Desiré Wilson

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Desiré Wilson
Born (1953-11-26) 26 November 1953 (age 60)
Formula One World Championship career
Nationality South Africa South African
Active years 1980
Teams non-works Williams
Races 1 (0 starts)
Championships 0
Wins 0
Podiums 0
Career points 0
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 0
First race 1980 British Grand Prix
Last race 1980 British Grand Prix

Desiré Randall Wilson (born 26 November 1953)[1] is a former racing driver from South Africa and is one of only five women to have competed in Formula One.[2] Born in Brakpan,[1] she entered one Formula One World Championship Grand Prix in 1980 with a non-works RAM Racing prepared Williams FW07, but failed to qualify.[3] She also raced in the 1981 non world championship South African Grand Prix in a one off deal with Tyrrell Racing. This race was not part of the 1981 world championship due, in part, to the FISA–FOCA war.[4] She qualified 16th and, after a disastrous start where the car stalled, she moved up though the field in wet conditions, as conditions dried she fell back and damaged the car when it touched a wall while she was letting the race leader through.[5]

She became the only woman to win a Formula One race of any kind when she won at Brands Hatch in the short-lived British Aurora F1 series in 1980.[3] As a result of this achievement, she has a grandstand at Brands Hatch named after her.[5] Following her attempts in Formula One, Wilson participated in other disciplines including CART[6] and sports car racing.[5] In 1982, Wilson entered the Indianapolis 500, but failed to qualify. She did not qualify for 1983 and 1984 Indy 500s as well.[5]

She is married to fellow South Africa-native and road course architect, Alan Wilson.[2]

Career[edit]

Since 1978, Desiré Wilson has been recognized as the most accomplished female racing driver in the world. To date, she is the only woman to have been licensed to drive in a CART Indycars event, as well as holding a FIA Super License, which enabled her to race at the highest level, FIA Formula One World Championship. In 1980, she won both the Monza 1000km and the Silverstone 6 Hours World Championship for Makes races, thereby becoming the first female to have outright victories in any FIA World Championship race.[7]

Although Wilson is probably most famous for not qualifying for the 1980 British Grand Prix, she was a big success. In 1967, at the age of twelve, Wilson came second in the South African nationals, driving midget cars. By 1972, she had made her full racing debut and was fourth in her first season of the South African Formula Vee Championship. After two more seasons on the Formula Vee circuit, finishing 4th and 2nd respectively, Wilson decided to pursue the international acclaim associated with Formula One. She won the South African Formula Ford Championship in 1975 and defended the title the following season, as well as securing the “Driver to Europe” award. As a result, Wilson moved to Europe for the 1977 season, completing mainly in Formula Ford 2000 races, in the Benelux and British Championships, where she finished third and fourth respectively, winning races at Zandvoort and Colmar-Berg.[5][7][8][9]

She took another huge step forward in 1978, racing a Formula One March 751, updated to 761 specifications. After impressing many team bosses, she signed up to race in the Aurora AFX F1 Championship for Mario Deliotti Racing. Driving their Cosworth-powered Ensign N175, her best finish was a third place at the Thruxton Circuit. As her knowledge of the European tracks improved, so did her results. Whilst racing F1, she still drove a Lola T490 in the British Sports 2000 Championship, despite it being a minor national championship.[5][7][9]

In 1979, she became the first woman to lead an F1 race. She headed the field at Zolder for the Melchester Racing, in their Tyrrell 008, although she spun in the wet on the penultimate lap, but fought back to finish third, whilst claiming the fastest lap of the race. In addition, Wilson took three more 3rd places at Oulton Park, Brands Hatch and Thruxton. She ended the season in 7th place. She continued to race in Sports 2000, finishing third in the championship with her Lola.[5][7][9]

1980 was to be her big year, although it started sponsor-less, racing Formula Pacific in New Zealand. Teddy Yip and his Theodore Racing team came to her rescue, giving her a Wolf WR4 for the Aurora series. Yip’s faith was repaid by round two, when Wilson won the Evening News Trophy at Brands Hatch, beating Norman Dickson and Eliseo Salazar. In doing so, she became the first woman, and so far the only woman to win an F1 race. She recorded two more podium finishes, a fine 2nd place at Thruxton and a 3rd at Mallory Park, before her team ran out of money.[5][7][9]

