Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Mary ("Mrs Victor") Bruce

Mary after the 1928 Bournemouth Rally

Mary (Mrs Victor) Bruce was a pioneer racer, aviator and businesswoman.

She was born Mildred Mary Petre in 1895. Her father was related to Kay Petre’s husband. Her mother was American, and an actress. The young Mildred very soon developed a taste for adventure, alongside her brothers. When she was eleven or so, she learned to ride a motorcycle, and by the age of fifteen, was riding one on the road, sometimes with her dog in a sidecar. That was, until she was stopped by the police, fined and barred from riding until she reached the appropriate age.

Her adventures continued on four wheels in 1920, with a brief hiatus for the birth of a son, Anthony. This would have been highly shocking at the time, as she was not married to the boy’s father. In 1926, she married The Honourable Victor Bruce, who seems to have adopted Anthony. Mary almost always styled herself “Mrs Victor Bruce”, and maintained an outwardly ladylike appearance and demeanour. She is said to have stated “don’t call me a Women’s Libber”. During her career, her path crossed that of several female racers and aviators, but she never particularly sought to be part of their “set”. Her self-presentation as a traditional wife and “lady” may have been an effort to offset her past as an unmarried mother, but this is conjecture.

Victor was a rally driver with links to the AC marque, now run by Francis Selwyn-Edge, the patron and probable lover of the Edwardian racer, Dorothy Levitt. After Victor won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1926, driving an AC, Mary started petitioning to Edge for a drive. He of all men knew the publicity value of a woman in a car, having stage-managed Dorothy Levitt twenty years before. Mary was set up with her own AC Six for the 1927 Monte, and promptly won the Coupe des Dames. She was sixth overall, and drove solo (with two passengers but no co-driver) and non-stop from John O’Groats to Monte Carlo, a considerable physical feat.

The single-crewed Monte Coupe des Dames was only the first of a series of challenges and record runs that Mary, usually with Victor, undertook. Straight after the Monte, they drove to Montlhéry, taking an 8000-mile detour through Italy, North Africa and Spain, before completing a 1000-mile run at the track, which was a record in itself. That July, the Bruces drove as far above the Arctic Circle as they could, and planted a British flag at their furthest point. In December, it was back to Montlhéry for an attempt at the 10,000 Mile record, which they broke by driving at an average of 68mph for ten days. This was made more remarkable by the fact that there was snow on the track, and they had to undertake fifteen hours of repairs after a roll.

In 1928, she continued to compete in the AC. As well as support from Selwyn-Edge, she capitalised on her fame by writing down her experiences, which were published in newspapers and as books. She was fourth in the Monte Carlo Rally, although Charlotte Versigny just beat her to the Coupe des Dames. Later in the year, she entered the Alpine Rally and got to the finish, but was disqualified for colliding with another car during the event. She also seems to have rallied in the UK, and is pictured with trophies from that year’s Bournemouth Rally.

In 1929, Mary’s third attempt at the Monte did not go to plan. She was driving an Arrol-Aster, and started from Riga. The car developed electrical problems and almost caught fire at least once. She did not finish.

Later that year, she returned to Montlhéry and record-breaking. Her car this time was a 4.5l Bentley “Double Twelve”, raced by Henry Birkin and loaned to Mary by the Bentley factory. She broke the Class C record by driving for 24 hours, solo and non-stop, at an average of just over 89mph.

1930 saw her last attempt at the Monte, driving a Hillman. She chose the most obscure start point she could find, which was Sundsvall in Sweden. This proved to be a difficult route, but she got to the end of the rally in 21st place.

1930 also saw her biggest circuit race. She and Victor competed in the Brooklands Double Twelve in May, driving an Alvis Silver Eagle. They were thirteenth overall.

After this, Mary’s interest in motorsport waned. In 1929, she took up speedboating, and set some cross-Channel records. The following year, she learned to fly an aeroplane. With only 40 hours’ experience, she set her mind to flying around the world. For the next few years, she made and broke several aviation records, including flying solo across all the continents of the world, and becoming the first woman to fly to Japan. Her adventures, including many near-misses, were recorded as they happened through a tape recorder in the cockpit, to be written up into articles and a series of books. Among the more unlikely sources of Bruce news were Ovaltine adverts, which must have proved quite lucrative.

