McLaren announced New Zealander Emma Gilmour as their first female racer on Wednesday with the rally driver set to compete in the new electric Extreme E off-road series next year.
The announcement during the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow took the British-based team back to its origins, with late founder and first driver Bruce McLaren also a New Zealander.
“I keep pinching myself. It is so surreal. Growing up in New Zealand, Bruce McLaren is such an iconic name with New Zealand motorsport,” Gilmour told reporters. “I never imagined, I never day-dreamed about racing for McLaren because I was a rally driver.
“To have my passion in motorsport, my rallying, be a skill set that’s now allowed me to race for a childhood, iconic motorsport legend is just a dream come true. I feel so, so honoured.”
McLaren are Formula One’s second most successful team after Ferrari, making their debut in Monaco in 1966 with their founder at the wheel.
They won Formula One titles with Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton and have branched out into other areas of motorsport, including IndyCar.
“McLaren is still thought of as a Kiwi team because of our heritage and Bruce being the founder… I still get goose-bumps thinking about it,” said Gilmour.
Extreme E started this year and teams must have a male and a female driver.
The series, which uses identical SUVs, aims to raise awareness about climate change and promote sustainability by racing in remote and harsh environments already suffering damage.
Formula One world champions Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button are among the team owners with McLaren the 10th outfit to sign up and debuting in 2022.
Gilmour, who has been a reserve for the Veloce team this season, will partner American rallycross and stunt driver Tanner Foust in the McLaren lineup.
“To be the first female driver for McLaren Racing, I feel that’s leaving a pretty impressive mark already,” she said when asked about future success.