Rallye des Princesses: a classic car race for women only


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Under the slogan 'The adventure for modern women', the nineteenth edition of the Rallye des Princesses (Rally de las Princesas), a peculiar car competition with classic cars in which its participants are exclusively women, has been celebrated this week on French and Spanish roads .

The creator of this initiative is Viviane Zaniroli, a vintage car enthusiast who has always been linked to the motor world by organizing events such as the Austin-Healey Club at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Viviane began to think about organizing some kind of event on her own, when her husband, the pilot Patrick Zaniroli, winner of the Paris-Dakar in 1985, was appointed director of this famous competition in 1994.

Rallye des Princesses: una carrera de coches clásicos solo para mujeres

2015 edition as it passes through Saint-Tropez © Getty Images

He had long been checking how women were interested in participating in motor competitions, but they were always relegated to the role of co-pilots. He found inspiration in the Paris-St Raphaël Rally, which was held between 1929 and 1974 and was only for female participants.

This race had names such as the famous driver Michèle Mouton, the only woman to win a stage of the World Rally Championship; or Pat Moss, sister of the mythical Formula 1 condom Sterling Moss.

So he got down to work and in 2000 the first edition of the Rally of the Princesas was held, which, curiously, began its journey as a mixed event to encourage men to leave their cars (most classic cars are in the hands of male owners), knowing the appointment from within.

The natural selection did the rest and by 2013 the majority of registered teams were made up of women except five. There was no point in maintaining two categories and, as of 2014, it became a rally exclusively for women.

Rallye des Princesses: una carrera de coches clásicos solo para mujeres

In 2018, 90 classic cars have been registered © Rallye des Princesses

In its first edition, the Rally of the Princesses literally honored her name with the inscription of Princess Helena of Yugoslavia, who would participate again in 2002 and 2006, although with the triumph Caroline Bugatti, member of the founding family of The prestigious manufacturer of high-end cars. Other illustrious winners were in 2002 the daughters of Le Mans hexachampion Jacky Ickx, Vanina and Larissa.

Originally the route started from Place Vendôme in Paris and concluded in Saint-Tropez, but in the 2018 edition it has varied its route to finish its last stage in Biarritz.

A total of 1, 600 kilometers, in five stages of between 350 and 400 kilometers per day. The routes of these stages are: Paris-Saint Aignan, Saint Aignan-Vichy, Vichy-Toulouse, Toulouse-Formigal and Formigal-Biarritz.

The registration exceeds € 6, 000 and for this edition more than 90 collection vehicles have been registered, that is 180 participants. Cars must have been manufactured between 1946 and 1989 and are grouped into four categories, more or less defined for decades. Some of the cars belong to the participants, but others are provided by individuals or sponsors.

This last edition have been able to see Austin Healeys, Beetles convertibles, Alfas Romeo Spider, Mercedes Benz 250 SL Pagoda, MGCs or Triumphs, among many other collectible jewels.

Rallye des Princesses: una carrera de coches clásicos solo para mujeres

A test that requires a lot of concentration, effort and synchronization with the co-pilot © Rallye des Princesses

What rewards this competition is regularity, not speed. That is, the organization previously traces average speeds to which each of the sections must be crossed and the car that is closest to those appropriate speeds is adding points. This is a test that requires a lot of concentration, effort and synchronization with the co-pilot.

A team of 40 people work in the organization for the correct course of the rally that, taking into account the poor comfort of many of the competing old models, causes considerable exhaustion in the participants at the end of each stage.

To counteract it, the accommodations are in four and five star hotels, with all kinds of amenities, such as spa and massages at discretion. That and a glass of the best champagne to end the day between cottons and bubbles make facing the next stage an even rewarding experience.

In short, the Princess Rally is an initiative that vindicates the visibility of women in motor sports, in a meeting where elegance, camaraderie, vintage glamor, vintage trends and the most demanding effort set the tone. .

The role of women in motor racing seems relegated to an anecdote today, saving the honorable Spanish cases of Laia Sanz or the ill-fated María de Villota.

Rallye des Princesses: una carrera de coches clásicos solo para mujeres

The race starts from Parisian Plaza Vendôme © Rallye des Princesses

However, in the first half of the twentieth century many women competed and defeated men on track, in ascents, in rallies or in world speed and distance records. After World War II, that female participation in motor sports dropped sharply.

An example was the Paris-Berlin race of 1901, where the pioneers Camille du Gast, French sportsman and philanthropist who started the race from the last position of 122 and concluded it in 33rd place; or Baroness Hélène van Zuylar, wife of the President of the Automobile Club of France.

Du Gast would again leave an imprint of his greatness in 1903, in Paris-Madrid, known as 'the race of death': he was in eighth place in the standings when he stopped to help Phil Stead, another pilot who had suffered an accident .

He remained with him until the arrival of emergency services to resume the race and reach 77th place at the time the test was suspended after several deaths.

They are just some samples of what women can give of themselves in a land that seems reserved exclusively for men, another glass ceiling that a test like the Princess Rally aspires to break with blows and throttles.

Rallye des Princesses: una carrera de coches clásicos solo para mujeres

Here women send © Rallye des Princesses