Obituary: Margaret Jennings

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The Independent Culture
MARGARET JENNINGS, in her maiden name of Margaret Allan, achieved a number of successes both as a racing driver and as a rally driver in the 1930s.

Born in 1909, she was the daughter of James Allan, of Patterton, Renfrewshire, a member of the family which owned the Allan Royal Mail Line shipping company. She was educated at Bedales, which was noted in the 1920s for its avant-garde, unorthodox teaching methods.

An early enthusiasm for horses was gradually supplanted by an interest in motoring. With a Riley 9, she gained her first success, winning the ladies' prize in the 1930 London-Gloucester Trial, and then competed in her first major rally with a factory-entered Riley 9, as co-driver to Eve Staniland in the 1932 Monte Carlo Rally; they finished in 10th place and were runners-up for the Coupe des Dames. She competed in the Monte Carlo Rally for the next three years, driving a Rolls-Royce, a Triumph and an AC.

Margaret Allan drove in her first motor race in June 1932, with a super- charged 2-litre Lagonda at the Brooklands Inter-Club meeting. In July that year, accompanied by her brother Hamish, she competed in the Alpine Trial with a Wolseley Hornet. This was regarded as the most testing road event in Europe; it lasted for seven days and attracted entries from many major manufacturers. She achieved a remarkable success for a relatively inexperienced driver, winning a Glacier Cup, for losing no marks, and tieing for the ladies' prize.

For the 1933 season she had a 3-litre Bentley fitted with a 41/2-litre engine, and with this she gained her first racing win - driving again at the Brooklands Inter-Club meeting she came first in a handicap, lapping the Brooklands Outer Circuit at 97.65mph. She had a second Brooklands win at the 1934 Easter meeting, driving the Bentley to victory in the Ripley Junior Long Handicap.

Her driving ability had been noticed and she was invited to join the MG factory team for the 1934 Relay Race at Brooklands. Driving an MG Magnette she was a member of the team which came third in this 200-mile race. MG invited her to drive a P-type MG in an all-ladies team, known as the "Dancing Daughters", in the 1935 Le Mans 24-hour race. All three cars finished the race and gained much publicity for MG. Allan shared a car with the Australian driver Colleen Eaton and they finished in 26th place.

At the 1935 Brooklands Easter meeting, driving a 41/2-litre Bentley belonging to Richard Marker, a car which had won the Le Mans race in 1928 and was now fitted with a single-seater body, she was second in a handicap. She also drove a Frazer Nash during 1935 and with this she won a handicap at the August Bank Holiday meeting, lapping the circuit at 119.15mph. In practice for this meeting she lapped the track in the Frazer Nash at 127.05mph but a subsequent attempt to take the 1500cc record for the track with this car failed after mechanical problems.

In 1936, Marker fitted the Bentley with a 61/2-litre engine which made it a very fast car. Allan drove it at the opening Brooklands meeting and, lapping at 119.15mph, gained second place in a handicap. She raced the Bentley again at the Whitsun meeting and won the Second Whitsun Long Handicap at 115.25mph, making a fastest lap at 122.37mph. For this feat she was awarded a coveted 120mph Brooklands Badge.

She drove the Frazer Nash again at the Shelsley Walsh hill climb in June 1936 and won the Ladies Prize. This brought her racing career to an end. Her Brooklands successes showed that she was a driver of considerable skill - to lap Brooklands at speeds of over 120mph was difficult and dangerous, to cope with the bumps, the reverse curve and cross-winds needed the qualities necessary for a good road racing driver.

In 1937 she married Christopher Jennings, a fellow competitor who subsequently became Editor of The Motor. She became a writer herself, working as the motoring correspondent of Vogue from 1948 until 1957, and during this time gained her last success in a competitive event, the 1950 Circuit of Ireland rally where she won the ladies' prize.

During the Second World War she was an ambulance driver and then worked in the intelligence de-coding centre at Bletchley Park. In later years she lived in Carmarthenshire and her husband was High Sheriff of the County in 1957. Although she maintained a great interest in motoring, she also became an enthusiastic gardener, winning RHS prizes and exhibiting at Chelsea.

Margaret Mabel Gladys Allan, racing and rally driver: born Patterton, Renfrewshire 26 July 1909; married 1937 Christopher Jennings (died 1982; one son); died Carmarthen 21 September 1998.

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