Emma Gilmour and Tanner Foust: one's a winner of the FIA Women in Motorsport and Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation cross country rally selection and the first and only female to date to win a New Zealand Rally Championship event, the other is a four-time U.S. rallycross champion, four-time X Games gold medallist, two-time Formula Drift champion and record-breaking stunt driver. But, beyond the headlines and accolades, what are they really like? We asked the all-important questions to get to know our Extreme E drivers a little better…
1. Where were you born?
Emma Gilmour: Dunedin, New Zealand. I'm a Kiwi just like Bruce [McLaren]. And it's still home for me.
Tanner Foust: Denver, Colorado. I never actually lived there, I was just born there and then moved to Monterey, California. I lived in Scotland from age nine to 13 and then went to college in Boulder, Colorado.
2. Where is your favourite place?
EG: That would definitely be home, where family and friends are.
TF: I live in Newport Beach, California now and the mountains in Southern California are pretty awesome. Yeah, I'd say the mountains in Colorado or the beach. Honestly, it doesn't really matter, as long as the sun is out, I'm having a good time.
3. What's your favourite piece of clothing?
EG: I love clothes and fashion. I don't think I could pick one single item.
TF: I'm kind of the opposite. I like just a worn-in hoodie, just a good ol' beaten-in hoodie on a Sunday morning with a movie.
4. Favourite racing driver?
EG: That's tough. There are so many great ones out there and we have a lot of talented drivers from New Zealand as well. But it has to be Bruce, given everything he achieved and what he started with McLaren. It's why racing for McLaren is so exciting for me. I have to keep pinching myself. I get goose bumps when I think about it. I never imagined crossing paths with this great motorsport name because I've done a lot of rally driving and forms of racing that are different from what McLaren has traditionally competed in.
TF: During those young, impressionable years I spent in Scotland I became a fan of Colin McRae. I was lucky enough to team up with him at the X Games and I was immediately half-a-second quicker every mile after riding just the one time with him in a rally car. Riding with him was an extreme education very early in my career. Another favourite driver of mine, like Emma's, is a Kiwi: it's Rod Millen. I was fortunate enough to compete against both Rod and Colin and they both had amazing mind games – it was a very good education.
5. What's in your heavy rotation?
EG: It changes depending on what new music gets released. At the moment it would be that Elton John, Dua Lipa 'Cold Heart' remix.
TF: The playlist that I always end up going back to is the '80s. Everything from Fleetwood Mac to Elton John, you name it, the '80s was a great era for music. There are just so many solid hits from that time.
6. What's your phone wallpaper at the moment?
EG: Me and my partner Brendon.
TF: My daughter and her dog Rocky.
7. You can invite three people to dinner, dead or alive, who do you invite?
EG: This is really challenging.
TF: I think we can tackle this one together. We were just talking about Colin McRae, so I think he would be really cool.
EG: And then someone else we've already mentioned would be Bruce. I think inviting people from a different era, who've passed away, would be so interesting - to learn more about what they experienced.
TF: And I think I would take an astronaut. I would take Neil Armstrong or somebody from the heyday of aerospace in the '60s. I think what they did with the technology available at the time is quite incredible: to go all the way to the moon! I'd love to pick his brain.
EG: I'm happy with that… with '80s music in the background, of course.
8. What's the best piece of advice you've ever received and what's the worst?
EG: Be patient. That's probably the best advice.
TF: The best advice is always a little cliché – that's why it's a cliché because it's good advice. But for me, the best advice would be: it's about the journey, not the destination.
EG: Worst advice would probably be someone telling me that a corner was flat or something like that and it wasn't!
TF: I've had a racing buddy say if you're not taking advantage of your friends, you're not gonna win. He was talking about raising money to go racing. It's advice I never followed. I never crossed that line and was still able to keep moving forward in my career, so I really think it was terrible advice. I'm glad I didn't take it.
9. If you could have a superpower what would it be?
TF: Ah, absolutely! Definitely flying.
10. What inspires you?
EG: I would say life in general. You're only here for a short time, so you've just got to make the most of each opportunity and the time that you've got.
TF: I'm inspired by people who get more done in their lifetime than seems possible. You read about or meet people who are doing so many amazing things and really changing the world. They're consuming the same air and eating the same foods that you do, but they're literally changing the planet or humanity. It makes me feel very lazy but, at the same time, it inspires me to get up and do more.
11. Is that what makes this chapter you're about to write with McLaren in Extreme E so exciting – that you can try to change things and make a difference?
TF: I feel lucky to be in the right place at the right time. There's a flipping of the coin right now in motorsport, from combustion to electric, and to be riding the beginning of the wave with McLaren and Extreme E is very exciting.
EG: I feel the same. We're very blessed to be doing this. I think there are so many positives that come with Extreme E: the equality side of it with 50% of the grid being female and 50% being male; the electric side of it; the climate side and so on.
12. What are you afraid of?
EG: Well, I could go with the obvious one. Death. [Laughs.] But what I mean by 'death', going back to my answer to the previous question, is more running out of time to do things you want to do you. On a less sombre note, I would say heights.
TF: Wait, so you're afraid of heights but your superpower would be flying?
EG: Yeah, but that would be different because if you could fly you could stop yourself from falling – you wouldn't have to worry about gravity so much.
TF: Ah, gotcha. I'm afraid of obsessing over things too much – like getting too involved in something. Sometimes I'm not the best at keeping a balance in life. I've got better at it, for sure, but that's one thing I try to keep in check. I try to make decisions geared towards having a balance because my default is to obsess over racing, championships, hobbies, or whatever.
