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Farewell to Maria de Villota, one of the few women in racing

Published October 11, 2013

 One of motorsport’s saddest stories came to an end Friday with the death at age 33 of Maria de Villota.

The daughter of ex-Formula One driver Emilio de Villota, Maria de Villota had been grievously injured a year ago in a testing crash for the Marussia F1 team in which she lost her right eye, but was thought to be recovering.

During her convalescence, she had written a book, Life Is A Gift, which is to be released on Monday.

De Villota was found dead Friday morning in a hotel room in Seville, Spain, where she had gone to prepare for the book’s launch. Her family announced her passing on her Facebook page.

“Dear friends, Maria has gone. She had to go to heaven like all the angels. We thank God for the extra year and a half that He left her with us.”

De Villota suffering life-changing injuries in a testing crash with Marussia last year. She had completed a straight-line test at an airport and was driving the car back to what essentially was a parking lot when it went out of control and hit a parked truck.

The accident left her in critical condition and she suffered a serious head injury in addition to the loss of her eye.

Her full racing resume can be found by clicking here.

Tributes to her can be found by clicking here.

De Vilotta’s death — so tragic — shines the spotlight on women in racing and the stark reality is that there are hardly any at the moment. In fact, you can pretty much count them on two hands: drivers Danica Patrick, Johanna Long, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Simona de Silvestro, Susie Wolfe and Ashley Force Hood, F1 Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn and IndyCar team owner Sarah Fisher.

Yes, there are a few mechanics and engineers scattered around but just about the only women you find anywhere in racing are employed in communications, marketing or public relations.

Which is curious. Motor racing is one of the few sports in the world where women and men can compete pretty much on an equal basis either as drivers or in-pit support staff. For a few years at the end of the 1980s, several CART teams had women fuelers but that initiative pretty much petered out and other than a few tough-as-nails women since (Fisher, Patrick and De Silvestro come to mind) the sport remains male-dominated.

When Janet Guthrie qualified for what was then called the World 600 in 1976 and the Indianapolis 500 a year later, a great social change in auto racing was predicted.

Hasn’t happened.

How come?

WEEKEND RACING: The Japanese GP is on in the middle of the night so set your recorders or else watch TSN. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were one-two in Friday practice. Guess who will probably win this race? Guess who will wrap up his fourth consecutive championship? Fernando Alonso was tenth in his Ferrari. Guess who criticized the Ferrari after practice? Qualifying will be repeated Saturday morning at 8 a.m. on TSN2 and the race will be repeated Sunday morning on TSN2 at 8 a.m. . . . . Jeff Gordon won the pole for Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte. You can see that race on TSN at 7:30 p.m. . . . The NASCAR Nationwide Series race can be seen tonight (Friday) on TSN2 at 7:30 . . . .Dario Franchitti has been discharged from hospital in Houston. His convalescence and further treatment will take place in Indianapolis. . . .

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