To the question of whether she felt any embarrassment during the event, Mrs Thomson replied: “No, I can’t say that I did. Of course I knew I was the only lady in the race. But I quite forgot that aspect of the matter as I sped along the roads, flew down sharp declivities, through watercourses and whisked around corners. I thought of nothing but the finishing post, and the cheers of spectators, who practically defined the whole route, became merely formal after a while.
“Do you know people asked me what I thought of the country? Pretty landscapes did not appeal to me, but I knew a lot about the holes and stones in the highways. My great aim was to go the whole journey and I was over-careful about accidents. I sacrificed speed to caution.
“At times I cut out a speed of 25 miles an hour, but where a policy of caution was dictated I crawled at seven miles. Although we did not stop during the day for meals I was never fatigued. I know what people would have said if I had been forced to withdraw from the race: ‘Well, it was a foolish adventure for a woman and disaster was inevitable’.
“They can’t say that now, and I am more than pleased that I did not provide the opportunity for such petty criticism. I was determined to complete the distance, and I would not have minded if I had come in last so long as that purpose had been accomplished.”
Rushed with congratulations
After reaching the finishing point at Coburg, the contestants formed a procession which travelled to the Hay Market at the top of Elizabeth Street. The route was lined with spectators who cheered the motorists, but as the Melbourne Leader reported, “the absence of the racing element precluded much enthusiasm. One incident, however, caused a demonstration, and that was the arrival of Mrs B. Thomson, who rode right through from Sydney. She reached the Hay Market at 3.35, cool and collected, and was rushed with congratulations. Her car was laden with floral tributes. Mrs Thomson is the first Australian lady to undertake the journey.”
Mrs Thomson told reporters at the finish that she would not have missed the unique experience for anything and would undertake the trip again with even greater zest.
The inaugural RACV Florence Thomson Tour, for women drivers of historic vehicles, takes place in the Yarra Valley on April 30. It is fully subscribed, but a similar event may run next year.