The Richard Mille Rallye des Princesses is a race like no other. The 20th edition of this superlative motor racing event took place earlier this June, and saw 91 all-women crews roar across France’s most picturesque countryside roads. Considered one of the most popular women’s motorsport events on the Continent, this high-octane race was held over five days, covering a total distance of 1,700 km.
Let the race begin
Since 1999, the Rallye des Princesses has been jointly organised by Zaniroli Classic Events and haute horlogerie expert Richard Mille. Drawing inspiration from the Paris-Saint Raphael Women’s Race, crews departed Paris on 1 June at the crack of dawn — setting out on a 303 km drive to Beauval, the first destination of the rally. Among them was noted American driver (and Richard Mille partner) Aurora Straus. The 20 year old, whose charge of choice was a Porsche 356, is a reputed motorsports driver, well known within the rallying community for her skillfulness and appetite for competition.
“The experiences of women are very similar across male-dominated fields, from racing to business and luxury. Part of what Richard Mille and I espouse as a brand is deliberately changing the narrative of women in these fields and promoting women who love adventure and competition,” said Straus. “I had the privilege of spending a week with other strong women, and of making connections that will last a lifetime. When women work together, incredible things happen!”
On Day 2, rally drivers cruised through the French countryside to reach Vichy — a famed spa and resort town in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. Throughout the drizzly June morning, the competing women dodged hairpin bends, twists and steep curves in the Gorges de Chouvigny; and by end of day, the top five crews were only eight points apart.
The following two days of the rally were adrenaline-fuelled, as the cars manoeuvred through multiple high passes, including the Grand Colombier (which rises 1,534 metres above sea level). Day 4 was the longest, most hotly contested phase of the event, with the drivers tackling no less than four mountain passes in the Alps: thereafter proceeding to Provence to tackle the storied Route Napoleon.
By Day 5, the rally ‘princesses’ had made their way past Taradeau, Château Saint-Martin and the Côte d’Azur, before heading to their last stop — Saint-Tropez. As the cars careened into the homestretch, the top two crews were separated by a mere two points. In the end, Carole Grantzmuller and co-driver Elisa Noemie Laurent took home top honours: this year marks Grantzmuller’s fifth victory and Laurent’s third. The winning drivers were behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, decorated with the number ‘56’.
“We couldn’t have imagined a more wonderful week with which to celebrate the 20th year of the Richard Mille Rallye des Princesses,” said Vivane Zaniroli, the key rally organiser. “The weather was just perfect, the race was tight up to the finish line, and we have two magnificent winners who perfectly embody what this sporting challenge is all about. It’s a rally for women that has nothing to envy the most famous of men’s events.”
The 21st edition of the Rallye des Princesses is scheduled to take place between 6-11 June 2020. To learn more, visit Richard Mille online.