Interviews
3 oct 22

Emma Gilmour, McLaren Extreme E: Safety is priority

A 20-year veteran of rally car racing, Emma Gilmour is the latest Extreme E driver for the McLaren racing team and the first woman to ever compete for the high-performance automotive company.

Being a New Zealander just like the company’s founder, racing champion and car designer Bruce McLaren, Ms. Gilmour told me during her visit last visit to the United States that it was mind blowing when she got the call in 2021 to join the team as McLaren is a huge name in New Zealand.

As Global Fleet Editor, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Ms. Gilmour on the sidelines of the Merchants Fleet Summit in New Hampshire last week and this is what I found out.

(photo: Global Fleet Editor - Americas - Daniel Bland and Emma Gilmour)

Is it more important to drive fast or to drive safe?

Gilmour: Safety is absolutely more important and a priority.  We wouldn’t drive so fast if we didn’t feel safe, and our cars certainly have a lot of safety features. We have roll cages, a safety seat, safety harness, helmets with neck protection, and even fire-proof underwear. So, like I said, we wouldn’t go so fast if we didn’t feel safe.

I love going fast, but racing is also about the journey. As an Extreme E driver, we drive in remote locations and in interesting places so it's really about the experiences you face.  

What’s the difference between racing an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle and an electric vehicle (EV).

Gilmour: For the EV, you don’t have to worry about gear changes or being in the right power range so its simple and easier to drive in that regard. You also get instant torque, so the power is lovely.

There is also no wear and tear on the engine that you must worry about like in an ICE vehicle. However, there is still wear and tear on other things like brakes, shocks, and drive shafts. We also need to deal with battery charges between racing sessions.   

And what powertrain does your personal car run on?

Gilmour: Well, my car is not electric because I have a Suzuki franchisee dealership and I only use Suzuki vehicles. Although there are hybrids in the portfolio, there are no full electrics. Without the dealership responsibility, I might have had an EV.  I don’t drive long distances so it would be fine for me.  Having an EV all depends on the lifestyle of the person.

How does it feel to be part of the McClaren team and to be the first female driver?

Gilmour: Well, it is like a fairy tale to me. I feel so honored and proud to be part of such a great brand. The team members that I work with are absolutely excellent at what they do in their roles, but they are also very down to earth and humble.

So, being part of the legacy of Bruce McClaren as well as the first female driver and a fellow New Zealander feels very special.


Extreme E racing, courtesy of Emma Gilmour's official website

“Dancing with your car at high speed on gravel, getting it to flick and slide through an apex - nothing else matches the buzz you get from rally driving.” Emma Gilmour

Although driving fast is certainly not as much of a priority for corporate fleet drivers as it is for Ms. Gilmour, being safe certainly is. For fleet manager networking and the sharing of best practices, join the Global Fleet Managers Club. The next session is scheduled Tuesday (4 October) and is entitled "How to manage Global Fleet Safety".  

Top Photo: handout

Authored by: Daniel Bland
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