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Mon Aug 18, 2008 2:04 am
report by- Sheiban Shakeri
In this era of political correctness, women's rights, and open-mindedness, I am reminded of a time when minds weren't so open. The inspiration to write this came from Peter Haydon's article about women in Formula One.
Two years ago, when working in a book storage facility at the university (Manual labour, a student job!), I met a retired French professor who appraised books, and we had a great rapport.
I never asked about her age, since I learned never to ask a woman that, but she was easily into her 70s.
She had a broken wrist, so my job on those hot summer days was to write down the prices of books that she appraised.
It was after the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix and the death of Édouard Michelin had hung over the racing community. Not having a television or internet access, she still knew about the death and was very sad about it.
I told her that the Grand Prix in Monaco had happened, how the champagne on the podium was not sprayed in his memory, and the first thing she asked me about it was if Renault was still racing. She learned that not only was Renault racing, they were winning!
I had only worked with her for two weeks, and this was the first time that I saw her genuinely happy. She told me that she never planned on becoming a professor, she always dreamt of becoming a racing driver like the greats in her time.
She told me that in the 1950s, when she was in her 20s, she went to try out for a French racing team. She was put through her paces by going around a track to see how fast she can go. They put her through water, oil slicks, and everything else you can imagine, and she passed with flying colours.
However, devastation ensued when she was called. While she was accepted, she was told that she would not be allowed to race because she was a woman.
She was bound to get married and start a family. The money they would spend on her would go to waste. She would have to commit the best years of her life to racing, something that just could not be balanced at the time.
"I was very heartbroken," she said.
Still, being rejected did not mean moping around for her. She ended up going to university in France and eventually, she became a full-time professor in French studies at the University of Toronto.
I met her when she was widowed and retired, and after that meeting, I realized that women were always proving themselves in every field. It never was a fad to begin with, they were always trying to break the mold, always.
Professor Corneaux passed away last year due to illness. She was loved by her family and everyone that met her. I might have only known her briefly, but the impact she left on me stayed forever.
She told the female students never to give up and never to stop when they're told to, just because they are women. They should pursue their dreams until they make it.
I will never forget her, and I'm sure that she is up there racing with the greats like Juan Manuel Fangio, Gilles Villeneuve, Ayrton Senna, and many others. Her perseverance, even in the light of not being able to be a driver, is what makes me admire her.
check the link for furthur details of this heartbreaking story--http://bleacherreport.com/articles/42960-the-woman-who-could-have-been-the-first-female-f1-driver
Well, I don't want to diminish Madame Corneaux accomplishments, but in the 50's we had another, more effective female driver, De Filippis.
Maria Teresa, we love you!
Besides, most people forget to take in account that Grand Prix have been ran for many years before 1950.
Let's see: I have an old book on Parnell, the british driver and I remember something there. Taking that as a starting point and duly googling for the pictures of the girls, I can spend the best part of half an hour for my post of today. Maybe it's better than posting in five threads about who rules and why, because, after all, we all know that Massa rules and Alonso rules and Kimi rules and Lewis rules and those are too many rules.
I find there a story about Kathleen Coad (or Kay Petre for britons). She married Mr. Petre and started by winning the Ladie's GP at Brooklands, 1930's. Sixth at Grosvenor against Rosemeyer, winner of a couple of hillclimbs. She crashed heavily at Brooklands and retired, becaming racing journalist; she helped tangentially to design the Mini Morris.
Kay Petre. Perhaps it's the destiny, but I only was able to get this minuscule picture of a minuscule canadian: 4'10" or 1.47 m for "the rest of the world"
But wait a minute: before Ms. Coad, you have Mariette Helene Delangle, known as Hellé Nice, Le Mans driver, winner of 1929 all-female GP at Monthléry. (mmmmmm... all female GP. There you have an idea, maybe too modern for today's customs I see money in it, anyway: what about an all gay GP? ). Anyway, she was also a model and a dancer and had affairs with guys like Rotschild and Bugatti, which means that Ms. Delangle was truly ahead (or behind) of her time.
She was accused, falsely, by all accounts of being a Gestapo spy in 1949. "Caramba", if this has to become a script for a movie, it will write by itself, don't you think?. Sadly, so started her doom: without that blow she could have driven in the first 1950 GP, for all that I know.
