Lesley Suddard

Biography Lesley Suddard, Driver

Rally Racing Enterprises
Dodge Shelby Charger, Group 5

Wilmington, Delaware

Championships & Awards

1998 SCCA Northeast Division "O2" Class Champion
1997 SCCA National PRO Rally Championship, Group 5 - 4th in points
1996 SCCA East Coast Super Division "O2" Class Champion
1996 SCCA Northeast Division "O2" Class Champion
1995 SCCA Divisional PRO Rally Run-Offs "O2" Class Champion
1995 SCCA Northeast Division "O2" Class Champion
1994 J.C. Downing Scholarship, Lyn St. James Driver Development Program
1993 Duryea Hillclimb, Rally Class Hill Record, Reading, PA, SCCA Solo I
1992 Canadian Rally Championship, Novice Champion
1991 Blue Mountain Region SCCA "Rally Driver of the Year"
1990 Blue Mountain Region SCCA "Rally Driver of the Year"
1982 Brandywine Motorsport Club, Ladies Autocross Champion

I got my start in racing on a dare from my brother and next-door neighbor. While watching them compete in a local autocross, they asked, "Lesley, where's your helmet?" I replied I didn't need a helmet to spectate, unless they were planning on doing something stupid. They admitted that they had signed me up for the ladies' class, and I said, "Well, that was really stupid!" But I decided it would be better to make an attempt at driving my Audi Fox around the course instead of subjecting myself to their teasing.

They were a bit surprised when, not only did I win the ladies' class, but also beat their best times in the process (except my brother's - now a Busch series stockcar driver). At that point, I was thoroughly hooked on auto racing! At a subsequent race, I met a woman who introduced me to the sport of rallying, and eventually became my first co-driver when I made the switch to rally racing. We competed first in local time-speed-distance events where I met teams in fully prepared racecars who were using these as testing events between their national rallies.

I selected a Datsun 510 to build as my first rally car, and it took me to my first driving school, although it never saw actual competition for a variety of reasons. (I was on a college student budget.) My opportunity to race came a few years later in 1989, when Ed Brennan offered to let me drive his retired Saab 99 in the Ski Sawmill school and divisional rally, which I now organize. In 1991, I bought a Guy Light-prepared Dodge Omni GLH, and learned some expensive racing lessons. Bill Jewell, of Newark MAACO, agreed to help me out, and did a beautiful job of rebuilding the Omni after each "learning experience."

In 1992, I turned my sights on the Canadian Novice Championship, which I won that year to become the only woman in North America to win a national driving championship in the sport of rally. The Omni GLH proved to be a great beginner car, winning the Production Sport class at the Rallye Baie des Chaleurs in Quebec that year. In 1994, I decided it was time to step up to a faster car, and bought a factory-prepared Dodge Shelby Charger, with a race-prepared 2.2-liter turbo motor. The car is brutal, but effective. In 1995, we won numerous divisional events overall and finished by winning the U.S. Divisional Runoffs Championship in the open two-wheel drive class. We hoped to repeat our victory in 1996, having again won our Division Championship. The differential shattered only miles after helping an east-coast friend out of a ditch, and although it dashed our hopes for a repeat of the Divisional Runoffs Championship, it allowed us to leave the car in Washington state for the beginning of the 1997 U.S. National Championship season.

1997 proved to be a disastrous season, with everything breaking on the car. The season began promisingly, with a 2nd place finish in Group 5, but then another shattered differential caused us to DNF the second rally. At Rim of the World in California, an oversight in service cost us the motor. Although we limped the car to the finish, the very expensive race motor was ruined. We left the West Coast ranked 3rd place in points in the Group 5 National Championship, but with no real hope of continuing our season. We borrowed a car for the Susquehannock Trails PRO Rally in PA, where we finished 3rd in Group 5 for that car's maiden voyage. I bought a stock 2.2-liter turbo motor, which I rebuilt myself (a first for me, and to my surprise - it works!) and brought the Charger to the season finale at Maine Winter. We finished 2nd in Group 5 in the rally, with an overall standing of 4th in Group 5 for the season - not bad for our first attempt at the U.S. National Championship.

1998 was a year of rebuilding. With my previous co-driver, Anne Thomas, taking a break from rallying, Marc Goldfarb signed on to co-drive. Taking a step back from the National Championship and concentrating our efforts at the Divisional level paid off, winning the SCCA's Northeast Division "O2" Class Driver's Championship.

My sights are now set on the 1999 U.S. National PRO Rally Championship, sponsored by Michelin Tires. The season kicks off in Michigan in February, and heads to Washington and California, before returning to Pennsylvania in June. My goals are to win the Group 5 Championship and the Woodner Cup for the highest ranking driver in a two-wheel-drive car. All seven national races are scheduled to be televised on SpeedVision.

Lesley is the only woman in North America to win a national driving championship in the extreme sport of PRO Rally Racing and has recently been selected as a driver in the Women's Global GT Series.

Newark, Delaware MAACO
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