Too often the subject of sexist jokes from male petrolheads who rubbish everything from their parking skills to their choice of upholstery – take a bow Messrs Clarkson, Hammond and May – women are proving that when it comes to pedal power they have as much mettle as the next man.

The Top Gear team had this fact demonstrated to them graphically when Scottish singer-songwriter Amy Macdonald took on their Star In A Reasonably Priced Car challenge. She roared round the track in a time which put her into ninth position on the leaderboard, just a fraction of a second behind Tom Cruise.

Another Scot on the distaff side who knows her clutch from her elbow is Oban-born Susie Wolff. Beginning on the karting circuit before moving into Formula Three and then into the Touring Car series, she signed to the Williams Formula One team last year and now works as a development driver. Based in Switzerland, she's married to Formula One team executive and former racing driver Toto Wolff.

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Perhaps an even better illustration of how good women are in the driving seat will come on Sunday. That's when 30-year-old American Nascar driver Danica Patrick becomes the first woman in history to start the Indy 500 on pole position, courtesy of an unbeatable qualifying session in which she averaged a red hot 196mph. Then again, nobody should have been that surprised: Patrick finished third in the 2009 Indy 500 and in 2008 became the first woman to win an Indy series race when she took the Japan 300 for the team set up by the grandson of Formula One legend Mario Andretti.

"I'm proud of all the hard work that goes into making pole," she said, adding winningly: "It's not just [about] turning left".