Mary eventually founded her own airline, Air Dispatch, which started by delivering newspapers, but by the start of the War, was running a regular passenger service to French resorts. Air Dispatch was involved with repairing crashed aircraft during the war. By this time, Mary and Victor had separated. Mary’s son, Anthony, would in time take over the running of the company. Her airline activities reportedly made her a millionaire in her own right, something that she long had ambitions to become.

The veneer of respectable femininity that Mary maintained – some of the less complimentary papers called her “The Flying Housewife” during her aviatrix days – barely concealed an extremely driven, capable woman, with unlimited energy and ambition. This showed when she tested a Ford Capri in the 1970s, and looped the loop in a plane at the age of 81.

She died in 1990, aged 94.

(Image copyright ALAMY)

Friday, 25 March 2016

Manuela Vasquez

Manuela Vasquez is a Colombian driver who mostly races in Europe.

She started relatively late in karting, at 23, and first travelled to Europe as a karter in 2008, as part of an Italian team, for some international races. She had previously been quite successful in senior Rotax karting in Colombia. When she finally made it onto the track, it was the realisation of a long-term ambition; she had been interested in cars from early childhood, despite having no history of motorsport in her family. Her mother has blamed this on cravings she had for the smell of petrol during her pregnancy!

In 2010, she made the switch to cars, whilst still based in Europe. Driving for Monolite Racing, she entered eight rounds of the Italian Clio Cup, and was 24th overall. Her best finish was eighth, at Mugello. This happened right at the end of the season; she started as a backmarker. Back home, she did five TC2000 races in Colombia, in a Mazda 626. She shared the car with Mario Andres Rojas, and was 32nd in the championship.

Her programme was similar in 2011, although she was now with Rangoni Corse in Europe. The season began in Italy, for the start of the Clio Cup. The season began inauspiciously with a DNF, but picked up again. Later, she managed and eighth at Red Bull Ring and a tenth at Mugello. Towards the end of the season, she flew back to Colombia for two TC2000 races in a Chevrolet, at Bogotá, finishing fifth and eleventh, then it was back to Italy, where she scored her season’s-best: two fifth places at Varano. She was thirteenth overall. Her season was rounded out by a run in a Dacia Logan in the Bogotá  6 Hours, in which she was third in class. It was her second attempt at the race.

The Clio Cup was initially her principal focus for 2012, but initially in Spain rather than Italy, taking in some Eurocup rounds. She was fifteenth in the championship, and top female driver, after at least two top-ten finishes, ninths at Navarra and Aragon. Another part-season in Italy yielded some great results, the best of these being a second place at Varano in the Super Touring class, having started from pole.

In 2013, she moved back to Italy and entered the Ginetta G50 Cup, still with Rangoni Corse. It was her first experience of GT racing. She scored a ninth place, in her first race at Misano, and her best finishes seem to have been fourth, at Salzburg, and fifth at the Red Bull Ring. She was tenth overall.

She also did some karting, as part of a Colombian team. 

Her 2014 season does not seem to have gone to plan. She was set to contest the European GT4 Cup in the Ginetta, but this did not happen. Instead, she took part in some Top Race events in Argentina, and scored a fifth place at Rio Hondo. Her car was a Volvo.

In 2015, she did another part-season in Top Race, scoring one top-ten finish, a tenth place at Parana. This time, she was driving a Chevrolet.

In interviews, Manuela has said that her future aims include the British and World Touring Car Championships. However, despite having some strong sponsors on board, her racing career has not taken off in the way that it might have done. For the last couple of years, she has been doing media work, including a desert adventure reality TV series in Colombia, in 2014.

