The Rake

THE (DOUBLE) X FACTOR

When Maria Grazia ‘Lella’ Lombardi, a butcher’s daughter born during the second world war in a small Italian village near Turin, stepped out of her Matra at the end of the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix — the last to be held on the Montjuïc street circuit — she was unaware of the legacy she had just established. As part of a grid that contained Niki Lauda, James Hunt and Mario Andretti, the second woman ever to start a Formula One race (after Maria Teresa de Filippis in 1958) was running in sixth place when, 25 laps in, the rear wing of German driver Rolf Stommelen’s Hill GH1 failed, and his car hurtled into spectators, killing five. The race was not completed, so Lombardi was awarded half a point instead of one — and it remains to this day the entire tally for womankind in F1 racing.

There have been several positive milestones, but gender parity in motorsport remains elusive — and long overdue.

When it comes to competing in motorised vehicles, women have always been forced to start some way behind the back of the grid. It wasn’t until three decades after the first ever recorded race between automated vehicles (an 1867 street tussle involving steam carriages) that a group of women first competed, on motorised tricycles, around a Paris horse track. There have been several positive milestones since (not least the setting up of the British Women Racing Drivers Club, in 1962), but gender parity in motorsport remains elusive — and long overdue.

It was shortly after the birth of her son in 2015 that Catherine Bond Muir — a highly respected solicitor specialising in sports law who played a role in negotiating the sale of Chelsea and Aston Villa to Roman Abramovich and Randy Lerner, respectively — began pondering why, with female participants becoming more prominent in various sports, the number of women competing in single-seater motorsport

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