Rosemary Smith was a rally driver from Dublin.
Her father taught her to drive at the age of 11 in a field in Tallaght. Leaving school at 15, Rosemary trained as a dress designer and model and opened a boutique dressmaking company. She was asked to navigate for a friend in a rally but soon took over the driving due to her inability to read a map.
She went on to drive in the Monte Carlo rally eight times. Rosemary won the Coupe des Dames on numerous occasions and competed in other iconic events all over the world. These included the London to Sydney in 1968, the World Cup London to Mexico in 1970 and the East African Safari Rally in the 1970s. In a Hillman Imp, Rosemary was the first and only woman driver to win the Tulip Rally outright, beating all the male drivers to the finish.
Rosemary was passionate about road safety and opened the Rosemary Smith School of Motoring in 1999 where she taught young people to drive for many years.
In 2017, at 79 years of age she became the oldest person to drive a Renault Sports Formula One team car.
Rosemary was an inspirational female motorsport pioneer who broke through the gender barrier to compete in and win some of the most iconic rallies in the world.
Her autobiography, Driven, (Harper Collins, 2018) is not only a story about fast cars and marathon rallies, she also writes with honesty about her early life, about a disastrous marriage, miscarriages and money troubles – and how she overcame it all. Rosemary’s trailblazing passion and determination, and her defiance of gender and age stereotyping, make for a fascinating, timely and truly inspirational story.
Rosemary Smith died in December 2023.