(Image copyright Gerardo Gómez)

Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Coupe des Dames in the Monte Carlo Rally: Part III

Michèle Mouton and Françoise Conconi with the Lancia Stratos, 1978

After the inception of the World Rally Championship in 1973, the Coupe des Dames continued to be awarded. There was a lull in female entries in the mid-1970s, but by 1976, women drivers were once more a feature of the top ten. An official Ladies’ Prize continued to be given until 2000. By then, rallying had become almost completely professionalised and the number of female drivers entering each year was very small. Part 1 Part 2

Sylvia Osterberg/Inga-Lill Edenring (Opel Ascona) – 28th

Rally cancelled due to fuel crisis

No female finishers recorded (2 started)

Michèle Mouton/Françoise Conconi (Alpine-Renault A110) – 11th

Christine Dacremont/Colette Galli (Lancia Stratos HF) – 6th

Michèle Mouton/Françoise Conconi (Lancia Stratos HF) – 7th

Michèle Mouton/Françoise Conconi (Fiat 131 Abarth) – 7th

Michèle Mouton/Annie Arrii (Fiat 131 Abarth) – 7th
Elisabeth de Fresquet/A Godefroy (Autobianchi A112 Abarth) – 121st (Promotion class)

Gisela Blume/Petra Schuster (Peugeot 104 ZS) – 56th

Elisabeth de Fresquet/Marie Christine Valette (Volkswagen Golf GTi) – 71st

Louise Aitken/Ellen Morgan (Alfa Romeo Alfasud Ti) – 48th
Elisabeth de Fresquet/Perrine Morel (Volkswagen Golf GTi) – 60th (Promotion class)

Minna Sillankorva/Johanna Nieminen (Mazda 323 Turbo) – 22nd
Elisabeth de Fresquet/Perrine Morel (Talbot Samba Rallye) – 42nd (Promotion class)

Elisabeth de Fresquet/Marie Christine Valette (Autobianchi A112 Abarth) – 60th

Elisabeth de Fresquet/Catherine Pernot (Opel Corsa) – 69th

Carole Vergnaud/Marie Claude Jouan (Citroen Visa Mille Pistes) – 14th

Pascale Neyret/Carole Cerboneschi (Lancia Delta HF) – 19th

Paola de Martini/Umberta Gibellini (Audi 90 Quattro) – 9th
Pascale Neyret/Carole Cerboneschi (Lancia Delta Integrale) – 22nd (Promotion class)

Louise Aitken-Walker/Tina Thörner (Vauxhall Astra GTE) – 11th
Pascale Neyret/Carole Cerboneschi (Lancia Delta Integrale) – 38th (Promotion class)

Minna Sillankorva/Michela Marangoni (Mazda 323) – 18th

Isolde Holderied and Cathy François in 1999

Isolde Holderied/Dagmar Lohmann (Mitsubishi Galant VR4) – 19th

Isolde Holderied/Tina Thörner (Mitsubishi Galant VR4) – 12th
Christine Driano/Marie-Christine Lallement (Citroen AX GTi) – 13th (Promotion class)

Isolde Holderied/ Tina Thörner (Mitsubishi Lancer RS) – 15th

Isolde Holderied/ Tina Thörner (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo II) – 10th
Priscille de Belloy/Sophie Fabrello (Fiat Cinquecento Sporting) – 56th (Promotion class)

Ana Arche/Arielle Tramont (Fiat Cinquecento Sporting) – 61st

Isolde Holderied/Cathy François (Toyota Celica GT-4) – 8th
Maria Paola Fracassi/Rebecca Lumachi (Fiat Cinquecento) – 54th (Challenge Prince Albert class)

Roberta Rossi/Laura Bionda (Fiat Cinquecento Sporting) – 40th

Isolde Holderied/Cathy François (Toyota Corolla WRC) – 13th

Marta Candian/Mara Biotti (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V) – 46th

(Images from and copyright McKlein)

