|Occupation:||Race Car Driver|
|Birth Day:||June 23, 1951|
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Michèle Mouton was born 23 June 1951 in Grasse, a town on the French Riviera known for its perfume industry, close to the mountain stages famously featured in French rallies. Her parents grew roses and jasmine on their large property. After graduating from high school, Mouton began law studies, but would soon drop out and concentrate on a career in rallying. Although Mouton began driving her father's Citroën 2CV when she was 14 years old, she did not turn her interest to rallying until 1972, when her friend Jean Taibi asked her to practise the Tour de Corse with him. Mouton later co-drove for him in the 1973 Monte Carlo Rally, the first-ever World Rally Championship (WRC) event. After a few more rallies, Mouton's father suggested a switch to driving if she wanted to continue in rallying, and promised to buy her a car and give her one-year to prove herself. Driving an Alpine-Renault A110, she debuted at the Rallye Paris - Saint-Raphaël Féminin and then tackled the Tour de France Automobile. In the Île de Beauté, a complementary event to the Tour de Corse at the end of 1973, Mouton finished eighth overall.
In the World Rally Championship, Mouton made her driver debut in 1974, finishing 12th in the Tour de Corse in an Alpine A110. It was rumoured her good performances were the result of a special engine, however her car passed inspection by WRC scrutineers. At the end of the year, Mouton was crowned both French and European ladies' champion. Re-entering the Tour de Corse the following season, she took seventh place. Mouton successfully defended her ladies' titles, and also competed in circuit racing: In an all-female team with Christine Dacremont and Marianne Hoepfner, she won the two-litre prototype category of the 1975 24 Hours of Le Mans. Recalling the race in 2008, Mouton said: "It started to rain I remember, and I started to pass everybody. I was running on slicks. In the pits they were saying 'Michele you must stop', but I did not want to because I was passing everyone." Her results attracted a major sponsor in the form of the French oil company Elf. In 1976, Mouton drove the A110 to 11th place in Monte Carlo and retired at the Rallye Sanremo. At the Tour de Corse, her debut in the newer A310 also ended in retirement.
For the 1977 season, Fiat France signed Mouton to partner Jean-Claude Andruet. She was not impressed by the handling of the Fiat 131 Abarth, stating it was "like a big truck, not a car" and "terrible to drive". However, the car would prove successful and Mouton put in very consistent results, finishing eighth in the Tour de Corse in 1977 and fifth three years in a row from 1978 to 1980. In 1980, she had been running as high as second before her engine died for a time. In Monte Carlo, she drove the car to seventh place in 1979 and 1980, equalling the result she had achieved in the event in a Lancia Stratos HF in 1978.
Outside the World Rally Championship, Mouton drove a Porsche Carrera RS to victory in the 1977 RACE Rallye de España and to second place in the 1977 Tour de France Automobile. She also finished runner-up to Bernard Darniche in the overall European Rally Championship (ERC). Mouton went on to win the Tour de France with the 131 Abarth the following year. At the Rallye d'Antibes, she finished third behind the Stratos drivers Darniche and Attilio Bettega. She placed fifth in the ERC standings and fourth in the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) Cup for Drivers, the predecessor to the drivers' world championship. In 1979, Mouton finished second in the French Rally Championship, behind Porsche 911 SC driver Bernard Béguin.
In 1980, Audi Sport, Audi's new factory team, called Mouton and signed her for a World Rally Championship programme for the 1981 season. Mouton described Audi's call as "a complete shock". Audi's decision to nominate her instead of established male rivals attracted a great deal of publicity. As the Audi Quattro, the first rally car to have over 300 bhp and both a turbocharger and four-wheel-drive, had not yet gained FIA homologation, Audi could only enter rallies as zero cars and not as competitive entries. Hannu Mikkola debuted the car in the Algarve Rally in October, and would have won by about thirty minutes had his times been officially registered. Mouton joined Freddy Kottulinsky for the final round of the Finnish Rally Championship, the Northern Lights, and also showed encouraging pace on the slippery surfaces. Mouton initially found the car understeering, but became more comfortable after switching to left-foot braking, as advised by Mikkola who was in charge of developing the car. Audi announced their participation in eight events in 1981, although Mouton would not be entered in the Swedish Rally due to her lack of experience on driving on ice and snow.
