Lady Competition Drivers

Concluding Our Series On Lady Drivers

Patsy Burt probably vies with Jean Bloxam as the most successful post-war lady competition driver and at the time of our visit she was waxing indignant over a comment which appeared in a weekly motoring magazine intimating that post-war lady competition drivers have not proved as successful as their pre-war counterparts. Patsy Burt maintains that although 130-m.p.h. laps of the Brooklands Outer Circuit are commendable they do not require the same degree of skill as a fast climb up Mont Ventoux or one of the other Continental hill-climbs.

Miss Burt commenced driving in 1949 but her main interest lay with the horse, and at one time she was a riding teacher. Her first visit to a race track, at Brooklands just before the war, had filled her with boredom, despite the tact that her parents were great motor-racing enthusiasts and her father had driven the Burt Special in races at the Weybridge track. After the war she attended the first Goodwood meeting and her interest increased rapidly, although it was not until 1953 that she decided to take up competition driving. She had owned two Jowett Javelins, an XK120 Coupe and a 2.6-litre Aston Martin, and in 1954 she gained her first victory by winning the ladies’ award in a sprint at Brands Hatch.

In the following year the 2.6-litre Aston was replaced by a 3-litre, and in a full programme of sprints, races, hill-climbs and speed trials she gained a number of awards. For 1956 the Aston was given a DB3S cylinder head and triple Webers by the Pippbrook Garage, who looked after the car, and more success came her way, although the highlight of the season was a run in Rob Walker’s F.1 Connaught at the Brighton Speed Trials which gained her the ladies’ record. The Aston Martin was sold in 1957 and a 1,100-c.c. sports Cooper-Climax was obtained which she enjoyed very much. It gave very little trouble but was difficult to control, and she had little success in races, although better fortune came in sprints and hill-climbs.

After sampling Rob Walker’s F.2 Cooper Patsy decided to buy one, and for the 1958 season her equipé consisted of a TR3A and the Cooper, both finished in powder blue! She soon found that racing in the single-seater class was both too quick for her and too expensive and from then on she has concentrated on sprints and hill-climbs, gaining the ladies’ awards or Sometimes F.T.D. at many meetings. The car was retained for 1959, when another season of sprints and hill-climbs was undertaken, her best performance being the course record at Firle.

The TR3 went in 1960 for a Fiat 1500 with twin-cam OSCA engine, which has given good service, and the Cooper was retained. The lopg Continental hill-climbs attracted Patsy and at Mont Ventoux she unofficially broke the ladies’ record in the Cooper. This sortie whetted her appetite and for this season she obtained a 1,500-c.c. Porsche RSK which she has used in most of the European Mountain Championship events, gaining the ladies’ record in many of them but being unable to approach the times of the male experts. Plans for next season are indefinite but she will probably not go to the Continent again, The Cooper will remain in her stable indefinitely, perhaps until it is eligible for historic racing-car events!

Brenda Dickinson has recently come to the fore as an extremely quick driver of a 1,100-c.c. Lola sports car, beating many males in the process, including her husband Peter. Now 27, she commenced motoring at 17 with an M.G. and followed this up with a TR2. She joined the Nottingham Sports Car Club and began to participate in Rallies, Driving Tests, Autocross Meetings and eventually Club races with the B.A.R.C. and the B.R.S.C.C. She has also driven TR3s, Aston Martins and Austin Healeys and has had a number of successes in Club meetings. This season she acquired the Lola and so far has one win, two seconds and a third, driving very often in the same races as her husband, who drives a Lotus XI.

Of the cars she has driven she regards the Aston Martin as the most pleasant to drive in respect of general handling, cornering and braking. The Lola she finds very fast but a difficult car on which to find the cornering limit, which, she modestly admits, she has not yet reached.

Her opinion of the driving standards of men on the roads is not high as she finds us selfish in many respects but on the circuits male drivers are very considerate.

As she and her husband are in the Garage trade she finds herself handling all types of cars from a big Jaguar down to an Austin Seven.

Patricia Coundley, like so many other lady competition drivers first became interested in horses, transferring to motoring when her husband John (who races a variety of fierce machines) persuaded her to drive his D-type Jaguar in a sprint at North Weald in 1959 when she won the ladies’ award. She also drove her husband’s Lister-Jaguar in a couple of sprints last year, winning the sports car class both at Castle Combe and Long Marsden.

On entering circuit racing she acquired a Lotus Elite, the driving of which she likens to handling a beautiful horse. So far she has had no success with the Elite as she is still feeling her way round the circuits, but will contiume with circuit racing as she feels that the high degree of concentration required helps her driving on the roads, as her reactions are sharpened by competition motoring. On the road she drives many cars as her super-enthusiast husband is always changing cars, but for present-day conditions she feels that a Mini is the ideal transport.