Many years ago, while working the gate at our British Car Festival, a woman came wandering up the driveway. She had come from the farm across the road, and although her life then revolved around horses, she related in a distinct British accent how she had once driven British sports cars. More specifically, she had raced Austin 7s in the 1930s.
During the late 1920s, and into the ’30s, Austins were no doubt raced in many guises, up to and including in the form of factory supported supercharged monoposto race cars. As with makes like MG, or ERA, the depression may have encouraged smaller bore racing, but make no mistake, it was serious stuff.
The woman telling her story clearly needed to be sat down on the spot and grilled (ahem, gently interviewed) about her experience. Sadly, cars were waiting to come in, everyone was busy doing something, and the woman drifted away. So did she drive an Austin Nippy in local club events, or did she race a single-seater in serious anger?
As a woman, she would not have been alone on the track. Another name from that era, Doreen Evans, comes immediately to mind. The Evans family raced together, boys and girl. Their shop, Bellevue Garages, turned out a series of well prepared race cars, and Doreen gave nothing to her brothers when it came to competitive spirit.
The fact is, as you’ll see inside this issue, there were plenty of women involved in European motorsport before and after WWII. Only in America, it seems, is there some crazy notion about cars and racing being for the guys. It doesn’t help when the media, short-sighted creatures they so often are, treat Danica Patrick as a sex symbol first, and successful racing driver second. And I have no doubt, even as I write this, somewhere some guys are scoffing at the idea of women as true car enthusiasts and talented drivers. Get over it guys.
A couple weeks ago, I was watching an NHRA drag race at Pomona. Ashley Force won the Funny Car division outright. In some ways, beyond the noise and thunder, the most impressive aspect of drag racing is the speed with which race teams can tear down a 6,000 horsepower race motor and completely rebuild it in an hour’s time. Each of the mechanics must be strong and fast. To paraphrase Tom Hanks, there’s no crying in a Top Fuel pit. At least one of the teams had a female mechanic working one side of the motor, while her male counterpart worked on the other.
The great thing about this tableau was the announcers saw no need to call out the presence of a female mechanic on the team. Of course, I’m taking what I consider a backwards tack in writing about it. My idea of progress is when women are sufficiently common participants in the motor sports world to where there is no need to point them out. I hope we’re getting there. And if ever our editor, David Stuursma, asks for another editorial about women in the car hobby, I hope he can convince Denise McCluggage to write it. She’s forgotten more about automobiles than I’ll ever know.
By Robert Goldman