The Coupe des Dames in the Monte Carlo Rally: Part II

Ann Wisdom and Pat Moss with their Austin A40, 1959

During the 1950s and ‘60s, the Coupe des Dames was considered important enough for manufacturer teams, such as Rootes and BMC, to field ladies’ crews on the Monte, in the hope of winning. As rallying progressed towards being more of a speed-based than navigational discipline in the 1960s, the prize still kept its cachet. During this time, Pat Moss was the driver to beat, often challenging for outright wins as well as ladies’ prizes. Part 1 Part 3

Germaine Rouault/Regine Gordine (Simca Eight) – 16th

Fernande de Cortanze/Ginette François Sigrand  (Peugeot 203) – 61st

Greta Molander/Helga Lundberg (Saab 92) – 91st

Madeleine Pochon/Iréne Terray (Renault 4CV) – 49th

Madeleine Pochon/Lise Renaud (Renault) – 7th

Sheila van Damm/Francoise Clark/Anne Hall (Sunbeam Talbot) – 11th

Madeleine Blanchoud and Lucienne Alziary de Roquefort with their Porsche, 1956

Madeleine Blanchoud/Lucienne Alziary de Roquefort (Porsche 356) – 29th

No rally held

Madeleine Blanchoud/Renée Wagner (Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint) – 26th

Pat Moss/Ann Wisdom (Austin A40) – 10th

Pat Moss/Ann Wisdom (Austin A40) – 17th

Anne Hall/Valerie Domleo (Ford Anglia) – 44th

Pat Moss/Ann Wisdom (Morris Cooper) – 26th

Ewy Rosqvist/Ursula Wirth (Mercedes 220SE) – 16th

Pat Moss-Carlsson/Ursula Wirth (Saab 96) – 5th

Pat Moss-Carlsson/Liz Nystrom (Saab 96) – 3rd

Lucette Pointet/Françoise Houillon (Citroen DS21) – 46th

Sylvia Osterberg/Inga-Lill Edenring (Renault Gordini R8) – 25th

Pat Moss-Carlsson/Liz Nystrom (Lancia Fulvia HF) – 14th

Pat Moss-Carlsson/Liz Nystrom (Lancia Fulvia HF) – 6th

Marie-Claude Beaumont/Martine de la Grandrive (Opel Commodore GS/E) – 22nd

Hannelore Werner/Oda Dencker-Andersen (BMW 2002 Ti) – 17th

Pat Moss-Carlsson/Liz Crellin (Alpine-Renault A110) – 10th

(Images from and

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Coupe des Dames in the Monte Carlo Rally: Part I

Mildred Bruce with her AC, 1927

The Coupe des Dames was awarded to the best female finisher in the Monte Carlo Rally. The award was first made in 1927, to Mildred Mary Bruce, although she was not the first female driver to contest the event. A Madame Mertens came second in 1925, driving a Lancia Lambda, but no special trophy for female drivers existed as yet.
Below are the winners of the Coupe des Dames prior to 1950. Where possible, full names have been given. The early days of the rally saw considerable success for women drivers, with women in the top ten for several years, in the 1920s and 1930s. For some editions, separate “Coupes” were given for different classes, and these have been included. This is the first part of a series of posts about the Monte Carlo Rally. Part 2 Part 3


Charlotte Versigny (Talbot) – 3rd

Lucy O’Reilly Schell (Talbot) – 8th

Madame M. Doré (Chenard & Walcker) – 9th

Madame D. Jeanne (Rosengart) – 3rd (Light Car)
Lady Eda Jardine (Lancia Lambda) – 14th

Alexandra Lindh (Hudson) – 8th
Morna Vaughan (Triumph) – 6th (Light Car)

Marguerite Mareuse/Louise Lamberjack (Peugeot) – 13th

Simone des Forest/Fernande Hustinx (Peugeot 301) – 17th

Madame Marinovitch and Louise Lamberjack, 1935

Marie-Jeanne Marinovitch/Louise Lamberjack (Ford) – 19th

Marie-Jeanne Marinovitch/Hellé Nice (Matford) – 18th

Greta Molander (Plymouth) – 34th

Germaine Rouault/Madame J D’Herlique (Matford) – 7th

Yvonne Simon/Suzanne Largeot (Hotchkiss) – 8th

Countess van Limburg Stirum/Countess van Vredenburgh (Ford V8) – 12th

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Greta Molander

Greta as a Saab driver, in 1951

Greta is probably best known as a works Saab driver from the 1950s. She competed from the 1930s to the 1970s, but was most successful in the ‘50s, winning many Coupes des Dames.

