For most rally fans (myself included), the 80s was the most fascinating era of rallying for one pure and simple reason: Group B. During this period, Audi was constantly the team to beat, and for a while, the great Michele Mouton was one of the hired guns for this legendary team, and she was total business.
Mouton had a meteoric rise to fame in the world of racing, making her World Rally debut in 1974. The following year saw her compete in the 24 hours of LeMans, in which her all-female team won the 2-liter prototype category. She was quickly signed to the Fiat factory team, driving the 131 Abarth, which she referred to as “a big truck, not a car”. Despite this, she put in consistent results, but it was her move to Audi which brought her to the forefront of the rally world.
She contested a partial season with Audi in 1980, but her first full season of the WRC would be in 1981. She quickly became known for her flat-out, no nonsense style of driving. At this time, she began her longtime partnership with female co driver Fabrizia Pons. She took her first win at the Rallye Sanremo that season, becoming the first and only woman to ever win a WRC event. This dream team of Mouton and Pons would go on to win 4 rallies together.
1982 would be the height of Mouton’s rally career, and would see her rack up wins in Portugal, the brutal Acropolis Rally, and the Rally of Brazil. In the end, she would narrowly lose the championship to Walter Rohrl, who won less races but had more finishes, giving him the title.
1983 was a season of ups and downs for Mouton. In the races she finished, she recorded strong finishes. This year was also her first time competing in the brutal Safari Rally, which I have previously written about. I stumbled across this recap of the 1983 Safari rally, uploaded by a good samaritan. Not only is it a neat piece of rally history, but shows Mouton and Pons totally in their element.
1984 saw Mouton continuing to drive for Audi, but only on half of the rounds instead of the full championship. She contested two rounds of the 1986 season with Peugeot before retiring from the WRC, but her mark had been made. To this day, she is still one of the world’s most successful and prolific female rally drivers. Ive always been a huge fan of truly talented women drivers, and to me Michele Mouton has to be one of the best.