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Rootes Rally Driver Rosemary Smith


Platinum Level Sponsor
Irish Motorsport Legend Rosemary Smith passes, aged 86.
Dublin, Ireland - December 5 2023
Rosemary Smith, born on 7 August 1937, has passed away peacefully today at the Beacon Hospital in Dublin.
Rosemary etched her name in the annals of motorsport history as a pioneering rally driver from Dublin, Ireland. With a career spanning decades, Smith's journey is a testament to her skill, determination, and groundbreaking achievements on the racing circuits and rally stages.
Smith's initiation into rallying began as a co-driver, but her love for the driver's seat led to a pivotal role change, catching the attention of the Rootes Group's Competition Department, which offered her a coveted works drive. Having clinched the ladies' prize at the Circuit of Ireland Rally in 1964, the year 1965 marked a significant milestone in her career when she, alongside co-driver Valerie Domleo, secured victory in the four-day Dutch Tulip Rally, manoeuvring a factory-entered Hillman Imp through 1,800 miles of challenging terrain.
Despite facing controversy and disqualification in the 1966 Monte Carlo Rally, Smith's resolve remained unbroken, leading to a series of triumphs, including an outright win in the 1969 Cork 20 Rally and multiple victories on renowned stages like the Scottish Rally, the Alpine Rally, the Canadian Shell 4000, the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon and the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally..
Beyond the racetrack, Rosemary Smith's life story is a narrative of resilience and passion. Born in 1937, she defied societal norms, learning to drive at 11 under her father's guidance and obtaining a driving license at 16 through resourceful means. Her foray into fashion design, including setting up a boutique with her mother, added another layer to her diverse persona.
Smith went on to drive for many of the leading motor manufacturers of the time, including Ford, BL, Porsche, Opel, Lancia and Chrysler Talbot amongst others, showcasing her driving prowess but also as a trailblazer for Irish motorsport.
In 1978, Smith set a new land speed record in Cork, adding another achievement to her illustrious career.
In the 1990s, Smith expanded her influence by founding a driving school, imparting her wealth of knowledge to aspiring drivers. One of her crowning moments came on 10 May 2017, when, at the age of 79, she became the oldest person to drive an 800bhp F1 racing car during a test drive with the Renault F1 Team at the Circuit Paul Ricard in France, a remarkable feat that went unnoticed by the Guinness Book of Records.
in 2018, she penned her memoirs in the hugely popular "Driven by Rosemary Smith" book. In 2022 she was inducted into FIVA ( Fédération International des Véhicules Anciens) Hall of Fame.
As Rosemary Smith's legacy continues to inspire generations, her remarkable journey stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of an Irish motorsport legend.

I had the occasion to meet Rosemary Smith at the 2004 SUNI meet in Park City, Utah. What a vibrant impressive individual. The day before SUNI's Rally drive I saw Smith descending the staircase in the hotel. Her glamor and grace was juxtapose to her reputation as a Rally driver. I thought she may be the ideal person to request partnering up in my Series III Alpine for the next day's Rally event. I approached and introduced myself receiving a firm handshake and inviting smile. I asked, "Say I have an empty seat for a navigator in tomorrow's Rally. Would you like to join me?" With a pointed and acute response she said, "I don't navigate, I drive! I will be driving Steve Alcala's #41 Sebring Alpine tribute car tomorrow." She provided another impression on me at that 2004 event when she took the wheel of the #9 Sunbeam Tiger Lister Le Mans Coupe for an auto-cross run and was doing 360 degree donuts around any turn she intentionally missed on the exit. If you ever get the chance to read Peter Harper's 1964 book Destination Monte there are many stories with Rosemary Smith being noted. Cheers to Rosemary Smith - RIP.
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Bill Blue

Platinum Level Sponsor
My wife and I met Rosemary at the Colorado SUNI. We met her while we were getting our hotel room and had no idea who she was, just an outgoing, down to earth, great person. We were anticipating enjoying her presence at the Independence SUNI and were very disappointed when we learned she was not going to be there.


Diamond Level Sponsor
I read about Rosemary Smith shortly after becoming a Tiger

owner in the late '70s, and read the Mike Taylor book,

TIGER The Making of a sportscar.

And then also in the Imp world where she is a BIG


I saw her at a Vintage Race event before meeting her

at the 1997 Tigers United at Eureka, CA.

Rosemary was ALWAYS a Great treat!