Ireland’s Rosemary Smith joins global motoring hall of fame

Smith topped out her career behind the wheel in 2017 when at 79 she became the oldest person to drive a current specification F1 car

Irish motorsport legend Rosemary Smith has been honoured by the global federation of motoring heritage FIVA, who recently made her one of nine 2022 nominees to the Heritage Hall of Fame.

Joining Smith as nominees are German double World Rally champion Walter Röhrl and Italian Cesare Fiorio, who was the Ferrari F1 team manager and Lancia WRC team principal in the 1990s. Also nominated are three greats from an earlier era, the pre-war Czech racing ace Elisabeth Junek (1900-1994), the far-seeing Soichiro Honda (1906-1991) and Italian car design pioneer Battista Pininfarina (1893-1966).

Smith had an incredible career in motorsport in the 1950s and 1960s initially, with a crowning triumph on her outright victory in the Dutch Tulip Rally of 1965, the equivalent of a World Rally Championship round today. She competed in eight Monte Carlo rallies and finished some of the most arduous long-distance events — the London to Sydney rally (1968) and the 1970 London to Mexico rally.

Willing and capable of competing successfully in all manner of motorsport events, from the 12 Hours of Sebring to Goodwood Revival, Smith topped out her career behind the wheel in 2017 when at 79 she became the oldest person to drive a current specification Formula One car, as she successfully tested the Renault Sport F1 car at Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France.

Smith expressed her delight at the award: “I had no idea that this might happen. I was very pleasantly surprised when I was advised of it. The IVVCC [Irish Veteran and Vintage Car Club] put my name forward, and I am grateful to president Myles O’Reilly and delegate to FIVA Peadar Ward for their efforts.”

In recent years Smith has been a great advocate of transition year, young driver training and, since her F1 test, is a brand ambassador for Renault Ireland.

Renault Ireland country operations manager Paddy Magee said: “Rosemary was a female pioneer in motorsport and still today she is making her mark with her driver training programme. We are delighted at Renault Group Ireland that she has been recognised by FIVA Heritage in this way, she is a very special lady.”

FIVA has a seven person judging panel for the annual Heritage Hall of Fame, including US media star Jay Leno and ex-Pink Floyd musician and car collector Nick Mason. FIVA has more than one million members via 67 national motoring heritage organisations across the world.