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97 -year-old woman takes on Trans-America rally

The world's oldest rally navigator will compete in a 1963 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III

Published: June 4, 2015, 11:25 PM
Updated: April 29, 2018, 1:54 PM

1963 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III - Trans-America Rally 2012 - 97-year-old Dorothy Campbell is navigator in a 1963 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III in the Trans-America Rally

Dorothy Caldwell is 97 years old. And she's about to embark on a 9,350-km journey across North America as a navigator in an endurance rally. For the second time!

The second Trans-America Challenge rally begins in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Sunday, June 7 and it is scheduled to finish in San Francisco, California, on Sunday, June 28. There will be 45 participants in cars ranging from a 1927 Bentley 4.5 litre to a 1973 MGB GT.

97-year-old Dorothy Caldwell. - 97-year-old Dorothy Caldwell takes on Trans-America Rally as a navigator

Caldwell, who is believed to be the world’s oldest rally navigator, also took part in the first Trans-America Challenge in 2012, when she was awarded the prize for “Spirit of the Rally.”

As navigator for her son Alistair, in his 1963 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III, her duties will include looking after the maps, updates and a trip meter. It’s a role that requires dedication and a constant state of alert; as the rally navigates a difficult route through challenging terrain.

"The first rally I did with Alastair was in Suffolk in 2011, Caldwell says. It seemed like quite a simple thing to me, so when he asked if I would navigate for him on the first Trans-America Challenge back in 2012, I said I would!"

Her son, Alastair Caldwell, is famous as the former manager of the McLaren Formula One team. He says his mother has never attempted to ‘pull rank’ from behind the map. “We’ve never had a cross word on a rally; it’s a team effort and we work very well together.”

They've also rallied together in Burma. “I’ll only come if he takes the Rolls-Royce though,” says Dorothy. “It’s more comfortable than his sports cars, and it has air conditioning!"

Despite her years, Dorothy remains sharp and awake throughout, regardless of the rally. "I’m starting to find it harder," she admits. "I’m beginning to need glasses for distance, and I think it might be time to ease back a little. So this will probably be my last big rally.

“But Alastair tells me there’s going to be one in New Zealand soon… so I might be back for that.”