In an era in which women were not encouraged to compete in auto racing events, Barbara Skinner not only did so, but she posted the fastest time in the Shelsley Walsh hill climb in 1932, drove in the RAC Rally and, in 1935, raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing 25th.
“Burlen has long been associated with motorsport and racing,” said Mark Burnett, managing director of Burlen, British company that produces carburetors. “As a company we are inspired by the racing of Barbara. Despite having talent, she entered the sport after a period where women were banned from racing against established male drivers, and she had many barriers to overcome.
“To compete successfully in rallying, Brooklands racing, hillclimbs, sprints and endurance racing is remarkable, and Barbara deserves to be recognized as one of the pioneers of motorsport equality.”
It seems Burlen is taking on that role because it manufactures SU, Amal and Zenith carburetors. SU was founded in 1910 as Skinners Union. The founders of SU were brothers George Herbert and Thomas Carlyle Skinner, boot and shoe manufacturers and early motorcar enthusiasts. Barbara Skinner, born in 1911, was the daughter of Thomas Carlyle “Carl” Skinner.
“In the early 1900s the BARC (British Auto Racing Club) ruled that women would not be permitted to race, drawing comparison to the fact there were no lady jockeys (in horse racing) as a good reason for the ban,” according to Burlen.
“Despite outrage the decision stood until 1928 when women were permitted to compete in Ladies-only Handicaps. The BARC agreed women could race men in 1932.”
It was on April 6, 1932, that Carl Skinner gave his Morris Cowley Special to his daughter for her 21st birthday.
“The Morris had been used as an SU development car before being transformed into a special for Carl Skinner’s own use,” Burlen noted. “Fitted with an MG MKII 18/100 Tigresse road-racing engine the car was both fast and usable, providing Barbara with daily transport as well as a competitive racer.”
On September 3 of that same year, Barbara Skinner entered her first competitive event, the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb, which allowed women to compete against men. He run up the hill was the fastest of the day.
Although her Morris soon proved uncompetitive, Barbara Skinner used it to two a new White Minor racing car to events. The White Minor was a wedding present given to Barbara Skinner by Lord Nuffield, founder of the Morris Motor Company.
Skinner became part of the Brooklands Belles, women who raced at the famous British track, and in 1935 she was one of six women — the “Dancing Daughters” — driving three factory-backed MG PA Midgets in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. She and co-driver Doreen Evans finished 24th, averaging 86.1 km/h while covering 2,068 kilometers.
Skinner continued to race, though under her married name, after her marriage to racer and writer John Bolster. She died of injuries suffered in a traffic accident on public roads in 1942.