In October of 1961 at Brands Hatch, Carlisle (#125) leads Steve McQueen, Les Leston and Vic Elford. Elford came through to win, but Carlisle took 2nd.
Photo: Christabel Carlisle Archive
For three short years, in the early 1960s, Christabel Carlisle, now Lady Watson, was the name on the lips of everyone who attended race meetings in the UK. At that time, it was controversial for women to race cars. However, from out of nowhere she was an instant success. During her first laps at Silverstone, Marcus Chambers, BMC Competitions manager, noted her consistent lap times. After gaining the requisite signatures she earned her International racing license and from then on “mixed it” with the best of the day, often coming out in front. Surprisingly, she didn’t really enjoy racing, yet, like many of her pursuits before and since, while she was racing she wanted to do it to the best of her ability. Tragically, her career ended following an accident at the British GP meeting at Silverstone in 1963. Her name, however, is still synonymous with the early Minis, and fans of that era still revere her seemingly natural racing ability and competitive spirit. Recently, Vintage Racecar’s Mike Jiggle took time to talk with her about the indelible mark she made on British motor racing.
When one looks back at the 1960s in the UK we all remember the iconic car as the Mini, then there’s the model Twiggy, the Beatles and, in motor racing terms, the name Christabel Carlisle immediately comes to the fore. For someone whose career was very brief, you made quite an impact during that time. Can you elaborate for us?
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