There are a lot of things to dislike about Extreme E in its first season. The trucks look pretty slow, the racing is difficult to follow, the broadcast is hard to even see here in the U.S. market, three examples is enough. But one thing that I really like about Extreme E is that the series mandates each team employ one woman racer. Because then you get to find out interesting things like the fact that most racing teams worldwide, even those as storied and long-lived as McLaren, have never given a woman an opportunity in a race car before.
Zak Brown’s revitalized Papaya Orange organization has been making a lot of great moves this year, including fighting for the championship in IndyCar, and winning its first Formula One Grand Prix in several years. While McLaren was in financial dire straits last year, thanks to the global pandemic, it made the right cuts and focused its strengths on recovery. You know, plus the fact that it sold off the McLaren Technical Center building, and took a big capital investment from the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
In any case, it’s nice to see that for the first time in 58 years of racing, the McLaren organization has hired a woman. Like Bruce McLaren before her, she’s a Kiwi racer, and her name is Emma Gilmour. She might be familiar to those of you who follow Antipodean rally, or even Extreme E closely. She formerly slotted into Jamie Chadwick’s seat twice while she needed to be off racing in the W Series. So not only is Gilmour an experience rallyist, but she’s the only woman in the world to have raced in Extreme E before not already under contract with another team.
Gilmour will partner with American Tanner Foust, who is already a well-known certified wheelman, and the pairing should do well together. Interestingly, the pairing will be racing under the tutelage of three-time Le Mans 24 winning engineer Leena Gade. If anyone knows how to strategically manipulate a race weekend, it’s going to be Gade. She’s an absolute badass on the pit box, and I look forward to watching her whip this McLaren team into shape.
All of this was announced during McLaren Racing’s 2022 season livery unveiling, and the team’s car looks totally rad as hell. Done up in traditional McLaren Papaya, the electric off-roader has a bunch of tattoo-influenced designs all over it, paying homage to the team’s history. I, for one, absolutely love it.
McLaren will be the tenth team to join the electric off-road racing series, along with Veloce Racing, Rosberg X Racing, Jenson Button’s JBXE, Andretti United (also partially owned by McLaren boss Zak Brown), Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Team, Hispano Suiza, Sainz XE, Chip Ganassi Racing, and Abt Cupra. For a brand new series, Extreme E has a lot of strong competition from some of the most legendary names in motorsport.
“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.”