Desiré Wilson: Fast but forgotten
or 40 years Desiré Wilson has carried an unbroken record with her: she remains the only woman to ever win a Formula 1 race.
Of course, when she lined up on the Brands Hatch raceway in Kent, England, she gave no thought to the effect that day in 1980 would have on history. Her entire focus was on that first corner.
After months of battling for a sponsor she had been given a shot by real estate magnate Teddy Yip to race a three-year-old Wolf WR4 in the British Formula One Championship. Despite blowing its engine just before the finish line in qualifying, she still managed to set the second fastest time, meaning she’d be starting from the front row. Yet, with the more modern Williams FW07 in pole position, it was imperative she got out of the first bend ahead.
She would do it twice — a restart was forced after her teammate caused a collision.
“I never looked back in the race,” Wilson recalls. “It’s one of those things, it’s hard to explain … It happens once in a lifetime. You say to yourself: ‘If I get into this corner first and lead the race I’m going to win.’”
By the time she saw the checkered flag Wilson had built a 15-second lead and crossed the line comfortably in first.
Brands Hatch would name a stand after her in recognition of her seminal achievement — an honour she shares alongside greats such as Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren.
“In my era, there were so few women that were racing at my level,” she says of the uniqueness of her victory. “You never really thought about yourself as: ‘I’m a woman in this race.’ You don’t think of yourself as something else. I was always the underdog because I never had funding and I was always given these cars to drive without any practice — I was always thrown in the deep end. For me it was always a concentration of what I was doing in this race car.”
Only 26 at the time, Wilson would have placed few limits on where her success might take her. Yet, despite winning a further two prestigious world championship races in 1980, she would fail to grab a permanent place on the Formula 1 circuit — a task she views as impossible without the appropriate support.
Wilson speaks with great regret about the lack of backing she received at the time. Motorsport is, and always has been, a rich man’s game. Without the teams, sponsors and funders willing to take a chance on you, there’s no chance of getting behind the wheel of a serious racing car.
Undoubtedly, scepticism about her abilities as a woman would have cost her patronage at the highest level. But there was another classification, which perhaps held her back even further: she was a South African. For as much as Wilson is a precedent in history, she also felt the brunt of its circumstance.
In 1977, a few years before her F1 win, the Commonwealth would sign the Gleneagles Agreement — a document that formalised an anti-apartheid sentiment and discouraged any sporting participation with South Africa. The country’s sportsmen and women were no longer welcome on the global stage. The state’s darling Springboks scavenged a match where they could but, for all intents and purposes, international doors remained closed to anyone looking to compete.
“It was extremely difficult,” the Brakpan native says. “When I went to race in New Zealand I had protests against me by a group called Halt All Racist Tours (H.A.R.T). In the newspapers — and I still have all the clippings — they’d say how can you allow a South African to race when all the teams are banned? Fortunately the prime minister turned around and said: ‘She’s racing on a British licence, she can drive.’ And that was it.”
The sad irony from Wilson’s perspective was that no one from South Africa — including the government — was interested in backing her either.
And, even when she was offered opportunities she often found them blocked. Argentina and Brazil both flat-out refused her a visa to race. Japan would do the same and Wilson would, like in New Zealand, have to find a loophole. She obtained refugee status from the United States and a promise that it would welcome her back no matter what (she and her husband would also permanently emigrate to the US in 1983).
The complexity of Wilson’s place in the past extends to the present: how exactly do we characterise her legacy? Here is a South African woman who did something extraordinary, but it was achieved when the Oranje, Blanje, Blou flew highest.
Such is the horror of apartheid that almost nothing or no one from that time, regardless of political disposition, can be discussed without acknowledging its spectre.
I ask Wilson whether, in retrospect, she can appreciate the necessity of the boycott movement, even if it did stifle her own career: “Yes. You know the world has changed so much. When I lived in South Africa there was very little television, I think we had just started getting black and white TV. Everything was censored. So you never really saw what was going on. We were raised a certain way and it wasn’t until I went to Europe and said: ‘Wait, hold on, the world’s different here!’”
Regardless of political context, it would have been hoped at the time that Wilson’s standout win in the F1 would have paved the road for more women to enter the series. That hasn’t happened. A total of five women have entered a grand prix, only two of whom have qualified and started.
“The biggest problem is there’s never really enough funding for a woman to complete all the steps,” Wilson says. “It’s opportunity, what team you’re in, the funding you have and so forth. I was expecting someone to come up when I saw one or two drivers come up that had a fair amount of talent, but they never quite got to where they needed to go.”
Any racer who aspires to race in a premier F1 competition must first obtain a super licence. This is a long process that begins at Formula 4 and continues through the ranks. The catch is that every step of the way requires a significant investment. Only elite drivers are offered a spot without having to buy their way in — the reality is that modern racers often pay upwards of $15-million to secure their spot as a secondary driver on an F1 team.
The women-only W-Series was introduced last year in an attempt to freshen up that stale status quo. Competitors aren’t expected to pay anything and are chosen each year based on merit.
There’s been no shortage of debate about this six-race championship. Critics have slammed it for segregating a sport that has historically never been separated into gender classes. They say it naturally invalidates the success of anyone taking part because by default this is a small pool of challengers.
Wilson has a different view:“For the first time in history, women are actually given financial assistance,” she says. “The top three in that series are very, very good. If they were in Formula 3 against the men, they’d probably be running in the top five or six at least. Fortunately no one has to pay for this series — it’s paid for by a sponsor. Eighteen women get this opportunity every year and they choose women from all over the world. So I think this series will help a lot of women. The problem always goes back to finance. The cost of motor racing these days is astronomical.”
The absurd amounts needed to race introduce a frustrating paradox into motor racing. A car is the great equaliser of genetic difference. It’s why there’s no logical argument to be made for separating men and women — it’s an immaculately level playing field. Getting to that equal ground in the first place, however, is where the true bias lies.
Alongside her F1 win, Wilson holds two endurance race wins as her greatest accomplishments: the Monza 1000km and the 6 Hours of Silverstone.
Tagging into those races after three hours, the brake pads would soon erode to the point where the pedal would have to touch the floor to produce any effect.
There were no shift paddles back then so every exhausting gear change had to be perfectly timed; a feat that would have to be repeated hundreds of times with one hand on the steering wheel while approaching a corner at 320km/h.
At Monza it began to rain, giving Wilson the choice of changing her slicks or risking her life to finish first.
She chose to win.
No matter how deep money, politics or gender dig into the sport, there is no true substitute for grit.


