Thursday, 16 April 2015

Wendy Markey (Amey)


Wendy with the Mazda RX-3

Wendy is a British woman who raced in national saloon championships in the 1970s. She took part in some international touring car races too, and drove in works teams for Mazda and Lada.

Her background was completely unrelated to motorsport; she trained as a dancer, and performed in musical theatre and comedy, appearing on The Benny Hill Show, among other things. It was only after her marriage, to racing driver and BMW team manager, John Markey, that she became acquainted with the world of motorsport.

Her first race came in 1972, and was apparently the result of a bet. Whether she won the bet, is unclear. Using a borrowed Honda N600, she drove in the Production Saloon championship, at Oulton Park.

The following year, she attacked the Production Saloon (Group 1) championship again, in a BMW 2002 Ti this time, supported by the UK BMW works team. As well as circuit racing, the team ran her in the Avon Tour of Britain, partnered by Jenny Dell. She was 19th overall and beat Rosemary Smith to the Ladies’ award, as well as finishing above Graham Hill in his Datsun Bluebird.

A change to the rules brought Wendy into the British Touring Car Championship, then known as the British Saloon Car Championship, in 1974. The BSCC was now running to Group 1 specification. Wendy had secured another factory-supported drive, this time for Mazda. Her car was a Savanna RX3. She completed most of the season, which included too many non-finishes for her to make an impression on the final leaderboard. Her best finish was seventh, at Mallory Park. Female drivers were less unusual then in the BSCC than they are now, but Wendy attracted a lot of attention due to her team’s main sponsor: Penthouse magazine.

As well as the BSCC, she competed internationally, in some rounds of the European Touring Car Championship. She shared the RX-3 with Australian Brian Muir for the Silverstone TT race, but they did not finish, due to an oil leak in the gearbox. She also made one appearance in a Ladies’ Shellsport Escort race, driving a Ford Escort Mexico. She was seventh.

She drove a Mazda RX-3 for both 1975 British Group 1 Championships, sponsored by Britax and Radio One. She performed well in both, and was third in her class in the Britax series, and fourth in class in the Radio One series. Classes for Group 1 racing were based on the retail price of the car.

There was more women-only action in 1975, too. Wendy took part in the Shellsport Escort Series, now a four-round championship run in association with the British Women Racing Drivers’ Club. She won the last round, at Mallory Park, and was third overall. This was not her only womens’ event; she was invited to drive in the Ladies’ Race supporting the Monaco Grand Prix, but crashed out.

She stayed with Group 1 in 1976, although she changed her car from a Mazda to a Lada 1200, supported by the Lada factory. Her programme included a second Tour of Britain, in which she won another Ladies’ award. As well as the Lada, she was scheduled to race a Mazda in the Silverstone 6 Hours, with Georgie Shaw, but this did not happen.

Her third season in the Shellsport Escort series gave her a best finish of third, at Snetterton, and she was enough for sixth in the championship.

In 1977, it was back to Mazda power, still in the RX-3. One of her team-mates was her husband, John, who drove a sister car, an RX-5. Sponsored by Smith Kendon Travel Sweets, a slightly less controversial company, she competed in several rounds of the European Touring Car Championship, with Tom Hunt as her co-driver. They were disqualified from their first race, at Salzburg, for receiving a push start, but got to the finish of the Brno round in 19th place. They were 35th, from 38 finishers, at the N├╝rburgring, but did not finish at Silverstone. A planned entry into the Brands Hatch 6 Hours did not transpire.

Wendy’s chosen car for 1978 was a Mini 1275 GT. Sharing it with John Markey and Alan Shaw, she managed to finish the Diner’s Club Trophy at Silverstone. For most of the season, she raced in the Special Saloon championship in the UK, with her husband and second team-mate. Unfortunately, she had quite a bad accident at Mallory Park, on a wet track, and broke an ankle. The Mini was a write-off, and this was the end of her motorsport activities for some time. Divorce also intervened some time afterwards.

In 1988, now Wendy Amey, she returned to the circuits in a Chevron B8, usually racing in the HSCC2-Litre Championship, and Super Sports. This lasted for two seasons, before she hung up her helmet for good, to concentrate on family and business concerns.

More recently, Wendy has been involved in the classic motorcycling scene, as the business and life partner of former world champion, Phil Read.

(Image from http://www.markeymotorsport.co.uk/)

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