural Cup Series season with Christian notably finishing 5th in the penultimate race of the season, a result that still stands to this day as the highest ever finish by a female driver in the Cup Series.
Since then, many other female drivers such as Janet Guthrie, Patty Moise, Tammy Jo Kirk, Shawna Robinson, and Danica Patrick have all achieved various levels of success in the sport, with drivers such as Hailie Deegan and Natalie Decker are currently looking to make their claim as the future female stars of NASCAR.
Within the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, the history of female drivers competing in the sport have started since before the series achieved official sanctioning from NASCAR with Carole Perrin’s participation in Euro Series’ three pre-NASCAR seasons. In total, 19 female drivers from around the world have competed in NWES since 2012, with one other female driver is scheduled to make her debut in the series this year.
In today’s special article, we’re going to take a look at all the female drivers that have taken part and achieved success in the series, including those who are going to make her debut in the 2020 season.
As previously mentioned, Carole Perrin has been a part of the series ever since the first ever race in 2009 and she would become one of the 2 female drivers that competed in series’ inaugural race in the NASCAR era three years later. An experienced open wheel racer before she made the jump to stock car racing, Perrin’s pre-NASCAR era days saw her becoming the first – and so far only – female driver to have ever scored a win in the series when she was awarded the victory in Race 2 at Aragon in 2011 after initial race winner Romain Iannetta received a post-race penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Ander Vilariño.
Racing mostly in her white-and-pink No. 42 Autosport 42 car, she continued to race in the series following NASCAR’s takeover of the series and made history in 2012 as the first – and also only – female driver to achieve a podium finish in the NASCAR era of the series. Her 3rd place finish in Race 1 at Spa that year remains to this day as the highest ever finish by a female driver in the series under NASCAR’s official sanctioning.
Nathalie Maillet, the current CEO of Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, is the second female driver that competed in the series and the only Luxembourg driver to have ever raced in NWES. Despite her current high-profile role in the sport, she didn’t start racing until 2003, when she’s 33 years old. Maillet raced in EuroNASCAR for three full seasons between 2012 and 2014 for Racing Club Partners and Marc VDS Racing Team, competing in the Elite (present-day EuroNASCAR PRO) class in her first two seasons and in the Elite 2 class in 2014 before retiring to focus on the business side of things.
Interestingly, during her three-year stay in the sport, Maillet always finished 12th in the final standings. In 32 starts across both divisions, she achieved 4 Top-10 finishes with a best finish of 6th, a result that she achieved twice in her final season of racing.
The first Spanish female driver to compete in the sport, Zihara Esteban became the youngest female driver in the series when made her debut at just 18 years and 25 days old during the series’ first ever oval race at Tours in 2012. During her brief stay in the series, Esteban participated in 8 races and achieve a best finish of 10th twice in her second season in the sport before she made the decision to switch to rallying in 2014.
French GT Championship and rallycross veteran Caty Caly made a one-off appearance in the series during the 2013 season opening round at Nogaro. Driving for Perrin’s Autosport 42 team in the Open (present-day EuroNASCAR 2) class that week, she finished 17th in her first race before scoring a Top-10 result in the second race.
Michelle de Jesus
Michelle de Jesus, the first Brazilian female driver in the series, also made a one-off appearance in the series during the 2013 season. Her sole participation came in the second race at Dijon, where she would finish 13th in the second Open class race at Dijon after starting from 20th on the grid.
Just like Caly and de Jesus, Jessica Amendola also made a one-off appearance in 2013, this time during the series’ only ever visit to Monza in the Open class. While she only managed to start the second race at that round and finished one lap down in 18th, she would be remembered as the series’ first ever Italian female driver, thus opening the path for the likes of Erika Monforte, Francesca Linossi, and Arianna Casoli to compete in the series.
The first of the Italian female drivers to compete full-time in the series, Erika Monforte debuted in 2014 and competed alongside her brother Simone in their self-entered Eurokart Racing Team No. 88 car. Easily noticeable because of the Eurokart’s distinct green and pink livery, she competed in 19 races across three seasons and scored two 7th place finishes on her way to become the inaugural Lady Trophy winner in 2014. Her 10th place finish in that year’s Elite 2 standings also made her the first female to finish in the Top 10 in the final standings across both of Euro Series’ main divisions.