Mouton's 1982 season started with a big accident at the Monte Carlo Rally. On stage twelve in the small town Briançonnet in Provence, she missed a patch of ice and slid off the road, crashing into the stone wall of a large house at 110 km/h (70 mph). Mouton injured her knee while Pons suffered a concussion. She had been in third place, and had set the fastest time for the difficult Col de Turini mountain pass. The pair's injuries were not serious and Mouton went on to make her debut in the Swedish Rally. She was running third when she slid into a snow bank, and crashed into the Quattro of teammate Hannu Mikkola who had gone off at the same place. She eventually finished fifth. In Portugal, Mouton recorded 18 stage wins on her way to a clear victory ahead of Toyota's Per Eklund. She once admitted that to be competitive in the rally, she tried to think of the large crowds right by the side of the route as trees. At the Tour de Corse, she could not match the pace of the leaders and finished seventh. At the Acropolis Rally, Mouton won ahead of the Opel duo Walter Röhrl and Henri Toivonen, and closed to within 20 points of the championship leader Röhrl. The event was overshadowed by two serious accidents, one of which killed a spectator. Mouton had commented: "I'm afraid that something might break in my car and I can no longer avoid hitting a spectator."
The 1983 season started the Group B era of the WRC and Mouton was now at the wheel of the Audi Quattro A1. She also had a new teammate; Audi had signed Stig Blomqvist as their third regular driver. For the third year in a row, Mouton had a bad start to her season in Monte Carlo. She went off the road on a stage not far from her home town, and again hit a stone wall at over 100 km/h (60 mph). The car was destroyed, but Mouton and Pons were unharmed. Mouton explained to her team boss Roland Gumpert, later of Gumpert supercar fame, that she had had to dodge a photographer. Mouton went on to record successive points finishes. She finished fourth in Sweden in a quadruple win for Audi, after an early driving error that had sent her Quattro into a snow bank. In Portugal, Mouton finished second to Mikkola, ahead of Lancia's Röhrl and Markku Alén. After the first section of the Safari Rally, totaling over 1,600 km (1,000 mi), Mouton arrived to the finish on three wheels and said she was "totally exhausted" from the effort. She eventually placed third behind Opel's Ari Vatanen and her teammate Mikkola. After four events, Mikkola and Mouton were first and second in the drivers' championship.
For the 1984 season, Audi added two-time world champion Walter Röhrl to their star line-up and Mouton now had a part-time role, competing in five WRC events. For the first time in nine years, she did not enter the Monte Carlo Rally. However, Mouton signed up to commentate the event for Radio Monte Carlo. She started her year well by finishing second at the Swedish Rally behind teammate and home favourite Blomqvist. Mouton later stated that "finishing second was fantastic. When you are out rallying on ice or snow in country like that it is like dancing. From one side to the other side. My dancing background helped my rallying. As soon as I started on gravel I liked it because of that. It was so nice to feel and move the car like that. Sweden, in ice and snow, like ballet!" This would remain her last podium position in the World Rally Championship.
Mouton broke off her contract with Audi in late 1985 to join Peugeot for the coming season. She contested the German Rally Championship and two WRC events in a Peugeot 205 Turbo 16, with which the marque had captured the previous year's world titles. To replace the newly-wed Pons, Mouton recruited Terry Harryman who had been left jobless after Ari Vatanen's accident. Mouton, nicknamed "der schwarze Vulkan" (The Black Volcano) due to her temperament and long black hair, won six of the eight events in the German championship, including the Rallye Deutschland. Although the Hessen Rallye was stopped after the severe accident of Formula One driver Marc Surer, which claimed the life of his co-driver Michel Wyder, Mouton was declared the winner. She secured the German national title on the seventh and penultimate round, the Sachs Baltic, after taking her fifth win of the season. She became the first female driver to win a major championship in rallying.
