María De Villota

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Who: María de Villota Comba.

What: Spanish racing driver.

Where: Born in Madrid, Spain.

Why: Famous for test driving for Lotus Renault GP Formula One team and later Marussia F1 team.

When: Born January 13 1980, died October 11 2013.

“At the end of the day, my natural habitat is in a car and I am happiest in that environment.” – María de Villota.

The daughter of former F1 driver Emilio de Villota and brother of racing driver Emilio Jr, it was no surprise María followed her family into motorsport. After competing in karting, she entered into the Spanish Formula Toyota in 2000, and Spanish Formula 3 the following year, racing full time until 2004. In August 2011 she  made her Formula One test debut in a Renault R29 at the Paul Ricard Circuit in Marseille, before joining the Marussia F1 team as a test driver in March 2012. On July 3 2012, she was badly injured in a near-fatal crash at the Duxford Aerodrome whilst carrying out straight-line testing, striking the back of a truck on the way back to the pits, losing her right eye and barely escaping permanent neurological damage. She was rushed to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridgeshire, England, making her first public appearance in October, stating that she still got severe headaches, had lost her sense of taste and smell and was due for more surgery, but reiterated her desire to return to racing. On October 11 2013, however, she was found dead in a Seville hotel room at the age of 33, where she was scheduled to speak at a conference and launch her autobiography.

De Vilota in 2011.

Further reading:

http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/110528

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/24487701

http://news.sky.com/story/1153054/maria-de-villota-f1-driver-found-dead-in-hotel

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