Cross country women heading to the desert | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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Cross country women heading to the desert

Selection panel nominates 18 women to participate in the joint FIA Women in Motorsport and Qatar Motor & Motorcycling Federation cross country rally project

Following receipt of 85 applications from 39 countries for the joint FIA Women in Motorsport and Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) cross country rally project, the selection committee has now chosen 18 drivers and co-drivers to participate in the final process. These women will take part in a five-day training and assessment programme in Qatar, where one driver and one co-driver will ultimately be chosen to team up and participate in the 2016 Sealine Cross Country Rally, courtesy of QMMF.

The women chosen to participate, including two wildcard candidates from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, are:


Charlotte Berton, France

Jonna Lisa Eson Bradhe, Sweden

Emma Gilmour, New Zealand

Cristina Gutiérrez Herrero, Spain

Klaudia Podkalicka, Poland 

Melanie Schulz, Germany

Yara Shalaby, Egypt 

Molly Taylor, Australia

Sara Williams, United Kingdom



Lisette Bakker, Netherlands

Tania Cardoso Sequeira, Portugal

Yasmeen Elmajed, Jordan 

Veronica Engan, Norway

Rhianon Gelsomino, Australia

Sandra Labuscagne, South Africa

Jasmeen Singh Bhandhair, Zambia

Natalie Solbach-Schmidt, Germany

Lara Vanneste, Belgium

“We were impressed by the calibre of applicants, which made this initial selection process very difficult,” said Michèle Mouton, President of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, who was joined on the assessment committee by Jutta Kleinschmidt and Fabrizia Pons. “Our ASNs really got behind this project and it has demonstrated there are a lot of women out there who want to come and try a different discipline. Our great thanks to QMMF President Nasser Al-Attiyah for supporting this project and giving women this opportunity. For those applicants who weren’t successful on this occasion, I urge them to continue following their dream and never give up. For the others we will meet in Qatar, this is where the adventure starts!”

The training camp in the desert, which takes place between 2-7 November, will be led by two of the sport’s finest women competitors: Jutta Kleinschmidt, the first and only woman to win the legendary Dakar Rally, and multiple rally and cross country winning co-driver Fabrizia Pons. Both will guide the candidates through an intense training and development programme encompassing all the essential techniques required for this spectacular motor sport discipline.

“The desert training will be tough, but it has to be because this is the nature of the sport,” added Kleinschmidt. “For a lot of the time during an event the crew is on its own and they need to be resourceful, determined and focused, often in extreme conditions and temperatures. We need to see these attributes, and more, because cross country rallying is so much more than just driving. Naturally I really hope we can find a driver and co-driver with the potential, longer term, to really challenge the leading crews in the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies.”