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“What Are Grits?”

Some folks believe grits are grown on bushes and are harvested by midgets
by shaking the bushes after spreading sheets around them. Many people think
grits are made from ground up bits of white corn. These are lies spread by
Communists and terrorists. Nothing as good as a Grits can be made from
corn. Research suggests that the mysterious Manna that God rained down upon
the Israelites during their time in the Sinai Desert was most likely Grits.
Critics disagree, stating that there is no record of biscuits, butter,
salt, and red eye gravy raining down from the sky, and that God would not
punish his people by forcing them to eat Grits without these key
ingredients.

*How Grits are Formed: *
Grits are formed deep underground under intense heat and pressure. It takes
over 1000 years to form a single Grit. Most of the world's grit mines are
in Georgia , and are guarded day and night by armed guards and attack dogs.
Harvesting the Grit is a dangerous occupation, and many Grit miners lose
their lives each year so that Grits can continue to be served morning after
morning for breakfast--not that having Grits for lunch and dinner is out of
the question.

Yankees have attempted to create a synthetic Grits. They call them Cream of
Wheat. As far as we can tell, the key ingredients of Cream of Wheat are
Elmer's Glue and shredded Styrofoam. These synthetic grits have also been
shown to cause nausea, and can leave you unable to have children.

*Historical Grits:*
As mentioned earlier, the first known mention of the Grits was by the
Ancient Israelites in the Sinai Desert . After that, Grits were not heard
from for another 1000 years. Grits were used during this time only during
secret religious ceremonies, and were kept from the public. The next
mention of Grits was found amidst the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii
in a woman's personal diary discovered in the seat of an old sedan. The
woman's name was Herculania Jemimana, who was known as Aunt Jemima to her
friends.

*The Ten Commandments of Grits:*
I. Thou shalt not put syrup on thy Grits
II.Thou shalt not eat thy Grits with a spoon or knife
III.Thou shalt not eat Cream of Wheat and call it Grits, for this is
blasphemy
IV. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's Grits
V.Thou shalt use only Salt, Butter, and red eye gravy as toppings for thy
Grits
VI. Thou shalt not eat Instant Grits
VII. Thou shalt not put ketchup on thy Grits
VIII. Thou shalt not put margarine on thy Grits.
IX. Thou shalt not eat toast with thy Grits, only biscuits made from
scratch .
X. Thou shalt eat grits on the Sabbath for this is manna from heaven.

*How to Cook Grits:*
For one serving of Grits: Boil 1.5 cups of water with salt and a little
butter. Add 5 Tbsp of Grits. Reduce to a simmer and allow the Grits to
soak up all the water. When a pencil stuck into the grits stands alone,
they are done. That's all there is to cooking grits.
How to make red eye gravy: Fry salt cured country ham in cast-iron pan.
Remove the ham when done and add coffee to the gravy and simmer for several
minutes. Great on grits and biscuits.

*How to Eat Grits:*
Immediately after removing your grits from the stove top, add a generous
portion of butter or red eye gravy. Do NOT use low-fat butter.
The butter should cause the Grits to turn a wondrous shade of yellow. Hold
a banana or a yellow rain slicker next to your Grits; if the colors match,
you have the correct amount of butter. In lieu of butter, pour a generous
helping of red eye gravy on your
grits. Be sure to pour enough to have some left for sopping up with your
biscuits. Use biscuits made from scratch. Never, ever substitute canned or
store-bought biscuits for the real thing because they can cause cancer,
tooth decay and impotence. Next, add salt. The correct ratio of Grit to
Salt is 10:1 Therefore for every 10 grits, you should have 1 grain of salt.
Now begin eating your grits. Always use a fork, never a spoon, to eat
Grits. Your grits should be thick enough so they do not run through the
tines of the fork. The correct beverage to serve with Grits is black
coffee. DO NOT use cream or, heaven forbid, Skim Milk. Your grits should
rarely be eaten in a bowl because Yankees will think it's Cream of Wheat.

*Ways to Eat Leftover Grits:*
Leftover grits are extremely rare and may only be a rumor. Spread them in
the bottom of a casserole dish, Cover and place them in the refrigerator
overnight. The Grits will congeal into a gelatinous mass. Next morning,
slice the Grits into squares and fry them in 1/2' of cooking oil and butter
until they turn a golden brown. Many people are tempted to pour syrup onto
Grits served this way. This is, of course, unacceptable but delicious.

*BLESSING BEFORE EATING GRITS*

May the Lord bless these grits,
May Yankees never get the recipe,
May I eat grits each day while living,
And may I die while eating grits.
AMEN
Nice video…… tragic ending.


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