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March 17, 2017

The Belles of Brooklands – 20 Fascinating Vintage Photos of Remarkable Women in Their Racing Machines in the 1930s

When Brooklands opened in 1907 it was the first purpose-built racetrack in the world, enabling the great marques to compete against one another. But initially the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club (BARC) did not permit women to race on the circuit.

Following the Bracelet the BARC took the decision that women would not be permitted to race at their meetings, declaring there were no lady jockeys, so why should there be female racing drivers? The press were outraged but the officials remained resolute.

It was not until 1928 when the BARC finally conceded by allowing women to compete in Ladies-only Handicaps and after yet more pressure, they were finally allowed to test their skills against the men in 1932.

There is no doubt that after WWI, during which time women had served their country and were expected to take on men’s roles, Brooklands helped 'launch' them further and thus provided them access to a male-dominated sport which was initially only for the affluent rich.

Kay Petre at Brooklands, March 1930. Only 4’10” tall she’s seated in her huge 10.5 litre V12 Delage.

Fay Taylour at Brooklands in 1930. She was born in 1904 in Ireland and known as ‘Flying Fay’. She was a champion speedway rider but switched to racing cars in 1930. She was interned as a fascist during the Second World War (and was said to have had an affair with Oswald Mosley) but after the war continued racing in the UK and America. During the 1950s, she was still racing with a 500 cc Cooper at major British circuits like Brands Hatch and Silverstone and competing against a new generation of young drivers including Stirling Moss and Peter Collins.

Violet Cordery, 1930. She won races in a 2.5-litre Invicta and had to be discouraged from driving a 4.5-litre version for 25 miles round the track – in reverse. She was told the car wasn’t up to it and that the BARC would take a dim view of her antics. In 1929, Invicta wanted to prove the reliability of its cars so she and her sister drove a 4.5-litre model round the track for 30,000 miles at an average speed of 61.57mph.

Elsie Wisdom at Brooklands in 1930. Elsie “Bill” Wisdom, confounded the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club sceptics to master the unpredictable 7.2-litre Leyland-Thomas and who won Britain’s first 1,000-mile race at an average speed of 84.41mph, partnered by Joan Richmond.

Miss J Alwynne, a motor mechanic at Brooklands race course, July 1931.

Kitty Brunell tunes up her AC Ace Sports engine, 1932. Kitty was known as a rally driver and would be the only woman ever to win the British RAC Rally, in 1933. She never raced competitively at any track, but did use Brooklands for tuning and circuit testing her car.

Mrs Elsie “Bill” Wisdom and Miss Joan Richmond, July 1932.

A Big crowd turned up at Brooklands Whit Monday for the fine Holiday motor racing programme. Miss Paddy Naismith pushing her car onto the track for one of the events at Brooklands, England on June 5, 1933.

Eileen Ellison in a Bugatti during the ‘mountain race’ at Brooklands, 1934.

Mrs Gordon Simpson and the young racing driver Joan Richmond sitting in the latter’s 1921 3-litre GP Ballot racer, July 1934.

Doreen Evans taking over the sash during a relay race at Brooklands, July 1935.

Gwenda Stewart in 1935. She took the ultimate Ladies Outer Circuit lap record at 135.95 mph.

The three racing MGs were entered for Le Mans by land speed record breaker George Eyston and nicknamed the ‘Dancing Daughters’ after a popular variety act of the time. The drivers were : Car 54 – Margaret Allen & Coleen Eaton, Car 55 – Doreen Evans & Barbara Skinner, Car 56 – Joan Richmond & Miss Joan Simpson. July 1935.

(L-R) Racing drivers Gwenda Stewart, Doreen Evans, Kay Petre, Elsie Wisdom. September 1935.

Doreen taking a refreshment at Brooklands in July 1936. One of the leading female racing drivers of 1930’s. Doreen Evans was the youngest child in a motor-racing family whose business, the Bellevue Garage in Wandsworth, was a leading MG agency. With her brothers Dennis and Kenneth she competed in MGs in the Bellevue team, and at Le Mans in Captain Eyston’s ‘Dancing Daughters’ team.

Kay Petre poses with her V12 Delage, July 1937.

A Brooklands’ mechanic fastens the buckle on Miss Dorothy Turner’s helmet, July 1937.

Kay Petre at Brooklands, March 1938. It was the first time at Brooklands since a terrible accident the previous September. During practice for the 500 Mile race, the driver Reg Parnell misjudged an overtaking move, lost speed, slid down the banking and hit her Austin Seven from behind. She crashed badly and was seriously injured and she never raced competitively again. Years later Petre ended up designing fabric patterns for the interior of the Mini and was a motoring journalist. She died in 1994, at the age of ninety-one.

Mrs Aclace signals from the pits during the JCC 200 mile race at Brooklands, August 1938.

Miss Patten, Baroness Dorndorf sits on the door of her Peugeot, May 1939.

(via Flashbak)

1 comment:

  1. the first photo of Key Petre shows her sitting in a Bentley number 14, not the Delage




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