13. If you weren't a professional racing driver, what would you be doing?
EG: For about 11 years I've run a car dealership out in New Zealand, so that's what I'd be doing.
TF: I think I'd be a pilot or an architect. I was actually about to go to medical school but then I was saved by motorsport. [Laughs.] The alternative was to go into the military to fly planes, but I grew up loving architecture and I think, even if I became a pilot at some point, I would have gone back to architecture school and gone that route.
14. What's your biggest achievement in motorsport?
EG: You see a lot of younger people trying to come through, but it's a tough sport. It's got to be one of the toughest sports because no matter how much talent you have, you need the team around you, you need a fast and reliable car, you need so many things to go in your favour. And I think having the persistence to go through the tough times and to still be here even when the chips are down, that's a big achievement.
TF: I think just breaking into motorsport and making a living out of it. Motorsport wasn't really part of my background, there was nobody in my family who had even been to a race. It was a bit of an off-the-wall direction to take, so to get to a place where I could make a living from it was really a dream that almost seemed unattainable.
15. When did you realise you could make it as a racing driver?
TF: I started to believe that I could make a living in motorsport when I learned enough about the business behind the scenes – when I learned how to be a effective player in a marketing movement that could affect the income of sponsors or move the needle in positive direction for those companies. It's a moving target but understanding the marketing goals of sponsors was the key to making a living behind the wheel. For someone breaking into Motorsport from the outside it was almost as important as having a shot at the win.
EG: From very early on, when I first started, I knew I had the ability to be very good. But as is the case in motorsport, there are so many other factors that determine whether you make it and whether you get the opportunities that come from making it. So, when I started, my aim was to race professionally, but the business that I have came about because of the relationships I got through motorsport.
16. Bruce McLaren's first car was an Austin 7. What was yours?
EG: So, first road car was in the '90s. It was a little Toyota Trueno.
TF: I wrecked mine. It was a brown '83 Honda Civic wagon – you had to turn the air conditioning off to keep up with traffic. And I wrecked it big time. It's the biggest crash I've ever had: rolled seven times back over front. After that, I bought a faster car…
EG: For the record, my first car didn't suffer the same fate as Tanner's. [Laughs.]
17. If you could race anywhere in the world, where would it be?
EG: Pikes Peak would be a great one to tick off the list. But the Dakar Rally would be pretty amazing too.
TF: I think the answer to this question probably changes on which day you get asked but going back to Colin McRae and thinking of him rallying in New Zealand, the roads with the ditches and the banking there and flicking from one bank to the next looked so fun. It looks like you'd just get into a zone.
18. What's the most 'extreme' thing you've done in motorsport?
EG: Going upside down? [Laughs.]
TF: I think the world record loop-the-loop back in 2012 would be the most extreme. That didn't seem like a good idea afterwards: six stories high; upside down; the car breaking every time we tried. We tried three times in testing and broke something every time. So, in hindsight, it wasn't the smartest thing.
Breaking the world record for distance jumped in a four-wheel-drive vehicle was a bigger stunt, though. It was a 332-foot jump at the Indy 500, in front of 300,000 people, but at least you could actually build up to it with smaller jumps.
But with the loop-the-loop, you just had to do it. There was like a 21-year-old engineer with the numbers saying it will work but we didn't believe him, so we made them build a remote-control version of the real car and it crashed in a huge fireball. Turned out the guy driving it touched something on the way up the ramp and lost some speed so that's why it fell out of the sky. Yeah, that was scary.
EG: There are times I look back at stuff I've done when rallying and think, "Yeah, that was a bit crazy." I did a tarmac rally once where we took sponsors for rides as the co-driver. I took this one sponsor out while it was absolutely chucking it down with rain, which always makes you a bit nervous when you're doing high speeds on tarmac. And as we're whizzing along at 150mph-plus he's there tightening his seatbelts out of fear and I'm there loosening mine so I can get the window down to flick the windscreen wiper, which had got caught on my side, out of the way.
19. How will you prepare for racing in Extreme E next year?
EG: I think spending some time driving in the sand and would be quite beneficial for us before the first event in Saudi Arabia because the sand dunes there are probably quite a specialist surface. Other than that, obviously, making sure you're fit and healthy. The cars are pretty physical to drive, so you do have to be quite strong. One of the challenges of Extreme E is that there are no tracks from last year that you can look back at and research and practice on.
TF: I'm pretty lucky where I live: there's quite a lot of sand and things to go play around in. But, for me, I think the preparation is mainly going to be focused on two areas. On the car side, it'll be about the testing and development, and communicating with the engineers to find out what they've managed to learn back at the McLaren Technology Centre. And then the other area that's going to be a big focus is learning about nutrition for travel. I used to race out in Europe, I'd come out about 15 times every summer and would try to get in and out before the jet lag hit, but that's not really possible in Extreme E when you're at a particular location for a full week. So, to stay 100%, I'll be doing a lot of learning about nutrition and best practice for dealing with jet lag and maintaining concentration.
20. What do you bring to Extreme E that no other driver does?
EG: Well, I'm the only Kiwi on the grid. But I'd like to think that I'm one of the friendliest and most approachable drivers too.
TF: I have experience in nearly all of the different disciplines that the other drivers in Extreme E have been involved with – I think I've competed with almost all of them at some point – so maybe having a diverse background from sampling so many different motorsport disciplines would be a difference?
EG: You'd be the only stunt driver, wouldn't you?
TF: [Snaps fingers.] Only stunt driver! I'm the only driver to dress up as Keanu Reeves, Matt Damon and Chris Hemsworth. I mean, if Johan Kristofferson (three-time World Rallycross champion and Extreme E driver) says he's done that, I'm just gonna call him out. That one's definitely mine!
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