FRANK Aug Sept 2020

Page 156




The Honourable Mrs Victor Bruce Record breaking on land, sea and in the air

When I was asked to write about a woman from history, I immediately thought of Mildred Bruce who, regular readers to Frank magazine may have noticed I had mentioned her previously, but then I thought about all the other women, in one way or another have shaped the motoring industry as we know it today. Firstly, Bertha Benz who, was the business partner and wife of automobile inventor Karl Benz. She was the first person on 5th August 1888 to drive an automobile over a long distance, rigorously field testing the patent Motorwagen, helping to develop brake pads and solve several practical issues during the 65 miles trip. Then we have Camille du Ghast who came a magnificent 33rd out of 122 drivers in the Paris to Berlin 1901 race, in her 20 horse powered Panhard Levesso car. During the 1903 Paris-Madrid, Ghast was amongst the leaders of the race, came across a catastrophic accident of an overturned De Dietrich car, and got out and helped to clear the carnage. However, a year later entering the Berlin-Paris race she was excluded from the race on the grounds of ‘female excitability’. A true fighting spirit, Camille du Ghast certainly started the wheels turning for other women at the dawn of the century.

by Photojournalist Lara Platman

Elizabeth Junek who lived throughout the 20th century

made the Targa Florio race in Sicily her thing. Along with her husband for the mechanic, Junek soon provided a sublime driving style with her Bugatti 35b. She was nicknamed ‘Queen of the steering wheel’ and I can begin to understand why, as Madam Junek was the first person to mark out the roads on the course with chalk allowing her to foresee where the corners and obstacles were, enabling her to drive smoothly and effectively and so much faster than her rivals who relied on memory alone. Her racing career ended abruptly when her husband was in a fatal accident during the German Grand Prix. Devastated she sold all of her Bugatti cars, but to this very day, the system of the Tulips Map for rally courses exists created by the glamorous trailblazer. Dorothy Levitt, the world’s first female land speed record holder, carried a glass mirror on a stick to use for her lipstick and to see what was following her, requested from car designer Selwyn Edge, that he place a glass screen on the car, in front of her face so she didn’t have to catch so many flies in her gauze head scarf whilst driving along and another lady racer Kay Petre, demanded a convenient place for her gloves. The windshield, glove compartment and rear view mirrors are with thanks to these insightful women.

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