Wednesday | 26 Jan 2022

Galmiche: From school teacher to Monte-Carlo hero

Could you tell the difference between the squiggles and symbols in the formula used to calculate the area of a cylinder and those in Sébastien Loeb’s Rallye Monte-Carlo pace notes?

While they might look similar to you and me, Isabelle Galmiche possesses the uncanny knack of interpreting both.

The mathematics teacher put her day job to one side for a week to partner the most successful rally driver in history at last weekend’s Rallye Monte-Carlo. And won.

Two days after becoming the first woman to stand on the top step of the WRC’s podium since Fabrizia Pons at the same rally in 1997, Galmiche was back in front of her pupils. They were in for a bit of a shock.

“I was quite discreet at school and didn’t say much to the students ahead of the event, so I think they’ll be quite surprised when they see me again,” she told as she celebrated on a sun-kissed Monaco harbour.

Her rally career dates back to 1995. But while Loeb has bagged nine world titles and 80 WRC wins, Galmiche’s 228 career starts included just six in the WRC before last weekend. None of those were at the top level.

So how does a maths teacher become an overnight sensation by winning one of motorsport’s classics?

“After Daniel [Elena, Loeb’s former co-driver] decided to stop rallying, Séb called me to ask if I would join him for Monte-Carlo. Naturally, I immediately said yes,” she explained.

“I did a lot of test sessions with him with Citroën and Hyundai when Daniel wasn’t available, but this was our first actual rally together – and what an amazing result.

“It’s a dream come true. It was already a dream just getting to take part in Rallye Monte-Carlo alongside Séb in such a good car, but to actually win, it doesn’t get any better than this. What a crazy story!”

Loeb’s fight with arch-adversary Sébastien Ogier in the first rally of the new hybrid era made this a Monte to remember. Concidentally, Pons’ victory alongside Piero Liatti 25 years ago was achieved in the first event of the World Rally Car generation – the predecessor to hybrid.

The lead changed hands three times before a penultimate stage puncture for Ogier handed Loeb and Galmiche an advantage they clung onto through the final test in M-Sport Ford’s pouncing new Puma.

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And Loeb’s verdict on Galmiche's performance?

“This car is really difficult for the co-driver and she had a lot to say, but she had a perfect rhythm and understands how to do it really well,” he enthused.

“There are a lot of things to check. She has a lot of experience in French championship, but in the WRC you have a lot more to do around [the car]. She did a great job.”

Just in case you were wondering, the formula for working out a cylinder’s area is SA=2πrh+2πr2.

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