Italian sports car ace Francesca Linossi made a brief yet memorable appearance in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. Initially competing for CAAL Racing in 2014 before moving to DF1 Racing and later GDL Racing in 2015. During those two seasons, she made quite the splash in the series as in 18 starts, she scored 9 Top-10 finishes – more than anyone not named Carole Perrin – and also finished 9th in the 2015 Elite 2 standings, which to this day remains as the highest ever championship finish by a female driver in Euro Series’ two main divisions.
An unfortunate, yet interesting trivia about Linossi is that she is miscredited by Racing Reference as the driver that scored the pole position in the first Elite 2 race at Brands Hatch in 2014 when it’s her DF1 teammate, fellow Italian Marsilio Canuti, that got pole on that race. She also took part in the qualifications to compete for the inaugural W Series season last year and passed through the evaluation phase before she was eventually eliminated after the testing phase.
Gabriela Arantes Prado
Gabriela Arantes Pardo made a brief appearance in the series in 2015, racing alongside Linossi and Perrin as one of the three female drivers that raced full-time in the Elite 2 class that year. Unlike Linossi and Perrin who regularly raced for the Top-10 positions that year, Arantes Prado’s career in EuroNASCAR was less than stellar as she regularly finds herself on the back of the field and never scored a finish above 16th place, although her full-time participation was enough to secure a 15th place finish in the final standings.
Michela Cerruti has raced practically everything in her racing career, from open wheelers to Formula E to sports cars and touring cars. Stock car racing is also included in this list thanks to her brief cameo at Brands Hatch in 2015, where she competed in the Elite 1 division as the driver of Double T’s No. 9 car. Sadly, her only appearance in the series led to two DNF’s, although her sole appearance that year would mark the last start by a female driver in Elite 1 for nearly four years.
Easily the most experienced female driver in the series, Arianna Casoli is going to enter her fifth full-time season in the series in 2020. Originally racing for Dario Caso’s Vict Motorsport, she switched to CAAL Racing’s No. 54 team mid-season and has raced for the No. 54 team in the Elite 2/EuroNASCAR 2 class ever since.
One of the more popular drivers in the series, Casoli is the two-time and defending winner of Euro Series’ Lady Trophy classifications and with 47 starts on her name, she is currently sitting in 4th in the EuroNASCAR 2 division all-time starts list. While defending the Lady Trophy is her main goal once again this year, she will also enter the 2020 season with the possibility of becoming Euro Series’ most experienced driver in the EuroNASCAR 2 class should she never skipped a race in 2020.
Carmen Boix Gil
Carmen Boix Gil, the first Spanish female driver to race full-time in the series, achieved considerable success in her stay in the series as she won the Lady Trophy in both seasons she competed in. She also scored some notable results in the series, most notably scoring a Top-10 start in her first two races at her home race in Valencia and 5 Top-10 finishes in 24 starts.
She left the series at the end of the 2018 season in an attempt to compete in the inaugural W Series season, although she was eventually eliminated after the evaluation phase.
Jennifer Jo Cobb
A veteran owner-driver in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and perhaps the most recognizable name in the list for NASCAR fans, Jennifer “JJC” Jo Cobb became the first American female driver to race in the series after she made several trips to Europe for the last two seasons.
JJC made her first appearance at Valencia in 2018, driving Racing-Total’s No. 10 Chevrolet SS in the Elite 2 class. Her Euro Series debut would eventually lead to her Euro teammate that year Justin Kunz to race JJC’s No. 0 Chevrolet Silverado in the Truck Series race at Mosport. Her return at Valencia the following year was supposed to be part of a bigger campaign where she originally planned to compete for the majority of the season, but Marko Stipp’s full acquisition of Racing-Total and its subsequent rebranding to Marko Stipp Motorsport would put those plans to a halt.
