Ewy Rosqvist and Ursula Wirth
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Two women, a Mercedes 220 SE and more than 4.500 kilometers of racing… this is the story of Ewy Rosqvist and Úrsula Wirth

In theory we live in an era of civilization, of rights that must be respected because we have evolved as a species and as a society. But in reality that is a utopia and in the XXI century, in the era of technology and digitization, at a time when Artificial Intelligence is being experimented with to help us with daily chores, at a time when we have sent to Mars several probes to study the so-called "Red Planet", opening paths beyond our earth, we still find absolutely medieval skills, such as sex segregation. Being born a man or being born a woman can forever mark the life you will lead, something that is completely aberrant. Is a man better than a woman simply because he is a man? 

History has always had the woman in the shadow, as if he were a zero to the left trying to hide all his progress and achievements, or else, limiting his freedom so that he can never achieve beyond what he is allowed. Then many are surprised that women take up arms and become totally radical, there was a time when they could not even go to the bathroom without permission from men, what did we expect? Luckily, we live in an era where things are done differently and it was a rebellion of women, totally justified, it is peaceful and they only demand what they deserve, respect and equality. The man is not better for being a man, in fact, sometimes we are much more stubborn and much more "obtuse" than they. 

Women have always had a calmer mind, with a more practical vision and capable of changing the world. And if you, who are reading this, do not believe what is said here, let us leave you some simple examples. One of the most prominent, undoubtedly an event that is studied in schools, is the discovery of radioactivity, polonium and radium, the work of the famous Mary Curie. If something so important to history does not surprise you, let's go to our field, to the world of motoring, where kevlar is a material that is used for many things and that was invention of Stephanie Kwoleck; a woman.

Do you want more? Well maybe If Florence Lawrence saw that half of the drivers don't use their direction indicators, she would call us all unconscious, because he invented the first system of indication of direction as a gadget to increase safety in traffic. Luckily, the brake lights, also invented by Miss Lawrence, come on automatically when the brake pedal is pressed (just as she stated). 

Great feats beyond practicality

Mary anderson

Women, as they have always been characterized, have stood out in the practical sphere, in logic, in coherence. While man dedicated himself to putting his life in danger at absurd speeds, they put the safety net on with their inventions. A very illuminating example is that of Mary Anderson, who invented the windshield wiper while the men plunged almost unhealthily into getting more power and more speed. Are cars not used when it rains? Obviously yes, but in those years the handling of a vehicle was in charge of a chauffeur because the cars were within reach, only, of the wealthiest class and a chauffeur was something like the servant in charge of the vehicle, if he had to get off and getting wet to clean the windshield was his job, period. 

But not everything has been coherence and logic in the relationship of women with the car, there has also been passion and great feats, managing to surprise the most skeptical and the most “closed” of mind that only because of the fact of being women already they catalog and set aside. A situation that we can illustrate with the case of Dorothy Levitt, a woman who managed to reach 146,25 miles per hour in 1906 (She was the fastest woman in the world) or that before that, she set a record for speed in water reaching 19,3 miles per hour, about 35 km / h, back in 1903, also winning the Championship of the Seas on same year. However, despite her record, those responsible for the Brooklands circuit rejected her entry into a race because she was simply a woman and women don't drive. 

However, if we are to highlight a feat achieved by women, we must travel to Argentina in the 60s, when "the Swedes" left an entire country speechless defeating 257 participants, all of them men, over more than 4.500 kilometers. Those Swedes, for what they were, were called Ewy Rosqvist and Ursula Wirth and the test in which they won was the "International Touring Car Grand Prix" held in 1962. They arrived, caused a furore and swept all their rivals. Press, fans and rivals were left speechless, although some did not take some things well. A memorable feat. 

