All Group B rally fans have heard of the famous phrase coined by Juha Kankkunen: “WRC is for boys, Group B was for men.” This was however quite untrue, albeit not for its comparison to the WRC-class, but to the fact that Group B had seen the sport’s best ever female driver to date: “The Black Volcano” herself – Michèle Mouton! Also known as the First Lady of Rallying” and “La Femme qui Dérange” (due to often emasculating her male counterparts), Michèle came closest to winning the WRC driver’s championship than any other woman, finishing only 12 points behind Walter Rörhl in 1982. Mouton was the first woman to win a major title in the sport by clinching the German Rally Championship in 1986.
QUICK BROWSE CONTENT
- PERSONAL SUMMARY (WRC)
- RALLY BIOGRAPHY
- GROUP B RESULTS (WRC)
- RALLY VICTORIES (WRC / ERC)
- AWARDS / ACHIEVEMENTS
PERSONAL SUMMARY (WRC)
Michèle Mouton was born on June 23rd 1951 in Grasse, a town on the French Riviera known for its perfume industry, close to the mountain stages famously featured in French rallies. Although Mouton began driving her father’s Citroën 2CV when she was 14 years old, she did not turn her interest to rallying until 1972, when her friend Jean Taibi asked her to practice the Tour de Corse with him. Mouton later co-drove for him in the 1973 Monte Carlo Rally, the first-ever event in the newly formed World Rally Championship (WRC).
After a few more rallies as a co-driver, Mouton’s father suggested a switch to driving if she wanted to continue a career in rallying, and promised to buy her a car and give her one year to prove herself. Michèle thus debuted at the Critérium Féminin Paris-Saint-Raphaël in 1974, driving the best rally car that France had to offer at the time: a Renault-Alpine A110.
In the World Rally Championship, Mouton made her driver debut in by finishing 12th in the Tour de Corse. At the end of the year, Mouton was crowned both French and European ladies’ champion. Re-entering the Tour de Corse the following season, she took seventh place. Michèle successfully defended her ladies’ titles, and also competed in circuit racing in an all-female team with Christine Dacremont and Marianne Hoepfner – winning the two-litre prototype category of the 1975 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Recalling the race in 2008, Mouton said: “It started to rain I remember, and I started to pass everybody. I was running on slicks. In the pits they were saying ‘Michele you must stop’, but I did not want to because I was passing everyone.”
Her good results attracted a major sponsor in the form of the French oil company, Elf. In 1976, Mouton drove her A110 to 11th place in Monte Carlo and retired at the Rallye Sanremo. At the Tour de Corse, her debut in the newer A310 also ended in retirement. She did however finish second at the Critérium Alpin, her best result of the year.
For the 1977 season, Mouton traded her A310 for a Porsche 911 Carerra RS as part of her first attack on the European Rally Championship (ERC). Michèle would sign her first ever rally win at the RACE Rallye de España with the car, also finishing second in three other rallies, which saw her finish in second place overall in the ERC behind Bernard Darniche.
In 1978, due to her good results, Fiat France signed Mouton to partner Jean-Claude Andruet in the team. She was reportedly not impressed by the handling of the Fiat 131 Abarth, stating it was “like a big truck, not a car” and “terrible to drive”. However, the car would prove successful and Mouton put in very consistent results, also winning the Tour de France Automobile event. Mouton would continue her good performances with the Fiat for the 1979 and 1980 seasons, netting a string of podium finishes.
In 1980, Audi Sport, Audi’s new factory team, called Mouton and signed her for testing and a future WRC programme for the 1981 season. Mouton described Audi’s call as “a complete shock”. Audi’s decision to nominate her instead of established male rivals attracted a great deal of publicity for the German team. The Audi quattro was the first rally car to have both a turbocharger and four-wheel-drive, but had not yet gained FIA homologation.
Audi could therefore only enter rallies as “zero cars” and not as competitive entries. Hannu Mikkola debuted the car in the Algarve Rally in October, and would have won by about thirty minutes had his times been officially registered. Mouton joined Freddy Kottulinsky for the final round of the Finnish Rally Championship, the Northern Lights, and also showed encouraging pace on the slippery surfaces.
