Berliner Tageblatt - 'Love at first sight' as women shine in Le Mans world

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'Love at first sight' as women shine in Le Mans world
'Love at first sight' as women shine in Le Mans world / Photo: © AFP

'Love at first sight' as women shine in Le Mans world

Coming into motorsports from the worlds of business head-hunting and even dog grooming, women will make their presence felt at the iconic Le Mans 24 Hour Race which gets underway on Saturday.

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AFP Sports spoke to some of the women who will be involved behind both the wheel and the scenes this weekend:

- Sarah Bovy, 'love at first sight' -

Belgian driver Sarah Bovy is 35 and first fell for the charms of Le Mans when she was a teenager driving karts.

This year, she will be taking part in the classic endurance race for Iron Dames, the only 100 percent female team entered at Le Mans.

"It was love at first sight," said Bovy who lists climbing and flying among her passions.

When she was 13, and embarking on a karting career, she came up against potential barriers.

"My parents and I saw that it would be complicated due to lack of means," she said.

"If I hadn't been a girl, my father probably wouldn't have insisted so much," she said, adding that being a woman in this industry "attracts more attention" from sponsors.

For around twenty years, Bovy competed in a handful of races each season, squeezing in racing between her studies.

With a degree in marketing and management, she became a headhunter. Then, tired of office life, she started a dog grooming business.

Arriving at Iron Dames in 2021 following "an email sent after seeing that a driver was going to be absent", she was named as a driver and claimed her first victory in the world endurance championship at Bahrain.

- Elise Bauquel, born to be a mechanic -

"When I told him I wanted to be a mechanic, my father said 'no'. I told him 'I'm not asking you'."

Arriving in the world of motorsport in 2008, Porsche Jota's Elise Bauquel now trots across the globe to live out her passion, travelling from Le Mans to the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan, from Qatar to Brazil.

However, nothing was predestined for the 41-year-old mechanic to get into this career. "In my family, no one is interested in motorsport, or even cars in general," said Bauquel.

Having worked in a design office, Bauquel then saw a friend who did hillclimbing and said to herself 'why not?'.

She quit office life in 2006 and joined France's Ecole de la Performance, which is renowned in the motor racing world for its training programmes.

Today, she is the only female mechanic in the team. "I absolutely cannot see myself doing anything else."

- Laura Wontrop-Klauser, engineer turned director -

At 35, Laura Wontrop-Klauser manages hundreds of staff as a team boss and is the only woman in this position in the premier category at Le Mans.

Director of the Cadillac and Corvette endurance programmes since 2021, the American began her career in 2008 at General Motors, the parent body of the two brands.

Initially an intern, this trained engineer devoted the "first eight years of my career to car production".

In 2016, she continued her rise by joining the group's motorsport branch -- climbing the ladder to the top of the pyramid.

"When I got the job and started working, I said to myself that this is exactly where I belong."

- Lisa Weishard, the face of security -

Working as a sports delegate at the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), the organisers of the Le Mans 24 Hour Race, Lisa Weishard has one priority: "ensuring everyone's safety".

At 33, the young Frenchwoman is also responsible for enforcing sporting regulations.

A mission that this "motorsports enthusiast since she was little" would not give up for anything in the world.

"I always wanted to make a life in the paddocks, so I made all my study choices around that," she said.

"I wanted to be an engineer but I didn't like physics, so I went to business school and came to the ACO in a marketing capacity before one of the bosses gave me the chance to switch to the sports side of things."