the women of le mans

Le Mans, this enchanting historic town just South East of Paris turns into "racing heaven" for motor racing enthusiasts from all over the world mid-June. The 24hours of Le Mans will kick off on June 17th this year and we'll be there once again to enjoy the spectacle. 

One thing the organisation has done well the last few years is the "Women's pavilion"; not just a sanctuary for that much needed rest and manicure amidst the racing fuel and long walks, but more importantly the emphasis it places on the history of women at the Le Mans 24h. A few facts from the Le Mans website

Odetta Siko holds the title for the best overall result for a female driver, achieved in 1932. 

Vanina Ickx is the last woman to have finished in the top 10 overall at the 24 Hours, with seventh place in 2011 at the wheel of a Lola-Aston Martin coupe (LM P1 class).

Le Mans native Anny-Charlotte Verney holds the record for the most participations by a female driver at the 24 Hours (between 1974 and 1983). 

 

Odette Siko _circa 1932. Image via  here.  

Odette Siko _circa 1932. Image via here. 

Vanina Ickx. Image via  here . 

Vanina Ickx. Image via here

Anny-Charlotte Verney. Image via  Motorsport Sisterhood.  

Anny-Charlotte Verney. Image via Motorsport Sisterhood. 

In 2015 we met Vanina Ickx briefly. Photo from own collection with Inge and Vanina. 

In 2015 we met Vanina Ickx briefly. Photo from own collection with Inge and Vanina. 

the 24h of Le Mans - part II

"On women at the Le Mans 24h "- There are three types of women that go to the Le Mans 24 hours races each June. First there is the obvious category of women who actually enjoy the races, the competitiveness and the sheer passion of this event. Second, are the wives and girlfriends of the drivers who come for support and, hopefully, the celebration. The last category are the young girls who attend the event with their parents, and who hopefully keep enjoying this as they grow up - or even better, become a race car driver. :) - And then of course there is Leena Gade, the first female race engineer to win a 24h of Le Mans race with her team at the Audi Sport Factory.

Outside the Women's Pavilion at Le Mans 24h. Photo with my iPhone5.

Outside the Women's Pavilion at Le Mans 24h. Photo with my iPhone5.

Of the 263.000 attendees, I doubt more than 5% are women. The organizer of the Le Mans races, Automobile Club De L'Oest (ACO) is trying to change this. This year marked the first time the organization included a Women's Pavilion (Les Pavillion des Femmes) in the racing village. I have to stay they succeed marvelously in making women feel welcome (the space was more comfortable and certainly nicer than anywhere else at the track, sorry guys). 

Free manicures, free massages, champagne and comfortable seating in front of large screen TV's and of course peonies to decorate, were just some of the features this pavilion had to offer. Oh, did I mention it had air conditioning - anyone that has experienced 30 degree Celsius temperatures in Europe can appreciate this amenity. It also didn't hurt that some of the drivers, including Patrick Dempsey of the Dempsey Proton Racing team, took a few minutes out of their time to visit.

So the next time you think of attending an endurance race, just take a few minutes to check if there is anything similar to a women's pavilion. It is worth it.

The lounge area of the Women's Pavilion. Chic, isn't it - nothing like the bleachers out by the track. Photo with my iPhone5.

The lounge area of the Women's Pavilion. Chic, isn't it - nothing like the bleachers out by the track. Photo with my iPhone5.

Looking to enjoy a bit of the sun - this is the garden at the pavilion.  Photo with my iPhone5.

Looking to enjoy a bit of the sun - this is the garden at the pavilion.  Photo with my iPhone5.

the 24h of Le Mans - part I

I love my Louboutin's, but there are times they need to be swapped for a pair of sneakers, and the 24h of Le Mans is one of those times. This weekend, on June 13th and 14th, Audi, Porsche, Nissan, Toyota and many others will once again take to the Sarthe track in Le Mans for the 83rd annual endurance challenge - and we will be there to cheering them on. 

You might think that an endurance race is not something for women - however, this is more than a car race, there is history here and this year for the first time the ACO (l'Automobile Club de l'Ouest) has created a space during the Le Mans 24h entirely devoted to women and the motor car, but above all this is France and that is always lovely. So we've packed the umbrellas, our national flags and our camera's and look forward to starting our journey to Le Mans tomorrow.

Follow us for details on our trip to Le Mans via Twitter and the Fultrot Blog. #Lemans

A vintage poster from the 1954 24h Race. Love that car. Image via  here. 

A vintage poster from the 1954 24h Race. Love that car. Image via here. 

If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough
— Marion Andretti
The 2015 poster

The 2015 poster