The First Ever Woman to Win a WRC Round

Michele Mouton

Born in Grasse, France in 1951. Her first WRC round as a driver was the 1974 Tour de Corse in an Alpine Renault A110 1800. She finished twelfth overall. In 1976, Mouton changed her machine to an Alpine Renault A310. She raced in Monte Carlo, Sanremo and Tour de Corse. Mouton competed in rally racing with a Porsche 911 until the middle of 1977, then changed her machine to a Fiat 131 Abarth. Mouton competed with Fiat until 1980. From 1981, she changed her team to Audi, and drove the Quattro. Her first win was in Sanremo. Mouton then goes on to win three rounds in 1982. She continued with Audi until 1985, then changed to a Peugeot 205T16 E2 in 1986. Mouton retired from racing in the same year, 1986. After retiring from racing, she co-founded the international motorsport event Race of Champions, and also works at the FIA Sports Committee.

Mouton in the Audi Quattro cockpit. She drove the 4WD car that brought in a new era to the WRC.

Michele Mouton took interest in rally racing when she accompanied her friend training to compete in the Tour de Corse. Mouton is said to have driven her father’s car around their house since the age of 14. She learned the fun of driving and Mouton started to take interest in how to shorten the time to get to destinations.

Mouton’s first rally was the 1973 Monte Carlo Rally. She joined the inaugural WRC event as Jean Taibi’s co-driver in a Peugeot 304. Unfortunately, that year’s Monte Carlo’s conditions were heavy snow, and although factory cars made it through the conditions, they were unable to go through SS.

Mouton stayed as Taibi’s co-driver for a few rounds, and then went on to race with the Alpine Renault A110 her father bought for her. She competed in the French Championship. She started to rank within the top 10. In the 1974 Tour de Corse, her car number was 65, Group 3’s last number. Her competitors were Alpine Renault and Porsche 911. She finished twelfth overall, and first of the Group 3 Class. In the following year’s WRC Tour de Corse, she finished seventh overall. In the 1976 Rally Monte Carlo, she finished eleventh. She then changed her machine to the Alpine Renault A310. Mouton went on to finish second in the French Championship.

Mouton started to participate in events and races outside of rallying. In 1975, she competed in the 24 Hours Le Mans with two other women drivers. They drove 270 laps in a Moynet LM75 Simca, and finished twenty-first overall. She won the S2.0 Class.

In 1977, Mouton competed with the Porsche Carrera RS with Elf, her sponsor. She won the Rally de España round in ERC. She gained attention through this victory, and in the same year, she was invited to race in the Tour de Corse with a Fiat 131 Abarth. She stayed with Fiat for three seasons. In the 1978 Monte Carlo, she raced with a Lancia Stratos and finished seventh, In the FIA Driver’s Cup, she finished fourth (the champion of the year was Markku Alen). She stayed to compete in the French Championship for 1979 and 1980.

From 1981, she changed her team to Audi. Mouton commented that back then, she knew little of the Audi Quattro. This was the timing her co-driver changed to Frabrizia Pons. In her first race with Audi at Rally Monte Carlo, there was sand in her machine’s fuel tank and had to retire. Mouton finished fourth in Portugal, and won Criterium de Garrigues, which was part of the French Championship. She retired Tour de Corse and Acropolis due to machine troubles. She finished thirteenth in the 1000 Lakes Rally.

At the WRC Sanremo Rally, her competitors were factory teams of Fiat, Talbot, Nissan, Ford, Opel, Porsche and Audi. Talbot and Nissan were battling for the Manufacturers’ Championship Title. Guy Fréquelin, Ali Vatanen, and Markku Alen were competing for the Drivers’ Championship Title. Every team was concentrated on the win, as it was one of the latter races of the season. As the Sanremo Rally started, Audi came across a machine trouble. Hannu Mikkola’s machine was slowing down, and Michele Cinotto retired. Mouton, who started off in the middle, gradually caught up to the top machines and won the race after dodging Vatanen and Henri Pauli Toivonen.

Mouton won the WRC Portugal, Acropolis and Brazil in 1982, but wasn’t enough to catch up to Walter Röhrl with Opel. She ended up second in the championship ranking. In 1984 and 1985, she raced in the British Rally Championship. In 1986, she changed her team to Peugeot and drove a 205T16 E2 in the WRC and ERC. However, Mouton announced her retirement after Henri Pauli Toivonen passed away in a crash at Tour de Corse.

Mouton drifting in Rally Sweden. She finished off fourth in this round.

Back then, Mouton commented “Rallying is a very interesting and exciting sport with people from various backgrounds. If I were to quit motorsports tomorrow, it would mean that I’ve found something to do next.”

After retiring from racing, she has co-founded “Race of Champions,” where drivers from various motorsport categories gather to race.

After retiring from racing, she founded “Race of Champions.” In 2009, it was held in Beijing (photo to the right). The champion was Mattias Ekström, and second was Michael Schumacher that year.

Mouton demonstrated the Audi Quattro Sports E2 in Beijing.

In 2010, she became the first president of the FIA Women & Motorsport Commission. In 2011, she was appointed to be FIA’s Manager in the World Rally Championship. Mouton also took part of the selection committee of the Rally Hall of Fame. In 2012, she was nominated along with the two-time world champion Carlos Sainz to the Hall of Fame.

Mouton was also made knight of the Legion of Honor by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mouton works as the FIA representative in the WRC to check each course’s safety.

Michele Mouton WRC Record of victory

Times Year Event Co-driver Car
1 1981 Rallye Sanremo Fabrizia Pons Audi Quattro
2 1982 Rallye de Portugal Fabrizia Pons Audi Quattro
3 1982 Acropolis Rally Fabrizia Pons Audi Quattro
4 1982 Rallye do Brasil Fabrizia Pons Audi Quattro

WRC Legend Driver TOP

Silver Partner

  • Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance

Bronze Partners

  • ACT HOLDINGS
  • Cheerio Corporation Co., LTD
  • eplus inc.
  • PUMA Japan K.K.

Official Supporters

  • JTB Corp.
  • TAMADIC

Media Partners

  • The Chunichi Shimbun
  • TOKAI TELEVISION BROADCASTING CO., LTD.
  • CBC TELEVISION Co., LTD.
  • CHUKYO TV. BROADCASTING CO., LTD.
  • Nagoya Broadcasting Network Co., Ltd.
  • Aichi Television Broadcasting Co., Ltd.
  • CBC RADIO Co., Ltd.
  • TOKAI RADIO Co., Ltd.
  • FM AICHI BROADCASTING CO., LTD.
  • ZIP-FM Inc.