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Desiré Wilson - SA's F1 pioneer

2011-09-06 07:24
Desiré Wilson's story is unique in motorsport, the story of a driver rated one of the best and most capable women to have driven race and Formula 1 cars.

Her fascinating story that starts in South Africa shows that a woman can fight her way to the top of motorsport - and stay there.

Her 50-year motorsport career started in South Africa, followed by a move to Holland, then to England and the US before taking on a new life at the Goodwood Revival Historic race events.


Desiré raced in 135 race cars, including F1 and IndyCar, on more than 100 tracks in 11 countries. She was the first and only woman to win a race in an F1 car (the British F1 championship in 1980) and scored two victories in FIA World Sports Car championship races at Monza and at Silverstone in 1980.

She earned a reputation as having an intense, no-nonsense approach to racing, which included shrugging off the media glamour to focus on the hard grind of staying competitive.


Throughout those years Desiré maintained her natural shyness and self-effacing manner, living a full racing life. She balanced parallel careers as a wife and racer while holding multiple jobs to help pay the bills. She still strives for perfection and success.

Her career, the book reports, has been exciting, tragic, fun, disappointing, challenging and unique and the story takes you through her life in the sport. It not only describes the difficulties she faced as a woman in a man’s sport, but also the trials facing so many other drivers in their quest to make it to F1 stardom.

Author Alan Wilson has been involved in various facets of motorsport since 1969. After marrying Desiré in 1975 they moved around and ended up in the UK, where he became a director of the Brands Hatch company before moving to the US in 1983. 

They established a track design company, Wilson Motorsport, which has developed many racing facilities, including the Miller Motorsports Park.

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