by Olivier Maloteaux

Brooklands’ ladies

They were the first Sunday drivers... Quite literally.

Those who drove their cars on the last day of the week. Not for a jaunt, but to compete. It was before the war, in England.

by Olivier Maloteaux

Brooklands’ ladies

They were the first Sunday drivers... Quite literally.

Those who drove their cars on the last day of the week. Not for a jaunt, but to compete. It was before the war, in England.

Longines World’s Best Racehorse

The Brooklands circuit, the legendary cradle of motor sport, took on its share of femininity... One lady in particular even contributed to building the place. Her name: Ethel Locke King. She supported her husband in the construction of the track, which began in 1906. The idea took root in reaction to the Motor Act of 1903, which imposed a speed limit of 20 mph, or 32 km/h, on cars on public roads.

Hugh Locke King felt that in order for British cars to continue in their development and quest for speed (so as not to be overtaken by the French models ...), they would have to evolve on closed terrain. He then built this 2.75 mile (4.4 kilometres) oval track with inclined turns, covered in uncoated concrete. A project that cost him 100,000 pounds sterling at the time (about 16 million pounds today), which usurped his entire fortune ... It was nevertheless with a smile on his face that on 17 June 1907, Hugh sat into the convertible Itala, driven by his wife, to inaugurate the famous Brooklands circuit, located in the county of Surrey in the United Kingdom. So it was a woman who led the way at this inaugural session. Was it a sign of things to come? Perhaps.

Longines World’s Best Racehorse

A regulation prohibited their participation in competitions. The men justified this ostracism on the pretext that there were also no ... female jockeys in the equestrian world.

The conquest of women drivers

That said, at the time, women were not welcome in races. A regulation prohibited their participation in competitions. The men justified this ostracism on the pretext that there were also no ... female jockeys in the equestrian world. It was a weak argument, which went out the window in 1908. The ban was lifted and racing was gradually opened to women on the Brooklands circuit, especially since it was managed by Ethel Locke King on the death of her husband in 1927.

The 1930s were a time of glory for women drivers in Brooklands. It was common in the paddocks to see these ‘Charlie's Angels’ wearing pants and helmets with chin straps, but always with lipstick on ... This soft touch in a world of heavies did not mask the real boldness of these women, who were not afraid to cross the “Fifty Foot Line", a dotted black line in the banked corners beyond which the drivers could theoretically let go of the steering wheel while still remaining glued to the track by sheer centrifugal force. On the circuit, these ladies raced with and against men, but they also engaged in fierce battle among each other. Beyond their elegance and apparent frivolity, Brooklands’ ladies had very strong characters indeed...

Longines World’s Best Racehorse

Longines World’s Best Racehorse

Longines World’s Best Racehorse

Longines World’s Best Racehorse

Longines World’s Best Racehorse

Photos by Fondation Amelia Earhart

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