Women have been racing since the early days of the sport, and Brooklands was no exception, even in 1908
Brooklands was by no means confined to male drivers, although it took the BARC a long time to allow women to compete against men. However, it was as early as July 1908 that the first event for female drivers, the Ladies Bracelet Handicap, was held, which attracted seven entries.
Muriel Thompson in the Austin ‘Pobble’ won and Mrs Locke King came second driving Lord Montagu’s Itala ‘Bambo’, chauffeur kneeling alongside. At the August Bank Holiday meeting there was a match race between Muriel Thompson and Christa Ellis which Muriel Thompson again won.
In 1922, Ivy Cummings was a popular winner of the Duke of York’s Long Handicap, driving a 1921 Coupe de l’Auto Sunbeam.
Only four lady drivers achieved outer circuit ladies lap records, starting in 1928 with Mrs W B Scott in a Sunbeam at a speed of 120.88mph.
Then Mrs Wisdom, known as ‘Bill’, got two lap records, her fi rst in 1932 in a Leyland-Thomas at a speed of 121.47mph, then in 1934 in a Riley at 126mph. Key Petre got three lap records, her fi rst two in 1934, fi rst in a Bugatti at 124mph then in a Delage at 129.58mph. In 1935 she used the Delage to achieve 134.75mph. Mrs Gwenda Stewart got two lap records, both in 1935 in a Derby. Having fi rst set one at 130.17mph, she then intended to have a match race against Kay Petre but this was prevented by the BARC as possibly dangerous, so they ran separately, with Mrs Stewart achieving the fastest-ever ladies record at 135.95mph.
In 1932 the JCC 1000-mile race was won by ‘Bill’ Wisdom and Australian Joan Richmond in a Riley at 84.41mph.
Out of the 17 drivers to receive the 130mph badge there were two ladies, Gwenda Stewart in the Derby and Kaye Petre in a Delage as mentioned above.