In 1936 she was involved in that fatal accident in Brazil. She swerved to avoid a policeman who was retrieving a hay bale from the road, and careened into the crowd. Because of the circumstances of the accident, public opinion was in her favour. Thrown from the car, her fall was broken by landing on a spectactor. He died, but she survived despite being in a coma for two days. She resumed racing in 1937 until the outbreak of WW2, during which she lived off compensation from the Brazilian government.
Many of her male competitors were jealous of the attention Nice received. Sixty years after racing against her, driver Simone de Forest said of her: “I don’t believe she ever thought about anything but sex and showing off.”
At a pre-race reception for the 1949 Monte Carlo Rally, in which she was due to compete, Bugatti racer Louis Chiron publically accused her of being a Gestapo agent. Nobody knows why he made the claim, but it was untrue.
But the damage was done. Nobody would offer her a drive. Friends and family shunned her and her fortune was wasted by her lover of the time, who then also abandoned her. She lived the rest of her life poor in a rented flat, supported by a charity that looked after theatre performers who had hit bad times.
She died alone in 1983 having never rebuilt her reputation. Yet her achievements were remarkable, and this Alfa Romeo Monza is a terrific tribute and reminder of a woman who has been unfairly forgotten by motorsport history.
Photography by Tom Shaxson