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Elisabeth Junek

With the unique, almost erotic thrill of his automobiles, Ettore Bugatti catered to a glamorous and fascinating clientele.

Not only the company driving team but numerous private drivers have contributed to the brand’s glorious success, boosting it to the status of an automobile icon.

Cenek Junek, a banker from Prague, was the archetypal Bugatti owner. He had it all: money, a high-flying lifestyle, passion and talent for racing, and a wife – Elisabeth – who occasionally outdid him at the track. “She was unbelievable,” declared Mercedes racing director Alfred Neubauer in his memoirs, recalling the performance of “that delicate, courageous little woman” at the Targa Florio in 1928. She was leading all the men – Alberto Divo, Giuseppe Campari, Tazio Nuvolari – and victory seemed in her grasp, when a defective brake caused her to lose her lead to Divo. Blinded by the cloud of dust he left behind, she hit a rock and demolished a tire, finally finishing fifth. But that did nothing to diminish her legend’s aura. Elisabeth Junek’s fame spread throughout Europe, and when she returned to Prague she was the toast of proud, independence-loving Czechoslovakia.

Elisabeth Junek chose to maintain her amateur status, supporting her husband in his professional racing career. When Cenek Junek died in an accident during the Nürburgring race, Elisabeth Junek withdrew from the racing world.

A woman racecar driver - quite the sensation 80 years ago, when only very few women had a drivers license

A woman racecar driver - quite the sensation 80 years ago, when only very few women had a drivers license

Elisabeth Junek shortly before the start of the Targa Florio, 1928. Standing next to her is the race's founder, Count Florio sen., with Count jun. to the far right

Elisabeth Junek shortly before the start of the Targa Florio, 1928. Standing next to her is the race's founder, Count Florio sen., with Count jun. to the far right