Her biographer writes this: "''Her reputation never recovered, her former lovers deserted her, and she was reduced to selling tickets for a charity at seaside cinema matinee performances. She died in complete obscurity. Her name does not even appear on the family gravestone.'' Let that be a lesson to little girls who dream of leaving their names on history's page in a trail of burnt rubber."
(insert here four initial compasses of 5th symphony: destiny knocks on the door)
Simone de Forest, another more "elevated" competitor of Ms. Nice had not such nice words when questioned about her, many years after everything was said and done: "I don't believe she ever thought about anything but sex and showing off." Wow, that's like 60 years ahead of David Coulthard's antics, who would have believed that? Die of envy, David: she did it with a Rotschild, not with a greedy model...
Hellé Nice on a demo during her US tour, where "she could not be allowed" to race. Frankly, I don't know what Mr. Rotschild saw in her, she reminds me of Danica but with a bigger nose... and wtf is that rod on top of the car for?
Before any of them, you have, reputedly, the best ever GP female driver: Alžběta Pospíšilová (I think I fractured a finger typing that), who married Vincenc Junek, changed her first name to the czech form of Eliška and therefore became known in english countries as Elizabeth Junek and Eliška Junková in Czchecoslovakia, who ran valiantly in 4th position in the 1927 Targa Fiorio before her steering failed. That same year she became the winner of the 3 liter class at the old Nürburgring, a feat which scores pretty high in my own, personal and private "cool-o-meter", because that makes her the only woman in history to have won a GP race.
She led the Targa Fiorio next year until her car broke and retired from racing that very same year when her husband crashed at the Ring, damn. I read that "she is often credited for being one of the first drivers to walk round a course before an event, noting landmarks and checking out the best line through the corners." Way to go, Alžběta.
Although a man of few words (and posts) these days, I had to reply to Ciro's post, not out of national feeling or patriotism but to propagate something much more important, the fact, common knowledge though-out the world, that all Canadian women are Major Babes. I can't help but feel if Kay Petre had been Columbian, Ciro would have spent a few minutes finding a more attractive portrait, as every Columbian woman is rumoured to be a Mayor Babe.
Notice the distinction? Another fact often neglected. Every picture of a Canadian women is a portrait. Just take a look at this one of Kay Petre, I made sure it's wallet size for all you connoisseurs. Babe and pilot extraordinarie. Proof? Well - just look at the GP Delage 10.5 lire she drove to a 134 MPH lap at Brookland.
That's Kay Petre- Major Babe.
How about a motor sport Babe pix of Hellie Nice? Probably smiling because she's in Europe, where women were sometimes allowed to race.
Kay Petre's 10.5L, V12, GP Delage. A stylish ride for any woman, or any man, for that matter
No one can doubt Kay Petre's ability: "Petre was most likely the first female to compete in the 24 Heurs du Mans, finishing 13th overall in 1936. She competed in three Grand Prix’s in 1937 before being injured."
Kay Petre's common sense opinion and the answer to all those threads about women having the strength to drive a race car:
"When asked about the secret of her success, she replied that a woman should always sit close to the wheel and use her shoulders to reinforce the strength of her arms."
Carlos wrote:No one can doubt Kay Petre's ability: "Petre was most likely the first female to compete in the 24 Heurs du Mans, finishing 13th overall in 1936. She competed in three Grand Prix’s in 1937 before being injured."
I have no quarrel with the ability of the divine Kay - she was one of the finest and bravest women (along with Elsie "Bill" Wisdom and Joan Richmond who won the 1931 Double 12 outright) to grace the track at Brooklands. She was also the first woman to be offered a works ride with a major team (Austin). But that quote - which comes from some American blog - is complete and utter poppycock!
For a starter, the first women to race at Le Mans were Marguerite Mareuse and Odette Siko - 7th in 1930. There were several more female entries in subsequent years. But Kay would have found it difficult to have finished anywhere at Le Mans in 1936 - it was cancelled! That's a typo for 1934 ....
And the three "Grands Prix" in which Kay raced in early 1937 were minor handicap races in South Africa: admittedly Auto Union were involved in two of them, but they were not races for Formula cars.
Good friends we have, Oh, good friends we have lost Along the way In this great future, You can't forget your past