Shelby McLaren Audi Sport Quattro S1 Mouton
Shelby McLaren’s father was a stoic man, yet he had an open mind and very much enjoyed innovation. It was frowned upon for women to be driving in the early part of the 20th century but Shelby’s father had always supported women in motorsport, he loved to see them race and he had often told Shelby women were absolutely fearless behind the wheel and had the reflexes of an alley cat!
Shelby’s father had introduced him to the Rallye Paris-St Raphael Feminin that held been held in the south of France since 1929. The rally was only open to female drivers and both Shelby and his father loved to see the passion and precision of those women at the wheel. Shelby had been a number of times in the 1960’s with his father but was on the cote d’Azur in 1974 so attended the final stages of the rally that year. It was to be the last time this rally was ever staged but it would prove to be an even more historic moment because it was the first time the greatest female racing driver of all time would race in a national competition as a driver.
Michele Mouton began her driving career in the legendary Alpine A110 and took 12th place in her first World Rally Championship in the Tour de Corse in 1974. Her natural talent and ability was evident from the beginning but not everyone was so convinced. Her car was impounded a number of times in her rooky year as some believed she had been running an illegal engine. She hadn’t, it was pure driving skill that had her at the front of the pack so quickly!
Both Shelby and his father were passionate rally supporters and they had attended many events together. They had been to the Tour of France numerous times and were overawed with the incredible drive of Mouton when she won the event in a Fiat 131 Abarth in 1978. They were especially excited when Mouton was chosen in 1980 to pilot the new Audi Quattro, the first ever rally car to have over 300bhp and both a turbo-charger and four-wheel-drive. And it was only by chance that they were at Rallye Sanremo in 1981 to see Mouton become the first female driver to win a world championship event in rallying. It was a memorable moment for Shelby because prior to that race the legend, Ari Vatenan had said, “never can nor will I lose to a woman”. The final result would have him eating his words. Shelby’s father had said it was a ‘rather sublime moment’.
It was evident to both Shelby and his father that a World Rally Championship was easily within the grasp of Michele Mouton. Her tenacity, her skill and her unwavering dedication to her motorsport was the impetus for the results of 1982. It was only by the slimmest of margins that Mouton was the runner up for the World Rally Championship that year but would continue to set milestones within motorsport and within rally for well over a decade. Stirling Moss and Niki Lauda considered her, ‘one of the best’.
A number of slot car makers have produced rally cars bearing the moniker ‘Mouton’, including Scalextric, SCX, Original Slot Cars, Fly and Team Slot. Our moment today captures an event at Goodwood celebrating some of the cars that were driven by not just the greatest female rally driver of all time, but one of the best rally drivers of her era.