JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS COVER … AND THE STORY OF THE BUGATTI QUEEN’S DETERMINED CHAMPION, SHERYL GREENE
I first learned of Sheryl Greene in Indianapolis this July while attending the Lyn St James Women in the Winner’s Circle Awards Ceremony with other motorsports executives. Her fascination with women in motorsports was recently sparked by an interesting book cover she spotted in a favorite bookshop in Atlanta’s quaint Little Five Points neighborhood.The book, “The Bugatti Queen, In Search of a French Racing Legend”, by Miranda Seymour, (www.mirandaseymour.com ), explores the life and times of a forgotten Speed Demon, Helle Nice, a French born trapeze artist and co-star of Maurice Chevalier who abandoned her perch at the fashionable Casino de Paris for the danger of the racing circuit.A fortunate relationship with French car maker, Jean Bugatti, fueled Helle’s racing career. Whether the relationship was romantic or merely friendly, no one is certain. Nonetheless, Bugatti was impressed by Helle Nice’s skill and agreed to lend her the Bugatti in December 1929 to compete in a 10-mile race near Paris. She successful clocked an amazing 118 miles per hour.Eventually, Helle bought the Bugatti in March 1930, for $1,600 -- the original invoice, for 40,000 francs, is pasted into a collector’s scrapbook -- and spent the next four seasons behind its wheel as one the world's few female grand prix drivers.Sheryl was intrigued, absorbed (hmmm, and maybe delightfully obsessed?) by the Bugatti Queen’s fast-paced story and in a “Julie & Julia” fashion, followed along as Helle’s career travels to scores of exotic places, like Monte Carlo, Rio and Casablanca, and to some of the world’s most famous racetracks, setting records that still stand today. But after decades of excitement and adventure, Helle Nice fell into obscurity. Having once lived in a fashionable residence in Paris and being the toast of the town, Helle died broken and penniless. She is buried in an unmarked grave/crypt outside Paris, France.Not at all happy with the ending to this story, Sheryl is determined to pay tribute to this racing pioneer. What started as a lighthearted summer read has now transformed into Sheryl's life mission. She has single-handedly formed a non-profit organization to honor “The Fastest Women in the World” and promote global gender equality in racing through education and funding for women in motorsports. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Helle Nice’s death, and it is the intention of the Helle Nice Foundation to officially mark her final resting place and pay tribute to a woman who dedicated her adult life to auto racing in a sport with very few women. The plan is to have the grave marker placed in the Fall of 2010 at her gravesite outside Paris, France.Sheryl is planning fun car rallies throughout the US and Europe as well as Vintage Bugatti and Exotic Car Shows and other unique fundraising events.
Want to get involved? If you, or perhaps your car club, want to show your support for Speed, Style & Sisterhood and the forgotten Bugatti Queen, contact:
The Helle Nice Foundation, Inc.
Sheryl A. Greene