Two super professional drivers, with Juan Manuel Fangio as sports director

The International Touring Car Grand Prix is ​​one of the most important races in the South American country, held from 1910 to 1980. During the 50s, a complement to the race was created, the Standard Grand Prix, which was intended to open the door to a greater number of foreign teams and thus gain in importance. A movement that was very successful, achieving that, year after year, the participating brands increased substantially until, in 1962, brands such as Alfa Romeo, BMW, Mercedes or Volvo were registered as foreign representativesWhile among the most prominent local brands there were names such as Kaiser Argentina, Industria Automotriz Santa Fe, Autoar Argentina, Israd, IAFA or Borgward. 

Mercedes was the big surprise of the race, as it entered a total of four cars. On the one hand, two units were Mercedes 300 SE, while the others were Mercedes 220 SE, less powerful fast. The first ones were destined for the pilots Eugen Böhringer (German) and Carlos Menditeguy (Argentine). The seconds went to the German pilot Peter Khunne and yes, the Swedish pilot Ewy Rosqvist with her navigator and compatriot, Ursula Wirth. The team was commanded, in equal parts, by former Formula 1 driver Karl Kling and by great Juan Manuel Fangio, who was honorary president of Mercedes-Benz Argentina

The race had seven categories divided by displacement and consisted of a total of 4.624 kilometers of route, divided into six stages. It was, clearly, a beastly and especially tough raceNobody thought that "the Swedes" (that's how they were called from the first moment) could achieve anything remarkable because, as has been said, they were women and for that simple fact they were already despised. However, in those years there was not so much ease of information or total connection between all parts of the globe and there was a total ignorance of these two women. These two ladies who took control of a Mercedes 220 SE arrived in Argentina after achieving great results in Europe. Ewy was Champion of the Rally Europe three times in a row with her navigator and friend Ursula: 1950, 1960 and 1961. That is to say, they weren't exactly rookies and they already had tables in this race with cars. 

Ewy wrote a book called "Fahrt durch die Hölle" (Driving through hell), where he tells some curiosities of his origins, which go back to Herrestad, a rural area in southern Sweden in 1929, in a family of farmers. 

“The farm was like a fortress. On the one hand the barn, perpendicular to the barn. Beyond the garage and then the house, which consists of two floors and has a projecting roof. The Baltic Sea is twenty kilometers away and the cool wind often howled when we played on the farm with my brothers. We spent a happy time together, father, mother, five children, our 50 cows, horses, birds… Our father taught us to ride. 

At the age of seven I started at the village school. When the war came, we had to leave our horses. But then the war passed. For work in the fields my father bought tractors and machinery. And when I finished my high school my father sent me to an agricultural school, where I learned about animal husbandry. Then I worked as an assistant to Ernst Palsson, who was our vet. His district was very large and I met many farmers. Shortly after, I went to Stockholm, where I studied and became a veterinary assistant. With the diploma, I proudly returned home and started working in the fields. But there were many farms to visit and a car was needed. My dad reached into his pocket and bought me a Mercedes 170 S.

He would go to distant farms, traveling 150 to 200 kilometers a day, almost always on dirt and gravel roads, through the middle of the field. 

In 1952 I met Yngve Rosqvist, a broad-shouldered young blond engineer. We got married in 1954 and settled in the town of Skurup, between Malmö and Ystad. There we bought a beautiful little house. My husband and father-in-law were passionate car drivers. My husband participated in small races and my father-in-law drove in rallies. One day I was given the role of "third man" in the Rally of the midnight sun. So I decided to participate in the same rally in 1956. It didn't go well for me, but I insisted. I signed a contract with the Volvo factory and won the Ladies Cup four times at The thousand lakes rally in Finland, driving a Volvo P444. Despite those successes, difficulties began in my marriage. I was away from home a lot and disagreements arose with my husband, which ended in divorce. Because I believe in love, I got married. And because I believe in love, I separated from my husband… A great boy who instilled in me a passion for motorsports. "

Ursula, for her part, was born in Sundsvall, on the Gulf of Bothnia, in Sweden. He had the same profession as Ewy, but in addition, he also had the need to drive at full speed with the roads that were in those years, very far from the current roads. That led them to share their passion for cars and a few months after meeting, they were already competing in rallies. A very diverse couple that combined Ewy's spectacular driving skills with Ursula's own meticulousness of the Japanese. 

