Milka Duno, from Caracas, Venezuela, is a Naval Engineer with four master’s degrees – in Organizational Development, Naval Architecture, Maritime Business and Marine Biology, earning the last three simultaneously.
Milka has participated in many international races and has driven a wide selection of race cars, including the Porsche Supercup, Ferrari Challenge 355, Formula 2000 Dodge, Reynard Dodge 98E, Panoz GT-RA, Dodge Viper GTS, Coloni Nissan CN1/C, and Reynard-Judd 01-Q, the Lola B2K/40/Judd, Dome S-101/Judd, Dallara AES/Nissan and the Panoz LMP07.
Venezuelan Auto Racing Driver of the Year 2000 and American Le Mans Series 2001 Vice Champion in the 675LMP class, Milka has attracted the attention of motorsport fans worldwide.
Milka is charismatic, beautiful and talented, and is no slouch behind the wheel either.
Milka began her racing career in Venezuelan club racing in 1996-1997, finishing 2nd in the Venezuelan GT Championship.
In 1998, her first year of professional racing, Milka scored two podium finishes and placing 4th overall in the Venezuelan Porsche Supercup Championship. Milka also headed to the United States to compete in the Barber Dodge 2000 series.
1999 saw Milka competing in the United States and scoring 3rd overall in the Women’s Global GT Series Championship – and again in the Barber Dodge 2000.
2000 was a very busy year, and brought further success to Milka as she not only won her first race of the year – but the Panoz GT Series Championship as well. Moving up the ladder in the Barber series Milka raced the Barber Dodge Pro Series - with races on ovals all across America. Milka attended and excelled in the Derek Daly Academy Advanced Formula course and conducted several tests during the year in Formula 2000. Milka also scored a top podium finish in a Ferrari Challenge race at Road Atlanta in a Ferrari F-355 – becoming the first woman to ever win a Ferrari Challenge race in the United States – and the second in the world. It continued to be a stellar year for Milka with an additional two podiums in the Ferrari Challenge – and her debut in the prestigious American Le Mans Series. Milka competed in the ALMS in a Dodge Viper GTS and finished 3rd in class in the series’ 2000 season finale in Australia. At the very popular Homestead-Miami oval Milka participated in the Richard Petty Driving School.
Well on her way to gaining international notoriety, Milka became the only female driver running a regular schedule in the 2001 ALMS Championship – piloting an LMP 675. In this very competitive class Milka won four races, including the 1000 Miles of Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, and ended the season as the “American Le Mans Series 2001 Vice Champion Driver” in the LMP 675 class. 2001 also had Milka competing in a Dodge Viper in the legendary Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona – finishing 6th in class. She also contested the most famous sportscar race in the world – the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. Also in 2001, her previous racing performances prompted invitations to participate in Open Telefonica. In this series, Milka drove a Coloni Nissan CN1/C with the Vergani Racing team. In her first season, she became the first woman ever to score points in this prestigious European series.
In 2002 Milka once again participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, being the only woman among 149 drivers, and in the 2002 American Le Mans Series. Milka also continued in Europe’s Open Telefonica and at the end of that season Milka stepped-up in class in this series and raced in the last two races in the World Series category – becoming the first woman to do so.
In 2003, Milka completed yet another season in Europe's World Series by Nissan. Milka was also invited by Porsche to compete as a VIP Driver in the Porsche Supercup race as part of the Formula One Grand Prix of Spain in May 2003, and by Toyota to compete in their 27th annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity race as part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in April, 2003.
In 2004 and 2005 Milka raced consectuive full seasons in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series proudly representing the CITGO Petroleum Corporation and CANTV and MRW. Milka also entered the 2004 American Le Mans Series "12 Hours of Sebring" and the "Petit Le Mans" - which she won for the 2nd time in the LMP 675 class. Milka competes in the top class of the Rolex Series in the Daytona Prototype - and is the first woman in history to compete and scores points in this class. In her first full Rolex Series season Milka won the Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February of 2004 - which made her the first woman in history to win overall a major international sportscar race in North America. She repeated that history-making win when she won at the same track seven months later - in September of 2004. During the 2005 season Milka achieved her third career Rolex Series in at Mont-Tremblant, Canada. Remarkably, in only two Rolex Series seasons, Milka has earned three overall wins, six podium appearances, nine top-five finishes and seventeen top-ten finishes. In 2004 Milka also became the spokesperson for Pontiac's largest-ever Hispanic marketing campaign.
