I came by chance the other day on a letter from the Hon. Mrs. Joan Chetwynd, (who still, by the way, takes an interest in motor racing and who lives in N. Wales) written in 1932, apologising for having been misguidedly talked into taking part in a rather unfortunate race at Brooklands. Shortly after this I read that Barbara Cartland had been responsible for this race. As I like to discover as much about what went on at Brooklands as possible I investigated the matter.
It appears that Miss Cartland overheard a remark made at a party to the effect that women could not drive so well as men. So she called upon a number of Society ladies to stage a race at Brooklands to prove what they could achieve.
This seems to have taken place in November, 1931, when much of the Track was undergoing winter repairs. It appears that eight MG Midgets were assembled, three of them supercharged. The girls taking part were the Hon. A. D. Chetwynd, Princess Imeretinsky, with Lady de Clifford as her passenger, Mrs. Wardrop, Miss Meynik, Miss Dean and Mrs. Makins. It was stated in a Cartland hand-out that none of these females had driven in a previous race, apart from Joan Chetwynd, and that a most exciting handicap race took place over three laps, won by the Princess’s blown MG, by a matter of feet from Joan Chetwynd, third place going to Paddy Naismith, who was said to “often drive the Prime Minister”. Whether or not she drove the PM at racing speeds, Miss Naismith went on to win a proper Ladies’ Handicap in her supercharged Salmson the following year.
It was “Grand Vitesse” of The Motor, still, incidentally, writing for BARC News and now residing near Tewkesbury, who debunked the thing. He said that the girls were all given white coats and posed before a British Movietone camera. They then lined up on the Railway straight, with no semblance of handicapping, and rushed away, crossing and recrossing one another’s path in a highly dangerous manner. The Members’ banking being under repair, single-file was necessary here and the Princess trod on her accelerator in mistake for the brake and spun completely round. After this exhibition a fake close finish was staged in the Railway straight. More fake filming was done on the banking, with the Chetwynd MG as high up as it could go at 75 m.p.h. or so, and even pit stops were photographed. So now you know, but what Dame Ethel Locke-King thought about it we shall never know!—W. B.