Seventy-nine-year-old Rosemary Smith has shrugged off elderly driver stereotypes by lapping a French race track in an 800-hp Formula One car.
As part of the Renault Sport F1 team’s 40th anniversary celebrations, rally driver Rosemary was invited to get behind the wheel of an F1 car at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, southern France.
But Rosemary isn’t an ordinary 79-year-old lady. Although she originally trained as a seamstress and opened her own dress shop, one of her clients invited her to join them navigating in a rally. Soon, the Dublin-born adrenaline junkie switched to the driver’s seat and started winning trophies.
After years of competing (and taking home the silver) in world rallying, Smith bought a Renault Clio and established her own driving school. For two decades, she’s campaigned for young driver education to be introduced in schools across the country. But never before has she driven an F1 car.
With long-time friend and navigator Pauline Gullick on hand to support Rosemary’s drive, as well as Renault Sport driver Jolyon Palmer, the rally-driving seamstress soon got to grips with the F1 car.
“Driving an 800-hp 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,” said Rosemary. “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.”
Envious of Rosemary’s F1 drive? You could have the opportunity to follow in her footsteps. Renault is offering anyone who test drives a car at any of its dealerships the chance to be one of 10 lucky winners who will be able to try their hand in a genuine Formula One race car.