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Saturday, 6 December 2014
Liz in 1964, in Minsk
Elizabeth Jones, born Rosemary Jones, in Newbridge, Wales, raced a Mini and other cars in international saloon races in the 1960s. She always raced under her own family name, and was often referred to as “Liz” in race reports.
She graduated from the Cooper Racing School in 1960, as one of its six most promising students. She was thirty years old, and was probably one of the oldest in the group. Using a car run by the School, she entered some Formula Junior races that year, and finished eighth in a race at Silverstone.
In 1961, she moved on to GT racing, in her own Austin-Healey 3000. She raced at Snetterton twice that year, and was second and fourth in class. In September, she took part in the Autosport 3 Hours, also held at Snetterton. Her finishing position has been lost, but she was racing against Porsches and Jaguar D-Types. According to Christabel Carlisle, a rival of the time, she took part in at least one Ladies’ Handicap race at Brands Hatch that year.
In 1962, she stuck with BMC-made cars, but exchanged the powerful and brutish Healey for the first of her series of Minis. She entered some rounds of the British Saloon Car Championship, starting at Silverstone. Her Mini was a Cooper model, prepared by the Downton Engineering team, an established tuning company. She was fourth in class at Silverstone, then twelfth overall at Aintree, in the British Grand Prix support race.
She was thirteenth overall, and second in class in the 1962 Brands Hatch 6 Hours in 1962, alongside Alan Mann and Tony Hegbourne in a Ford Anglia. This was a double drive, as she also recorded a DNF in her own Mini, which she was sharing with rally driver, Pauline Mayman.
1963 started in a similar vein. She was fourth in class in her first BSCC race, also at Silverstone, also in a Mini. Her second appearance was at Crystal Palace, for the Small Car Trophy, and she was seventh overall. Unusually, four female drivers started this race, including Christabel Carlisle, whose career took her in most of the same directions as Liz. At Silverstone, for the Grand Prix support race, she joined up with Alexander Engineering, another preparation and tuning firm, driving one of their Mini Coopers. Unfortunately, the car developed mechanical trouble, and Liz had to retire. Her second outing in the Alexander Mini, at Brands Hatch, ended in a 16th place.
In the middle of the season, she took part in the Brands Hatch Six Hours, driving for Alexander Engineering, in the Mini. Her team-mate was the Finnish rally champion, Timo Mäkinen. They were 18th overall. Early on, Liz led her class, but bad weather and hard-charging other drivers dropped them to second, behind John Aley and Rauno Aaltonen.
Liz also accepted another one-off drive in the Tour de France, in a Mini, but a works BMC Mini this time. She was sharing the car with Pauline Mayman. Christabel Carlisle was slated to be part of the team, but did not compete in the event. The engine of the Mini did not last until the end.
For 1964, her partnership with the Alexander Engineering team continued. In the BSCC, it was something of an underwhelming year, with some non-finishes. Once again, her best race was the Small Car Trophy at Crystal Palace. Liz was fifth, in a race completely dominated by Mini Coopers, like her own. Otherwise, her strongest finish was at Brands Hatch, in the Guards Trophy meeting. She was fourteenth overall. Throughout the season, a rivalry between her and Anita Taylor, who also drove a Mini, was stirred up a little by the press. It was true that Liz and Anita were sometimes competing directly for places, but other drivers, including Anita’s brother, Trevor Taylor, were often involved.
Alexander Engineering also provided a Mini for Liz for the Brands Hatch 6 Hours, which she shared with the American driver, Denise McCluggage. They retired, due to an accident. This was not a race for the Mini; several of them fell by the wayside, or underachieved, in this wet race.
In July, Liz seems to have accepted a drive with the British Vita team for the Spa 24 Hours. She shared a Mini Cooper with Harry Ratcliffe, but engine failure on lap seven put paid to any chance of success.
She was also a rally co-driver, who sat beside several different drivers in the RAC and Monte Carlo rallies. The cars were BMC models. She began in 1962, in major rallies anyway, sitting alongside Daphne Freeman in the RAC Rally. The car was a Mini. In 1964, in another Mini, she accompanied Shelagh Aldersmith for the Monte Carlo Rally. Shelagh, competing alongside the BMC works drivers in a private car, joined the team in starting from Minsk, in Belarus, which was then behind the Iron Curtain. They did not finish. After her circuit career ended, Liz continued in rallying, and took the wheel herself in the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally. Her co-driver in her Mini was Patricia Ozanne.
Her motorsport career seems to end here. Some time later, Liz moved to America, and became a well-known breeder of Mastiffs, under her married name of Degerdon. In 1989, she was charged with animal cruelty by the US authorities, and remains a controversial figure in the Mastiff breeding world.
She returned to the UK, where she continued to live until her death in 2010, at the age of 70.
(This post is heavily indebted to the research of Radnorian.)
(Image from http://minicoopers68.blogspot.co.uk/p/1964-rallye-monte-carlo.html)