Sunday, 6 July 2014

Anita Taylor (Matthews)


Anita Taylor was a popular British racer in the 1960s, born in Yorkshire. She was the sister of Formula One driver, Trevor Taylor, and the pair sometimes raced together. They were both very well-connected in the motorsport world, which gave Anita access to some very competitive machinery during her short career.

Although she usually drove saloon cars, it was stage rallying in which she started her career, as a teenager. Among the cars she rallied was a Standard. She began racing shortly afterwards, and used various Ford Anglias predominantly. The Anglia was the car she would be most associated with, during her time on the circuits. She made her first major appearance in 1962, driving an Anglia at the Silverstone International Trophy meeting, in the British Saloon Car race. She did not finish.

Her first major result was a win in the BMRC Trophy at Charterhall, driving a Lotus Elan previously raced by Jim Clark, her brother’s team-mate. This was the last meeting held at the Charterhall circuit before its closure. The same year, she entered the Brands Hatch 6 Hours, in a John Willment Ford Anglia. She was 21st overall, assisted by rally driver Anne Hall. In another Anglia, owned by her brother, she tackled the later rounds of the British Saloon championship, her best  finishes being tenth at Crystal Palace and fourteenth at Brands Hatch. In the mid-1960s, this series was incredibly competitive, with current and past Formula One drivers, as well as specialists, taking part. As well as the established stars, there were a few regular female competitors, including Christabel Carlisle, Elizabeth Jones and Michelle Burns-Grieg, who all drove Minis.

Trevor and Anita founded their own team, Aurora Gears Racing, in 1964. Aurora Gears was a company owned by Trevor. They both drove Mini Coopers in the British Saloon Car Championship. Anita made her debut in the second round, at Goodwood, and was last. Her best finish was ninth, at Crystal Palace, and she also managed to beat her brother in the last round, the Oulton Park Gold Cup. Trevor had also not made much of an impact on the top-ten, and the quality of drivers in the BSCC was still very high, including Jim Clark, Jack Sears and Denny Hulme. Anita and Trevor shared one of the Aurora Gears Minis in the Brands Hatch 6 Hour race, but they did not finish due to a broken timing chain. An Aurora Gears sports prototype existed also, which Anita may have driven, but no actual race results for it are forthcoming.

Away from the family team, Anita also drove with Valerie Pirie in the Tour de France. They were representing Stirling Moss’s SMART team, in a Triumph Spitfire, but did not finish after an engine failure.

Anita continued to race a Mini in the 1965 BSCC, but normally under the banner of the Automobile Racing Drivers’ School. She was not overly competitive, and had a best finish of 19th, at Brands Hatch and Goodwood. Aurora Gears was involved that year in Formula Two, with Trevor driving.
  
In 1966, she remained the BSCC, having followed Trevor to the Broadspeed team. Her usual team-mate was John Fitzpatrick. They both drove Ford Anglias. At the Silverstone International Trophy meeting, Anita won the under-1 litre class by quite a long way, and was ninth overall, beating her team-mate. Her best outright finish was sixth, at Crystal Palace. Towards the end of the season, she had some reliability troubles with the Anglia, and during the last race of the season, at Brands Hatch, she rolled the car, embarrassingly, right in front of a TV camera. Nevertheless, she helped Broadspeed to the team title.

At the end of the 1966 season, Anita travelled to the Bahamas for Nassau Speed Week. Ostensibly, she was on her honeymoon, having married Dave Matthews. She drove a Shelby GT350 in two of the big races, the Governor’s Trophy and the Nassau Trophy, and was 24th and 15th respectively. She was supported by the Ring Free Oil team, who were putting together a ladies’ team at the time.

At the beginning of 1967, she was part of the “Ring Free Oil Motor Maids”, and raced in the Daytona 24 Hours with Smokey Drolet and Janet Guthrie. They finished 20th overall, in a Ford Mustang. A little later, Anita and Smokey Drolet were 35th in the Sebring 12 Hours. This time, they were in an Alpine Renault A110, run by Baker Racing in conjunction with Ring Free.

During this time, Anita was sponsored by the Ford motor company. She carried on as a Broadspeed driver in the BSCC, and had a best finish of seventh, at the Oulton Park Gold Cup. In the rest of the races, she seemed to place well in class, but did not trouble the main classification too much. John Fitzpatrick also had a quieter year. As well as racing, Anita had another go at rallying, in the marathon Shell 4000 Rally in Canada. She was driving an official Lotus Ford Cortina with a local navigator, Terry Gillies. Unfortunately, a navigational error got them stuck in wet ground, and they had to retire. As well as rallying, Anita participated in economy runs and driving stunts, such as speed records for towing caravans. As time went on, she became increasingly annoyed that Ford were exploiting her novelty value and considerable beauty with modelling assignments and stunts, rather than racing.

Anita retired from motorsport at the end of 1967, in order to concentrate on family life. Her marriage to Dave Matthews did not last, but she remained close to her family and her brother, Trevor, until his death in 2010. She never did return to active competition, but she and Trevor were a fixture at various race meetings over the years.

Anita is remembered by many for her striking looks, and her quirky habits, which included carrying her handbag with her in her racing car, stowed under the seat. In addition to this, she was a very competent driver with some decent results, achieved against top-class opposition. She gives her name to the saloon racing trophy presented each year by the British Women Racing Drivers’ Club.

(Image from http://www.wickersleyweb.co.uk/hist/taylor.htm)


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