You mightn’t recognise the name, but Rosemary Smith is without a doubt one of the most important people in the history of motorsport. Having originally trained as a dressmaker, Rosemary stumbled into the world of rallying in the mid-1960s and went on to win some of the most iconic top-flight rallies on earth in an era when women were more likely to be seen draped over the bonnet of a car than behind the wheel. Watch the remarkable film below as, at 79 years old, the Dublin-born driver who still rallies to this day has defied the odds once again to become the oldest person to get in the cockpit of a Renaultsport Formula One car.
Along with friend and long-time co-driver Pauline Gullick, Rosemary was invited by Renault to the Circuit Paul Ricard in the south of France, where she was trained up by Renault F1 driver Jolyon Palmer. She 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.” Dave Monk, executive creative director of Publicis London, which created the film, said: “It’s not very often you unearth a story like Rosemary's, she's a remarkable woman, a tremendous athlete, and embodies the kind of passion for life we can all learn a lesson or two from.”