Historical Profiles

Kay Petre (Kay Coad Defries)

Country: Toronto, Canada

Birth/Death: 10 May 1903 - 10 August 1994

Known as: the "Queen of Brooklands"


  • Petre moved to England in her 20s and married Henry Petrie
  • Famously competed with Glenda Stewart for the circuit record at Brooklands
  • Petre held 3 records at Brooklands: 2 in 1934 at 124 mph and 129.58 mph and 1935 at 134.75
  • 1934: Her first race at Le Mans
  • 1935/1937: She also competed in hillclimbs and held the ladies record at Shelsley Walsh twice
  • 1937: Became the first female 'Works' driver when she joined the Austin factory team.
  • 1937: Competed in 3 grand prix in South Africa
  • 1937: While at a practice session at Brooklands she had a terrible crash and never competed in a circuit race again
  • Later in life she became an auto journalist and designed fabric patterns for Mini

Kay (Coad Defries) Petrie was born in Canada but moved to England in 1930 and married Henry Petre. Her husband had an interest in flying and would often depart from Brooklands airfield and though this location his wife found the Brooklands circuit nearby. Her husband bought her first car for her birthday, a red Wolseley Hornet Daytona Special. In 1933, she bought her first Bugatti. Petre was a petite 4’10 and it is said she had wooden blocks attached to the pedals in order to reach them.

In 1937, at Brooklands driver Reg Parnell’s car stalled on the track during practice and slid into Petrie’s. The car rolled on top of her and left her in a coma for a several days and ultimately led to partial paralysis in her face. She never raced on a circuit again although she did compete in some rallies. Parnell had his license revoked because of the accident but had an unlikely champion, Kay Petre herself. She did not believe he was at fault and eventually he had his license reinstated.

Petre ended up as an auto journalist. She also worked for Mini helping to design interiors.