Her successes did not stop there in 1980, when she formed a partnership with Alain de Cadenet and shared the driving duties of his De Cadenet LM1. After an impressive outing where the pair took third in the Brands Hatch 1000km, the pair went on the win both the Monza 1000km and the Silverstone 6 Hours races.[5][7][9]

Desiré’s victories drew the attention of John Macdonald and his F1 RAM Racing team. During a private test at Brands Hatch, driving a year-old Williams FW07, things looked promising, where she was twelfth overall. However by the weekend of the British Grand Prix, the car had been replaced with an inferior model, which she had been beaten in several times in the Aurora AFX series. The car lacked aerodynamics modifications, and her lack of experience at this level meant she did not qualify.[5][7][9]

This run of bad luck did not stop at Brands Hatch, after a practice accident for the 1980 24 Hours of Le Mans, she and de Cadenet were not allowed to start in view of this earlier incident, despite setting eight fastest lap in qualifying.[7][9]

She got the chance to redeem herself, when she accepted a drive with Tyrrell Racing for her home Grand Prix. However, the on-going FISA-FOCA war within F1, lead to the 1981 South African Grand Prix being a non-championship race, nevertheless still attracted a strong field. Wilson qualified 16th, moved through the field to 6th before spinning out her Tyrrell 010, with gearbox troubles. But, she had managed to impress Ken Tyrrell, and was offered further drives. Due to lack of sponsorship and political situation, she was unable to take up Tyrrell’s offer and the drive went to Ricardo Zunino, and then Michele Alboreto. The remainder of the season consisted of outing in Formula Atlantic and Sportscars.[1][5][9]

Sportscars now became her main focus, after finished 8th in the 1981 Brands Hatch 1000km. In 1982, she raced in the IMSA series, failing to finish any races. A trip to France, for the Le Mans 24 hours did not fare any better, with her Grid S1, lasting only 24 minutes before the engine expired. Her only result of 1982 came in the Brands Hatch 1000km, when she finished 4th with Jonathan Palmer aboard a works Ford C100.[5][7][9]

Wilson’s career in American single-seaters started in 1982. Back with Teddy Yip’s Theodore Racing, she passed her Indianapolis 500 rookie test without a problem, and during qualifying set the fastest ever lap by a female racer (191.042 mph). However, she failed to qualify for the event due to repeated engine failures and the early ending of the qualifying session in which her team-mate, Gordon Smiley, was killed. She returned the following year, but failed to qualify again. Meanwhile, she did race eight other Indycar races, with a best finish of 10th in the Grand Prix of Cleveland. Her finishing record with Wysard Racing was poor, though not always due to driver error. She was an impressive novice, especially considering her rapid recovery from a broken leg suffered in a terrifying crash in an IMSA race at Brainerd International Raceway. During the race, her Momo Corse March 83G’s front suspension broke. Three weeks later, she was back in an Indycar. A third attempt in qualifying for the Indy 500, in 1984 also resulted in a DNQ.[5][7][9][10]

During this time, sportscars had definitely not been forgotten. She competed around the world in various series and cars, scoring some decent results in the process, but the highlight of 1983 was her 7th place at Le Mans, sharing an Obermaier Racing entered Porsche 956 with Axel Plankenhorn and Jürgen Lässig. With the help of these Germans, she finally broke her major-race duck with an excellent result. A return to Brands Hatch for the 1984 1000 km race, saw her take the Kremer Racing’s Porsche 956 to 4th place, with the help of David Sutherland and fellow South African, George Fouché.[5][9]

Although her international racing schedule started to thin out, her competitive spirit remained and in 1987, Wilson took a class win in the SCCA/Escort Endurance Challenge at Sears Point, sharing a Saleen Mustang with Lisa Cacares. While with Saleen Motorsport, she took a class win Sebring 6 hours alongside Scott Pruett, assisting Saleen to the constructors’ title. After a few more outings in Porsche 962C’s in Britain and Japan, she had one last shot at Le Mans in 1991 in a Spice SE90C. This all-female crew, with co-drivers Lyn St. James and Cathy Muller, lasted only 47 laps before crashing out.[5][7][9]

Although Wilson returned to race a Mazda Xedos in the North American Super Touring Car Championship in 1996, she now only occasionally races at the Goodwood Revival.[5][9]

International racing record[edit]

Career highlights[edit]

