At five years old, Desiré Wilson (née Randall) was behind the wheel of a go-kart at local South African tracks. She didn’t have big dreams about competing in Formula One, or of becoming a endurance racing star. Quite simply, Wilson loved the thrill of speed, finding the very limits of control, and coming home with another success to her name.
Tagged With women who like cars
When you come from a family with a name like Moss and you decide to get behind the wheel of a car, you better be good. If your dad drove at Indianapolis, your mum competed in rallies, and your brother is considered the best Formula One driver to never win a World Championship, though, it's not like you really have any other choice. It's a damn good thing Pat Moss had plenty of talent.
If you watch pretty much any form of motorsport, chances are you've heard the name Penske. Roger Penske built his racing empire from the ground up in the mid-20th century, and the team has been successful at just about everything they have tried. But back in the day, before all the fancy technology came to the fore of racing, all Penske had was Judy Stropus.
Pink is a controversial colour in the racing world. It's a girl's colour -- and we all know girls don't race, right? Pink liveries for men are apparently emasculating, and women who drive pink cars? Well, they're just shoving their femininity in everyone's faces and subscribing to a stereotype.
But Donna Mae Mims just simply preferred pink.
They say that all it takes to achieve something it so speak it into existence. Name it, and suddenly you can wrap your fingers around it; the mysterious it moves into the tangible realm. When Ethel Flock Mobley's father named her after the gasoline he used in his taxi, then it really only makes sense that this Alabama baby would grow up aching to feel the control that only comes from careening a car around a race track at impossible speeds.
Imagine: you're walking down the streets of west London when, suddenly, a Matchless motorcycle comes screaming past. At the helm is a teenage girl, her hair flying wildly behind her. If you didn't see it with your own eyes, you might have doubted the passenger in the sidecar: but it is most definitely a collie seated beside its owner. You would have just witnessed a young Mildred Petre falling madly in love with speed.
Aloha Wanderwell. The name itself sounds destined for adventure, and there was adventure aplenty in the 1920s for a young woman eager to see the world. Back then, before the jet age, the world outside your front door was still shrouded in mystery, more than reason enough for the Winnipeg-born Wanderwell to sign up, at the age of sixteen, for an expedition around the world.
It's 1934. The driver that has just set the fastest Women's Outer Circuit record at Brooklands parks her car and emerges, triumphant. At only 4'10", she's dwarfed next to her 10.5 litre V12 Delage, a vehicle that she has almost effortlessly mastered. The adoring press captures her radiant smile as she removes her helmet and smooths a hand over her immaculate baby blue overalls. Her name is Kay Petre, and she is the first woman to go 209km/h around England's famous banked circuit.
The first time Betty Skelton piloted an aircraft solo, it was the year 1938 and she was a mere 12 years old. Yeah, sure, it was technically illegal, but she'd been hopping in open seats of aircrafts in her spare time for as long as she could remember. She was probably more prepared to be a pilot at age 12 than most of us are to do, like, anything. Ever.
War had a habit of making women into racers. With the men occupied on the battlefield, someone had to manoeuvre ambulances through shell-cratered roads at high speed, rushing to and from emergencies. Some women became absolutely infatuated with the challenge and the adrenaline and looked to find ways to get that same heady rush after the war. One of those women was England's Gwenda Hawkes.
What do you do when your husband dies, leaving you a widow at age 27? Do you go racing, compete in motor boating, travel around the world, become a published author, and get involved in a scandal over a nude photograph? If you're Camille du Gast, you'll be doing all of those and still find time to go ballooning, become a concert pianist, and become the only woman in the Automobile Club de France.
In an era long before women were thought capable of doing much of anything, Dorothy Levitt decided that she wanted to do it all. Avid horseback rider, self-styled motoriste, race car driver, boat racer, journalist and amateur aviator, Levitt was a woman well before her era and, at the same time, exactly what Edwardian Britain needed.
Life wasn't easy for women in the early 20th century and race car driver and motorist Dorothy Levitt knew that for a fact. That's why she published The Woman and the Car: A Chatty Little Handbook for all Women who Motor or Who Want to Motor in 1909. It tells women how to take care of themselves and their cars, and reminds them to always carry a gun.
Mastering rough roads shelled into near-oblivion, Violette Morris sidestepped the artillery craters on her motorcycle. It was 1916 on the slopes of the Somme in the midst World War I, and Morris, a field nurse, was on her way to the battlefield. The soldiers who righted her bike when she fell weren't aware that they were helping a woman. With a shapeless outfit and close-cropped hair, Morris could easily pass for a man on the battlefield.
With hands burned and blistered by a red-hot steering wheel and a head still reeling from a long night of sex and champagne, former cabaret dancer Hellé Nice won the first all-female Grand Prix at Montlhéry, France in 1929. Thus began a short but victory-filled career wrought with tragedy and controversy in between blissful moments of success.
At 13 years old, Aurora Straus enrolled in racing school. Things weren't going well early on, so an instructor offered extra help. He soon declared to her that it wasn't Straus' fault she was developing a little slower than others -- "because she was a girl," he said, she'd never be as aggressive as she needed to be.