2006 saw Milka racing in her third consecutive season in the 2006 Rolex Sports Car Series Championship. Assisted by Scotsmen Marino and Dario Franchitti and Irishman Kevin McGarrity, she drove the Crawford to eighth overall in the Daytona 24 Hour race, her best finish at the Daytona classic and a record for a woman driver.
The rest of 2006 was not a vintage year for the Venezuelan driver and her team. The first couple of races of the year led to indifferent results and an error by an official dropped Milka and Marino Franchitti from top-ten to 17th at Long Beach. Their luck improved at Virginia, their first time out in their new car, a Riley-Pontiac prototype. Even with a small accidnet, the duo were eleventh. Milka's best results were a pair of sevenths at Monterey and Sonoma. Her co-drivers were Olivier Beretta and Patrick Carpentier respectively. The Riley was quick and its drivers were able to hold good places, but a series of accidents and technical failures did not allow them to capitalise on their form and cost them wins.
2007 started very brightly indeed for Milka. She beat her own best finish for a woman at the Daytona 24 Hours, coming a brilliant second in the CITGO Pontiac-Riley. Her team-mates were Patrick Carpentier, Ryan Dalziel and Darren Manning. The winners were Scott Pruett, Salvador Duran and former F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya.
Patrick Carpentier became her regular team-mate for the first part of the Grand-Am season and together they were eleventh in Mexico and fourth at Homestead, Miami. However, the partnership proved to only be a temporary one, as Milka jumped ship to the IRL to pursue her single-seater ambitions. Samax Racing, who ran her in Grand-Am, had put together a part-time race package for their Venezuelan star, which included the legendary Indy 500.
On April 26, 2007, Duno successfully passed her IRL rookie test at Kansas Speedway. When Duno made the field for the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 (also held at Kansas Speedway) on April 29, 2007, it marked the first time in North American open wheel history that three women (Duno, Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher) ran in the same race. Duno stayed out of trouble after qualifying last in the 21-car field and finished 14th.
On May 6, 2007, Duno successfully completed her rookie test for the Indianapolis 500 race. This 91st running of the "Indy 500" was the first where three women were included in the 33-car field. Duno qualified on May 19, and her speed held through Bump Day. Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher qualified on May 12 and 13 respectively. Duno was one of two rookie drivers competing in the Race. She crashed out of the race on lap 65 and finished 31st.
On August 5, 2007, prior to the Firestone Indy 400, SAMAX Motorsport officials met with Indy Racing League officials, including Chief Operating Officer Brian Barnhart, to discuss Duno's progress; media and fans speculated that Duno's IRL career could soon be over. Duno did race in the event, but retired on lap 44 due to fuel pump failure.
After the Michigan race, it was announced that she was on probation. Her team stated that she was on probation prior to that race, and her Michigan performance did not have any bearing on that probation. Her team also stated that Milka was one of several drivers on probation. She did return for the season finale at Chicagoland Speedway and finished 15th without incident.
After the final race of the 2007 season actress Ashley Judd, the wife of driver Dario Franchitti, stated to the assembled news media that, "I know this is not very sportsmanlike, but they've got to get the 23 car (Duno) off the track. It's very dangerous. I'm tired of holding my tongue. She shouldn't be out there. When a car is 10 miles (an hour) off the pace, it's not appropriate to be racing. People's lives are at stake."
Milka and her comrades, when they are competing, are an almost permanent fixture in the Rolex Series top ten now, with three wins, six podiums, nine top fives and seventeen top ten finishes. In addition to her racing prowess and extensive naval architecture expertise, Milka has also become a regular media interviewee, occasional model and role-model for young Latinas everywhere.