There have been plenty of women over the decades who have made their mark in the world of motoring, who got behind the wheel and did their own thing in their own inimitable style. Here are five Brits who have made the rest of us stand up and take notice, and who seemed just as at home in a car as they did anywhere else.
Genuine heroines were hard to come by in the early days of motoring, but London-born Dorothy Levitt was an inspiration to many. She competed on equal terms with the guys in a number of high profile races and recorded several wins. Driving a Napier in 1906 she broke the women’s world land speed record, achieving a speed of more than 90mph. As well as her driving skills, she was an accomplished mechanic, a champion speedboat enthusiast, a journalist and a pilot.
Queen Elizabeth II
During World War Two, Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth II, wanted to enlist to do her bit for the country, but was discouraged by the authorities. Her training for an important future life was considered more vital to the nation, but she was allowed to join the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) instead. She trained as a driver and mechanic, and was often seen around the camps driving military trucks and carrying out repairs to engines. The surrounding publicity served as an inspiration to budding women car drivers of the era.
It seems to have taken an age for women to even begin to be accepted in auto racing, and although the ladies are still few and far between there are some who have already broken boundaries. Guildford-born Katherine Legge competed in the US IndyCar Series in 2012, driving for the legendary Jay Penske. Her best performance was a highly impressive ninth place in a race at Fontana, California. Typical of her competitive nature, she claims her ambition is not to compete in the Indy 500, but to win it outright.
Singer, designer, occasional actress and international style icon, Victoria Beckham has been linked with a number of celebrated cars over the years. It was her association with Range Rover, however, that brought the most headlines. In 2011, she collaborated with the company to create a special edition Range Rover Evoque onto the market. If you bought one of these beauties at the time, you would also have received a hand-stitched owner’s manual and an exclusive four-piece set of luggage.
Not every inspirational woman has to be a real person, of course! Lady Penelope, one of the stars of the Thunderbirds TV series, was regularly seen in the back of her exquisite pink Rolls-Royce – registration number FAB 1, of course – passing on instructions to her ever-loyal chauffeur Parker. FAB 2 was a rather sleek yacht and FAB 3 was a horse, all owned by the indomitable Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward. A full-sized replica of FAB 1 was constructed in the 1960s, and was used by Thunderbirds creators Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.