Season Series
1973 4th South African Formula Vee Championship
1974 2nd South African Formula Vee Championship
1975 1st South African Formula Ford Championship
1976 1st South African Formula Ford Championship
1977 3rd Benelux Formula Ford 2000 Championship
3rd British Formula Ford 2000 Championship
3rd Dutch Formula Ford 2000 Championship
1978 10th Aurora AFX F1 Championship
1979 7th Aurora AFX F1 Championship
1980 6th Aurora AFX F1 Championship
16th Aurora AFX New Zealand Formula Pacific Championship
41st World Challenge for Endurance Drivers
1981 15th MCD British Formula Atlantic Championship
187th World Endurance Championship for Drivers
1982 46th World Endurance Championship
1983 28th PPG Indy Car World Series
59th European Endurance Championship
63th World Endurance Championship
1984 44th World Endurance Championship
1986 24th American Racing Series
1987 5th GT class – SCCA/Escort Endurance Championship
1989 12th British Formula 3000 Championship
1991 24th Firestone Indy Lights Championship
1997 14th North American Touring Car Championship

[5][11][12]

Career summary[edit]

Below are for races of an International status.

Season Races Outright Races Wins Podiums
1975 1 race 0 wins 0 podiums
1976 1 race 0 wins 0 podiums
1978 8 races 0 wins 1 podium
1979 15 races 0 wins 3 podiums
1980 20 races 3 wins 3 podiums
1981 4 races 0 wins 0 podiums
1982 10 races 0 wins 0 podiums
1983 14 races 0 wins 0 podiums
1984 4 races 0 wins 0 podiums
1986 6 races 0 wins 0 podiums
1987 6 races 0 wins 0 podiums
1988 7 races 0 wins 4 podiums
1989 3 races 0 wins 0 podiums
1991 2 races 0 wins 0 podiums
1993 1 race 0 wins 0 podiums
1997 6 races 0 wins 0 podiums
Race win percentage: 2.78%
Races entered: 108
Outright Race Wins: 3
Podiums: 11

[5][11][12][13][14]

International race victories[edit]

Date Event Circuit Entrant
co-driver
Car – Engine
1980
07/04/80 Aurora AFX F1 Championship Rd.2 England Brands Hatch Theodore Racing Wolf-Cosworth WR4
27/04/80 World Championship for Makes Rd.4 Italy Monza Alain de Cadenet
England Alain de Cadenet
De Cadenet Lola-Cosworth LM1
11/05/80 World Championship for Makes Rd.5 England Silverstone Alain de Cadenet
England Alain de Cadenet
De Cadenet Lola-Cosworth LM1

[14][15][16][17]

Complete Formula One World Championship results[edit]

(key)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 WDC Points
1980 Brands Hatch Racing Williams FW07 Cosworth V8 ARG
BRA
RSA
USW
BEL
MON
FRA
GBR
DNQ
GER
AUT
NED
ITA
CAN
USA
NC 0

Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans results[edit]

Year Class No Tyres Car Team Co-Drivers Laps Pos. Class
Pos.
1982 C 37 D Grid S1
Ford Cosworth DFL 3.3L V8
England GRID Racing Spain Emilio de Villota
England Alain de Cadenet
7 DNF DNF
1983 C 18 D Porsche 956
Porsche Type-935 2.6L Turbo Flat-6
Germany Obermaier Racing Germany Axel Plankenhorn
Germany Jürgen Lässig
347 7th 7th
1991 C1 40 D Spice SE90C
Ford Cosworth DFZ 3.5L V8
Netherlands Euro Racing
Japan A.O. Racing
United States Lyn St. James
France Cathy Muller
47 DNF DNF

Complete Daytona 24 Hours[edit]

Year Class No Tyres Car Team Co-Drivers Laps Pos. Class
Pos.
1982 GTP 09 Porsche 935 K3 United States Thunderbird Swap Shop United States Preston Henn
United States Marty Hinza
229 DNF
1993 GTS 18 G Ford Mustang United States Tom Gloy Racing Canada Ron Fellows
Japan Tomiko Yoshikawa
Canada Pieter Baljet
189 DNF

[18][19]

Complete 12 Hours of Sebring results[edit]

Year Class No Tyres Car Team Co-Drivers Laps Pos. Class
Pos.
1982 GTP 9 G Ferrari 512BB/LM
Ferrari F12 4.9L
United States North American Racing Team United States Janet Guthrie
United States Bonnie Henn
163 DNF

[20]

American open-wheel racing results[edit]

CART[edit]

(key)

