Friday, 15 May 2015

Dorothy Stanley-Turner

Dorothy at Shelsley Walsh in 1939

Dorothy was one of the later female racing stars at Brooklands, and was particularly associated with the MG marque.

She started racing at quite a young age, and she was guided from the beginning by other female motorsport enthusiasts. Joan Chetwynd taught her to drive, and her earliest competition experiences were alongside Mrs Kimber in an MG, in trials. Her father, a Forces officer, was a friend of Mrs Kimber’s husband, Cecil, who was a director of the MG Group.

She began circuit racing in 1937, and her first major race was the First Easter Mountain Handicap at Brooklands. Her car was an MG special. In the same car, she also raced in the Fourth Easter Mountain Handicap, at the same meeting. She finished both races, but was not among the leaders.

Not that long afterwards, with only some hillclimbs, and one race, in between in which to hone her skills, Dorothy raced at Le Mans for the first time. She shared George Eyston’s MG PB with Enid Riddell, and they were 16th overall, a respectable finish for a debutante, and notwithstanding a problem with the fuel filler cap, which was solved by Dorothy, using an orange as a plug. She used her powers of persuasion, and her charm, to convince the track official that this was not in contravention of any rules.

She was lucky to get to the start at Le Mans at all, as the previous week, she suffered an eye injury during the Nuffield Trophy at Donington Park, driving her own MG. A stone from the track flew up and hit her in the eye. After receiving first aid and an eye patch, she attempted to rejoin the race, but was wisely prevented from doing so.

As well as high-speed action, Dorothy also tried rallying. She drove her MG in the RAC Rally early in the year, with Kathleen Taylor as her navigator. She also travelled to France for the Paris-St. Raphaël Rally.

Her racing season in 1938 was curtailed by a bout of diphtheria, which she fortunately survived without ongoing problems. Her MG PB, which had been accepted for Le Mans, was driven by Charles Dobson and Elsie Wisdom, who did not finish.

Before her unfortunate illness, which occurred on the way to Le Mans itself, Dorothy’s performances at Brooklands were really improving. She scored her first outright win in the Second Easter Road Handicap, driving her new Q-Type MG. Even diphtheria could not keep her out of action for long, and she was back in the driving seat at Brooklands in August, finishing third in the First August Road Handicap. This, along with her attempts at one-eyed driving at Donington, was typical of her determination and spirit, which were often praised in contemporary accounts. Her strong personality, with a tendency towards cheekiness and humour, and a crafty willingness to play dumb in order to get the advice or physical help she needed, really seems to have endeared to the likes of SCH Davis, who writes very fondly of her in Atalanta.

Earlier in the year, she raced in Ireland, taking part in one of the support races for the Cork Grand Prix in her MG. Few of the Brooklands “set”, particularly the ladies, ventured over there, although Fay Taylour (an Irishwoman herself) had some success there.

In 1939, she entered the RAC Rally in an Alvis, and took the Shelsley Walsh Ladies' record in an Alta. Her first appearance at Brooklands was for the JCC Members’ Day, in her MG, in March. At the August meeting, she unwittingly became the last lady driver to win a Brooklands race, when she took the First August Mountain Handicap, again in the Q-Type.

When the war broke out, Dorothy followed the tradition of her family and enlisted in the WAAF. She rose through the officer ranks, initially in a barrage balloon unit, then later as a Flying Officer. She stayed in the Forces after the war ended, only returning to civilian life in 1959. 

After the war, she competed a little in hillclimbs, under the name Dryden, having married Peter Dryden in 1946. Her car was an Alta. In the 1950s, she took up rallying again, driving an Alvis in the 1951 Monte Carlo Rally. Opportunities for motor racing had decreased due to the war, and those of the Brooklands ladies who returned to motorsport, gravitated towards rallies.

She died in 1995, aged 78.

(Image from

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