Ahead of the Copper X Prix, the fourth Round of the 2022 Extreme E season, Females in Motorsport spoke to Tamara Molinaro, an Italian rally driver who joined the grid as a driver after being a reserve for the championship.
Tamara always felt a strong attraction to motorsport as she grew up amongst her parents’ rally team. She knew that this was the only thing she would’ve done in life and she prepared herself by studying at a mechanical high school.
“As soon as I rode for the first time at 11 I fell in love with it,” she tells Females in Motorsport. “I realised that driving was the only thing I wanted to do in life, the only thing that made me feel alive, the only thing that stimulates me every day.
“I went to a mechanical high school and we had hours a week where we went to disassemble cars. This helped me understand how to get my hands on a vehicle, considering that during long rallies, if you have failures and you’re able to repair them, you can finish the race.”
Tamara’s motorsport idol is Gigi Galli, an Italian rally driver and long-time family friend. He also was her mentor early in her career.
“I consider Gigi as the strongest Italian driver of all time and it’s thanks to him that I fell in love with this sport,” she says.
After doing seasons in national championships, Tamara’s career took off in 2016, when Red Bull wanted her to be part of their junior program after discovering her at an ice circuit in Livigno, where she used to spend the winter holidays with her family.
“After obtaining the license, I started to properly race in Germany and Austria and then I started in the European Rally Championship (ERC) in 2017,” she says.
In 2017, she competed in both the FIA ERC Junior 27 and the Ladies’ Trophy categories and finished seventh in the standings of the U27 and as the Ladies’ Trophy champion.
That year also saw Tamara's debut in the FIA World Rally Championship.
“We made a one-off entry in the World Championship, because I was racing with Opel, a German brand, and therefore they were interested in showing their car in Rallye Deutschland,” she says. “When I started my career, my goal was to become a professional WRC driver, so being at the start after years of dreaming seemed surreal.
“Unfortunately, it was also an unlucky weekend for us due to the weather. We had to retire for a day due to a broken axle shaft. Nonetheless, it was an adventure but a great experience.”
But that weekend with mixed feelings didn’t deter her as she raced in the famous Rally Sweden in 2018 and 2019.
“That was the dream of my life,” she says. “We did it many times with my parents' team. Rally Sweden remained in my heart and so when there was the opportunity to be able to do it, we went for it.
“We did it with an R5 class car (Ford Fiesta). I’d never used it; it was the first time I’d raced on the snow with that car and the first time with such a high category car, but we threw ourselves and we did it.”
‘I take everything that comes’ is Tamara’s motto and it’s been helpful for the pursuit of her career as, in 2019, she ran out of budget and had to try something new - rallycross.
“This opportunity was born thanks to Max Pucher who created the ‘Titans Rallycross Championship’ and was looking for a female driver,” she says. “I went to Austria, did a test and he was impressed by how I drove the car for the first time. I had a lot of fun - rallycross it’s a fantastic discipline. The level was very high because if you look at the list of members, there were motorsport legends!”
After the TitansRX season, where she finished fifth overall, she became a driving instructor.
“I’ve been working with Scuderia de Adamich for a couple of years, which is an institution in the field of driving instructors and courses,” she says. “We work with brands such as Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo.
“Sometimes I also coach - I’m following an Irish girl at the moment and I took her to watch a WRC race this year to show her all the behind the scenes because, for me, it’s only when you’re watching the races live you can understand how motorsport works.”
Since last year, Tamara has been part of the electric off-road racing championship, Extreme E.
“Since I heard about Extreme E, my goal was to find a seat for the whole season,” she says. “It's not easy as the available seats are few and the talented girls are many. In fact, when they called me mid-season to replace Jutta (Kleinschmidt) as a reserve driver, I was very happy because it was a foot in the door.
“Of course, nobody likes to be on the bench but I was already happy to be part of this championship.”
Tamara’s adventure in Extreme E hasn’t stopped there as, in the first round of the second season, she was called to replace Klara Andersson. She also raced in Chile last month.
“It’s a new format for everyone because it’s a mix of many different categories,” she says. “It can be compared a little to rally, a little to rallycross. It has many things from many different disciplines so it certainly wasn't easy to adapt, especially to a very different car from the ones I usually drive.
“In Saudi Arabia, I had to learn a lot of rules and new things but I immediately found myself at ease.”
Tamara completed her first weekend racing for XITE Energy Racing with Oliver Bennett in sixth position and then she had to deal five months off.
“It's been strange because I didn't know if I would be able to continue as a driver and not as a reserve so it was a long five months,” she says. “I was very anxious but the wait was worth it.”
The wait was worth it as she also raced for the next two rounds in Sardinia (Island X Prix), partnering with her Season 1 Championship Driver colleague Timo Scheider.
They scored the first finale for the team and their first podium, finishing P2.
“The team were super happy and they deserve it,” Tamara says.
“Sharing such a strong emotion with people who worked hard to get to that point was wonderful. My home race, the first race with Timo, only the second race with the team, everything was new and not easy but all the sacrifices paid off.”
We asked Tamara what could be done to bring more women into motorsport and she said.
“Much more can be done,” she says. “Motorsport should open up and let women take part more actively.
“In Extreme E, we [women of the championship] are all showing that we have potential and so it’s not a 'silly' thing to give women an opportunity in motorsport.”
Her devotion to motorsport is impeccable. She was born with this sport in her blood and nothing has been able to stop her from reaching her dreams. We can’t wait to see the 24-year-old Italian in action and where fate opportunities will take her.