A couple of months ago, I had the great pleasure of hearing one really extremely interesting interview. So I had a thought, to write about another woman in the rally world. She is, among other things, one of the most famous female co-drivers, 1892m. receiving the Halda Award – the highest evaluation trophy that a reader of the pace notes can receive. Plus she’s one of two people in history who has earned points at the World Rally Championship as a driver and as a co-driver. And here last week, Mrs. Fabrizia Pons put another cup on her shelf.
I am fascinated by those old times when things went completely different than they do now. For example, this story. Imagine that you are a somewhat famous rally co-driver in Italy. Then in 1980, you are making dinner for yourself in Turin, and a woman who presents herself as Michelle Mouton calls on an old wired phone and says that she would like to see you as a co-driver in the next World Rally Championship season. You say, “Yes, ok ok, thank you and goodbye” and keep going to cook dinner for yourself, terribly offended that someone dares to joke so brutally. And the next day the call again. This time from the head of the Fiat team (with which Fabrizia has been driving for the last few years), who in a panic shouts why you are sitting at home in Italy when everyone is already waiting for you in Ingolstadt, Germany, where the Audi team is headquartered. And then You understand that yesterday’s call was no joke.
This is how Fabrizia Pons entered the highs of the World Rally Championship. Before becoming a co-driver, she had a quite nice career as a driver. She even scored WRC points, when finished 9th in the 1978 San Remo Rallye. The co-drivers career began unexpectedly, with several rallies sitting in the right seat and being stuck there from 1979, next to Luigi “Lucky” Battistolli. In 2014, 34 years later, Fabrizia and Lucky became inseparable again, this time in historic rallies.
Describe Fabrizia’s entire career would take a very long time… But a few things are worth mentioning. In 1982, with Michelle Mouton almost becoming a WRC champion and after a not-so-successful year in the UK, Fabrizia withdrew from the rally and began building a family. A 9-year break that accommodated only episodic performances in several events. Until Fabrizia came up with a handwritten letter expressing a desire to return to co-driving at the World Rally Championship. The letter went to Finland, to a mailbox owned by not just anyone but Ari Vatanen himself. Not long after, Fabrizia also received a handwritten letter from Finland, and from 1994 this Italian lady returned to the WRC next to Ari Vatanen sitting in a Ford Escort WRC. This was followed by three years with Piero Liatti and the Subaru Impreza WRC S5. Having won 4 WRC rallies with Michelle, Patrizia added another one with Piero and Subaru winning the 1997 legendary Monte Carlo rally.
After the WRC era, Fabrizia went into the desert. Pons was most fascinated by the legendary Safari Rally. So when the opportunity arose, with another legendary woman, Juta Kleinschmidt – F.Pons spent 4 years in the sands of the Dakar Rally while sitting in Mitsubishi Pajero and Volkswagen Touareg cars. A third-place trophy was the highest award from Dakar.
In her 60s Fabrizia returned to the rally world, along with the aforementioned Luigi “Lucky” Battistolli. Since 2014, this Italian couple with the Lancia Delta has been relentlessly collecting historical rally trophies one after another. Interestingly, when Fabrizia first saw the Lancia Delta, she couldn’t believe she was going to have to drive in it because, to her taste, it’s a terribly shaped car. But she and Lucky are in Delta to this day.
This woman was sitting in many cars. She has tested from 50-year-old barely moving machines to Group B monsters or this generation’s R5 and WRC. This year, in the Škoda Fabia R5 she had a major accident in tests. But she quickly recovered from the hospital bed and the 65-year-old veteran was back with the helm and won another regular trophy last weekend with 71-year-old Lucky, overtaking his nearest rival by two and a half minutes.
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Photo – Antonio Biasoli ir Max Ponti