Former F1 test pilot De Villota found dead

Fri Oct 11, 2013 7:43pm EDT
 
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By Rodrigo De Miguel

MADRID (Reuters) - Former Spanish Formula One test driver Maria de Villota, one of the few women to come close to the top of the sport but whose career was cut short by an horrific accident last year, was found dead in a hotel in Seville on Friday.

De Villota, who lost her right eye and fractured her skull at a test in England in July 2012, had apparently died of 'natural' causes, a Spanish police spokeswoman said.

"We are assuming it was a natural death, but we cannot confirm anything," the spokeswoman said, adding that forensic scientists and a homicide unit would examine the scene.

De Villota's sister Isabel was quoted as saying in local media later on Friday that the family had been told the 33-year-old had died in her sleep at about 6 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) as a result of neurological injuries she suffered in the crash.

Although de Villota recovered, she no longer competed and had instead become an inspirational figure for aspiring female drivers and was due to present a book detailing her experiences on Monday.

The daughter of former F1 racer Emilio De Villota, she was appointed test driver for Anglo-Russian team Marussia a few months before her accident.

She never took part in a general test with other drivers but was one of only a handful of women to have driven Formula One cars in the last decade. None, though, have come near to racing one in competition.

The news of her sudden passing stunned Spain and the motor racing world.   Continued...