|West German Inge Stoll-Laforge was the first female to take on the rigours of the Mountain Course when she partnered Frenchman Jacques Drion in the 1954 TT; Rose Arnold, now the better half of Roy Hanks, was the first lady to stand on the winner's rostrum when she was passenger future brother-in-law, Norman, in the 1968 TT; Beryl Swain was the first two-wheeler lady when she finished twenty-second out of the twenty-five finishers in the inaugural 50cc Race of 1962; Wendy Davies was the first female to drive a sidecar at racing speeds around the course and Sandra Barnett is by far the fastest lady rider to complete around the world's most demanding road circuit….. but what of solo lady competitors from overseas? During a recent chat with long-time TT fan, Ian Huntly and I recollected the achievements of West German, Margret
Lingen, who, together with Italian, Francesca Giordano and Kiwi, Jane Parrett have been the only members of the fairer sex to travel from overseas to race in solo TT Races.
Margret Lingen at speed on her Ducati during the 1984 TT.
|Record TT replica winner and sponsor, Bill Smith co-opted Ian
Huntly, now a veteran of over fifty TT meetings, to lend Margret a helping hand. His knowledge of the German language assisted greatly as there was much media attention directed at the attractive young German.
Margret entered both the F1 and F2 TTs on Ducatis with the aim of achieving two finishers awards and learning the course sufficiently well to return the following year to win a replica. Practice was certainly promising as she became the fastest ever female competitor on a solo machine around the Mountain Course with a lap of 92.88mph on her larger
However, Margret's first TT Race is one she will probably choose to forget. She fell off at Quarter Bridge on the first lap in front of a huge crowd of spectators, journalists and photographers - the following day's tabloids all had pictures of her misdemeanour and her story. Of the incident, she said, "As I came down the hill towards the Quarter Bridge the front wheel wobbled and the bike slid from underneath me. I am determined the Formula 2 Race will be different and I will show that women can compete with men on the TT Course". Different the next race indeed was, as Margret averaged 93.29mph to come home in twenty-eighth position.
In recognition of her endeavours, the Isle of Man Tourist Board presented her with the Joey Dunlop video "V for Victory". She said, "the video is great, Joey will be a good instructor. I like the corners and the TT is full of them. I want to conquer the course and my problem is I don't know the corners; the video will help me learn them".
Margret entered the 1985 and 1986 TTs but didn't race in either. In the former her German sponsor refused to give her permission to take his machines to the Island, and in 1986, she crashed at the Nurburgring just prior to the
TT, seriously damaging her hand.
Margret Lingen was a highly competitive racer, who, unfortunately, did not manage to fulfil her road racing ambitions on the Mountain Course - but in her short affair with the TT she certainly added a fair bit of glamour to the occasion. For the record, Francesca Giordano started in three TT Races - the Lightweight and Junior of 1996 where she finished 53rd and 68th respectively and the 1993 Supersport 400 in which she secured her highest finish of 29th. Francesca was also ably supported by Ian
Huntly, who has developed a certain penchant over the years for assisting female competitors from overseas, the first being, I believe, Aga Neumann, passenger to Arsenius Butscher in the '60s and early '70s. New Zealander, Jane Parrett made her TT debut in 1999, but unfortunately had a spill on her Honda RS125 at the 32nd Milestone on the third of the four lap Ultra-Lightweight Race. No luck again last year when she failed to finish, again on her little Honda.