Mouton states that in her mind she did not try to beat her male rivals, but to be at their level. She noted that in rallying the quickest elapsed time is the most important thing. David Evans of Autosport described her as "motorsport's most successful ever female driver". Rally journalist and historian Graham Robson credits Mouton, along with Pat Moss, as "the driver by whom all other females measure their skills and achievements". Mouton and Moss were of different eras and did not compete directly against each other, although they both appeared at the 1973 Monte Carlo Rally where Mouton co-drove. In 1985, they swapped cars in a private test session with Moss driving the Quattro and Mouton an Austin-Healey 3000. Stirling Moss regarded Mouton as "one of the best", and Niki Lauda described her as a "superwoman".
While announcing her retirement from rallying, Mouton stated her intention to start a family with Corsican sports journalist Claude Guarnieri. She had her daughter Jessie (Jessica) in 1987. Mouton credited her father Pierre's support as the secret for her success: "He loved driving. He loved fast cars. And I think he would have loved to do what I did. He was a prisoner of war for five years and when he came back he never had the opportunity to compete. But he came to all the rallies I did. And my mother came, too."
In 1988, Mouton co-founded the international motorsport event Race of Champions with Fredrik Johnsson, in memory of Toivonen and to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the world championship for rally drivers. The event originally included the world's top rally drivers, but now features stars also from other disciplines, such as Formula One, NASCAR, Le Mans and MotoGP, competing against each other in identical cars.
In 1988 and 1989, Mouton participated in rally raids as part of Peugeot's service team for Ari Vatanen and Jacky Ickx. At the 1988 Rally of Tunisia, Mouton drove a 205 T16 Grand Raid chase car and transported spare parts for Vatanen and Henri Pescarolo, but also classified sixth overall. She later took part in the Dakar Rally as a press driver in 2004 and 2009. In 2000, Mouton finished second in the London–Sydney Marathon driving a Porsche 911, behind former teammate Stig Blomqvist. After 22 years, Mouton and Fabrizia Pons reunited to compete in the 2008 Otago Classic Rally in New Zealand. In 2010, Mouton competed with a 911 in the Rallye du Maroc and finished second to Grégoire De Mévius.
Mouton's first competitive run in the Quattro in Monte Carlo ended before it had even begun. She withdrew from the event before the start due to apparent engine problems. The team later discovered that dirt had got into the fuel system. At the Rally Portugal, she started her long partnership with the Italian co-driver Fabrizia Pons. Mouton won seven stages and took a career-best fourth place, despite suffering from electronic problems. This ended criticism of Audi for signing a female driver. After a retirement due to a broken camshaft in the Tour de Corse, Mouton set several fastest times at the Acropolis Rally in Greece. While Mikkola was leading and Mouton fifth, the stewards excluded the Quattros citing homologation infractions. Although Audi protested, the stewards upheld the decision. In her debut in the high-speed 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland, Mouton found it hard to get used to the rhythm changes. She recorded a few top-ten stage times and finished 13th. She was satisfied with her performance, and the local newspaper Keskisuomalainen described her debut as successful. At the Rallye Sanremo in Italy, a mixed surface event with tarmac and gravel, Mouton took the lead when the local star Michele Cinotto crashed and held off Henri Toivonen and Ari Vatanen to take the victory. This marked the first time a female driver had won a world championship event in rallying. Mouton's male rivals were left speechless. Earlier during the weekend, Vatanen had been confident: "Never can nor will I lose to a woman." Mouton recalled her debut win in a 2008 interview for RallySport Magazine:
In 2010, Mouton became the first president of the FIA's Women & Motor Sport Commission. She stated that "for many years people have asked me why there have been no women following in my footsteps. I really hope the Commission can help answer that question and that we can attract and support women in all areas of our sport." Having already headed a working group on the future of rallying, Mouton was appointed FIA's manager in the World Rally Championship in 2011. Mouton also serves in the nomination committee of the Rally Hall of Fame. In March 2012, she recused herself after becoming a candidate for nomination. Mouton was inducted into the Hall of Fame along with two-time world champion Carlos Sainz.
In 2011, Mouton was made knight of the Legion of Honour (Légion d'honneur) by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Currently, Michele Mouton is 71 years, 0 months and 2 days old. Michele Mouton will celebrate 72nd birthday on a Friday 23rd of June 2023.
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