The Macau Grand Prix is known for being the longest-running motorsport event in Asia. Over the years we have become used to recalling the names of people that became famous after their participation in the Grand Prix (GP).
Names like Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, who won Macau’s Formula 3 race before heading to Formula One, or even more recently the six-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton who also raced on the Guia Circuit, although he never won the event.
But, in a sport that is usually seen as male-dominated, the Macau Grand Prix has seen many women make their way into the sport, some of them successfully.
Maria Fernanda de Menezes Ribeiro, a.k.a. Maria “Speedy” Ribeiro, was born in Macau in 1924 and is known for being the first-ever woman to win a race in the Macau GP event.
It was in 1956, two years after the first Macau Grand Prix, that the organizers decided to include a race dedicated to female drivers.
Ribeiro was the first winner of the first racing event, in which only a handful of drivers participated.
In a FIAT 1100, Ribeiro took an unexpected win in a race against much more powerful engines, becoming famous for her fearless 100km/h turns.
Ribeiro was born Maria Fernanda Nolasco da Silva, inheriting the name de Menezes Ribeiro from her husband Fernando de Menezes Ribeiro.
Both families have a long tradition among the Macanese families that goes back to more than 250 years and over six generations.
The de Menezes Ribeiros and the Nolasco da Silvas were close family friends and neighbors, bound together both by friendship and interlinking marriages.
Although women have been a rarity, some have competed in other events such as the Guia race for touring cars as well as other support races.
Singapore’s Anne Wong was one of them, winning the touring car race in 1970 in a Mini.
Diana Poon, wife of Macau racing legend Albert Poon, raced alongside her husband in the 1976 Macau Grand Prix, becoming the first-ever couple to compete in the GP.
In 1980, South African Desiré Wilson raced in Macau’s Formula Libre, the race that paved the way for F3.
Wilson raced behind the wheel of a Ralt RT1 from Susie Racing, a sister team of Theodore Racing owned by Teddy Yip and named after his wife Susie Ho.
In that year, Wilson took the sixth position overall.
Three years later, French-woman Cathy Muller raced in the first F3 event in Macau.
Muller finished 12th in a Ralt RT3 alongside Ayrton Senna, who won in Macau that year.
Cathy, after a long career as a racer, kept connected to motorsports in both driving and team managerial positions, as well as through her sister, WTCR racer Yvan Muller.
She is also a member of the FIA’s Women in Motorsport Commission.
After a very long period of over 30 years without women participating in the “Queen” of Macau races, in 2014, the Colombian Tatiana Calderón broke that spell and participated in the Macau race in a Dallara-Mercedes from Mucke Motorsport, finishing 13th in a race won by Alex Lynn.
In 2018, Sophia Flörsch was the most recent addition to this list of female motorsport excellence, a legacy to continue this year with her return for the 2019 GP.
During this period, other female racers have joined the event, such as Macanese racer Diana do Rosário, who competed in Macau in the Macau GT Cup race between 2010 and 2012, achieving her best result in 2011 with 18th position overall, in a race won by Edoardo Mortara.