Mouton initially found the car understeering, but became more comfortable after switching to left-foot braking, as advised by Mikkola who was in charge of testing development the car. With a planned homologation in Group 4 for the quattro, Audi announced their participation in eight events in 1981, although Michèle would not be entered in the Swedish Rally due to her lack of experience on driving on ice and snow.
Mouton’s first competitive run in the quattro in Monte Carlo ended before it had even begun. She withdrew from the event before the start due to apparent engine problems. The team later discovered that dirt had gotten into the fuel system. At the Portugal Rally, she started her long partnership with the Italian co-driver Fabrizia Pons. Michèle won seven stages and took a career-best fourth place in a WRC event.
After a retirement due to a broken camshaft in the Tour de Corse, Mouton set several fastest times at the Acropolis Rally in Greece. While Mikkola was leading and Mouton fifth, the stewards excluded the quattros citing homologation infractions. Although Audi protested, the stewards upheld the decision. In her debut in the high-speed 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland, Mouton found it hard to get used to the rhythm changes. She recorded a few top-ten stage times and finished 13th.
At the Rallye Sanremo in Italy, a mixed surface event with tarmac and gravel, Mouton took the lead when the local star Michele Cinotto crashed and held off Henri Toivonen and Ari Vatanen to take the victory. This marked the first time that a female driver had won a WRC event in rallying. Mouton’s male rivals were left speechless. Mouton recalled her first win in a 2008 interview for RallySport Magazine:
“I remember not just because it was a win, but also because it was a big fight right into the last night. Fabrizia reminded me the other night that we had a problem with the brake pads, so we lost a lot of time. We finished three days rallying (with one day to go), night and day, 32 seconds in front of Ari Vatanen. We drove the last special stage for the night, came back to the hotel and I could not sleep at all, four hours in front of me and no sleep. Then I arrive at the special stage, it’s about 42km long, and I look at Fabrizia and I said “OK, we forget everything, and we are at the first stage of the rally again, because one of us will crash.” And so Ari hit a rock, and we won the rally.”
In the season-ending RAC Rally in Great Britain, Mouton continued her good performances by running third at half distance, despite having been uncomfortable about competing in a rally where pacenotes and practice runs were not allowed. However, her quattro later incurred gearbox problems and she retired from fifth place after sliding off the road into a snow-filled ditch.
Mouton would later state: “For me, rallying is England. No pacenotes – just you in the car having to do the fastest time. This, to me, is rallying. OK, it was not easy for me because I did not have any experience of the British championship, but it is really rallying. I like it very much.”
Mouton finished the season in eighth place in the drivers’ championship, while Audi was fifth in the manufacturers’ standings. The following year would hail the arrival of the Group B regulations, albeit most of the competition would remain mostly Group 4 cars in the transition year.
1982 – The fight for the driver’s championship
Mouton’s 1982 season started with a big accident at the Monte Carlo Rally. On stage twelve in the small town Briançonnet in Provence, she hit a patch of ice and slid off the road, crashing into the stone wall of a large house at 110 km/h (70 mph). Mouton injured her knee while Pons suffered a concussion. She had been in third place, and had set the fastest time for the difficult Col de Turini mountain pass. The pair’s injuries were not serious and Michèle went on to make her debut in the Swedish Rally. She was running third when she slid into a snow bank, and crashed into the quattro of teammate Hannu Mikkolawho had gone off at the same place. She eventually finished fifth.
In Portugal, Mouton recorded 18 stage wins on her way to a clear victory ahead of Toyota’s Per Eklund. Michèle was asked by journalists how did she deal with the unruly masses that lined up the stages of the rally: “To be competitive you have to think of the large crowds right by the side of the route as trees.” At her home event, the Tour de Corse, Mouton could not match the pace of the leaders and finished seventh.
At the Acropolis Rally, she won ahead of the Opel duo of Walter Röhrl and Henri Toivonen. The event was however overshadowed by two serious accidents, one of which killed a spectator. Mouton had commented: “I’m afraid that something might break on my car and I can no longer avoid hitting a spectator.”
