"Someone said to me it must be a dream come true to drive a Formula 1 car, but it wasn't even a dream because I didn't think it would ever be possible - and I've driven two now."
It has been a whirlwind 12 months for Irish racing driver Nicole Drought.
In August, she piloted Derek Daly's 1981 Formula 1 March 812 at the Mondello Park Historic Festival.
Then, just before lockdown hit in February, she drove a 1992 Jordan Formula 1 car in the Florida sunshine.
"It's insane and to say you've driven one is incredible," said the Roscrea drive.
"Even people who aren't into motorsport, once they hear you have driven a Formula 1 car their ears are up."
Drought's father used to rally and race, and after following him across Ireland, the 25-year-old says she was "utterly hooked" on motorsport.
To make her Formula 1 experience even more incredible, Drought was a late starter after first getting behind the wheel in 2015.
Despite that, she became the first woman to win in the Irish Touring Car Championship, and subsequently raced, with success, in the Global GT Lights and Irish Stryker sportscars.
Drought caught the attention of Irish, USA-based businessman John Campion, and now under the Cork native's CJJ Motorsports banner, a season in the Britcar Endurance Championship awaits.
Campion, a self-described "automobile enthusiast", was behind the Jordan F1 test in Florida and Drought said getting the call to come out to Florida was "absolutely crazy".
"I describe it as a movie set any time I talk about it," she recalls.
"The Jordan was parked with the sun beaming down on it. With the truck and the tyres beside the car, it was just perfect.
"There are two big straights at Palm Beach International, so I gave the throttle a good squeeze and stretched the Jordan's legs a bit.
"The immediate power forces you back into the seat and then there is the grip the car has - it was just an amazing experience."
Back on track
Campion is a big believer in Irish motorsport. After backing Craig Breen's title-winning Irish Tarmac Rally Championship campaign in 2019, Drought and highly-rated single-seater racer James Roe Jr will compete for CJJ Motorsports this season.
Drought will race a Porsche Cayman GT4 with fellow Irish racer Sean Doyle in Britcar and says that Campion's backing means she can focus on her racing preparation.
"John got in touch around December, asking what my budget was like and what I would be racing this year," said Drought.
"Britcar was on my radar to do this year, even if it was only one or two rounds, but before I knew it I am doing a full season.
"It escalated very quickly but I'm very thankful to John because I wouldn't be doing a full season without him.
"When you have the right people around you it makes a big difference."
After spending time during lockdown on her simulator, Drought has tested the Porsche at Snetterton ahead of the season-opener at north Yorkshire circuit Croft on 11-12 July.
"It was nice driving a real car and not just looking at a screen in my bedroom," added the Tipperary native.
"It's the fastest car I'm going to race, so when I jumped into it I couldn't believe the ability that it had.
"I'm looking forward to the weekend. I still have the track to learn but I have an idea of how the car behaves which is good.
"I didn't have the traditional karting start, so I'm playing catch-up but I'm learning as quick as I can.
"It's going to be a big step-up but I want to get a finish under my belt and try and get as many points as I can."
'I don't see myself as a hero'
Drought is an ambassador for Formula Female, which was set up by Irish hockey player and racing driver Nicci Daly to encourage more girls to get involved with motorsport.
"I grew up in the sport so I never seen myself as being different," admits Drought.
"I did a conference last year and I couldn't believe the amount of girls who came up to me and said it was the most amazing sport.
"When you put yourself out there, you can show girls, who may not be as lucky as myself to grow up in the sport, that this is something that you can do and it is not just for boys."
Drought's experiences over the past 12 months mean she is one of the few females anywhere in the world to taste Formula 1 machinery.
In fact, one of the few other women to drive an F1 car is former Irish racer Rosemary Smith, who got to drive a Renault F1 car at the age of 79 in 2017.
"I met Rosemary and asked if she felt like she was a trailblazer, but she said she didn't see herself that way," said Drought.
"She is someone I still look up to. She is incredible and has paved the way for women in motorsport, so I was shocked to hear she didn't think she was an icon.
When asked the same question, Drought also said she didn't see herself as a hero "by any means at all".
"We're trying to raise awareness and hopefully there will be more girls who can make their way into F1," added Drought, who has a modesty and warmth which which is appealing and can only encourage more girls into motorsport.
Despite testing F1 machinery, Drought acknowledges she is unlikely to race at the pinnacle of motorsport, however she has her sights set on progressing up the motorsport ladder.
"My long-term goal is to be racing at the European Le Mans Series," she said.
"It's a long shot and I don't know if I will get there, but I've got to drive two F1 cars so anything is possible."