MOTORSPORT fanatic Johann Gibson is dreaming of life in the fast lane after collecting an award from racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart.

The 29-year-old, from Darlington, became the first female to graduate from a renowned course at Cranfield University - and picked up the honour in the process.

Johann, who is now hoping to pursue a glamorous career taking her to the world's most famous Formula One venues, won the British Racing Drivers' Club trophy and prize.

She received the award from Sir Jackie at a ceremony attended by many of the big names in motor racing - after beating off competition from the 19 men on her MSc course.

She now hopes the award will launch her new career.

It was the culmination of years of hard work towards realising her goal of forging a career among the thrills and spills of Formula One racing.

Her passion for the sport has already landed her stints working with Ford in Europe and North America, as well as working for Eclipse Motorsport during the 2001 British GT Championship as a race engineer.

"Now it's just a big jobs hunt for me really," said the former Hummersknott School pupil, who is looking for an engineering position or management role in Formula One after completing the course.

Speaking from her parents' home in Lunedale Road, Darlington, she said her family had been thoroughly supportive.

"They know I have wanted to do it for an eternity, from going up to Croft as a kid to watch racing there with my dad, to going to airshows and motor museums," she said.

"Some of the top people in motorsport sponsor the Cranfield course so it was a big honour."

Johann graduated from the University of Salford in 1995 with a degree in aeronautical engineering, with part of the course spent working as an engine manufacturer in France for the European Space Agency satellite launcher Ariane.

After graduating, she spent time at Ford Motorsport at Boreham, working with the Rally design team.

She joined the Motorsport Engineering and Management course at Cranfield in October 2001, aiming to develop skills in both the technical and promotional sides of the business. She was also co-chairperson of the Cranfield Motorsport Club.

For her thesis, Johann worked closely with Renault F1 and the FIA, with her work being of such quality that it was presented at a leading motorsport conference in the USA.