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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.

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


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