Opinion: Women a driving force
Several weeks ago I wrote a piece on Granny Conway (Granny ruled the roads, 18/1). If you missed it, Winifred Conway was one of the stars of the Redex around Australia car trials which were big news back in the early 1950s.
Usually, my writings go through to the keeper but in Conway’s case, after publication, I had several conversations with some who knew of the trials and wanted to tell me more. The main theme was that women had always been excellent drivers.
After these discussions, given my known penchant for motor racing, I received a very interesting piece of correspondence suggesting I look at two other quite remarkable women who excelled as drivers, who could possibly have inspired Winifred Conway.
One was Vida Jones.
Long before the advent of Formula One or V8 Supercars, Jones was a regular competitor during the 1920s and 1930s at Australia’s first super speedway, a concrete high-banked track in Sydney, which measured just under a mile, where it was possible to run at 100 miles an hour.
Jones drove a red Crossley, a highly regarded sports car without a roof.
She was a regular winner, her appearances boosting sales of the popular make.
After an incredible racing career that didn’t finish until the mid-1930s, she retired at the age of 52. At the same time, another woman was making a name for herself on the international Grand Prix circuit. Eliska Junkova was born in Czechoslovakia in 1900. With automobiles quite literally taking over the western world, she grew up to become arguably the greatest female racing driver.
After obtaining her driver’s licence in the early 1920s, she started racing. Soon she found herself behind the wheel of one of the most famous racing vehicles of all time, a Bugatti. In 1924 after winning a race in Czechoslovakia, she became a national celebrity.
By 1926, Junkova was racing across Europe against the best male drivers of the time. A gifted and thorough planner, she is credited as being one of the first people to walk a course before racing on it. When she won in the two-litre sports car class at Nurburgring, Germany, she was the first woman in history to have won a Grand Prix race.
The media of the day called her the “Queen of the steering wheel”.
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