Hellé Nice in 1929 at Montlhéry

At the time, the Paris area was one of the principal centres of the French car industry and there were numerous competitions for auto enthusiasts. Nice loved the thrill of driving fast cars and so snatched the chance to perform in the racing event at the annual fair organized by fellow performers from the Paris entertainment world. She was an avid downhill skier but an accident on the slopes damaged her knee and ended her dancing career. Hellé Nice decided to try her hand at professional auto racing. In 1929, driving an Oméga-Six, she won an all-female Grand Prix race at Autodrome de Montlhéry in the process setting a new world land speed record for women. Capitalizing on her fame, the following year she toured the United States, racing at a variety of tracks in an American-made Miller racing car.[citation needed]

Philippe de Rothschild introduced himself to her shortly after her return from America. For a time, the two shared a bed and the love of automobile racing. Rothschild had been racing his Bugatti and he introduced her to Ettore Bugatti. The owner of the very successful car company thought Nice would be an ideal person to add to the male drivers of his line of racing vehicles. She achieved her goal and in 1931 and drove a Bugatti Type 35C in five major Grands Prix in France.

Hellé Nice was easily recognizable in her bright-blue race car. She wowed the crowds whenever she raced while adding to her income with a string of product endorsements. Although she did not win a Grand Prix race, she was a legitimate competitor, and frequently finished ahead of some of the top male drivers. Over the next several years, as the only female on the Grand Prix circuit, Nice continued to race Bugattis and Alfa Romeos against the greatest drivers of the day. She competed not only in Grand Prix races but also hillclimbs and rallies all over Europe, including the famous Monte Carlo Rally.

On 10 September 1933, she was a competitor in one of the most tragic races in history. During the 1933 Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Giuseppe Campari, Baconin “Mario Umberto” Borzacchini, and the Polish count Stanislas Czaikowski, three of the leading race drivers of the day, were killed.