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07th Aug 2019

“Bloody woman driver… I just didn’t care, I loved racing” – Rosemary Smith

The disparaging remarks at the beginning of her career came fast and thick

Niamh Maher

“You get into a car, you shut the door and away you go”.

Rosemary Smith is full of stories. A rally driver with a career spanning fifty plus years, she was the queen of Motorsport in the 60s and 70s, a time when most women didn’t own cars let alone race them.

Rosemary’s list of accomplishments are long but to name a few the Dublin native was the first woman to win the Dutch ‘Tulip Rally’ in 1965, she went off the road during a race in the Andes and lived to tell the tale and a few years ago she became the oldest woman (or man) to drive a Formula One car at the ripe old age of 79.


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With Margaret Lowry my co driver #rallymontecarlo #montecarlorally #montecarlorallyehistorique #throwbackpic #thosewerethedays

A post shared by Rosemary Smith (@rosemarysmith_rally) on

Aside from her world famous status and dazzling career on the track her personal life was, at times, far from glamorous. Rosemary admitted in her autobiography ‘Driven’ that she went through tough times including losing her home after a marriage break-down and a turbulent relationship with her mother.

Despite these struggles, rally driving and racing remained a consistent throughout her life and as her career shows no sign of slowing down we invited her to join us on PlayXPlay as she celebrates her 82nd birthday this week.

Watch the full show below or keep on reading for more.

Motorsport has (like many sports) been traditionally male dominated. When Rosemary began winning, rather than getting the praise she deserved she recalled a few “choice words” that were used:

“You learn very quickly… they’d say things like ‘Bloody women drivers’ as they still do nowadays and then they went onto ‘This dolly bird, what does she know about anything?'”

Despite these words, Rosemary never cared what people thought, it was all about one thing for her:

“These sort of disparaging remarks, I just didn’t care. I loved racing, the freedom you get when you hop into a car you shut the door and away you go”

On this week’s episode we also spoke about the 20×20 campaign and whether Rosemary had any role models or heroes she looked up to when she first got involved in racing:

“I admired Pat Moss because she was rallying when I was sort of just going into it and she was nearly coming out of it then, but she was so good and I sort of said ‘if she can do it now then I’ll follow what she’s doing’ and she used to talk to me about the thinking and the psychology behind it.”

Having a mentor at that time, especially for female drivers, wasn’t usual, as Rosemary explained:

“Pat sort of gave me little bits of information and little tips about this, that and the other which I thought was really very good of her because you know there are very few people that you would listen to sort of way back then but she was so sincere about it”


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A little trip down memory lane ?

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Speaking of sincerity you can listen to Rosemary’s full interview with Jenny below and don’t forget to subscribe to the show on Spotify, Soundcloud and Apple podcasts.