Part of our Women in Motorsport series by guest writer Lara Platman
It is exceedingly rare for a rider to be as fast on two wheels as four, with racer Sir John Surtees remaining the only person to have won World Championships by both motorcycle and car. Tazio Nuvolari is among the same rank, having achieved wins in individual races on both two and four wheels.
The only woman to have secured her place in this esteemed category is Fay Taylour. She started her racing career as a Speedway rider, then went on to race at Brooklands on four wheels, taking her winning streak of speed with her.
Fay Taylour was born in 1904 to a well-heeled family in Ireland, with an aunt involved with the Suffragette movement. When Fay was a teenager, her father, a Surgeon General in the Royal Army Medical Corps, allowed Fay to drive his car to Holloway Prison to pick up said aunt from a stint inside following her arrest at a suffrage protest. Perhaps it was from this – the feeling of female equality – that made Fay realise that she, too, could do anything.
Fay’s grandfather was Lord Wolesley, the Commander in Chief to the British Forces and a favourite of Queen Victoria, whilst Fay’s mother, after attending finishing school in Paris and being presented at court as a debutante, was the belle of many castle balls in Dublin.
Throughout the 1920s, Fay’s childhood was a sheltered atmosphere of nannies, pony traps and pastimes a governess would install. However, she soon discovered the ‘boggie car’ (a soap box on wheels), and watched as boys flew past her on the makeshift motors. From then on, it seems she became fascinated by the motion of going fast. She taught herself to ride a bicycle and her father taught her to shoot, fish, and ride horses.
Fay and her father moved to Berkshire after her mother died. Her father took up hobbies to suit a retired gentleman, whilst Fay mainly looked after him. One day, after a slight driving mishap, Fay met a mechanic at the garage fixing her car and he introduced her to motorcycling. She bought a modest 2 -spoke Levis Motorcycle: this marked the beginning of her affair with two-wheeled racing.
Fay entered the Camberley ‘Southern Scott Scramble’ in 1927: a relatively new sport in Britain. The event was created in response to the Northern Trials for the toughest of riders, and held on a circuit of 24 miles for the morning races.
In the afternoon, the event hosted the ‘Venus Cup’ for female drivers. Fay was told by her steadfast mechanic that she could beat the top three women trials riders competing.
Fay practised the course daily to master its several steep hills, and went on to win both the Novice and the Venus Cups. From these wins, Fay was offered a place on the Coventry-based AJS works team, which she accepted alongside an administrative job at the Rudge-Whitworth factory. She soon went on to race in their trials team on a 500cc.