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LOVE OF MY LIFE; Secret daughter of race ace Eddie Irvine.

GRAND Prix racer Eddie Irvine, the playboy with a worldwide string of pin-up girlfriends, has finally revealed the love of his life.

She's beautiful, dark and wide-eyed and just three years old.

Her name is Zoe, and she's his daughter - and the Irish multi-millionaire daredevil dotes on her.

He presents her to the world for the first time in an hour-long documentary to be shown on Channel 4 tomorrow night.

The rascally racer flew Zoe and her mother Maria Drummond, the girl he lived with in Macau before he hit the big time, from their home off the Chinese mainland to his pounds 2 million yacht, the Anaconda, for a Mediterranean break among the jet set.

Ulsterman Irvine, 34, and Maria would probably have still been together if she had not refused to switch homes and join Eddie in Europe when he was snapped up by Dubliner Eddie Jordan to compete in Grand Prix racing.

Irvine told me: "I really did want Maria to come and live with me over here, in England, Ireland or Monte Carlo or wherever, but she felt she couldn't leave her home in Macau.

"So that was it and we broke up."

He added with a grin: "I remember sending her an umbrella because she said she didn't want to come over here because the weather was too bad, but it didn't make any difference."

The TV show reveals a tender and touching side to Irvine, far removed from his popular image as a brash and ruthless driver and a carefree lover.

His current girlfriend, Dutch supermodel Anouk Voorveld, was away working when Irvine and his mum Kathleen, dad Edmund and big sister Sonia had their happy-go-lucky get-together with Zoe and her lovely Asian mother.

Eddie and his daughter relaxed aboard the luxury yacht, snuggled in the state room double bed, splashed about on a jetski, and he taught her to swim in the Med between races when he was fighting for the title.

Single mum Maria, supported by Irvine and adored by his parents, explained that their split was down to the pressures of Formula One.

"When Zoe was born I guess it was difficult for everybody," she said.

"We didn't know what life was going to be like, but Eddie knew he couldn't be there for Zoe or even for me.

"I thought that I was old enough to deal with it so it was my decision. It was Okay."

Eddie, cuddling the child he longs to spend more time with, said: "Normally Zoe is very shy around me.

"But whether it's because she's getting older or she's seeing more of me, I don't know.

"But she's OK now. She used to hide whenever I came in the house.

"Nowadays we have some really good fun. Isn't she beautiful?"

But the pounds 6 million a year ace, who has all the playboy toys he needs, added sadly: "I don't know whether I can be there all the time, not in the way Maria is, because Zoe is so demanding.

"Kids are very demanding and I am still a kid so two demanding kids don't go together, do they?"

Maria, sad about the break-up but still in love with Irvine, adds: "Eddie tries to make things work, but nobody's perfect.

"I guess Formula One has a lot to do with it.

"I was quite realistic about the situation. Once you're in you can't help yourself.

"You fall into all this glamour and lifestyle but because of all the travelling it was really difficult.

"So I made the decision to break up, and that was it."
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Author:Macauley, Ted
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 5, 2000
Words:601
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