In New Zealand, Mouton continued her good performances and traded the lead with Mikkola, Röhrl and Björn Waldegård. Soon after regaining the lead on stage twelve, she retired with a broken oil pump. After seven rounds, Mouton was second in the championship, 32 points behind Röhrl and 12 ahead of Eklund.
Mouton would win the Marlboro Rallye do Brasil albeit the event was marred by the fatal accident of Brazilian driver Thomas Fuchs, and featured chaotic conditions as parts of the course were not successfully closed for competition. Although only five teams made it to the finish, Mouton improved her title hopes by winning her duel with Röhrl after the German lost a wheel on the last day.
At the 1000 Lakes, she clocked in the eighth fastest time for the famous Ouninpohja stage and placed seventh after the first day. On the following leg, Mouton drove too fast into a jump and damaged her quattro while landing. After the next jump, her front wheels locked up and she rolled the car. Mouton was in a tight battle for the win in Sanremo. Although she recorded nine stage wins and Audi took a one-two, she had to settle for fourth place behind Röhrl.
Audi had not originally planned to participate in the African marathon events, but now found it necessary to enter the penultimate round, the Rallye Côte d’Ivoire, due to their title battles with Opel. Just before the start of the event, Mouton received news that her father had succumbed to cancer in his house in Nice. His last wish was that Mouton start the rally.
After a first day of over 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) of racing in temperatures over 30 °C (86 °F), she was eight minutes clear of Mikkola and nearly half an hour ahead of title rival Röhrl. Mikkola said that he had never been in such a hot car, and Röhrl estimated that the temperature inside his car reached an “almost unbearable” 70 °C. With just over half of the 5,000 km (3,100 mi) behind, Mouton led from Röhrl by over an hour despite losing 25 minutes due to transmission problems.
On the third day, both Mouton and Röhrl struggled with several reliability issues and her lead over Röhrl shrank to 18 minutes. The Toyota Celica GT2000s of Eklund and Waldegård were still over two hours behind. Should Mouton go on to hold off Röhrl, she would reduce Röhrl’s lead in the championship to just two points. As a driver’s seven best results counted towards the championship at the time, Mouton would only need a third place in the RAC Rally to take the title even if Röhrl would win.
On the final day, she continued to suffer from mechanical problems and had the complete fuel injection system changed. For the next time control, Röhrl and Mouton arrived almost simultaneously. With only 600 km to go, Mouton went off the road and rolled her car. She drove the severely damaged quattro for five more kilometers before ultimately giving up. Röhrl inherited the win and became the first two-time world champion in the WRC. Having lost her father, Mouton did not dwell on losing the title.
At the last rally of the season, Britain’s RAC, Mouton edged out Toivonen to take second place behind Mikkola. This result made Audi the first German marque to win the manufacturers’ world title. At the inaugural Autosport Awards gala, Mouton won the International Rally Driver of the Year award – a small consolation for coming so close to winning the WRC title.
The season hailed the fully enforced Group B regulations of the WRC and Mouton was now at the wheel an updated Audi quattro A1. She also had a new teammate; Audi had signed Stig Blomqvist as their third seeded driver to take on their expected main rival, Lancia and the Rallye 037.
For the third year in a row, Michèle had a bad start to her season in Monte Carlo. She went off the road on a stage not far from her home town, and again hit a stone wall at over 100 km/h (60 mph). The car was badly damaged but Mouton and Pons were unharmed. Mouton explained to her team boss Roland Gumpert that she had had to dodge a photographer.
Mouton went on to record successive points finishes. She finished fourth in Sweden in a quadruple win for Audi. In Portugal, Mouton finished second to Mikkola, ahead of Lancia’s Röhrl and Markku Alén. After the first section of the Safari Rally, totalling over 1,600 km (1,000 mi), Mouton arrived to the finish on three wheels and said she was “totally exhausted” from the effort. She eventually placed third behind Opel’s Ari Vatanen and her teammate Mikkola. After four events, Mikkola and Mouton were first and second in the drivers’ championship.