She was born Greta Ohlson in Ystad, Sweden, in 1908. Her parents ran a hotel. They both died within months of each other in 1927, leaving a considerable amount of money and possessions to their daughter. Sadly, a poor investment meant that she had to sell most of this, keeping only one car.

Unusually for the time, she had learned to drive as a teenager, and entered her first rally in 1929, driving her father’s La Salle car. It was a women’s event, and she was last. Four years later, she won the Swedish Rikspokal for rallying, in a borrowed Plymouth.

In 1934, she started her first major international rally, the Monte Carlo, from Umeå in the north of Sweden. Her car was another Plymouth. She repeated this feat in 1935, and was rewarded with a finish, in 30th place. On her fourth try, she won her first Monte Carlo Coupe des Dames, finishing 24th in her Plymouth. In a particularly strong year for female drivers, she was third in the 1938 women’s standings, despite coming 19th overall. During the 1930s, she was active in Plymouths and other American cars in Norwegian rallies.

In 1938, she married Kaare Barth (Petrus), a Norwegian writer, and settled in Norway. She always competed under the name “Molander”, seemingly the name of a first husband, despite enjoying a long and happy marriage to Petrus.

She switched from American cars to a DKW for 1939, but does not seem to have finished, and rallying then halted for World War II.

Norway was occupied by the Germans for much of the war. Greta is said to have been jailed at one point, for insulting a German officer.

Rallying returned to Monte Carlo in 1949, and Greta came with it. She was 52nd, in a Dodge.

Her relationship with the Saab marque began in 1950, in the Monte again. She was one of the first works drivers they employed. The Saab 92 had just been launched, and Greta drove one to 55th place, starting at Stockholm. She was actually the first of the two Saab finishers that year.

1951 saw her compete more widely in Europe, driving the Saab in the Tulip and Midnight Sun rallies. She won the first of six Midnight Sun Coupes des Dames that year, and was again the leading Saab driver
In 1952, she was second of four Saab drivers in the Midnight Sun Rally, behind Rolf Mellde. Her co-driver was Helga Lundberg. Their partnership lasted for many years.

Other rallies she entered included the 1953 Lisbon Rally, where she was third in the Ladies’ standings. This, and her performances in the Northern European rallies, were enough to earn her a European Ladies’ Championship title.

The Tulip Rally became one of her regular yearly fixtures. She normally drove the Saab, but she accepted a drive in another car for 1954, a DKW, and was 33rd. Her arch-rival, Sheila van Damm, driving for the Rootes team, had got into the top ten, so the Coupe des Dames was out of reach this time. The Tulip was not her only DKW outing in 1954: she won another Midnight Sun Rally Ladies’ prize that year.

The Saab team did not enter the 1955 Monte, so Greta drove the DKW again, but does not seem to have finished. She continued to rally the DKW in the Viking Rally, and was thirteenth. In the Tulip Rally, she was back in the 92, and went one better than Sheila van Damm last year, finishing ninth overall.

There seems to have been a hiatus in her Saab involvement in 1956, when she used a Mercedes 220 for the Monte, and a Peugeot 403 for the Midnight Sun Rally, in which she was 56th.

After that, she drove the new Saab 93, which would become a successful car for the manufacturer, and was the beginning of Saab as a major rallying contender. Her team-mates that year included Ewy Rosqvist and Erik Carlsson.

By 1960, she was winding down her competition career, although she still accepted invitations to drive for Saab in major rallies. She drove the 93 on the Monte between 1960 and 1962.

When she retired from professional rallying in 1962, she was 54 years old. Although she became somewhat of an occasional competitor, she carried on making appearances in rallies until the 1970s, and also rallied historic cars. In 1973, she made one last appearance on the Monte, her nineteenth attempt at the Monaco classic. Her car was a Saab.

