At the age of 20, Galica represented Great Britain in the downhill skiing and slalom events at the 1964 Winter Olympics. Four years later, she was back, as captain of the British Women’s Olympic Ski Team, and finished eighth in the giant slalom. At the 1972 Winter Olympics she again captained the British women’s squad, and finished seventh in the giant slalom. For many years she held the he British women's downhill skiing speed record, with a top speed of 125mph.
In her first race, she wrote off the car. But the media attention garnered by this champion speed skier switching the planks of wood for horsepower was enough to prompt Webb to run her in a Surtees TS16 in the 1976 British Grand Prix. She failed to qualify, and was not given another attempt until 1978, when she was offered a works drive with the Hesketh team.
It was not a resounding success. Galica flew out to South America to take part in the Argentine and Brazilian Grands Prix, but failed to qualify for either race. After qualifying in Buenos Aires, defending World Champion Niki Lauda told Galica that he doubted he would have been able to qualify her Hesketh, which was a 1976 suspension set-up with 1978 bodywork on top. This was the year in which Lotus blew away the competition with their ground-effect Lotus 78 before switching to the god-like Lotus 79.
Writing about her experiences as an F1 driver for the iRacing website, Galica told of the monotony of constant press interviews. “Every day, when I returned from the track, there were several journalists waiting for an interview, all professing to be from a different women’s magazine,” she wrote. “So three hours of every evening were given up to talking about myself. In the end I got so bored with telling the same story that I would invent a more interesting life.”
But her real life was a wealth of interesting anecdotes, not least her ability to talk her way in to first-class accommodation. “I moved into the InterContinental Hotel, where most of the drivers were staying,” she wrote in a separate article for iRacing. “I did not have a reservation there as our team was booked into a different hotel. But whilst insisting to the receptionist that they must have lost my reservation, I met-up with Gilles Villeneuve and Jochen Mass and the hotel eventually decided that I was a bona-fide driver. They found me a beautiful room that they filled with flowers and fruit and a welcome note.”
There’s not much footage of Galica’s racing exploits available online. She did not qualify for any of the three grands prix she entered, so all the clips I’ve been able to find show her driving in historic races, not Formula 1 World Championship events.
In 1992, Galica returned to Olympic skiing, and represented Britain in the speed skiing demonstration event at the Winter Olympics.
But despite the brief return to competitive skiing, Divina Galica’s career has been based in U.S. motorsport. She was an instructor at the Skip Barber Racing Schools before being promoted to Senior Vice President of Skip Barber Racing. In 2005, Galica left Skip Barber Racing for a directorship at iRacing, where she continues to work to this day.
Kate Walker is F1 Editor of girlracer and Assistant Editor of GP Week. Follow her on Twitter @F1Kate, or read more of her writing at www.f1katewalker.com.