First female drive for 48 years in Monte Carlo MG

Top female rally driver Natalie Barratt 's entry in a Super 1600 MG ZR on the Monte Carlo Rally this week is the first time a woman has driven an MG on this event for nearly half a century, when Nancy Mitchell competed at the Principality in an MG Magnette in 1956.

Natalie has several years' experience of international rallies, but decided to take a year out last year to go circuit racing in saloon cars. However, when the opportunity arose to go for the Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC) with the KF Concept backed Risbridger Motorsport Solutions Team this year in a competitive car, partnered by Welshman Carl Williamson, she didn't hesitate.

Natalie Barratt said: "It's been 12 months since I've competed in a rally and I'm really excited to be back in a rally car again. We had a successful test in Austria last week and the car is working very well. The Monte Carlo is quite a challenge as I've done a recce for it before, but never actually contested the rally. I'm so looking forward to that."

The 2004 Monte Carlo Rally is also the first time an MG ZR Super 1600 has been entered in a World Rally Championship (WRC) event although former British Champion Gwyndaf Evans and Claire Mole won the GpN class for standard showroom cars in an MG ZR160 at the WRC Wales Rally GB last November.

The opening round of this year's Championship takes place on January 23- 25th over the tortuous mountain roads around motorsport's most glamorous venue. Weather conditions will play a vital role in the outcome of this latest running of the world's oldest rally and rally crews will have to cope with everything from snow and ice to dry tarmac. To do well, the newly formed partnership of Natalie and Carl will not only have to drive hard, but will need to make some shrewd judgements on tyre choice too. Natalie's year as a circuit racer might just prove decisive.