May 22, 2006

Today In Automotive History

1977 First woman qualifies for Indy

Janet Guthrie became the first female to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Guthrie failed to finish the 1977 race due to mechanical troubles. The next year, however, she not only finished the race but landed in ninth place, a remarkable achievement considering her meager race funding. Guthrie explains her career beginning as the result of her passion for adrenaline rush and the purchase of her first sports car. "I've always loved adventure," she said. "I went parachuting when I was 16, and got my pilot's license when I was 17. I went to school for physics... and when I got out of school I bought a Jaguar, from my $125-a -week salary and my superb sense of moderation." After 13 years of racing, Guthrie's break came when she was asked to test a car at Indy. Her participation brought her immediate fame. Many men objected strongly to her driving at Indy. "The alarm and commotion took me by surprise," she said. "The woman part of my participation was irrelevant to anything on the track. But people thought we were plotting a revolution... they said women will endanger our lives." Guthrie responded to the criticism simply by racing the best she could. "In racing there is no room for a readout from your nervous system. Your body becomes part of the machine." Guthrie gave up her dream of becoming an Indy Car driver for financial reasons, which she cites as a major obstacle to women becoming involved in the sport. "Drag racing gets more women because it costs about a tenth of Indy Car racing. It's a very expensive sport. I managed to make do with $120,000 I got from Texaco, but most drivers have between two and three million dollars to work with."

Posted by Quality Weenie at May 22, 2006 07:10 AM | TrackBack