Away from rallying, she was an intrepid traveller, who wrote about her experiences, such as crossing Africa and America by car. The American trip, during the 1940s was partly funded by Chrysler, who used it as a promotional opportunity. Whilst in America, Greta worked as a film stunt driver.

As well as writing about her own experiences, she translated English works into Norwegian, including some of PG Wodehouse’s novels. Wodehouse and Greta were friends. She also illustrated books, including two children’s books, which she and Petrus worked on together.

She died in 2002, at the age of 94.

(Image from

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Violeta Pernice

Violeta Pernice races touring cars in her homeland, Argentina. Most of her career has been spent in the Top Race tin-top series.

Her first steps in senior motorsport were, initially, down the path of single-seaters. Her first races were in 2007, in a Formula Renault car. She entered Formula Renault Metropolitana in 2008, also known as Formula 4. It was a promising debut, driving for the Crespi Junior Team. Towards the end of the year, she was second and third at Buenos Aires, and she was sixth overall in the championship.

Despite having a year of Formula Renault experience under her belt already, Violeta Pernice was still one of her country's youngest drivers when she first took part in the Top Race Junior saloon series in 2009, only sixteen years old. Her best finish in her first season was seventh, at Comodoro Rivadavia, driving a Chevrolet Vectra. This was by far her best result, in a season containing too many DNFs. She had begun the year in Formula Renault, and was not doing too badly when she decided to change track. At La Plata, she had been ninth.

A seventh, this time at Interlagos, was the highlight of her 2010 season also, which was marred by a string of DNFs and non-starts. Her car was an Alfa Romeo 156. Most of the time, she was just out of the top ten. Her Junior campaign was a part-season, leading to 30th place in the championship, but the combined 2010-2011 Top Race championship gave her 25th. She did not manage another top ten, but did finish thirteenth on four occasions.

In 2012, she switched to a Fiat Linea for the Top Race Junior series. This gave her her first Top Race podium, a second at Alta Gracia. After nine rounds from eleven, she was fifteenth overall. In addition to her second place, she was eighth twice, at Rosario and Oberá.

In 2013, her main car in Top Race was a Mercedes. Her best result was eighth, at Chaco, and she was 19th overall. Her season was disrupted by her contract with her regular team, Motorola, ending about half-way through. However, in the Top Race NOA event at Rio Hondo, she was second, after starting on pole. Her car was a Chevrolet Vectra.

The following year, she changed her car for a Chevrolet Cruze, and entered Top Race again. The championship had gone through one of its semi-regular restructurings, and she was now in the top V6 class. She posted three top-ten finishes: seventh at Rosario and Mar de Ajó, and ninth at San Luis. Again, she suffered some DNFs, and this seems to have put her out of one race completely, but this season was a little more assured than before. Her final position was fifteenth. She also travelled to Uruguay, to make a guest appearance in the Sonic Racing Cup Damas, a women-only series for the Chevrolet Sonic.

In 2015, she drove the Cruze again in Top Race, and was the winner of the Ladies' Cup, ahead of five other female drivers. Her season began with a Ladies’ Cup win on International Women’s Day. She was twelfth overall, with a best finish of fourth, at Parana, and nine other top-ten finishes, including a fifth at Concepción. This was a great season for more reasons than one: this year, Violeta was driving for her own team, VP Racing.

At the beginning of 2016, it was all-change again. Violeta started her first season in the Argentine Touring Car (TN) Championship, driving a new car, a Peugeot 207, in Class Two. She was racing for the Percaz team. This proved to be a very difficult year for her, with too many non-finishes and a lack of pace. Her best finish was ninth, at Posadas, but she was only 38th in the championship. 

Violeta is known in Argentine racing circles for her distinctive pink-liveried cars, and has earned several nicknames, including “Penelope Glamour”.

