Marie-Claude Charmasson

Marie-Claude Charmasson

17/9/1941

Born in Grenoble, Marie-Claude Charmasson was the eldest of eight children. Her father was a rally driver who competed in the Monte Carlo Rally, finishing third in 1953. He was a Citroen dealer in Gap and every winter from 1960, his garage was used by Rene Cotton, the Citroen competition manager, to help with the preparation of the works cars for the Rally.

Marie-Claude used to help providing timing and other information to the drivers. After the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964 the Citroen drivers were full of praise for the "small blonde" and Claudine Bouchet offered her the chance to be her co-driver in the Routes du Nord. Over the next two seasons, Marie-Claude and Claudine competed together in France and the rest of Europe.

During 1965, Claudine joined her new husband, Rene Trautmann, who had won the French Rally Championship the year before, so Marie-Claude, who had assumed the pseudonym 'Beaumont', joined up with 'Titi' Greder. Marie-Claude got the chance to take the wheel of her Ford Mustang every now and she decided that she would rather drive than navigate.

Pierre Ferry who ran the NSU Rally Team offered her a car for the Critérium of the Cevennes at the end of the year. During the rally the weather deteriorated and with raging snowstorms many drivers retired. However, Marie-Claude drove on winning the coupes des Dames and securing a works drive for NSU, which he kept for the next three seasons.

In her first year with NSU she finished all fifteen rallies she took part in. She took a number of class wins and many coupes des Dames during her time with NSU.

In 1967 she got her first taste of circuit racing at the Spa 24 Hour race. Driving with Christine Beckers through the fog and rain they won the Group 1 title and the coupes des Dames.

In 1968 she finished 10th overall in the Tour de Corsica but by now she was becoming frustrated by the lack of power in the NSU and wanted to start challenging for overall honors not just class wins and coupes des Dames, of which she won 60 during her career. Then when her car was given to Gerard Larrousse, who was also a works driver, when his was not ready she felt the time had come to move on.

Henry 'Titi' Greder had just formed “Greder Racing” running General Motors cars. Marie-Claude joined him winning the French Women’s Rally Championship in 1969 and again in 1970, when she also finished 4th in the overall standings.

She took her third straight ladies title in 1971, finishing 6th overall. That year she became the first woman to race at Le Mans since Yvette Simon and Betty Haig drove a Ferrari 215 there in 1951. Driving a highly modified Chevrolet Corvette with Henry Greder, they retired at 4.50 in the morning. She raced a Chevrolet Camaro in the Tour Auto that year winning the Group 1 title.

She competed in the European Rally Championship in 1972 winning the European and French titles. She finished 5th in the Tour Auto with a Chevrolet Corvette. At Le Mans she retired after a coming together with Howden Ganley's Matra at Hunaudières.

She stopped rallying in 1973. She raced a Chevy Vega powered Lola T290 for Ecurie Filipinetti in the Trophée d'Auvergne at Clermond Ferrand. At Le Mans she drove the Corvette for Greder, finishing 12th overall and winning the over 5 litre GT class.

In 1974 she finished 18th at Le Mans once again in a Corvette with Henry Greder. She also raced with him at Le Castellet where they finished 10th in class. Driving the French Touring Car Championship she drove a Group 1 Opel Commodore GSE with 'Titi' Greder as her team mate. Titi won the title with Marie-Claude finishing second. She also drove in two rounds of the European 2-litre Sports Car Championship, failing to finish in either.

She teamed up with the Italian driver, Lella Lombardi, in 1975 in an all female team in the World Sports Car Championship sponsored by Elf-Switzerland, driving a Renault Alpine A441. At Mugello they finished second in class and sixth overall. The next round at Dijon saw them suffer an engine failure. However they were still classified in 13th place and third in class. The fourth round was at Monza, the Trofeo Carraciolo. A fine drive saw them win their class and cross the line in 4th place overall. A rear suspension failure before the start of the Coppa Florio at Enna-Pergusa meant that they didn't get to race, and at Zeltweg the cam belt went on lap 20 before Marie-Claude got to drive. They raced the Alpine at Le Mans but the car went out with fuel feed problems in the 8th hour.

At the end of the season Marie-Claude and Elf F2 car at Vallelunga but decided against trying single seaters in competition.

She returned to saloon cars in 1976 driving a BMW 3.5 CSI in Production Car racing and at the end of the season traveled to Australia to race at Bathurst. At Le Mans she shared a Kremer Porsche 934 with Didier Pironi and Bob Wollek, finishing 19th outright.

She was offered a job in the Renault Sport press office. She accepted the post and hung up her helmet. She worked for Renault from 1977 until 1982 when she left to pursue her passion for photography covering Grand Prix and Le Mans.

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