Le Mans Ladies: Betty Haig, Britain’s Speedy Sweetheart by Jes Zurell

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Racing enthusiasts greeted the 1950s gladly as Le Mans returned to its bustling pre-WWII splendor. More women were involved in the 1951 race than in any previous years, and 1951 set the bar for the next two decades.

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Betty Haig raced at the Monte Carlo Rally one year before the 1951 LeMans, and developed a taste for circuits early in her racing career. She teamed up with Yvonne Simon in a Ferrari 166 MM Coupé to compete in the 2000cc class, coming in third place, but her focus on LeMans was not long-term.

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“LeMans, 1951. The team of Miss Betty Haig and Mme Yvonne Simon do some fine tuning to their 2 liter Ferrari 166MM. The crew finished 15th overall, ahead of the 2.5 liter Type 212 Export Ferrari of Moran and Cornacchia.”
‘Femmes Pilotes de Courses Auto 1888-1970,’ by Jean-François Bouzanquet, ETAI, 2007. 176 pp. Illus. EUR 42.71. Bibliography. Index. Trans. ‘Fast Ladies: Female Racing Drivers 1888-1870,’ Veloce Publishing, 2009. 176 pp. Illus.

The truth about Haig is that she was smitten with British cars. She didn’t return to LeMans, but she competed regularly around the United Kingdom in her HRG, AC Ace, Elva with a Climax engine and MG Magnette for a handful of races in the mid-1950s. She owned the Prescott Ladies’ record for six years, but as time and technology continued to move forward, her choice in vehicles did not.

Haig had a hand in founding the Historic Sports Car Club in 1966, alongside Guy Griffiths. The two were tired of finding few races for older vehicle models, and furthermore, “wanted to stop them from being modified, inappropriately, beyond their original specification or exported to the United States,” according to the HSCC’s official history. “Members from the sixties, and we have quite a few, say we were formed to help competitors enjoy themselves racing ‘nice, proper cars’ on interesting circuits.”

Haig never returned to LeMans, but she stayed close to her “baby,” the HSCC, for the rest of her years, racing rally cars. She was partial to the Monte Carlo Rally, racing in it twice, and the Coupe des Dames, which she raced alongside Barbara Marshall. She passed away in 1987, but the HSCC continues to celebrate both her legacy and her love of historic cars.

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