Elsie Wisdom

2/3/1904 - 13/4/1972

Elsie Wisdom
Affectionately know as "Bill", Elsie Wisdom was one of the first female winners in a mixed race at Brooklands, the 1932 JCC 1000 Mile Race with Joan Richmond. Aside from winning on the track she was also successful in rallying, winning the International Alpine Trial in 1936. Elsie Wisdom died 50 years ago, she was 68

Known affectionately as "Bill", Elsie Wisdom was one of the first female winners in a mixed race at Brooklands, and probably its most prestigious female victor. In 1932, she and Australian Joan Richmond won the JCC's 1000 Mile Race in fine style. They drove a Riley at an average speed of around 90 mph for the best part of twelve hours, recovering from a spin and other mishaps. The win, in one of the longest races held at Brooklands, was rightly celebrated.

Elsie was married to motoring journalist and gentleman racer Tommy Wisdom. She began racing after her marriage. Her first notable results appear in 1931, when she was driving a Frazer Nash. In this car, she set the Ladies' Record at the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb and entered the Brooklands Double Twelve Hour Race with Don Aldington. Like many others, they failed to finish.

A switch to a Riley gave "Bill" and Joan Richmond their historic win the following year. Elsie often drove a Riley and was an occasional member of the works team. In 1935 she and Kay Petre raced for the squad at Le Mans, but retired with engine trouble. The following year, the pair scored another DNF in the Brooklands 500 Mile.

Elsie's first attempt at Le Mans had been in 1933, when she shared an Aston Martin with Mortimer Morris-Goodall. The car's bearings failed. She had another start in 1938 in an MG Midget PB with Arthur Dobson, but clutch trouble and an empty radiator put paid to that attempt.

Elsie drove a variety of cars during her career. She raced several different MGs, including a Magnette in the 1935 Brooklands 500 Mile and a PB in the 1938 Irish Tourist Trophy with Dorothy Stanley-Turner. They came 23rd. A Fiat 508S had been her chosen car or the 1935 Tourist Trophy, and she also raced an Alta at Crystal Palace, most famously in a high-profile ladies' race.

It was not just racing that she excelled at. In 1936 she and Tommy won the tricky International Alpine Trial, a mountain rally, in a Jaguar SS100. After World War II, Elsie concentrated on rallying, with some good results. One of her later finishes came on the Monte Carlo Rally, driving a Morris Minor with Betty Haig and Barbara Marshall, in the late Forties. She continued to compete until 1951, when she called it a day after a serious crash involving her and Tommy on the Alpine Rally. They were no stranger to scrapes and had survived some previous rally disasters, so perhaps Elsie didn't want to tempt any more fate.

Elsie died in 1972. Her daughter is Ann Wisdom, navigator to Pat Moss in the earlier part of her rally career.



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