There are so many female racing drivers that deserve to be on this list, so it’s difficult to narrow it down to just 10.
That being said, there have been some absolute trailblazers over the years.
So while this list could easily be 100 long, here are 10 women we think are some of the absolute best race drivers of all time.
1. Lella Lombardi
Lella Lombardi is one of pioneers for women in motorsport. She was one of the few women to make it into Formula 1 during a time when it was practically unheard of.
Lombardi participated in 17 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, debuting on 20th July 1974.
She finished her career with half a point which she got at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix. While it may not seem like much to some now, it was very much a big deal at the time.
Lella has since gone on to be the inspiration for generations of female racers to come.
For example, double W Series Champion Jamie Chadwick said repeatedly that Lombardi was one of her biggest inspirations, if not the biggest.
2. Danica Patrick
Let’s face it, this list wouldn’t be complete without Danica. If you know anything about racing, then you’ll know that she is the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel car racing.
Danica’s victory in the 2008 Indy Japan 300 is the only win by a woman in an IndyCar Series race to date.
Ask any budding female racing driver who their role models are and they will inevitably include Danica in their lists.
3. Jutta Kleinschmidt
Jutta Kleinschmidt is a living legend. Known globally for her off road racing abilities, her experience is unparalleled.
Back in 2001, she became the only woman to date to win the legendary Dakar.
And at age 59, Jutta is still racing. You can find her racing alongside Nasser Al-Attiyah in Extreme E where she pushes the car to the limit every single time.
She’s a remarkable character and incredibly nice too. If she’s not a role model for people to get behind then I don’t know who is.
4. Beryl Swain
Beryl made history by becoming the first woman solo motorcyclist to complete a TT Race on the Isle of Man back in 1962.
The Isle of Man TT Course was seen as extremely dangerous and was known for riders having a wide range of life- threatening injuries. She drove an Italian Itom 50cc Racer and raced in the 50cc Ultra Lightweight class.
However not everybody liked the idea of a woman racing in TT. The following year, the International Federation of Motorcycling disappointingly revoked her racing licence so she couldn’t legally complete in the next race. The organisers weren’t willing to take the risk of bad publicity if Beryl got injured during one of the races.
There were no female racers who raced in the TT again until 1978.
5. Susie Wolff
Susie Wolff could be seen as another case of close but no cigar. But while she was never able to get into Formula 1 for a full season, she still deserves a place on this list.
Having raced in Formula Renault, Formula Three and DTM for many years as she made her way up the motorsport ladder -the obvious goal was to reach Formula 1.
On April 11 2012, Wolff was named as a development driver for the Williams Formula One team. In 2014 and 2015, Susie then got the chance to drive in some F1 practise sessions. These were at the British, German and Spanish Grand Prix.
Then, on November 4 2015, Susie announced that she would be retiring from Formula One. She said she felt she had gone as far as she could.
But while her time racing might have been over, she continues to fight for women to get into motorsport.
And she’s currently the CEO of the Venturi Formula E team and was one of the founders of the Dare to be Different Initiative.
6. Laia Sanz
Laia Sanz is quite simply an absolute beast when it comes to racing on two wheels.
She is a 14-time Women’s Trial World Champion and a 10-time Women’s Trial European Champion in outdoor motorcycle trials. The number of titles in that sentence alone is ridiculous in the best possible way and shows just what a tour de force Laia is.
In 2011, Sanz participated for the first time in the Dakar Rally, winning the Female motorcycle category. She finished 39th overall, something that she managed to repeat a year later.
These days, she has made the transition to two wheels for Extreme E where she partners fellow Spaniard and legend, Carlos Sainz Sr.
7. Simona de Silvestro
Swiss Italian racing driver Simona de Silvestro is another of the greats. Throughout her entire racing career to date, she’s been pushing the envelope in terms of what women can do in motorsport. At one point, it looked very likely that she’d be a Formula 1 driver for Sauber in the 2015 season. When that opportunity fell through, she managed to get herself into Formula E for the 2015-16 season racing for Andretti.
Before all this, she competed for several years in the IndyCar series and in 2020 competed in the ADAC GT Masters as a Porsche Factory Driver.
There’s so much more that could be said about Simona. Maybe her story is another that should get the Hollywood treatment.
8. Michèle Mouton
Michèle was a French Rally Driver that raced between 1974 and 1986. Autosport writer David Evans described her as “motorsport’s most successful ever female driver”.
Competing in the World Rally Championship for the Audi factory team, she took four victories and finished runner-up in the drivers’ world championship in 1982.
Mouton states that in her mind she didn’t try to beat her male rivals, but to be at their level.
9. Sabine Schmitz
Perhaps not an entry on this list that you were expecting – but a deserving one nonetheless.
Sabine first established her name with her skills around the Nordschleife. She adored the ‘Ring and knew it on an almost innate level, having driven tens of thousands of laps and competed in countless races.
Schmitz became more widely known in Britain after the 2004 episode of Top Gear where she broke the ten-minute barrier around the Nordschleife in a diesel Jaguar S-Type. Sabine then decided to attempt the same in a Ford Transit Van the following year!
What’s more, Schmitz won the Nürburgring 24 Hours twice, her 1996 victory being the first for a female driver.
In doing so, she tread a similar path to Susie Wolff in being a new beacon of inspiration for new and aspiring female racing drivers that belonged to the next generation and beyond.
10. Maria Teresa de Filippis
You didn’t think we’d end this list without mentioning Maria did you?
Maria Teresa de Filippis was an Italian racing driver, and the very first woman to race in Formula One.
She participated in five World Championship Grands Prix, debuting on 18th May 1958. But due to the fact that she didn’t score any championship points, Maria is often sadly overlooked.
That’s not going to be the case here though. Arguably if it wasn’t for Maria, the likes of Lella Lombardi might not have approached Formula 1 with the same aspirations.
A true pioneer in motorsport for women, we saved the best until last with Maria.