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BTM TALK –PRUDENCE FAWCETT


News


Photos taken on Prudence Fawcett’s journey to Le Mans (Gareth Tarr).


f, during your lifetime, you had the opportu- nity to take part in only one motor race, what would it be? The Le Mans 24-hour would no doubt be the choice for many of us, but surely it wouldn’t happen. Well, it did for Prudence Fawcett, whose only motor race was the 1938 Grand Prix d’Endurance at Le Sarthe. Her story and other fascinating family reminiscences were recalled by Prudence’s son, Charles Trevelyan, in his wonderfully entertaining Brooklands Trust Members’ talk in July.


I


Prudence Fawcett was born in 1913 into a wealthy Derbyshire family. She was to have been called Patience but the vicar got it wrong at the christening. Prudence’s uncle Percy was a director of Sheffield silversmiths James Dixon & Sons, which enabled him to indulge in a passion for Bugattis of which he owned several. Prudence attended Bugatti Owners’ Club meetings with her uncle. After leaving finishing school she moved to Genoa, Italy and eventually became engaged to Count Giacomo Rossi (the Rossi part of Martini & Rossi). Her mother Rachael, however, forbade marriage to a catholic, so Prudence returned home. During her time in Italy the young Miss Fawcett had gained a passion for Alfa Romeos (there is some suggestion she may have competed in one) and she imported eight of Italy’s finest sports cars to England, making a decent profit…


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until HM Customs and Excise came calling, asking for the duty due. An uncle who was a judge helped her avoid a penal sentence. In June 1937 Prudence was offered a seat in the Duke of Kent’s De Havilland Rapide for a trip to that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and the visit made her determined to return the following year to compete. She had to dispose of the Alfa Romeos to pay the duty owed and through doing this she became involved with Lance Prideaux- Brune, who owned Winter Garden Garages of High Holborn, which was a Morgan dealership. Hence in June 1938, 24-year-old Prudence found herself with fellow driver Geoffrey White (Winter Garden’s Sales Manager) and a competition Morgan on the SS Forde bound for the Continent and that mythical race. In those days the cars were driven to the event and after the journey across northern France the team arrived at its base of Le Hostellerie des Ifs in the city of Le Mans. Star car of the 1938 race was the works 2900 8C Alfa Romeo which wasn’t to finish, but before retiring it shed a tyre just as Prudence was follow- ing and she was hit on the helmet by part of the disintegrating rubber. That cloth helmet is part of Charles’s memorabilia and still shows the blood that his mother shed as a consequence of the incident. Despite valve problems the little Morgan managed to finish 13th and the elated Prudence


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