(Image from

Friday, 4 March 2016

Lola Grounds

Lola, on the right, with Doreen Reece and their Ford Popular, 1952 RAC Rally

Lola Grounds was one of the Rootes team’s female driver roster in the 1950s. She acted as both a driver and a navigator, initially for her husband, Frank. She is normally credited as “Mrs F. Grounds”.

She was born Lola Elsa de Sena in 1918, to a Spanish father and English mother. Her first home was Sheffield, but she spent most of her life in Warwickshire, England. She married Frank Grounds in 1937.

Her rally career began in 1950. Eschewing the traditional route of a small local rally in a production car, as a first step, she joined Frank’s team for the Tulip Rally. He was initially against the idea, having little faith in women having the requisite stamina, but she talked him round. Lola was under five feet tall and was described as “dainty”, but she enjoyed the challenge of driving for long stretches, and would later become fond of special stages.

As co-driver to her husband, she competed in the Tulip Rally at least four times, in a Jaguar XK120 and a Jowett Javelin. In the early 1950s, she drove in British rallies herself: she won the Coupe des Dames in the 1952 London Rally in a Morris Minor, and took part in the 1954 MCC National Rally, in a Ford Anglia. 1952 also saw her in the RAC Rally, driving a special-bodied Jowett Jupiter with Doreen Reece. Her first big international rally, as a driver, seems to have been the Monte Carlo Rally in 1953, in which she drove an Austin A40, with Cherry Osborn and Rosemary Wareham.

In 1955, she navigated for Nancy Mitchell, in Nancy’s Daimler Conquest. They were 17th in the Monte Carlo Rally, among others. Lola also drove herself in some European rallies, including that year’s RAC event. She and Doreen Reece crashed out, turning over Lola’s Ford Anglia on a slippery Welsh slope. The Anglia was replaced with a Triumph TR2 for the Tulip Rally, a few weeks later. Lola and Cherry Osborn just managed to finish in 141st place, despite another crash on a wet hairpin bend. The car hit a wall, which stopped it from falling down a steep drop.

The following year, she co-drove in the Standard ladies’ team, often with Cherry Osborn. Their first event together in the Standard Eight was the Monte, with Cherry driving. They also drove as a team in the Tulip Rally. Jo Ashfield and Mary Handley-Page drove the other Standard ladies’ car. The 1956 radio interview with Lola, referenced earlier, says that the Tulip was her fifth rally of the year

After a gap, she was back to co-driving for Frank in 1957. They took part in the Tulip Rally together, in a Morris Minor.

Her time in the Rootes team began in 1958. To start the year, she finished the Monte Carlo Rally in a Sunbeam Rapier, alongside Mary Handley-Page and Doreen Reece. Lola and Mary then did the Alpine Rally together, in a Sunbeam. The pair also contested Lola’s favoured Tulip Rally, in the Sunbeam, and were 21st overall. During her career, she entered this particular event eight times. In a 1956 interview, she described her “soft spot” for the Dutch classic, and for its high-speed sections. This year, she was busy at home and abroad, as she was the Lady Mayoress of her adopted hometown of Sutton Coldfield, as well as an international rally driver. Unusually, she was Mayoress to her mother-in-law, Minnie Grounds, who was Mayor.

After Lola’s season as a Rootes driver, both she and Frank drove Ford cars in 1959. Another visit to the Monte led to another finish, driving a Ford Zephyr as part of a three-woman team with Nancy Mitchell and Anne Hall. All three were experienced drivers, and it was something of a reunion for Nancy and Lola. They were 78th overall. For the Tulip Rally, Frank and Lola competed together again, in another Zephyr. They were 25th.

Throughout the 1950s, she also drove her own cars in British rallies. These cars included an MG Y-Type, which she used in the 1956 RAC Rally, Ford Popular, and Morris Minor, which she drove in the London Rally with Anne Hall in 1957.

Her career, and that of her husband, seems to finish here. The early 1960s saw rallying move from being focused on navigation and driving tests, to high-speed special stages.

She died in 2004. She was survived by three children, including Robert Grounds, a motorsport photographer.

(Image from copyright Birmingham Post & Mail)