Nothing was left to chance

"Drive as usual ... go easy and let the rivals eliminate each other, as the race is very long. Just think about the car and the road”. This is how Juan Manuel Fangio encouraged them on the day of the race, knowing that these two Swedish heroines were tremendously meticulous, they left nothing to chance, they were two professionals like there were none at that time. As soon as they arrived in Argentina, they previously traveled the route that the test would travel. They did a daily stage, resting and writing down the characteristics of the road. Namely, the more than 4.500 test kilometers were covered with the sole objective of taking notes and have a detailed and accurate "road book".

From the first stage, the two Swedish companions were marking section by section at a respectable speed. Apparently, consulting Argentine media, Carlos Menditeguy was first with his Mercedes 300 SE managing to get more than two minutes to Böhringer, his teammate with the same car. Meanwhile, the two girls kept their rhythm and remembered Fangio's words as they watched the rivals fall by themselves. The push came in one of the sections, where Böhringer tried to pass through the water-covered ford without thinking about speed or the possible consequences. Outcome? the air intake filled with water and drowned the engine and he had to abandon, the same situation suffered by Menditeguy, although thanks to the fact that his co-driver managed to start the engine, they were able to continue the race although with half an hour lost. 

Exactly that lost half hour helped Ewy and Úrsula to lead the squad. Menditeguy pressed and risked until reaching the Swedes, whom he was able to overcome almost on the finish line. Nevertheless, they won by time, with a second of difference (they covered more distance in less time) but Menditeguy protested stating that he had taken 300 meters, which was equivalent to five seconds. While he complained, he entertained himself to sign autographs and greet his fans, not for nothing, he was one of the most famous pilots in Argentina. Fangio urged him to stop strutting and take the car to the closed park, for which he had only 10 minutes. 

It is not really clear why, but Carlos Menditeguy arrived a minute and ten seconds late and was disqualified. Of course, the pilot was furious and said that a German had entertained him. The race management ignored his complaints and Menditeguy, shouting and without any control in his words and his way of reacting, took his things and left for his residence in Buenos Aires. The Swedish competitors were at the forefront of the race at that time and never left that place again., winning with authority. 

Years later, when Ewy was asked about that race in 1962, he recounted: 

“Argentina is a huge country, it seems that it never ends!… And I especially remember the affection of the people… Where we stopped, the public surrounded us. And in the hotels, the journey to our room was full of flowers ... And as people crowded outside, in the street, we went out to the balcony and threw flowers at them ... he followed us all the way ... I never saw anything like it, not in Europe or anywhere else where I ran ... "

The Swedes, Ewy and Úrsula, completed the 4.624 kilometer test in 34 hours, 51 minutes and 3 seconds, with an average of almost 127 km / h. The second classified arrived 3 hours, 8 minutes and 25 seconds later, which was from another category. In the same category, they had a margin of 12 hours 1 seconds with the next runner, spectacular! 

As a curiosity, these two women who love motorsport, in a waste of altruism and humility, they were about to abandon the race when they found out that his teammate, Peter Khume, had died in the second stage due to a serious accident. Thanks to Fangio, who convinced them to keep running, we can tell this story.

What do you think?

Javi Martin

Written by Javi Martin

If you ask me where my love for motoring comes from, I wouldn't know how to answer. It has always been there, although I am the only one in the family who likes this world. My father worked as a draftsman in a metallurgical company with a lot of auto parts production, but there was never a passion like I can have.

I really like the history of the automobile and I am currently creating a personal library dedicated exclusively to the history of the motor in Spain, without forgetting the motorcycles that gave so much service in our "old" Spain. I also have a huge collection of scanned material.


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