As part of the 40th anniversary celebrations for Renault’s Formula One activity, they invited Irish rally legend, Rosemary Smith to Paul Ricard to become, at 79, the oldest person to drive a modern F1 car.
Rosemary initially trained as a seamstress and opened her own dress shop, which unexpectedly became her route into the world of motorsport when one of her clients invited her to navigate in a rally.
Rosemary has competed in some of the most iconic rallies around the world, taking home many trophies. A particularly poignant victory was the famous Tulip Rally, which she won in 1965, an achievement which made not only the motorsport world take notice but also Hollywood, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton sending her a huge bouquet and congratulatory letter.
Despite these achievements, Rosemary never got the chance to partake in arguably the greatest motorsport experience – driving a Formula One car – until now.
With encouragement from long-term friend and navigator, Pauline Gullick, in addition to current Renault F1 driver, Jolyon Palmer, Rosemary soon got to grips with the single-seater, increasing her confidence with every lap of the renowned Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, southern France.
Speaking of the experience Rosemary said: “Driving an 800bhp car is something I, like many other racers, have always dreamt of but I didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to do it, so when the team at Renault UK contacted me I jumped at the chance. It was definitely very different to the rally cars I’m used to but was an amazing experience. I could feel myself getting more and more comfortable with the single-seater and being able to speak to Jolyon, driver to driver, also helped when the nerves did kick in.
“After racing and facing the challenges of competing in a male-dominated sport together for many years I was so happy that my friend Pauline was able to share this latest milestone and give me that extra boost. It just goes to show that anyone can fulfil their dreams at any age if they put their mind to it and always follow their passions.”