Racing driver with strong Limerick roots makes waves in motor sport

Racing driver with strong Limerick roots makes waves in motor sport

Number one: Alice Powell celebrates after winning the W Series race – which is supporting Formula 1 – at Silverstone in front of over 100,000 motor racing fans last month

IF YOU saw a close-up of Alice Powell’s helmet after taking the chequered flag at Silverstone in front of over 100,000 fans last month you would have spotted both British and Irish flags.

The 28-year-old racing driver was born in Chipping Norton, England but comes from Limerick stock. She is competing in the ground-breaking women-only W Series which is supporting Formula 1 this year. Alice, who learnt to drive a car at only six, is currently in second place after yet another podium finish in Hungary at the weekend.

Her Limerick roots are very important to her.

“My grandfather (Jim Fraser) is always talking about Limerick and our close bonds with our Limerick relatives. The last time that I was in Limerick was when my fiancé James took me there for a weekend visit in 2018 to propose to me. I had planned to go to Ireland with my friends in April 2020, but we had to cancel our plans due to Covid-19. I plan to travel there again soon,” said Alice.

She has family links to the city, grandad, Jim grew up in Barrington Street, Mungret, Effin and Galbally where the Frasers are the undertakers.

Alice’s dream is to become the first successful female driver in Formula 1 but unlike most sports, talent alone won’t take a person to the top. 

“Drivers need to find up to €8 million to pay for the lower stages. Until W Series selected me, I had been trying to find the budget for four years to get my foot on the ladder to Formula 1. I am keeping my options open, with many other racing series, like Formula E, also an option.

“Earlier on today, I was invited by Envision Virgin Racing (Richard Branson) to be their simulator and development driver for Formula E which are all electric cars. I intend to do this job as well as trying to get to F1,” said Alice, who is well aware of the risks involved every time she is strapped in.

“The cars that we drive are running at over 150mph, and if you go straight into a barrier at that speed you will suffer injury. I trained my friend Billy Monger, and when he ran into the back of a car, aged 17, he lost both legs. You have to put the dangers out of your mind,” said Alice, who set up a JustGiving page for the family of a marshal killed at Brands Hatch last weekend.

When she is not in the air, behind the wheel, coaching, mentoring or commentating she can be found driving machinery in the family business.

“I still have arguments with my grandad, who to this day still wants me to do building labours work, which I fit in when I can! Racing is very busy at the moment,” smiles Alice. Grandad, Jim said he is “naturally proud of Alice”.

“I try to instil the principles in her that I found at St Munchin’s College. It is not until you leave Limerick, and travel the world, that you realise how good a place it is. Despite Alice being born in the UK, she still feels a bit of a Limerick girl and this is why she has always worn the Irish tricolour on her racing helmet and shows the flag on Alice Powell tweets,” said Jim, who expressed his gratitude to the priests at St Munchin’s in 1956. 

“Despite my failing my inter exam due to my own fault the priests really inspired me, especially in the evenings when we had debates, as these debates inspired me and made me what I am today. I am eternally grateful for their patience with me. I never get fed up of watching the opening of the new St Munchin’s College in Corbally on the internet when Bishop Murphy (my old science teacher) helped to open it,” said Jim, who is looking forward to returning to Limerick with Alice to see family and pay their respects at his parents’ graves in Effin and Galbally.

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