"Albertine" Derancourt in her Bugatti, 1929
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, there was a considerable vogue for women’s motorsport events in Paris, and women in motoring generally. It seems to have started with Concours d’Elegance, then informal rallies, sometimes attached to hot-air balloon races, and then bigger organised events. The best-known and longest-lived of these was the Paris-St Raphael Rally, which began in 1929. The Journée Féminine de l’Automobile, promoted by the newspaper, Le Journal, was a yearly racing championship. There was also a regular Paris – La Baule ladies’ rally, and other rallies to Cannes and Juan-les-Pins, among others.
These rallies and races attracted some star names, such as Elisabeth Junek, and more drivers, such as Charlotte Versigny and Jannine Jennky, went on to enjoy success in mixed-sex competition. Others stuck to the women-only events.
Below are short profiles of some of the main participants in the Paris ladies’ motor racing scene.
"The Baroness d'Elern" (Aniela d'Elern) - Frenchwoman who raced and rallied a Bugatti T35 internationally in 1929 and 1930. She entered the first Paris-St Raphael Rally in 1929. She died during the 1930 Algerian Grand Prix, trying to overtake another driver. Her car hit a telegraph pole and she was killed.
Marcelle Leblanc – winner of the Championnat race at the 1929 Journée Féminine de l’Automobile, driving a Peugeot 5CV. The same year, she entered the Tour de France Auto, in the same, or a similar, car. She finished the event with no penalties. In 1931, she entered the Paris-St. Raphaël women’s rally, and won her class. In 1933, she won the Paris-St. Raphaël outright, in another Peugeot. The following year, 1934, she entered the Monte Carlo Rally, and was fourth in the Coupe des Dames. According to Paris-Soir, she won the Paris-Les Pyrenées-Paris Rally outright, in a Peugeot 401. Driving a 601, she won her class in the Paris-St. Raphaël.
“The Comtesse de Lesguern” (Arlette de Lesguern) – born in 1900, she seems to have begun her involvement in the motoring scene in the late 1920s, entering Concours d’Elegance. She was an active and enthusiastic participant in the many women’s motorsport events that happened in and around Paris in the late 1920s and early 1930s, including the early runnings of the Paris-Saint-Raphaël Rally. She entered the first Rallye in 1929, driving a Rosengart, and again in 1931 and 1932. In between, she won the Championnat Féminin of the Journée Féminine de l’Automobile at Montlhéry, in a Simca-Standart. It was not only women-only events which she entered: she won her class in the Ostend Rally at least twice, in 1929 and 1930, driving the Simca, which was a showroom-spec model. After 1932, she appears to stop rallying. She died in 1977, after possibly having a career as a translator.
“Madame Liétard” – winner of the first two Paris-Saint-Raphaël Rallies, in 1929 and 1930. Her car was a Salmson on both occasions. Her 1929 win was not her first triumph; she won the 1100cc Touring class of the Paris-La Baule Rally in 1928, another female-only event. Her car was a Salmson. She was a regular on the Paris-based women’s motorsport “scene” of the late 1920s and early 1930s. After about 1930, her name disappears from the entry lists. Her given name is never used.
Lucienne Radisse - noted French cellist and actress who had a brief rallying career in the early 1930s. She is reported to have won the Paris-St. Raphaël Rally in 1931, driving a small-engined Renault. She used the same car on that year’s Paris-Nice rally. Later, in 1932, she acquired an eight-cylinder Delage D8, which she used in the Paris-Juan les Pins rally. At this time, she was undertaking a series of driving adventures around the world, as well as shooting a film.
Colette Salomon - raced a Bugatti T35 in 1927. She was listed as an entrant in that year's Course de Formule Libre de l'ACF. She was the winner of the first Journée Féminine de l’Automobile in 1927, driving a Salmson. She was active in the women's motorsport circuit in France in the late 1920s, usually in the Salmson. This was the car in which she was photographed for French Vogue in 1927. Prior to taking up motorsport, she had been a dancer, and had made some films.
(Image from http://www.bugatti-trust.co.uk/)