Sunday, 15 May 2016

Female Drivers in the "Marathon Rallies" of the 1960s and 1970s

Bronwyn Burrell, Katrina Kerridge and Tish Ozanne in 1970

The late 1960s saw the first of a series of cross-continental marathon rallies taking place. The first of these was organised by the Daily Express newspaper in 1968, to show off British engineering and bring some excitement to a rather unsettled Britain. Women drivers took part in all of them.

The Daily Express London-Sydney Marathon Rally, 1968
It was 10,000 miles long, and ran from London to France and Italy, then the former Yugoslavia and further south, before passing through Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The cars were then transported by boat to Australia, for the final leg.

The entry list was limited to 100 cars. Four of these were driven by women, and two further crews had female co-drivers. As with the rest of the entry, the female contingent was a mix of seasoned professionals and enthusiastic adventuresses. Rosemary Smith had been tipped to win the Ladies’ award, but ran into trouble up the Khyber Pass and lost time, as well as losing a cylinder in her Lotus Cortina. The winner of the Coupe des Dames was a four-woman, Anglo-Australian crew in the unlikely choice of a Volvo estate. Elsie Gadd, an Australian property surveyor, assembled the team, drafting in British racers, Jenny Tudor-Owen and Sheila Kemp, and Anthea Castell, an Australian ranch-hand with experience of driving in adverse conditions.

In common with many other entries, some of the female teams were sponsored by other media outlets, including Nova fashion magazine (Jean Denton). The Morris 1100 of Eileen Westley was sponsored by the Sydney Telegraph, for which all three drivers worked. It was named “The Galloping Tortoise” in the Australian press, and was prepared by BMC.

The rally was won by Andrew Cowan in a Hillman Hunter. Fifty-six cars finished. Below is a list of all the female finishers.

Elsie Gadd/Anthea Castell/Sheila Kemp/Jenny Tudor-Owen (Volvo 145S Estate) – 41st
Jean Denton/Tom Boyce (MG B) – 42nd
Rosemary Smith/Lucette Pointet (Ford Lotus Cortina) – 48th
Eileen Westley/Minny Macdonald/Jenny Gates (Morris 1100) – 50th
Sylvia Kay (co-driver to John Cotton in a Peugeot 504) – 21st
Jenny Brittan (co-driver to Nick Brittan in a Ford Lotus Cortina) – DNF

L-R: Pat Wright, Liz Crellin, Jean Denton

The Daily Mirror London-Mexico World Cup Rally, 1970
The next big marathon rally was themed around that year’s World Cup, which was held in Mexico. It was even longer than its predecessor, at 16,000 miles, and ran through Europe to Spain and Portugal, before transferring to Brazil, and then across South and Central America to Mexico.

Again, the field was a mix of professionals, such as eventual winner, Hannu Mikkola, in a works Ford Escort, and amateurs, including some celebrities, such as footballer Jimmy Greaves. Five female drivers entered, and Rosemary Smith was the best of them. Her car was an Austin Maxi, continuing the trend for unlikely rally cars winning the Coupe des Dames.

Below are the results for the female crews.

Rosemary Smith/Alice Watson/Ginette Derolland (Austin Maxi) – 10th
Jean Denton/Pat Wright/Liz Crellin (Morris 1800) – 18th
Claudine Trautmann/Colette Perrier (Citroen DS 21) – 24th
Patricia Ozanne/Katrina Kerridge/Bronwyn Burrell (Austin Maxi) - DNF
Lavinia Roberts/David Jones/Arthur Hazelrigg (Ford Mustang) – DNF

London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally, 1974
The second World Cup Rally contained quite a lot of improvisation. The route between London and Munich was not long or dramatic enough, so the organisers added in a huge loop through Spain, North Africa, and as far south as Nigeria, before travelled back up through Turkey, the Balkans and Italy, to Germany. This caused untold problems, as the route itself was not well-plotted, and a large number of competitors got lost in the desert. Out of seventy starters, nineteen finished. Only five cars completed the full route; among them were the Team Aseptogyl Peugeots of Christine Dacremont and Claudine Trautmann. The rally was not as well-supported this year, due to the 1973 oil crisis and financial pressures on the works teams. It was not revived in 1978.

Christine Dacremont/Yveline Vannoni (Peugeot 504) – 2nd
Claudine Trautmann/Marie-Odile Desvignes (Peugeot 504) – 4th
Anne O’Connell (co-driver to Mike O’Connell in a Ford Escort Mexico) – DNF

Singapore Airlines London-Sydney Marathon Rally, 1977
A final big marathon rally was held in 1977, a new edition of the original London-Sydney event. Some of the manufacturers came back on board, including Mercedes, who dominated the rally, and Leyland. Very few women took part, apart from those in Team Aseptogyl diesel Fiats.

Christine Dacremont/Yveline Vannoni (Fiat 131 Diesel) – DNF
Marianne Hoepfner (co-driver to Bob Neyret in a Fiat 131 Diesel) – 15th

Further revivals of the Marathon took place from 1993 onwards, but these were classic events.

(Morris 1800 image copyright Woman Magazine)

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