Kiwi Emma Gilmour becomes McLaren’s first female driver

McLaren Racing have announced Kiwi rally driver, Emma Gilmour, as the team’s first-ever female driver who will compete for the McLaren Extreme E team in 2022.

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The historic announcement was made during the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales

In a relatively new direction for the McLaren brand’s typical racing activity, they have committed to the exciting Extreme E racing series which sees electric SUVs competing in extreme environments around the world which have already been damaged or affected by climate and environmental issues. To cement the new direction, the brand has also locked in New Zealand rally ace, Emma Gilmour, as a driver in the series for 2022.

A native of Dunedin, New Zealand, Emma is known for her vast experience in rallying, rallycross, cross-country rallying and most recently competing in the inaugural season of Extreme E. In 2016 she became the first and only female to date to win a New Zealand Rally Championship event and also won the FIA Women in Motorsport and Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) cross-country rally selection in 2015. Emma completes McLaren Extreme E’s driver line-up for 2022 alongside US driver Tanner Foust.


The announcement of course is made all the more poignant with Emma being a compatriot of the team’s founder, racing legend, engineer and innovator, Bruce McLaren.


“I’m incredibly honoured to be McLaren Racing’s first female driver. Growing up in New Zealand, Bruce McLaren and McLaren Racing are seen as the pinnacles of motorsport. To be competing in Extreme E next year with McLaren is a special opportunity. The series is a fantastic platform that represents equality and addresses the key issues affecting our planet and society. I’m looking to draw on my previous experience in Extreme E alongside all my skills across rally, rallycross and cross-country rallying, that make me well-suited to the sport, to make a positive impact and inspire the next generation of female drivers and engineers. I can’t wait to get started with the team.”

Leena Gade joins the McLaren Extreme E team as Race Engineer from Multimatic, vehicle dynamics partner to McLaren Extreme E. The British female race engineer has a rich history in motorsport serving as a lead race engineer in the FIA World Endurance Championship and IndyCar series, most notably becoming the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011.


Following the announcement and before the 2022 race series begins, Emma Gilmour, Leena Gade and the McLaren Extreme E car will undertake further engagements, including a secondary school visit and a discussion at Newcastle University promoting future opportunities in technology. The engagements have been organised by McLaren Racing to illustrate the diversity and inclusion purpose behind the sport as well as the significance of its McLaren Racing Engage programme, which was launched in June, this year. The programme, which promotes diversity and inclusion and aims to open up opportunities in technology to all, is a strategic alliance with four expert partners (Women’s Engineering Society (WES), EqualEngineers, The Smallpeice Trust and Creative Access). Its purpose is to drive forward a series of collaborative initiatives to diversify talent in motorsport.

Behind McLaren’s diversified racing programme is Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing. “We’re proud to announce Emma Gilmour as the first-ever female driver for McLaren Racing. Emma completes our exciting and competitive driver line-up alongside Tanner Foust for our first season of Extreme E. She’s a race winner and has proven herself this year in Extreme E alongside a vast background in competitive off-roading in multiple racing series across the globe. It’s fitting that our first female driver originates from New Zealand where our founder Bruce McLaren was from.” Said Brown.

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