NINETEEN-year-old Alice Powell, who has strong Limerick links, hopes to become the first successful female in Formula 1 history.
Alice has just started racing for Irish team Status GP in the GP3 Series. It supports Formula 1 races in Europe and are shown live on Sky Sports. It is her first season and she has already caught the eye of many in the racing world with a storming performance in Monaco.
Alice learnt to drive a car at the age of six and started karting at eight. Proving her talent, she won the same championship as Lewis Hamilton at a younger age than him.
“In 2010 when I was 17 I beat all the guys that I was racing against in the UK Formula Renault British Racing Automobile Club championship.
“I was one of the youngest out there. That was the same car that Lewis Hamilton raced when he was 18 and won his British Championship,” said Alice.
Born in Chipping Norton in England, Alice became the first female to ever win a Formula Renault race not mind the overall title.
She sports Irish and British flags on her helmet due to her strong Limerick links.
“I’m half Irish. It’s very important to me. My granddad, Jim Fraser, used to live in Barrington Street. He went to the Model and St Munchin’s,” said Alice. School.
Mr Fraser emigrated to England in the 1950’s but the family kept their close links to their native county.
“My grandmother, Margaret Fraser, is buried in Crecora and I visit her grave whenever I come home. Michael Fraser, my granddad’s brother, lives in Mungret and his daughter Jane Fraser is a jazz singer so I call to see them,” said Alice.
She is trying to make history by becoming the first success-ful female driver and also has a deep interest in her family’s history.
“I go to see my great grandmother, Theresa Fraser’s grave in Effin near Kilmallock. My mum, Eileen Powell, was actually born in Malta and spent time in Limerick near Barrington Street,” says Alice.
She recalls fondly visits to her aunt Lily Barrett (nee Wall) in Effin; Eleanor and Margo Fraser in Kilmallock and the Frasers in Galbally, who are the undertakers.
“They are all over the place. I was last in Limerick two years ago but I’d like to visit again later this year,” Alice.
On one trip she even took in a game of hurling.
“I like hockey so when I come to Ireland I like to watch hurling. When I went out two years ago I went to watch my aunt’s son play for Effin. They played against Bruree.
“It is a lot more aggressive than hockey. It’s a good sport. I really like watching it. I don’t think I’ll play it though,” laughs Alice.
A broken finger from a hurley wouldn’t be ideal as she steers her 2 litre 280 bhp turbo powered Renault engine with a top speed of 250kph around tracks like Monaco and Valencia!
Aged just 19, Alice has a long career ahead of her but she has her sights firmly set on Formula 1. GP3 is a training ground for young drivers hoping to reach Formula One.
“There has been five female drivers in Formula 1 but they haven’t had much success - that’s my aim. The UK economy has taken a bit of nose dive, it is really quite hard for females in motorsport to get sponsorship at the moment.
“It’s not cheap, it’s not like football or even hurling. You go buy a hurley and go out and play, it is a bit more expensive.
“I’m really lucky to be running with the Irish team Status GP which is run by David Kennedy,” said Alice.
Everyone fancies themselves as a great driver but there are many factors that separate the men from the boys, or in Alice’s case - the women from the girls. “You’ve got to have talent and you need to have the budget to go out testing. If you have got the best equipment and go out testing, it’s really important. That’s vital. When I went in to GP3 I had only two test days in the car. Everybody else has a year and a half of driving in the car or about 12 test days.
“So we went in to the first race in Barcelona not expecting much - may be top 20 but we managed to finish 11th which was really pleasing,” said Alice. She is just back from Monaco where again she finished just outside the top 10 on the famous road circuit. Next stop is Valencia from June 22 to 24 and Alice will be in top gear to reach the podium and spray champagne.
And when she does there will be many in County Limerick toasting her success.