The Austin 7 replica was painstakingly put together by seasoned hill climb competitor Julian Wilton in the hope that Petre’s tenacious spirit, determination and success would inspire his two daughters to get involved in historic motorsport.
Born in Canada, Petre came to the UK in the late 1920s and started racing at Brooklands in 1932. She quickly proved to be a fierce competitor, regularly placing in the top three, and was always looking for speedier cars to race. In 1935, she claimed the ladies’ lap record at Brooklands with a speed of 134.24mph in an enormous 10.5 litre V12 Delage. Although her record was beaten the next day, Petre remains one of just four women to have broken the 120mph barrier at Brooklands.
Petre went on to compete at several high-profile locations, such as Donington Park, Crystal Palace, Le Mans and the South African Grand Prix, alongside some of the biggest names of the era, including Prince Bira and Dudley Benjafield.
SEE MORE: Click the video player below to watch footage of Petre in action at Brooklands
It wasn’t long before she was asked by Lord Austin to join the works Austin racing team, where she began competing in sprints and hill climbs. Petre achieved notable successes at Shelsley Walsh, winning the MAC Ladies’ Cup in 1935, and the Shelsley Ladies’ Challenge in 1936, 1937 and 1938.
Her racing career came to an end after an accident at a practice for the Brooklands 500 Mile Race, when Reg Parnell’s car slid down the banking and hit her Austin 7 from behind, leaving her badly injured. However, Petre still stayed firmly within the automotive world as a designer, creating fabric patterns for Mini, and also became a motoring journalist.
To ensure the accuracy of the four-cylindered replica, Julian was fortunate to be able to borrow Petre’s original Austin from a friend and fellow member of the VSCC. With the car at hand, he was able to craft the body and chassis to exact specifications and ensure it was painted in the same colour scheme.
“Having daughters, my dad wanted to focus on women drivers, so he completely copied Kay Petre’s car,” said Francesca Wilton who will be behind the wheel of the Austin at the 2016 hill climb.
She has been campaigning the car for the last three years and shares it with her sister Stephanie, who she regularly competes against. Usually, the two are fairly well-matched, but Francesca will have the upper hand at this year’s event, having taken on the Chateau Impney challenge last year in Class 6.
“I’m really looking forward to returning to Chateau Impney – it was great fun and it’s got such fantastic history. The hill is great and the atmosphere is amazing – for me it’s the best event of the year.”