Year Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Rank Points
1982 Theodore Racing United States
PHO1
United States
ATL
United States
INDY
DNQ
United States
MIL1
United States
CLE
United States
MIS1
United States
MIL2
United States
POR
United States
RIV
United States
RDA
United States
MIS2
United States
PHX
NC -
1983 Wysard Racing United States
ATL
United States
INDY
DNQ
United States
MIL
United States
CLE
10
United States
MIS1
United States
ROA
Ret
United States
POC
Ret
United States
RIV
Ret
United States
MDO
Ret
United States
MIS2
United States
LVG
Ret
United States
LS
Ret
United States
PHX
13
28th 3
1984 Wysard Racing United States
LBH
DNQ
United States
PHX1
United States
INDY
DNQ
United States
MIL
United States
POR
United States
MEA
United States
CLE
United States
MIS1
United States
ROA
United States
POC
United States
MDO
Canada
SAN
United States
MIS2
United States
PHX2
United States
LS
United States
LVG
NC -
1986 Machinist Union Racing Team United States
PHX1
United States
LBH
United States
INDY
United States
MIL
United States
POR
United States
MEA
United States
CLE
Canada
TOR
United States
MIS1
United States
POC
United States
MDO
13th
Canada
SAN
United States
MIS2
United States
ROA
Ret
United States
LS
Ret
United States
PHX2
United States
MIA
NC -

† Non-championship race

Indianapolis 500[edit]

Year Chassis Engine Start Finish Team
1982 Eagle 81 Cosworth DNQ Theodore Racing
1983 March 82C Cosworth DNQ Wysard Racing
1984 March 83C Cosworth DNQ Wysard Racing

Indy Lights[edit]

(key)

Year Team Series 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Rank Points
1986 ARS ARS United States
PHX1
6
United States
MIL
United States
MEA
Canada
TOR
United States
'POC
United States
MDO
United States
ROA
United States
LS
United States
PHX2
United States
MIA
24th 8
1991 Leading Edge Motorsport Indylights United States
LBH
United States
PHX
United States
MIL
United States
DET
United States
POR
United States
CLE
United States
MEA
Canada
TOR
United States
DEN
12
United States
MDO
United States
NAZ
United States
LS
24th 1

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Alan Wilson. Driven by Desire: The Desiré Wilson story. Veloce Publishing. ISBN 978-1845843892.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Desiré Wilson in the media - page 1". Wilson Motorsport Inc. Retrieved 19 May 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Taylor, S. (2010) Lunch with... Desiré Wilson. Motor Sport, 86/2, 62-68.
  3. ^ a b Small, Steve (1994). The Guinness Complete Grand Prix Who's Who. Enfield: Guinness Publishing. p. 415. ISBN 0-85112-702-9. 
  4. ^ Diepraam, Mattijs; Muelas, Felix; Ferner, Michael (Christmas 2000). "The one that didn't count". FORIX 8W. Autosport.com. Retrieved 19 May 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Desiré Wilson – Biography". F1 Rejects. 21 August 2005. Retrieved 10 September 2013. 
  6. ^ Diepraam, Mattijs (October 1998). "F1's only female winner". FORIX 8W. Autosport.com. Why?. Retrieved 19 May 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Desiré Wilson". Wilson Sahara Motorsports. Retrieved 10 September 2013. 
  8. ^ Hilary Resteck and Casey Schuster. "Desire Wilson". The Henry Ford. Retrieved 10 September 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m [1][dead link]
  10. ^ [2][dead link]
  11. ^ a b "Desiré Wilson career statistics". Driver Database. Retrieved 10 September 2013. 
  12. ^ a b "SCCA Escort Endurance Cup". SCCA. August 1987. Retrieved 10 September 2013. 
  13. ^ "SCCA Escort Endurance Cup". SCCA. August 1988. Retrieved 10 September 2013. 
  14. ^ a b "Desiré Wilson, South Africa". Racing Sports Cars. Retrieved 10 September 2013. 
  15. ^ "Aurora F1/F2 series". Team DAN. Retrieved 10 September 2013. 
  16. ^ [3][dead link]
  17. ^ "Desiré Wilson". Ultimate Racing History. Retrieved 10 September 2013. 
  18. ^ http://www.racingsportscars.com/results/Daytona-1982-01-31.html
  19. ^ http://www.racingsportscars.com/results/Daytona-1993-01-31.html
  20. ^ http://www.racingsportscars.com/results/Sebring-1982-03-20.html

External links[edit]