At the Tour de Corse, Audi debuted the quattro A2, which now better exploited Group B’s looser regulations, and was 70 kg (155 lb) lighter and had an engine producing 30 more horsepower. Mouton’s rally ended when her car’s engine caught on fire. On the first stage in the Acropolis Rally in Greece, she rolled her quattro on a hairpin turn 18 km (11 mi) from the start.
Rally New Zealand was for Mouton a repetition of the previous year; she took the lead on the seventh stage and held on to it until her car’s engine failed with only six of the 33 stages to go. She then finished third behind Mikkola and Blomqvist at the Rally Argentina, but this would remain her last podium finish of the season. At the 1000 Lakes in Finland, Mouton finished the first day in seventh place after setting two top-five stage times. Her car later caught on fire, but she was able to continue in the event by following Mikkola’s advice on the radio and driving into a lake to douse the flames. With a string of top-ten stage times, Michèle eventually finished 16th.
In the Rallye Sanremo, the tarmac stages were dominated by the Lancia 037 and Mouton finished seventh after suffering from fuel injection problems. In the season-ending RAC Rally, she started well and held second place after the first twelve stages. An Audi mechanic later accidentally refilled Mouton’s fuel tank with pure water instead of petrol which resulted in time-consuming repairs. She eventually retired after crashing out.
Mouton placed fifth overall in the drivers’ championship, which was quite disappointing compared to her previous year. Teammate Mikkola however beat Lancia’s Röhrl and Alén to the drivers’ title, but Audi had lost the manufacturers’ title to Lancia after the latter’s triple win in Sanremo.
Audi signed fellow German and two-time world champion Walter Röhrl away from Lancia in hopes to regain the WRC titles. With Mikkola, Blomqvist, and now Röhrl driving for Audi, Mouton was relegated to a part-time role, signed for competing in but five WRC events. For the first time in nine years, she did not enter the Monte Carlo Rally.
Michèle started her year well by finishing second at the Swedish Rally behind teammate and home favourite Blomqvist. This would ultimately remain her last podium position in the WRC.
“Finishing second was fantastic. When you are out rallying on ice or snow in a country like that, it is like dancing from one side to the other side. My dancing background helped my rallying. As soon as I started on gravel I liked it because of that. It was so nice to feel and move the car like that. Sweden, in ice and snow, like ballet!”
In the Safari Rally, Mouton’s quattro engine failed and caused the turbo to break down as well. She retired after falling victim to the team’s ranking order; as the repairs were expected to take too long, Gumpert ordered championship leader Blomqvist’s quattro to be fixed by using Mouton’s car as spares.
Her debut in the new Sport Quattro at the Acropolis Rally ended with engine overheating problems. In the 1000 Lakes, Mouton placed ninth after the short first day. She later crashed and continued without a windshield, but the damage to her quattro could not be repaired in service. Mouton retired and left Finland pointless for the fourth year in a row. At the RAC Rally, a slight mistake led to a puncture and Mouton dropped from third to fifth. She went on to narrowly lose the final podium spot to Toyota’s Per Eklund. Mouton’s results placed her a disappointing 12th in the drivers’ world championship, but only a point behind Röhrl.
Outside the WRC, Mouton debuted in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in the United States, driving an Audi Sport quattro together with her usual co-driver Fabrizia Pons. She won the “open rally” category (now known as “unlimited”) in a record time and placed second overall, leaving behind several specialised V8 single-seaters that had normally dominated the race before the advent of the quattro at the Peak.
Audi’s WRC programme was to be limited due to the recent defeats at the hands of Peugeot Talbot Sport and their 205 Turbo 16 supercar. Hence, Mouton had signed a contract extension for testing and development duties. This led her to drive both the Sport quattro S1 and its S1/E2 evolution in the British Rally Championship.
Mouton considered the Sport quattro as the most difficult rally car she had ever driven: “For rallying on asphalt, I agree the limit had gone too far. We did not have the reflexes to control it properly. It was tough to drive the car, but not the quattro before.”
