Did you know that there are women that have helped to shape the face of motorsport as we know it? So, in the spirit of International Women’s Day celebrating the achievements of women in culture, politics, and socioeconomics, we thought we’d look at 5 female pioneers in motorsport.

Follow Double Apex on Facebook and Instagram, where we share more car content.

While these 5 female pioneers in motorsport are not the only women in motorsport, they were some of the first women to enter a sport dominated by men. Although not all of them took the gold, they lay the foundation for those who would come after them.

Here are 5 Female Pioneers in Motorsport

1. Maria Teresa de Filippis

You may have never heard her name, but Maria Teresa de Filippis was the first woman to ever race in Formula One. Despite a short Formula One career, she won races in other series and is remembered as one of the industry’s pioneers. She competed in five World Championship Grands Prix before retiring on 25 September 1959.

The 22-year-old de Filippis started racing when her brothers told her that she would not be able to go very fast. They bet against her and she won her first race in a Fiat 500 on a 10 km drive between Salerno and Cava de’ Tirreni. Thereafter, de Filippis took part in various motor racing events, including hillclimbing and endurance racing. Some years later, in 1954, she finished second in the Italian Sportscar Championship. Maserati saw her potential and hired her as a works driver.

From 1979 she avoided all forms of motor racing, but in ’97 she joined the International Club of Former F1 Grand Prix Drivers, eventually becoming its vice president. In 2004, she became the chairperson of the Maserati Club.

2. Lella Lombardi

From distributing products with a truck to becoming the only woman to score points in Formula One, Lella Lombardi earned the nickname Tigress of Turin.

Lombardi is the only female Formula One driver in history to finish in the top six of a championship race. She made her debut on 20 July 1974 and finished her career with half a point. The point was earned at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix, where the shortened distance saw racers earn half of the points they would normally. Notably, in 1974, Lombardi qualified and competed at the Race of Champions in Brands Hatch aboard a Lola-Chevrolet, finishing 14th but not classified. For the 1975 edition, she qualified and raced a March-Ford.

Later, Lombardi raced sports cars with some success. Her best season was 1979, when she won the 6 hours of Pergusa and the 6 hours of Vallelunga. She also competed four times at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing 9th in a Porsche Carrera in 1976. After retiring from racing in 1988, Lombardi started her own team, Lombardi Autosport, in 1989.

3. Michèle Mouton

In 1982, Michèle Mouton finished runner-up in the drivers’ championship after taking four victories in the World Rally Championship with the Audi factory team.

In rallying, Mouton played a co-driver role before moving into the driver’s seat, driving an Alpine-Renault A110 in national rallies. She also competed in circuit racing, winning the two-litre prototype class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1975.

For 1981, Audi Sport signed Mouton to partner Hannu Mikkola. That year, Mouton won the Tour de France Automobile and always achieved consistent results in her home events in the World Rally Championship. In her first year with the Audi Quattro, she took a surprise victory at the Rallye San Remo.

Mouton finished second overall in the 1982 World Rally season, after claiming victories in Portugal, Brazil, and Greece, and helped Audi to the first manufacturers’ title. In the following year’s race, she finished fifth overall. Mouton was a part-time driver for the team in 1984. She won the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in the United States in 1985, setting a record time in the process.

After winning the title, Mouton retired from rallying due to the ban on Group B supercars. Mouton co-founded the Race of Champions in 1988 in memory of her former rival Henri Toivonen. She became president of the FIA’s Women & Motor Sport Commission in 2010 and the FIA’s manager in the World Rally Championship in 2011.

4. Desiré Randall Wilson

Desiré Randall Wilson is a former racing driver from South Africa who is one of only five women to ever compete in Formula One. Her last appearance was in 1980 with a non-works RAM Racing-prepared Williams FW07, but she failed to qualify. Additionally, she raced in the 1981 non-world championship South African Grand Prix with Tyrrell Racing. Due to the FISA/FOCA war, this race was not part of the 1981 World Championship.

Following her time in Formula One, Wilson participated in other disciplines like CART and sportscar racing. In subsequent years she has competed in various series and cars around the world and achieved some decent results, but the highlight of 1983 was sharing a Porsche 956 with Axel Plankenhorn and Jürgen Rasig. It was 7th place in Le Mans at that time. With the help of these Germans, she finally broke her major racing ducks with great results. When she returned to Brands Hatch in the 1984 1000 km race, she placed Kremer Racing Porsche 956 in 4th place with the help of David Sutherland and George Fouché of South Africa.

5. Jutta Kleinschmidt

Jutta Kleinschmidt is a German racing driver, known for her performance in off-road racing events. She has participated in the Paris-Dakar Rally many times starting in 1988 when she entered the motorcycle category. In 1994, she switched to driving a car in the rally. Some years later, in 1997 she became the first woman to win a stage of the Rally.

Kleinschmidt won the 2001 Paris-Dakar Rally. This made her the only woman to win the race overall and the only German to win the car category. In 2013 she was named FIM Legend for her achievements racing motorcycles. Jutta still races today in the electric, Extreme E series.