AND GOD CREATED… THE PRINCESSES!
Applause, classic car engines roaring, champagne and tears – a triumphal arrival. There were nearly 200 of them and they all took centre stage today in Saint Tropez. Emotional, happy and fulfilled. The results? For most they counted less than the achievement of getting all the way to the end. Over half a century ago, just a few metres away from the Place des Lices, Roger Vadim created… women. Sixty-three years later God created the Princesses! The 20th RALLYE DES PRINCESSES RICHARD was made just for them. Over a short but action-packed week they enjoyed an extraordinary adventure. Shared between friends and family. One thousand seven hundred kilometres in five days and as many stages. From Place Vendôme in Paris to Places des Lices, a regularity rally that proved particularly demanding. Today the GRAND PRIX DE SAINT-TROPEZ saw the 91 crews still in the race leave the famous seaside town for three ZR en route for Taradeau and the Château Saint-Martin, birthplace of the Paris-Saint-Raphaël, the ancestor of the event, before returning back to the Côte d’Azur. Suspense guaranteed, with just two points separating the two leaders in the overall rankings before this ultimate battle.
MIND (THE TINY) GAP!
Gratzmuller/Laurent win the 20th edition!
Nearly 1,700 kilometres travelled since leaving Paris and nothing between them. It was as if they wanted to maintain the suspense all the way till the end. CAROLE GRATZMULLER and ELISA NOÉMIE LAURENT (Chevrolet Corvette Stingray n°56) and their rivals MARIE PÉRIN and CATHERINE LABBÉ (VW Golf n°79) waited until the 19th and final Regularity Zone of this 20th RALLYE DES PRINCESSES RICHARD MILLE to decide the result. By scoring exactly the same number of points (4) over the penultimate zone the two crews let the battle for this 20th crown run to the very last kilometres. First through, the Golf dropped 8 points, while the Corvette ‘scored’ 4 to increase their overall lead to 6 points, to the huge relieve of these Super Princesses! A fifth victory for CAROLE GRATZMULLER, a third for her co-driver. Bravo ladies! On the third step of the podium ADELINE PAQUIERS and HELENA EUVRARD (AC Cobra n°100) - another medal to add to their already impressive tally.
Congratulations also to MARINA ORLANDI CONTUCCI and VALÉRIE DOT (Lancia Beta Monte Carlo n°90) who fought up at the front of the pack throughout the week to finish fourth in Saint-Tropez. Rounding out the final top five of this 20th edition was CARINE MERLE and LAURE MENESSON (Austin Healey 3000 n°31), proving that perseverance always pays off in the end.
Séverine Loeb first rookie !
Taking advantage of a withdrawal, they were some of the last to sign up back in January. SÉVERINE LOEB and DANISSA FONJALLAZ (Porsche 911 S n°70) went from disappointment to surprised delight. Handicapped by defective instruments, the rookie pairing had a tough first day. Happily that evening they received some good basic advice and suddenly their performance improved and their smiles widened. Among the 40% never to have taken part before on this 20th edition, Séverine and Danissa finally finished in 26th place to take the coveted ‘Best rookies’ award. Next year they plan to return better equipped and with considerably more experience…
FLASHBACK: TWENTY YEARS AGO…
Carole Gratzmuller: “The Vichy Cup, in the rain…”
Twenty years ago, almost to the day, the RALLYE DES PRINCESSES set off for their odyssey over France’s most scenic roads. With 18 cars on the start line this atypical event broke down stereotypes, allowing women to get behind the wheel on a rally specifically designed for them, by them…
It was back in 2001 that Carole Gratzmuller first discovered the RALLYE DES PRINCESSES RICHARD MILLE. But it would be her second attempt that would prove to be the revelation for the now 13 times participant and record holder, with a grand total of 6 victories. Add to that three second places and you quickly realise that Carole is in fact a Super Princess: “I discovered the Rallye des Princesses aboard my Austin Lehnam. We weren’t at all prepared and neither was our car. As the rally went on bits started to fall off at regular intervals. We even had to take the engine apart, before the mudguards dropped off with the vibration. I remember I received the Vichy Cup on arriving at the spa town after having done the whole stage with the roof down in the pouring rain. At the final finish we were very proud to come in 6th place and be awarded the Fairplay Cup. That’s when I understood I had to come back to try and win the event.” And that is exactly what she did the following year. The start of a long series…
Viviane Zaniroli (Fra/Organiser): “We couldn’t have wished for a better week on which to blow out the 20 candles on this RALLYE DES PRINCESSES RICHARD MILLE. The weather was just perfect, the race undecided right until the end and two magnificent winners who reflect perfectly the evolution of this event in terms of sport. It is a rally by women for women and that is in no way inferior to more famous male dominated events.”
Tom Zaniroli (Fra/Sports Director): “At 20 the RALLYE DES PRINCESSES RICHARD MILLE has proved that it has a great future. The hundred or so entrants are a mix of experienced women and young recruits who are learning very quickly, like SÉVERINE LOEB, who proved in the space of a week that she will be a serious contender in the future.”
Carole Gratzmuller (Fra/Corvette Stingray n°56 / 1st ): “What a week! It was really intense. We were in the lead right from the first evening but the battle raged throughout the 19 ZRs with the result being decided in the last metres. It is without doubt the most satisfying of my 5 RALLYE DES PRINCESSES RICHARD MILLE victories. I would like to thank my co-driver Elisa, with whom I felt straightaway at ease. Her third victory is certainly not down to luck. We are sure to be back on this magnificent event.”
Adeline Paquiers (FR/Ford Cobra n°100 / 3rd) “We finished third at our first attempt, we finished first last year and we’re back on the podium again in third place this year. Obviously we’d liked to have won but it was a really hard battle. We had a problem with one of our wheels that effected the steering and made life a bit complicated. Without that we might have been able to do better.... Apart from that our car was a joy to drive and gave us no problems.”
Séverine Loeb (Fra/Porsche 911 S n°70 / 1st Rookie): “It is clear that we completely under-estimated the competitive element of this rally. We thought it was just a nice drive with a load of other women. But we very quickly realised that in addition to being an extraordinary adventure, this RALLYE DES PRINCESSES RICHARD MILLE was an extremely challenging regularity rally of the highest level. It wasn’t until today that we understood that we were better off disconnecting the instrument that gave us the pace. It wasn’t properly set up and no one was able to help us calibrate it properly. Given that, it was a miracle that we managed to finish in 26th place and take the best rookie award. Danissa and I have already decided that we’ll be back next year much better prepared!”