Mouton’s British campaign was plagued by reliability problems and she recorded only one finish in the whole year when she finished second at the Welsh Rally behind Malcolm Wilson in another long wheelbase quattro A2. At the Scottish Rally, Mouton had been closing in on the leading Wilson until a transmission problem forced her to retire. At the Ulster Rally, she set the fastest time for the first stage but then dropped out with a mechanical failure. In the season-ending Manx International Rally, Michèle struggled to start her car and then crashed out five stages later.
Mouton’s only WRC event of the year was the long-distance Rallye Côte d’Ivoire. She was co-driven by Arne Hertz as Pons was ill at the time of the start. Mouton started well and tied the lead with Toyota’s Juha Kankkunen after the first day. Her Sport quattro incurred severe engine problems on the next day, but was seemingly repaired to almost new condition by Audi mechanics hidden off the route. At the exact same time, the Sport quattro “chase car”, a high-speed service car, retired. Audi later faced accusations of swapping Mouton’s numbers and ID/VIN plates with the other car. Gumpert withdrew Mouton just before the finish as the controversy remained unresolved; the stewards did not find proof but the media published evidence afterwards.
Although her rallying year was a disappointment, Mouton made a successful return to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, winning the event overall in her Sport Quattro S1. Despite slippery conditions caused by a hailstorm, she broke Al Unser Jr.’s 1982 record by about thirteen seconds. This led Michèle to be intimid of her male rivals. Bobby Unser was reputedly quite vocal about his loss, to which Mouton is said to have replied: “If you have the balls you can try to race me back down as well.”
1986 – PEUGEOT
Mouton broke off her contract with Audi in late 1985 to join the very successful Peugeot Talbot Sport team and drive their 205 Turbo 16 for the coming season in the German Rally Championship, plus her two local WRC events. Michèle’s usual navigator, Fabrizia Pons, had recently wed her husband and wanted to focus on her marriage. As such Mouton recruited Terry Harryman, who had been left jobless after Ari Vatanen’s near fatal accident in Argentina.
Michèle Mouton was quickly nicknamed “der schwarze Vulkan” (The Black Volcano) by the German press due to her furious temperament and long black hair. She won six of the eight events in the 1986 German championship, including the Rallye Deutschland. Although the Hessen Rallye was stopped after the severe accident of Formula One driver Marc Surer, which claimed the life of his co-driver Michel Wyder, Mouton was declared the event’s winner. She secured the German national title on the seventh and penultimate round, the Sachs Baltic, after taking her fifth win of the season. She became the first woman driver to win a major championship in rallying.
Mouton’s 1986 WRC outings were her home French events: Monte Carlo and Tour de Corse. In Monte Carlo, she was running in eighth place after eleven stages, but soon retired with oil pump problems. For the Tour de Corse in May, Mouton was given the second evolution of the car. She quickly showed good pace and held third place behind Lancia’s Henri Toivonen and teammate Bruno Saby. However, she ran into gearbox trouble on the tenth stage and was forced to retire.
During the next day, Henri Toivonen and his co-driver Sergio Cresto crashed out from the lead and died in their seats. The FISA already were under pressure after Attilio Bettega‘s death at the event a year earlier and by the unfortunate killing of three spectators at the Portugal Rally earlier in the season. Mouton was still in Corsica and remarked to her boyfriend that “if they stop the Group B now, it will be the end for me.” Within days, FISA had officially banned the Group B supercars for the following year.
In October, two weeks after securing the German Rally Championship title, Michèle Mouton announced her retirement from rallying. She cited the end of the Group B era as the reason behind the decision, and stated that it was “a good time to stop.” Later in the same month, Mouton crowned her career by winning the last event of the German championship, the Drei-Städte-Rallye (Three Cities Rally), ahead of Armin Schwarz’s MG Metro 6R4.
While announcing her retirement from rallying, Mouton stated her intention to start a family with Corsican sports journalist Claude Guarnieri. Michèle had her daughter Jessie (Jessica) in 1987. Mouton credited her father Pierre’s support as the secret for her success: “He loved driving. He loved fast cars. And I think he would have loved to do what I did. He was a prisoner of war for five years and when he came back he never had the opportunity to compete. But he came to all the rallies I did. And my mother came, too.”
