The ‘Girls in F1’ story last month was very interesting. Somehow! never expected them to shine in Grands Prix, But Madame Junek did the 1927 German GP, and was the only finisher in her class in a Bugatti. So did the Countess Einsiedel in 1928, her Bugatti retiring with run bearings, and in 1932 Mme Itier was a finisher in this 354-mile Grosser Preis on the Nurburgring.
Even if the ladies could not cope with GPs, driving in the 24 hours at Le Mans was quite a demanding undertaking. By 1950 25 girls had competed at Le Mans; but how did these female drivers do? Well, in 1930 Mesdames Siko and Mareuse in a Bugatti were seventh; Mme Siko with `Sabipa’ in a 1750 Alfa Romeo were fourth in 1932. Miss Champney/Mrs Kay Petre were 13th in 1934 out of 21 finishers, in a Riley, Mme Itier in an MG Midget was 17th in 1934, and 18th in a Balilla Fiat in 1935, and Bonneau 12th in a 954cc MG in 1938. In 1935 an all-female team known as “George Eyston’s Dancing Daughters” finished in a trio of PA MGs, paired as Joan Richmond/Mrs Simpson, Doreen Evans/Miss
Skinner, Margaret Allan/Mrs Eaton. Misses I argeot/Vemet in a Simca were 12th in 1937, Joan Richmond 14th in a Ford Ten with Bidney, and Miss Stanley-Turner and Miss Riddell got their 936cc MG home 16th and second in the Biennial Cup contest, while Miss Enid Fawcett/Miss White got their Morgan into 13th place in 1938.
After WWII rally driver Betty Haig had her go, in a 2-litre Ferrari in 1951 with Miss Simon (15th out of 30 finishers). Even the many who retired, like Mrs Desriez in a 5-litre Bugatti, often got a long way into the 24 hours. Not too bad a show, perhaps?
In the article Mark Hughes also gave four lines to Mrs Kaye Petre, who lapped Brooklands at nearly 135mph in the 10.1/2-litre Delage. I have the greatest admiration for Kaye, but shouldn’t he have mentioned Mrs Gwenda Stewart, who lapped even faster in the 2-litre Derby-Miller, which got round Montlhery at just under 149mph, and also competed at Le Mans? She knew Brooklands less well than Kaye Pete but drove the Duesenberg in the 500-mile race there.