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Gilberte Thirion's historic win in Corsica
50 years ago, a woman clinched the victory
Fifty years ago, Gilberte Thirion won the first Tour de Corse at the wheel of a Renault Dauphine. She tells the story her success on the French island...
“Papa loved rallying and one day he appeared at the Champion spark plug
company in Belgium where I worked. He brought me to the window, and pointed to a car parked outside. ‘We are going to race that car my girl, you are going to rally'.

“And that is precisely what I did for nearly a decade…

“I still vividly remember the Tour de Corse in 1956. I was driving for Renault at the time and they entered me in this unknown rally. The event was organised despite the general ban on automobile racing due to the oil crisis in Suez. In those days, we all worked together, drove together, and celebrated together, and prior to the Rally all of the drivers celebrated the event's maiden debut. It was a wonderful evening in a restaurant lost in the mountains.

“There was such a good ambiance; however, the camaraderie quickly disappeared the next morning… 43 competitors lined up for the start, but only 24 made it to the finish line. The rally's daunting reputation had been established. Nadège Ferrier, my co-driver, and I were not impressed by the Rally's treacherous roads, and keep pushing my Renault Dauphine to the limits. As we drove through the villages, past the Corsicans lining the roads, I heard them calling out to me, ‘Una ragaragazza'. ‘What a beautiful woman' ...

“They proved less enthusiastic when I crossed the winner's line. I heard the spectators proclaim, 'The Tour de Corse must have been easy if a woman managed to win'. Even some of my fellow competitors were annoyed that a woman had beaten them.
Although some of the drivers took it better than others because it was I their mate that had won.

“The Tour de Corse was to be one of the last rallies of my career, but my victory on the island enabled me to be awarded highest sporting award in Belgium, ‘Lauréate du Trophée du Mérite Sportif' (winner of the sports achievement trophy).

"Rallying was, and always will be a very important factor in my life. It has brought me such great emotions and such personal satisfaction. I have been privileged to know great men in my life through this sport, Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Maurice Trintignant, Louis Rosier, and many others. It allowed me to race in legendary events such as the Mille Miglia, Rallye de Monte Carlo, and the 1st Tour de Corse. I wish you all a memorable 50th edition.”
Source Rallye de France Tour de Corse

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