When asked about her many confrontations with her male peers, Mouton stated that in her mind she did not try to beat them, but rather be at their level.
POST GROUP B (1987~)
In 1988, Mouton co-founded the international motorsport event Race of Champions (RoC) with Fredrik Johnsson, in memory of Henri Toivonen and to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the world championship for rally drivers. The event originally included the world’s top rally drivers, but later featured stars also from other disciplines, such as Formula One, NASCAR, Le Mans and MotoGP, competing against each other in identical cars.
In 1988 and 1989, Mouton participated in rally raids as part of Peugeot’s service team for Ari Vatanen and Jacky Ickx. At the 1988 Rally of Tunisia, Mouton drove a 205 T16 Grand Raid chase car and transported spare parts for Vatanen and Henri Pescarolo’s 405 T16 GR, but also classified sixth overall.
She later took part in the Dakar Rally as a press driver in 2004 and 2009. In 2000, Mouton finished second in the London–Sydney Marathon driving a Porsche 911, behind former teammate Stig Blomqvist. After 22 years apart, Michèle Mouton and Fabrizia Pons reunited to compete in the 2008 Otago Classic Rally in New Zealand. In 2010, Mouton competed with a 911 in the Rallye du Maroc and finishing second.
In 2010, Mouton became the first president of the FIA’s Women in Motor Sport Commission.
“For many years people have asked me why there have been no women following in my footsteps. I really hope the Commission can help answer that question and that we can attract and support women in all areas of our sport.”
Having already headed a working group on the future of rallying, Mouton was appointed FIA’s manager in the World Rally Championship in 2011. Mouton also served in the nomination committee of the Rally Hall of Fame. In March 2012, she recused herself after becoming a candidate for nomination. Mouton was then inducted into the Hall of Fame along with two-time world champion Carlos Sainz.
In 2011, Mouton was made knight of the Legion of Honour (Légion d’honneur) by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
PARTIAL SOURCE: Wikipedia
(possibly spell-checked, translated, and/or edited; abridged, corrected, and/or expanded)
GROUP B RESULTS (WRC)
(# = finish position / R = retired or DNF / – = did not compete)
|1||1981||Rally of Sanremo||Fabrizia Pons||Audi quattro|
|2||1982||Rally of Portugal||Fabrizia Pons||Audi quattro|
|3||1982||Acropolis Rally||Fabrizia Pons||Audi quattro|
|4||1982||Rally of Brazil||Fabrizia Pons||Audi quattro|
|1||1977||25th RACE Spain Rally||Spain||Françoise Conconi||Porsche Carrera RS|
|2||1978||37e Tour de France Automobile||France||Françoise Conconi||Fiat 131 Abarth|
|3||1981||12e Rallye (ou Critérium) des Garrigues (Ronde Cévenole si national)||France||Annie Arii||Audi quattro|
|4||1986||5th ADAC-Rallye Deutschland||Germany||Terry Harryman||Peugeot 205 Turbo 16|
|5||1986||35th ADAC-Rallye Hessen||Germany||Terry Harryman||Peugeot 205 Turbo 16|
AWARDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
- French Criterium Champion / GT Production : 1974
- French Rally Championship Runner-up / Group 3: 1974 (Alpine A110 1600S)
- French Women’s Champion: 1974 & 1975 (Alpine A110 1600S), 1977 (Porsche Carrera RS / Fiat Abarth 131)
- European Women’s Champion: 1975 (Alpine A110 1600S) & 1977 (Porsche Carrera RS / Fiat Abarth 131)
- European Rally Championship Runner-up: 1977 (Porsche Carrera RS / Fiat Abarth 131)
- European Rally – Ladies Cup: 1978 & 1980
- French Rally Championship Runner-up: 1979 (Fiat 131 Abarth)
- WRC Runner-up: 1982 (Audi quattro )
- German Rally Champion: 1986 (Peugeot 205 Turbo 16)
- Ladies’ Trophée Andros : 1995 (Opel Astra V6)
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