Featured Image by mfoto.es from ewrc-results.com
Interview by Cristiana Oprea, rally driver and the founder of Femei în Motorsport project
2 February 2020, Winter Rally Covasna, Romania
When I saw the entry list at Winter Rally Covasna 2020, I knew I had to be there to meet Fabrizia Pons, the legendary co-driver of Michèle Mouton – together as a crew in the WRC, they wrote rallying history and, perhaps without knowing, opened a new road for women in motorsport through their fantastic performance. Fabrizia Pons studied architecture and started her career in rallying as a driver, in 1976, before focusing on co-driving – two talking points I was looking to explore more in the following interview. She is, as she calls herself, “a typical Italian mother”, passionate about motorsport and a big believer in hard work, but also in chance.
Fabrizia Pons came close to winning the World Rally Championship with Michèle Mouton in 1982, but eventually had to settle for second. She is also one of only two people to have achieved world championship points both as a driver and a co-driver, having finished ninth overall in the 1978 San Remo Rally before concentrating on co-driving.
CO: I founded the Romanian Women in Motorsport website and we already have almost 50 women involved. That’s why I wanted to ask you a few questions about this: how do you feel the women in motorsport concept changed over the years?
FP: This is a new question for me. Actually, it has changed, but even in those years – the years with Michèle [Mouton] – they were not a lot, not like now, but few women in motorsport. The problem is that they don’t go to the top. Maybe as a manager yes, but not as a driver and not as a co-driver. They haven’t got the chance to go to the top.
CO: Why do you think this happens?
FP: In any case there are – I don’t know – 8-10 drivers in the top of the world and there are hundred-thousands men and maybe 500 women, so there is even a question of numbers.
CO: Do you think we have any advantage or disadvantage?
FP: Nothing. Not advantage, not disadvantage.
CO: So it is only about hard work, passion?
FP: Si. Hard work, passion and being able to do your job in a proper way.
CO: What is the most beautiful moment you remember, one of the most precious moments?
FP: The next one.
CO: Do you think there is a retirement from motorsport?
FP: Oh for sure yes, sooner or later I will stop, but since when the phone doesn’t stop ringing then I don’t stop, because my heart is in motorsport. My life is in motorsport. So I don’t see why I have to stop now that my children are grown up, so they don’t need me so much.
CO: Do they love motorsport?
FP: No, not at all!
CO: No? How do you feel?
FP: Perfect! [laughs]
CO: We have a few mothers on the platform, drivers and co-drivers.
FP: Mais non, it is perfect! I would not like my children to do the same job as me, not at all. No, no, no. I am a typical Italian mother.
Maybe because I know the danger, I know the life, I know that probably they will never go at the top – for a question of numbers, nothing else. So – why to do it? I am pleased that they are not doing it. I am too anxious for them.
CO: How would you encourage young drivers or co-drivers, like Francesca which you met at this rally?
FP: The only thing is to start and to do your job properly, seriously. And then… nothing else. Then it is even a question of chance – to be in the right place, in the right moment. And this maybe will happen, maybe not. Maybe you will carry on with small rallies all your life or maybe you will grow.
You need to have a huge passion to speak languages – this is the most important thing. So to be ready to co-drive, I don’t know, in French, in English, in German, to be able to do it. Nothing else. Everybody can co-drive.
CO: And as a driver – what is the ingredient for success? You’ve met a lot of drivers and they were all passionate, they were all talented…
FP: Yes, because I am lucky! So I finish to co-drive only talented drivers. But it’s something you have in your blood. Ok, you can learn a little bit but it’s something you have inside.
But like for each sport, like for each discipline, like for each job, it’s the same: you need to have it inside. Maybe there are 20.000 architects but one will design, I don’t know, for USA something in Washington. You need experience, you need passion, you need to do your job properly.
CO: And you need a good team?
FP: Yes, you need a good team. Without a good team you don’t go anywhere.
CO: Yes, I found that you need to build respect and trust in time with them. It’s very important, they have to believe in you…
FP:…and you have to believe in them! Yes…that is not always…so easy.
CO: My last question: how do you see social media? because we, young drivers or co-drivers, really have to focus – it’s more of an obligations than just for fun – we have to be online, we have to spend…or lose our time.
FP: You know, I’m not social at all. For example, I love Instagram – only, only because I follow each page with animals – because I love animals. So I open Instagram – there is no rally at all, but animals. So i am not social. I know it’s a mistake, for sure it is, but actually I have no time. For young drivers – they are other generation, yes.
CO: Yes, but it’s important to connect with their community and their sponsors – I don’t think it’s an option…
FP: Yes, definitely! You have to.
CO: It’s like a new component in sport, whatever you do you have to share…
FP: Yes… what you are eating, if you are going to the hairdresser, if you are going to the gym and how many km of running you are doing [ironical]…no, no, no please leave me quiet! [laughing]
And I don’t follow, not on Facebook or on Instagram, rally people. Some, yes, but I don’t remember how many – not so many. [opens Instagram] This is Travis Pastrana because I was racing with him…but no, please. I love to open Instagram – I hate publicity, but I love animals so I don’t know why I’m not a vet! I worked as an architect for 1 1/2 years – I was following a project in Antarctica. I was working with Pininfarina architects and engineers, it was very nice and very interesting – it was the only moment in which my studies were helping me.
CO: Good to know! I am still looking for this opportunity…
FP: Ah…to have a chance like this. Again, it is a chance, enormous chance.