Ten awesome women drivers

Throughout history women have proven they can be just as fast behind the wheel as men. Yesterday, we asked Jalopnik readers who they thought were the most iconic women drivers. Here are some of the women they singled out for their abilities and courage.

(Ed note: Yesterday we singled out Michèle Mouton as our personal pic, which is why she isn't on the list.)

Welcome back to Answers of the Day — our Jalopnik summer feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!

Photo credit: The Selvedge Yard


10.) Lyn St. James

Suggested By: Jstas

Why She's An Icon: St. James had a relatively accomplished Indycar career, being one of just seven women in history to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Her real success comes from closed-wheel racing though: she has two victories at the 24 Hours of Daytona, one at the 12 Hours of Sebring, and two entries at Le Mans, among others.

Photo credit: Youtube


9.) Jutta Kleinschmidt

Suggested By: Crossdrilled

Why She's An Icon: Jutta has been rallying from somewhere in Europe (usually Paris) to Dakar since 1988, when she started competing in the motorcycle class. She got a second pair of wheels and switched to cars in 1994, winning her first stage in 1997 (a first for women, as well). In 1998 she got on the podium for the first time, and won the entire Dakar Rally in 2001. She is the first woman to have done so.

Photo credit: Youtube

Ten awesome women drivers


8.) Donna Mae Mims

Suggested By: Jagvar

Why She's An Icon: The Pink Lady was notorious for her all-pink racing suit and pink-pained cars. She was the first woman to win a SCCA Championship in 1963 behind the wheel of her pink Austin Healey Sprite, and would continue racing for another 12 years. In 1979, she participated in the fourth and final cross-country Cannonball Run, but did not finish due to a teammate's crash. She was portrayed by Adrienne Barbeau in the 1981 movie version of the race.

Photo credit: Jim's Garage


7.) Shirley Muldowney

Suggested By: Deomon-Xanth

Why She's An Icon: Ms. Muldowney is the first person, male or female, to win the NHRA Top Fuel Championship three times (in 1977, 1980, and 1982). She was the first woman to get a license from the NHRA to go Top Fuel racing, period, in 1973. A major crash sidelined her from 1984 until the late 1980's, but she came back and kept racing up until her retirement in 2003. She was always an exciting racer, and if you're looking for excitement and drama, do not miss the above clip of the Championship Final in 1982.

Photo credit: Youtube


6.) Simona De Silvestro

Suggested By: SennaMP4

Why She's An Icon: Anyone who can qualify for the Indy 500 after suffering second degree burns on their hands only a few days before is a hero in my book. She's only been racing in the Indycar big-leagues for about a year and a half, but Simona is already showing some speed, placing in the top ten on several occasions.

Photo credit: Youtube

Ten awesome women drivers


5.) Hellé Nice

Suggested By: Gamecat235

Why She's An Icon: In the early 1920's, Ms. Nice left her small French village and set out for Paris. There, she started a career dancing and modeling. 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 would be cut short when 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 event, the 1949 Monte Carlo Rally, she was accused of being a Gestapo spy by Louis Chiron. This ruined her career, and she died some years later in a filthy apartment in a back alleyway in Paris, completely destitute.

Photo Credit: BugattiBuilder


4.) Women in Saudi Arabia

Suggested By: $kaycog

Why She's An Icon: While everyone else on today's list may have an impressive racing record behind the wheel, these women in Saudi Arabia are fighting just to get a record at all. Their struggle last week and for years before then is inspiring to all of us.

Photo credit: Youtube


3.) Denise McCluggage

Suggested By: geistkoenig

Why She's An Icon: Ms. McCluggage was a fixture at races during the 1950's and 1960's. She is a journalist, driver, and editor, and is generally awesome. Her white helmet with black polka dots was her trademark, and was seen speeding to a first place finish in the GT class of the 1961 Sebring 12 Hours, behind the wheel of a Ferrari 250. She won her class at the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally in a Ford Falcon, and participated in the 1000-km race at the Nürburgring, among others. She would go on to become editor of AutoWeek, and promote skiing here in the United States. (In addition to having 1959-era Denise in it, the above clip is excellent because it also features Betty White and a housewife named Mary Wall, who is from my home town. You'll be glad to know that Dobbs Ferry does now have its own school.)

Photo credit: Youtube


2.) Danica Patrick

Suggested By: DasWauto

Why She's An Icon: Sure, Danica gets her share of flak from the public. "She's not fast enough, she spends too much time complaining and posing in Sports Illustrated, and not enough time winning..." But when you think of women in modern motorsport, her name is first to mind. She's the face of women being competitive and taking it to the boys, and she really hasn't been a slouch behind the wheel, either: Rookie of the Year in 2005, a win in Japan in 2008, third place in the 2009 Indy 500 and fourth at a Nascar race in Las Vegas earlier this year.

Photo credit: Youtube


1.) Sabine Schmitz

Suggested By: IamDashSR

Why She's An Icon: Let me count the ways. Sabine came to the attention of the world because of her outrageous skill behind the wheel of a BMW M5 Ring Taxi at the Nurburgring in Germany. She's made appearances on Top Gear, famously hustling a diesel Ford Transit Van around the circuit in just over 10 minutes. She won the 24 Hour race at the Ring in 1996, becoming the first woman to do so. Sabine, we tip our hats to you, because you are awesome.

Photo credit: Youtube