Raced Cars on all the big circuits between the Wars
Along with Gwenda Hawkes/Stewart was a highly accomplished driver achieving world and class records often on equal terms with men.
It was in 1932 that the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club (B.A.R.C.) opened their eyes wide enough to recognize the skills and competitive spirit of women motoring enthusiasts, and thus admit them as competitors in ordinary open races at the track. Immediately a young Australian girl, Joan Richmond together with Elsie Wisdom, drove a Riley into first place in the Junior Car Club (J.C.C.) 1.000 mile race. Thereafter in a very short span of time women drivers became a large part of the pleasure in watching motor racing at Brooklands and elsewhere. By 1933 Joan had purchased the ex’ Malcom Campbell 1921 3-litre G.P. Ballot racer in which she demonstrated considerable skill but without significant success. The design of racing cars at this period was advancing fast and the Ballot was considered outdated to the extent that the Brooklands committee was not keen on competitors using such outdated cars and considered them dangerous. In 1934 Joan did achieve a ‘fastest lap’ in one event and towards the end of the year after lapping the outer circuit at over 103 mph, the Ballot ‘threw’ a conrod and holed its crankcase. In 1935 the Ballot was sold and Joan reverted to a supercharged Triumph and took a placing in the J.C.C. July relay event. In October of that year Joan gained a second place in the Ladies 5-lap ‘Mountain’ circuit handicap race; this time driving a Frazer Nash and she was only beaten in the final finishing straight by a much faster supercharged Alta. Anybody having driven the ‘Mountain’ circuit at speeds approaching 80 mph, will know that it takes a fair amount of adrenaline to keep the foot down where it belongs!
Also in 1935, Joan attempted her first Le Mans race sharing the driving of a MG P-type with the experienced Mrs Gordon Simpson. They achieved a 24th placing with a trouble free run which at Le Mans is to the great credit of the car and driver. Early in 1936, she drove in the famous Monte Carlo rally which tested her skills with the Triumph car. In June 1936, during the J.C.C. Members Day, Joan was doing battle with her supercharged Triumph. The supercharger part having had its chain disconnected, the scrutineers placed her in the unsupercharged class with little change to the cars performance. However later in the day William Boddy told me that he had seen Joan working ‘apparently’ on the supercharger mounting in preparation to being taken out to the starting line. Could it have been that she surreptitiously restored the drive chain?
1936 had been a good year for Joan and there followed her participation in the London to Cardiff Rally, plus the Scottish Rally, the R.A.C. Rally in which she won the Ladies Open class, the M.C.C. Lands-End Trial as well the 1936 Monte Carlo Rally. 1937 found Joan again at Brooklands when I saw her driving an H.R.G. on the recently opened Campbell Road Circuit. But stiff opposition from much faster cars such as a 6C Maserati and the Bentleys, and leading drivers like Arthur Dobson and Reg Parnell, excluded her from gaining a place. But this is only a fraction of the story of Joan’s motor sporting career which included hill climbs and other speed events. From her early exploits in Australia competing in a small Citroen, then in her 1100cc Riley 9 at the Aspendale track Victoria, and a fifth place in the 1931 Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island. Her many adventures with six friends, driving three Rileys overland from Australia through Asia and the Middle East to Palermo in Sicily for the start of the 1931 Monte Carlo Rally.
During the War she worked for De Havilland’s as a procurer of materials for production but returned to Australia after the war ended.