Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Hazel Dunham

Hazel Dunham was the daughter of Gerry Dunham, a gentleman racer who had competed in non-championship Grands Prix and many club races, sometimes in his own Alvis special. Hazel appears to have begun her motorsport career in a Rover, which could have been Gerry’s Rover Special, although it is unlikely. She did not share any of his other cars. The Dunham family were from Luton. Hazel was born in 1925, and took to motorsport when in her twenties.

Hazel competed in both circuit racing and rallying, achieving some success in both fields. She really put herself on the rally map in 1952, winning Coupes des Dames on the Tulip and RAC Rallies, driving the Rover. Her first award, on the RAC Rally, was in the Closed Car class. Her second was an outright ladies’ trophy. It is possible that she entered some British events prior to this, but the results are not forthcoming.

The Tulip Rally was probably her best event, and she entered it five times, between 1950 and 1954. One of her most frequent co-drivers was Charlotte Sadler, who was a racing associate of her father's from the 1930s, when she competed at Brooklands as Irene Schwedler. They drove the Rover together between 1950 and 1953, always as part of a three-woman team. It was Charlotte who helped Hazel to her 1952 Tulip Coupe des Dames. They were 31st overall.

She continued to rally the Rover in 1953, and is listed as an entrant in the Monte Carlo Rally, although she did not win any awards this time, and may not have finished. In the spring, she had driven the Rover in the Tulip Rally again, with Mrs. Armitage and Mrs. Howard as co-drivers.

The following year, she seems to have switched to an AC, and crashed out of the Stella Alpina. This appears to have been her last major rally.

In 1955, she moved from the stages to the circuits, driving an AC Ace that may have been the same car she rallied in 1954. She entered three races at Goodwood, all Ladies’ events. Her results were a third and two seconds, against tough opposition in the form of Jean Bloxam, Nancy Mitchell and Patsy Burt.

The following season, she continued to base her activities around Goodwood. The AC had now been exchanged for an MGA. Her first race, a ladies’ handicap, gave her a cautious fourth place, but her first big mixed handicap, later that day, led to a runner-up spot behind Mike Sleep. These positions were repeated in her next meeting, in July. After that, she ventured across to Crystal Palace in August, where she was fifth in an Invitation Handicap, and second in a Ladies’ Handicap, behind Jean Bloxam, a close contemporary.

Hazel’s last recorded outing is at Goodwood in September of that year. She was third in a mixed handicap and won her first Ladies’ race, ahead of Beatrice Naylor in her Lagonda.

After that, Hazel’s name vanishes from the entry lists. Her father retires at around the same time. It is not known whether Hazel retired completely, or married and continued to compete under another name. She was rather an enigmatic driver, and no reliable, widely available photographs exist of her. Although her career was rather short, she showed considerable skill and deserves to be remembered.

She is known to have worked as a physiotherapist in her local hospital, specialising in treating children.

This short biographical post is a work-in-progress. If you have any information about Hazel, please get in touch.

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