Two months ago today Isabelle Galmiche’s dream came true. She won the Monte Carlo Rally alongside Sébastien Loeb in an M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid.
The reality is, she never really dared dream of this moment. It couldn’t happen. Could it? Two months on, how does she feel now?
“I can say I am still thinking about this a lot,” Galmiche told DirtFish. “Sometimes when I wake up and think about it, I still cannot believe it. I tell myself still: ‘No, it’s not possible…’ But it happened! Honestly, I don’t think anything much better can ever happen to me.”
Coming from a town close to Mulhouse, Galmiche has known her Alsatian neighbour Loeb throughout his career. As we know, they’ve worked together plenty of times on tests. But never competed.
“Always I was asking Séb: ‘Let’s do a rally together…’” she said. “And I thought maybe one day it could happen, but a little rally not something in the WRC. When he asked me if I wanted to do Monte Carlo, what could I say? I said yes immediately. I didn’t even have to think.
“After I said yes, I started to do my preparation more and more. I wanted to make sure everything was perfect. I always prepare for rallies really hard, but for Monte Carlo with Sébastien Loeb, I wanted to prepare more and be sure that everything was really perfect. Thinking back now, this was the time when I was taking the most stress. I really didn’t want to make a single mistake with him.
“And when we came to the first day, the first night, it was really not so easy. I was so stressed then, I just wanted to make a good job with him. For me, he was perfect, he was taking away the stress – like always, he was so nice to work with.”
Without a history of motorsport in her family, Galmiche found her own way into rallying.
“There was a small rally close to my home when I was young,” she said. “I went to watch and I loved it. I loved the speed. I had the opportunity to co-drive for a friend who was competing and I did it. I was hooked.”
And she remains hooked. Monte winner or not, two months to the day from being in the middle of the Monte Carlo Rally recce, Galmiche was competing again. This time alongside slightly less well-known French rally driver Antonin Mougin. The pair tackled Saturday’s six-stage Rallye Regional de Franche-Comté in a Škoda Fabia R5. The result? Another win.
Things have changed for Galmiche since she was rallying at a regional level.
“It was strange,” she said. “People were asking for a picture with me and for my autograph – I never had this before!”
It’s the same story in her day job as a mathematics teacher in a college.
“I never talked to my students about what I do outside of the classroom,” she said, “but suddenly they were all asking me what it was like to win the Monte Carlo Rally with Sébastien Loeb…”
Her voice trails away. Every now and then Isa goes quiet. It’s like she’s still struggling to take in what she’s done, what she has achieved. Her humility – like that of Loeb – is a big part of the charm. She’s a rally fan who genuinely lived the dream.
But now she has another dream. And March is the perfect time to broadcast that dream and that desire.
It’s so long without women in the rally and winning. I’m happy now and I’m hoping, perhaps, other women will followIsabelle Galmiche
A quarter of a century has passed since Fabrizia Pons became the last female co-driver to win a WRC round (the 1997 Monte Carlo Rally alongside Piero Liatti).
“It’s so long since a woman was doing what I did,” she said.
“It’s so long without women in the rally and winning. I’m happy now and I’m hoping, perhaps, other women will follow.”
With one start and one win together in the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team this season, it’s something of a given that the Loeb-Galmiche partnership will be back together.
“I don’t know what’s next,” she said. “I don’t know for the rest of the year, but I hope. I hope I will have more experience with Séb.”
On the face of it, her story is incredible: a math teacher plucked from Loeb’s home region and taken to the top step of the Monte. Actually, that’s not even the half of it. Isa’s dedication, preparation and commitment to the sport she loves is second to none. It’s those qualities – as well as her modesty – which underpinned a partnership which enjoys a 100% winning record in the WRC right now.
Her message to women around the world is simple.
She smiled: “What happened to me, it can happen to others.”