To compensate this, JJC and Hubertus Heyman – Racing-Total’s former owner – worked together a deal with Alex Caffi Motorsport to allow JJC to make her debut in the Elite 1 division as the driver of Caffi’s No. 1 Mustang at Brands Hatch. While it would ultimately prove to be a difficult one for her as she retired from both races at Brands Hatch, her Elite 1 debut meant that two female drivers competed in the same Elite 1 race for the first time since 2013.
The first female driver to compete in Euro Series’ regularity-based class Elite Club (present-day Club Challenge), Jennifer Maas made two starts in the 2018 Elite Club season, both times driving the same No. 10 Racing-Total Chevrolet SS that JJC driven in her debut Euro Series race. Maas finished 7th and 5th in her two starts in Elite Club that year, although we should point out that entry list size for Elite Club was – and still is – extremely small in comparison to the two main classes of Euro Series.
DTM’s only female race winner Ellen Lohr made a surprise announcement in January 2019 that she would be unretiring and race in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2019. Driving for DF1 Racing’s No. 99 Chevrolet Camaro in the Elite 1 class, she became the first female driver to race in Euro Series’ top division since Cerruti’s 2015 Brands Hatch appearance.
While her debut season was eventually cut short due to funding related issues, it proved to be a wild one. Her season started with a literal bang following a heavy start-line incident with Mauro Trione at Valencia, but she bounced back to finish 14th place in an attrition-filled second Elite 1 race at Franciacorta. Ellen’s best results came at Most, where she finished in Top 15 on both races and also claimed the bonus points for the most positions gained in Race 1.
Michaela Dorcikova, “Slovak Racing Girl” and the manager of WEC team ARC Bratislava, made her first official professional race outing in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series last year when she competed for Alex Caffi Motorsport in the team’s No. 1 Ford Mustang at Hockenheim. She recovered from a spin in her first ever race in the series to finish in 17th place, although she was forced to retire from Race 2 after she got taken out by Dario Caso late in the race.
Austria’s Alina Loibnegger became the first female driver to compete full-time in Elite Club when she made her debut in the series last year. While she would finish last out of the 6 drivers that competed full-time in Elite Club that year, she brought home a historic podium finish at the Hockenheim round where she finished 2nd behind Manami Kobayashi to lead the first 1-2 finish for female drivers in Euro Series’ regularity-based class. It remains to be seen if she’s going to follow the footsteps of her teammate Alain Mosqueron and move up to NWES’ two main divisions in the future.
One of the three female drivers that competed in Euro Series’ regularity-based class Elite Club last year, Nadine Vollekier competed in Elite Club’s first round at Valencia and at the final round in Zolder. She scored respectable results in both rounds, beating Elite Club regulars Callum Cripps and Loibnegger at Valencia and tied in total points scored with EuroNASCAR 2-bound Giovanni Trione and Alessio Bacci at Zolder.
While Manami Kobayashi has been a long-time mainstay in the paddock as Kenko Miura’s partner, she only made her first on-track appearance at Hockenheim last year when she entered that week’s Elite Club round driving the same Alex Caffi Motorsport No. 2 car that Miura drove that season. Despite this, it was a highly successful debut week for Kobayashi as she went on to claim the victory at Hockenheim and along with Loibnegger, led the first female drivers 1-2 finish in Euro Series’ regularity-based class.
Julia Landauer, the former K&N West (present-day ARCA Menards Series West) star and Survivor contestant, is currently set to become the 20th female driver to race in the series and the first American female driver scheduled to race full-time in the series. Landauer first gained notability in the 2016 K&N West season, when she fought admirably against future NASCAR national series race winners Todd Gilliland and Noah Gragson and finished 4th in the final standings after scoring 7 Top-5 finishes.
Another relatively successful year in K&N West would follow before she competed in NASCAR Pinty’s Series on a part-time basis for the last two years. Landauer’s scheduled participation in the EuroNASCAR 2 class this year is going to be her first full season of racing in two years and with her driving for Euro Series powerhouse team PK Carsport, she’s certainly going to be one of the drivers to watch in Euro Series’ junior division this year.
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard.