Arizona Concours d’Elegance to highlight women in motorsports

Anne Rose Itier sitting in a 1927 Bugatti Type 37A. (Submitted photo)

The history of motorsports usually revolves around men who became heroes behind the wheel.

However, this year’s Arizona Concours d’Elegance features a panel discussion that looks into the exciting lives of women who raced professionally since the 1920s, and made their marks in a man’s world.

“Legends: Pioneer Women in Racing” is one of three panel discussions that take place Saturday, Jan. 14, on the eve of the Arizona Concours Sunday, Jan. 5.

Elizabeth Junek

Both the discussions and the fourth annual Arizona Concours will be at the historic Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, once again leading off the Scottsdale/Phoenix area’s famed Classic Car Week of auctions, parties and events, according to a press release.

The “Legends” panel will include veteran race driver Janet Guthrie, the first woman to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500 in the 1970s, and Miranda Seymour, an acclaimed author whose book, Bugatti Queen, explores the life of Hellé Nice, the famed French woman racing driver who competed in the 1920s and 30s.

Another female racing star, Lyn St. James, also of Indianapolis 500 fame, will moderate the discussion, the release states.

Along with the discussion will be several pre-war Bugattis raced by famous woman drivers:

  • 1925 Bugatti Type 35 (from the collection of Jan Voboril) driven by Elizabeth Junek — One of the most renowned female racing drivers of the period. She would often accompany her racer / husband Cenek Junek on his motoring exploits in their Bugatti Type 35. Her most famous race was the 1928 Targa Florio, which she led until the final lap before succumbing to mechanical troubles.
  • 1927 Bugatti Type 37A (from the collection of Andrew Larson) driven by Anne-Cecile Rose Itier — From the late 1920s to the early 1950s, Anne-Cécile Itier was the most active female racing amateur in France. She participated in everything from Grand Prix racing to hill climbs and rallies. She entered Le Mans five times – a female record – and ran the Monte Carlo Rally seven times. Her peers were Hellé Nice and Elizabeth Junek.
  • 1927 Bugatti Type 35 (from the collection of William “Chip” Connor II) driven by Hellé Nice — A talented and beautiful race car driver, Nice was a true pioneer of the sport in her day. She owned and raced this Type 35 in the early 1930s, competing at prestigious international circuits like Le Mans, Reims and Monza. Nice would develop a close association with the Bugatti marque, leading to her nickname, “The Bugatti Queen.”
  • 1955 Maserati 250F (from the collection of Bill Pope) driven by Maria Teresa de Filippis — The first women to have raced in Formula One. After her retirement, and as a sign of tremendous respects, she was awarded the title of Honorary Chair of both the Maserati Club and the Formula One Grand Prix Drivers Club.
  • 1967 Ferrari NART Spyder and 1960 OSCA Formula Junior (from the Collection of Lawrence Auriana) driven by Denise McCluggage — An automotive journalist and race car driver, she is the first automotive journalist inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.

According to a release, another Saturday panel discussion, “Driven: The Passion Driving Race Team Owners,” will include renowned motorsports team owners Chip Ganassi and Bobby Rahal.

Ganassi, is one of the 50 most-influential people in the auto industry according to Complex magazine, is a motorsports legend who currently has teams racing in NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA, FIA and Red Bull Global RallyCross.

Rahal was a three-time CART Indy racing champion and an Indianapolis 500 winner when he joined up with late-night host David Letterman, and now Mike Lanigan, as a team owner in 2002.  Rahal Letterman Racing won the 2004 Indianapolis 500 with driver Buddy Rice.

The Saturday panels start at 9 a.m. with the annual Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) preview of the seven collector car auctions that take place later in the week. The discussion features well-known collector car industry writers and commentators.

Tickets for the panel discussions are $60, which allows entry to all three panels that take place in the Grand Ballroom of the Arizona Biltmore. Tickets are also now available for the Arizona Concours d’Elegance, with a limited number priced at $80 in advance or $100 at the door.

Net proceeds from the nationally recognized Arizona Concours, as well as generous donations from participants and spectators, benefit Make-A-Wish Arizona, the founding chapter of the international organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

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