Fast Ladies: female racing drivers 1888-1970 – Jean-Francois Bouzanquet

I knew I was going to enjoy this book from the first section when it talks about Bertha Benz, wife of Karl, packing the two children into the car early one morning, in 1888,  and driving from Mannheim to Pforzheim (111 miles) to visit her  mother, without telling Karl!  Legend has it that Karl was verging on hysterics from worry when he received a telegram telling him where his family were and that they were all safe.

This is another of the “coffee table” books from my pile.  There are lots of great photos of women racing drivers through the decades and potted histories of the various women drivers.  The histories are of varying lengths depending on how much is know about them.  I have said before, and am going to repeat myself, that the motor racing fraternity seems to be doing its best to write women drivers out of the history books.  There is a scandalous lack of information about some of the drivers.

I really liked the fact that unlike my previous books about women drivers this one covered post-WWII and I found out about more drivers that I didn’t know about.  I think for me by the time it gets to the 1950s the dangerous glamour has gone out of motor racing.  Yes, it’s still dangerous.  Yes, there is still an element of glamour. But it just doesn’t seem to have the raw energy, the sense of an elemental fight between human, machine and the track.

From a practical point of view this is a great reference book.  it is written in chronological order of when people were competing and their year of birth.  There is also an alphabetical list at the back so if I’m reading another book that references someone and I want to check back I can easily find them.  I suspect this book will come in very useful for that reason.

The book has also prompted me to widen my reading about motor racing in the inter-war years.  It tells lots of stories about women who raced in partnership with their husbands and, sometimes, other, male, racing drivers.  I’d like to find out more about these partnerships and the levels of equality that existed.

As a book to read it has its limitations.  If you like pictures of motor racing you’ll like this book.  As a book to dip in and out of, filled with anecdotes it’s an enjoyable browse.

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