Comemorou no mês passado 94 anos a primeira mulher a participar no Grande Prémio de Macau, logo na edição inaugural em 1954, sendo também a primeira mulher a ganhar uma prova no evento, em 1956.
Falo de Maria Fernanda de Menezes Ribeiro (Maria Fernanda Nolasco da Silva, nome de baptismo). Nasceu em Macau em 1924 e mudou-se na década de 1960 para a Austrália onde ainda vive desde então, tal com os cinco filhos que teve com Fernando Alberto de Menezes Ribeiro (nascido em Portugal em 1922 mas logo que dois anos foi para Macau com quem casou em Macau em 1945.
Em 1954, na Prova de velocidade-regularidade Maria ficou em 2º lugar com 85 pontos ao volante de um Vauxhall.
Na edição de 1956, a Prova de Senhoras, num total de três participantes, Maria Fenanda "fez uma brilhante prova" de acordo com o título de primeira página do jornal "Notícias de Macau" ficando em primeiro lugar ao volante de um Fiat1000TV com o número 43.
Do livro "The family history and photobiography of Fernando and Maria Fernanda de Menezes Ribeiro" escrito por Peter Grills retirei um excerto sobre a faceta 'desportiva' de Maria:
"Maria Fernanda says that from a very young age she had been fascinated by cars. This was very unusual for a girl in Macau in the 1930s, when even adult women rarely drove. She says she learnt to drive by sitting next to her father's chauffeur and watching. Soon he would let her steer the car from beside him, while he worked the gears and pedals. Certainly by the age of 12 she was able to drive. We know this because of the escapade related above, when, as Maria Fernanda recounts, she was seen driving on her own by the Macau Chief of Police. After that she was more circumspect about driving the car until she got her licence at 17.
It was not until some years later, after the family had moved to Hong Kong, however, that she began her involvement in competitive motor sport. In 1954, both Maria Fernanda and Fernando began competing in time trials in Macau, using Maria Fernanda's father's car, a Vauxhall Velox. Also about that time Fernando was involved in the establishment of the Hong Kong Vespa Club, and again both of them competed in club events – sometimes with eight-year-old Margarida riding as pillion passenger in novelty events.
Maria Fernanda's more serious involvement in motor racing began in 1956, when she competed in – and won – the first women's race at the Macau Grand Prix event. Driving a dealer-sponsored Fiat 1100 sedan, Fernanda beat women driving more fancied sports cars such as MGAs.
Maria Fernanda also competed in 1958 and was hot favourite to win; however, by then the event had become better known internationally, and an American lady came from Okinawa, driving a Triumph TR3, and Maria Fernanda came second, still driving the Fiat 1100 sedan. (...)"