Grand Prix Racer Maria Avanzo Battled Against a Young Enzo Ferrari in the 1930s

Mar 22, 2021 461


You’ve heard of pioneer race car drivers Louise Smith, Shirley Muldowney, Michele Mouton, and Janet Guthrie. Lesser known on the world stage but beloved in her native Italy, Maria Antoinetta Avanzo was the first and most famous female race car driver in Italian history, starting in the Roaring '20s.

It was extremely unusual for women to race cars then; their rights were limited and it wasn’t even until 1945 that Italian women gained full suffrage. Avanzo’s zeal for things with engines started with her father’s De Dion-Bouton “tricycle” when she was a kid, which in Italian vernacular described a three-wheeled, single-cylinder motorcycle and not the toddler trike that comes to mind.

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