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Motor racing's glamour girl



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Giovanna Amati


Brabham-Judd BT60B




1992 South African GP


Ah, Giovanna... For a driver of such dubious pedigree, it's a miracle alone she reached the highest level of motor racing. Italian girl Giovanna Amati had been a steady F3 stalwart - even winning a race in 1986! - but only managed to score a 7th as her best result in several seasons of International F3000. So it's very likely she would not have been invited to drive the second Brabham at the start of the 1992 season if she had been a boy...

A living Trivial Pursuit question, Amati remains the last woman driver trying to qualify for a World Championship Grand Prix, taking the seat Japanese F3000 driver Akihiko Nakaya was supposed to fill. With everyone in the paddock rooting for Giovanna, this was a sight we saw just too much in those early-season races at Kyalami, Mexico City and Interlagos. Taking the car and a complete lack of testing into account though, it was hardly a surprise she failed in any of her three attempts. The last of the Brabhams was a slightly upgraded version of 1991's BT60Y, modified to fit a Judd engine into the gap Yamaha had left. Even talented team leader Eric van de Poele missed out in every one of his qualifying efforts bar the first race in South Africa, the Belgian lucking in because of the unpreparedness of others.

The best story is of course Giovanna's illustrious successor failing to qualify five times in a row after taking over her seat in the No.8 Brabham. Then just a late-blooming, fairly talented son of a double World Champion, Damon Hill was not expected to grow into what he has become now: an accomplished driver with 21 race wins under his belt and a title of his own to show for. Of the three Brabham drivers in the team Swiss business man - and convicted criminal - Joachim Luhti had brought to its knees, Hill at least managed to qualify twice, even taking the grossly re-liveried ugly duck to 11th at the swansong Hungarian GP, the Hungaroring always being one of Damon's favourite tracks.

By then, Giovanna Amati was long forgotten, although she will always have a special place in the history books. Today, apart from driving a little Tampolli-Alfa Romeo sportscar in the ISRS SR2 class and being lined up for the 1999 ALMS-offshoot WGGT series, she duly features in the answers to the ever-recurring question of lady drivers in F1 history, young F1 fans having picked up on a rumour about some Italian babe driving a GP car ages ago. As it has no sense to satisfy their needs with a reminder of Maria Teresa De Filippis or Lella Lombardi, one can only come up with Giovanna, who may at least carry the dubious honour of being the prettiest driver to take the wheel of an F1 car. 1992 - doesn't that seem ages ago?

Reader's Why by Rainer Nyberg

This Italian lady-racer was the last or maybe latest woman trying to qualify to a GP. She was entered in the Brabham team during its death struggle in 1992 when she tried to qualify three times but never got into the race. No testing meant that she never had a proper chance to qualify for any of the GPs she was entered in. In the F3 and F3000 classes she had been in previously she had not proved any exceptional speed but she wasn't a total failure either. A lady driver however was thought to give the team some attention and bring some needed sponsorship to the Brabham team. But she was replaced by none other than Damon Hill who at the time had lots of experience driving F1 cars by being employed by Williams as their test driver. Even so he only fared a little better and only qualified in two of the 8 GPs he was entered in.

On our picture we see our lady spinning her Brabham while trying to get into the South African GP. Despite trying hard she was not even close to getting in the race. The white guardrails tell us this is Kyalami. She is, at least in my opinion, the most beautiful driver to have entered GP racing but Christian Fittipaldi might have something to say about that... Her exploits on the racing tracks has since been rare. She drove a Carrera in the Carrera cup a few years ago and has now in 1999 been engaged in a ladies-only sportscar series in the USA.