In 1981, the World Rally Championship changed. For example, Group B regulations were introduces, Ari Vatanen, the first privateer, won the race, Audi took part with its Quattro, the first rally car with four-wheel-drive. Four years later, in 1985, the rally legend Michèle Mouton won the Pikes Peak, an international hill climb to the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado, USA.
Michèle Mouton was born in Grasse, France, in 1951. Talented in skiing, ballet and academia, assigned for a career in law, Mouton lived for something else: motorsport. The local rallies’ engine noises and the experiences in her father’s Citroën 2CV changed her plans and life.
During the 1970s, France, with Ligier and Renault, was a country of motorsport. Some famous drivers were François Cevert, Patrick Depailler and Jacques Laffite.
This was the time, when Michèle Mouton started rallying as co-driver in amateur rallies, but, of course, didn’t miss the chance to drive by her own. As her father saw her talent, he bought a Renault Alpine A110 for his daughter. He gave her one year to prove her talent and succeed, otherwise, she would have to concentrate on her career in law.
Her father was right. She won the French Ladies’ Championship and the French GT class championship. In 1975, she won Le Mans 24 Hours. After winning several times as a Fiat driver, Audi want her.
I did not know where this was going, but there was no way I could say no. And my team-mate was to be Hannu Mikkola. He was always way up there for me – one of the greats. And now we would be team-mates!
– Michèle Mouton
Together with her co-driver Fabrizia Pons, Michèle Mouton drove the first Audi Quattro in the WRC of 1981 – and aroused the issue of gender.
I can see now the attraction because I was the only woman at the time in the championship.
– Michèle Mouton
In the 1980s, rallies were not like today: more nerve-racking, more difficult terrains, more dangerous roads, less safety measures. During her debut season, Michèle Mouton had a lot of ups and downs. Her Highlight was Italy, when she won the Rallye Sanremo for Audi, trumping Henri Toivonen and Ari Vatanen.
In 1982, Mouton drove against Walter Röhrl and his Opel and Finn Markku Alén in his Lancia. One of her Audi team-mates: Stig Blomqvist. But Röhrl became champion, Michèle Mouton second.
Michèle Mouton won races in Portugal, Greece and Brazil.
But her most famous victory was at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 1985.
In 1986, after her friend Henri Toivonen’s death, she stopped rallying. She started a family and concentrated herself on an ambassadorial function in the FIA, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile.
She shines with four wins at the WRC, nine podium finishes, 160 stage victories and the famous victory at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb – and made history as winning woman in the top levels of motorsport. Michèle Mouton is definitely an racing icon and an inspiration for all generations, racers and genders.
Michèle Mouton is President of the Women & Motor Sport Commission.
It was only the pleasure to drive – to live with the car. I never, never, never thought about competition.