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Michèle Mouton: The Greatest Female Driver in History

In the world of rally racing, once seen as a man's sport, Michèle Mouton, known as "The Black Volcano," broke barriers. As the first woman in rallying, she showed that men and women can race together, eliminating the need for separate women's racing leagues.

Michèle Mouton - Monte Carlo Rally 1977
Michèle Mouton - Monte Carlo Rally 1977

Michèles early experiences behind the wheel began at age 14 when she drove her father's Citroen 2cv (similar to the one currently displayed in our museum). However, her interest in rallying truly began when she co-drove for her friend (Jean Taibi) in the 1973 Monte Carlo Rally.

Michèle's father believed that if she wanted a career in rallying, she should be behind the wheel. He gave her one year to prove herself and purchased an Alpine Renault A110, (similar to the one displayed in our museum), which was among the best rally cars of its era. Michelle's talent was evident when she secured 12th place in the 18th Tour de Corse rally. Rumors spread about a possible illegal engine, but WRC inspection confirmed her speed and skill.

In 1974, Michèle Mouton did extremely well at Tour de Corse, keeping her Ladies' French and European titles. The year after, she and her all-female team won at Le Mans in a Moynet LM 75. Her brave driving in the rain without pit stops caught the public's attention, landing her a sponsorship from Elf.

“It started to rain, I remember, and I started to pass everybody. I was running on slicks. In the pits, they were saying ‘Michéle, you must stop,’ but I didn’t want to because I was passing everyone,”  said Mouton.

In 1976, she tried two World Rally Championship races with an Alpine 110 but retired from both. Then, she switched to the Alpine A310 but faced another retirement at Tour de Corse. 

From 1977 to 1979, Mouton went on to compete on the global stage with Fiat, even securing a victory at the Tour de France rally. However, in 1980, Fiat informed her that she wouldn't be racing in the Monte Carlo rally due to their support limitations, leaving Mouton in a challenging position.

She was compelled to borrow a Lancia Stratos, typically driven by Bernard Darniche. Darniche was concerned about Mouton driving his car as he thought she was going to ruin it. Despite his concerns, Mouton defied expectations and finished seventh in the Rally Monte Carlo, surpassing all other Lancias. Ironically, later that year, Darniche experienced engine overheating issues while racing against Mouton, damaging his own Lancia.

1978 46' Rally de Monto-Carlo

In 1981, Mouton joined the newly established Audi rally team, with their revolutionary all-wheel-drive technology. Later that year she drove at the Sanremo Rally World Rally Championship.

Ari Vatanen said “Never can, nor will I lose to a woman” She went on to beat him and became the first woman to win a world rally championship.

In 1982, Mouton encountered a setback with a crash in Monaco, but she quickly bounced back with impressive victories in Portugal and Greece. Despite facing mechanical challenges, she showed remarkable resilience, earning accolades such as the Audi manufacturer's title and the International Rally Driver of the Year award. The following year, in 1983, Mouton continued to demonstrate her talent with notable performances in Sweden, Portugal, and Kenya.

Michèle Mouton Crash in Monaco
Michèle Mouton Crash in Monaco

In 1985, despite facing opposition from organizers, she defied all odds to conquer the challenging Colorado mountain in a record-breaking time of 11:25:38. Mouton's victory at Pikes Peak was far from easy, facing a hailstorm during the climb. Despite the adversity, she surpassed Al Unser Jr's 1982 record by thirteen seconds, breaking barriers of gender inequality in racing. Not only was Mouton the fastest at Pikes Peak, but she also became the first international racer in a non-American car to achieve this feat.

Michèle Mouton & Her Record Run at Pike’s Peak
Michèle Mouton & Her Record Run at Pike’s Peak

In 1986, with the end of Group B, Michèle retired from rallying. However, she continued to support Peugeot for several decades. Despite officially stepping back, she remained active in the sport, participating in rally raids and co-founding the Race of Champions. Her lasting impact on motorsports was recognized in 2010 when she became the first president of the FIA's Women Motorsport Commission, advocating for gender equality and solidifying her legacy as one of the greatest rally drivers of all time.

Michèle Mouton



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