Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Belles of Brooklands, Part II

Ruth Urquhart-Dykes in 1927

More of the lady drivers of Brooklands. Jill Scott-Thomas and Irene Schwedler now have their own profiles.

“Mrs K.N. Roe” – raced a Lea-Francis at Brooklands. In 1933, she won a Novice’s Handicap at the Inter-Club Race Meeting in July. During the race, she reached a maximum speed of 85.13mph. Later in the year, she entered the Ladies’ Handicap at the Mountain Championship Meeting, but does not appear to have finished.  She does not appear to have continued racing in 1934. Mrs Roe was possibly a member of the “Avro” Roe family, who were prominent at Brooklands.

Barbara Skinner - became associated with Morris Minors in the 1930s, including a "White Minor" Special in which she set the Ladies' record at the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb in 1934. She excelled at hillclimbs and sprints and competed all round Britain, although Shelsley Walsh was her home track. In 1933, she also entered her Morris in the RAC Rally and came 30th overall. She occasionally raced at Brooklands, reasonably competitively, and made the trip to Le Mans in 1935, as part of the legendary "Dancing Daughters" MG works team. She and Doreen Evans were 25th. Later, Barbara married racer and motoring writer John Bolster. She continued to compete under her married name, in either the Morris or her family's Skinner Special. She was killed in a traffic accident in 1942.

Laura B Starkey – drove a Sunbeam, mostly in hillclimbs, in the 1910s. She broke Dorothy Levitt’s long-standing ladies’ record at Shelsley Walsh in 1913. Her car was a Sunbeam 12/16hp. In 1912, she won the Closed section of the Caerphilly hillclimb outright, in the Sunbeam. That year, she used the Sunbeam at Brooklands, in the RAC Associates club meeting. She was second in the Skilful Driving race, and third in the hillclimb. In hillclimbs, she scored first or second places in class in Leicestershire and Hazelwood. Back in Wales, she competed in the Portcawl Speed Trials, held on the beach. She won Class 9.

Olive Stewart-Menzies – one of the earliest female winners at Brooklands. She won one race at the Surbiton Motor Club meeting in 1923, and was second in another, driving the 1913 “Bebe” Peugeot. In 1924, she drove the same car in the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb. In 1925, she raced an Itala at Brooklands, during the Essex Motor Club’s meeting, but did not finish. Her father was a Peugeot enthusiast who owned several pre-war racing Peugeots, hence Olive’s use of the Bebe GP car.

Dorothy Summers – raced a Marendaz Special at Brooklands, between 1931 and 1936. In 1934, she was third in the BARC Novices’ Handicap. That year, she was quite active, competing in the August Bank Holiday Meeting and the Autumn Meeting.  She won the March Short Handicap in 1936, the first such win for a Marendaz car. She competed alongside Aileen Moss, possibly in trials, at some point. Dorothy worked for Donald Marendaz himself, and was his long-term companion as well as a director of his engineering companies.

Fay Taylour - Irish speedway rider, circuit racer and rally driver from the 1930s onwards. She was the winner of some Brooklands races and often finished well in rallies, in the UK and abroad, both as driver and navigator. She was the winner of the Ladies' Prize in the 1933 Brooklands Rally. In 1934, she had her biggest victory, a win in the Leinster Trophy at Skerries, driving an Adler. She continued to race after the Second World War, despite being imprisoned for much of it due to her membership of the British Union of Fascists.

Sheila Tolhurst - raced at Brooklands in the early and mid-1930s. She won a handicap race there in 1932 in a Riley, at the Inter-Club meeting. Her average speed was 81mph. Later, in 1934, she was part of the Singer team for the annual Light Car Club relay, with Kay Petre and Eileen Ellison, driving a Singer Le Mans. They were fifth overall after deliberately sandbagging, in order to secure the Ladies’ award which could not go to any team in the top three. Further details of her motorsport activities have proved elusive. She died in 1981.

Ruth Urquhart-Dykes - competed between 1926 and 1929, almost always driving an Alvis and often with her husband, Bill. She started out by entering Ladies’ races at Brooklands, winning some of them, and also won a few smaller club handicap events. Her first really big race was the 1928 Coupe Georges Boillot in France, in which she was ninth. In 1929, she and Bill made their names by setting a new Twelve Hour speed record at Brooklands, driving their Alvis. They were less fortunate in that year’s Double Twelve race and did not finish.

Part One

(Image copyright LAT Archive/

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