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Volume 7 No. 149
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All-Female Motor Racing Series To Be Introduced In '19

An all-female motor racing championship will be launched next year "with the aim of helping women" get into Formula 1, according to Rebecca Clancy of the LONDON TIMES. Called the W Series, it has been backed by F1 personalities including David Coulthard, who won 13 grands prix, and Adrian Newey, who has designed 20 drivers' and constructors' world championship-winning cars. In the 68 years of the F1 championship, "only two women have ever competed in the series," the last one being Italian Lella Lombardi in '76. F1 is "a very expensive sport to work up to, and a lack of funds is a barrier for many young, talented drivers." In "stark contrast," the W Series will be free to enter, with competitors selected on merit through a program that "assesses their ability." The aim is to attract up to 20 of the world's top female racing drivers to compete for a $1.5M prize fund, with the winner getting $500,000. The cars will be "identical and will be provided and run by the championship." The competition will stage six races a year starting in May '19. They "will all initially be in Europe, with the aim to expand over the coming seasons" (LONDON TIMES, 10/10). In London, Murad Ahmed reported women do compete in motorsports alongside men, "with some finding success on the track," such as American driver Danica Patrick, the first female winner of an IndyCar race. But such examples are "rare." W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir said, "If you look at sport in general, there are lots of different sports where men and women can compete equally and all of those sports have segregated series. The purpose of that is to increase the pool of female talent available to compete." The W Series is led by Chair Sean Wadsworth, a British businessman and founder of the Frank Recruitment, the headhunting group that was sold to buyout firm TPG Growth for roughly £200M in '16. Wadsworth and Bond Muir are among the shareholders of the London-based group, which will provide the estimated £20M ($26.4M) in funding "required to fund the event in its first year," including the cost of cars, racing on European grand prix circuits and driver training (FINANCIAL TIMES, 10/10).

'WOMEN CAN COMPETE EQUALLY': REUTERS' Alan Baldwin reported organizers said that they aimed to stage six 30-minute races at "top circuits in Europe," most of which were past F1 venues. In a statement, they said, "At the heart of the W Series' DNA is the firm belief that women can compete equally with men in motorsport. However, an all-female series is essential in order to force greater female participation." Former McLaren F1 Team Manager Dave Ryan was appointed as the series' racing director. Spaniard Carmen Jorda "caused a storm last year" when she advocated for an all-female series "on the grounds that women had a physical disadvantage and could not compete equally with men at top level." Williams F1 Deputy Principal Claire Williams said this year that an all-female championship would be a "regressive step" (REUTERS, 10/10).

'ARTIFICIAL DEVICE': In London, Giles Richards reported "much of the criticism of the new venture has come from women." Pippa Mann, who in '11 was the first British woman to compete in the Indy 500, was "scathing when the series was proposed." She compared it to TV series "The Handmaid's Tale" and referred to it as a "circus." Mann wrote on Twitter that the series is a result of "those with funding choosing to segregate women as opposed to supporting them." One driver who "may take part" is Britain's Jamie Chadwick, who won the British GT Championship and this year was the first woman to win a British F3 race. She has been "explicit about why there are low numbers of women competing" and insisted "limited backing has always weighed heavily against women drivers." Muir hopes the series will "address the problem." She said, "We are getting more women involved in order that they can race more effectively against men. We want women and men to race equally and we want to make female champions in mixed racing. This is an artificial device in order to make that happen" (GUARDIAN, 10/10).

FROM THE PADDOCK: The BBC's Andrew Benson reported Coulthard said that he "believed men and women could compete on equal terms in motorsport." He added that the existing structure had "not worked" in finding a top woman driver. Newey said, "I have a reasonable understanding of the constituents of a top-class driver's necessary skill set. And brute strength isn't on that list. That being the case, I believe the reason why so few women have so far raced successfully at the highest levels against men is a lack of opportunity rather than a lack of capability." Michele Mouton, a world rally winner in the '80s and president of the Women in Motorsport Commission for FIA, said, "One of the objectives of the commission is to help ensure females have equal opportunities to compete at the highest level of the sport. We know from our recent driver-assessment program that there is a pool of very talented women drivers who deserve the chance to do this" (BBC, 10/10). MOTORSPORT's Jonathan Noble reported Chadwick said, "W Series is giving female drivers another platform to go racing. I'm a racing driver and, if I could, I would race 365 days of the year. I will still race against men in other championships but W Series is the perfect supplement to help me develop and progress further through the junior motorsport ranks. I'm excited about what's to come." Former Formula Renault champion Alice Powell said, "It's also an important means to an end: a stepping stone for female drivers on their journeys from the lower formulae to more senior single-seater series, taking the skills they've learned in W Series on the way." GT driver Stephane Kox said, "W Series sounds like it's going to be a really positive addition to the global motorsport scene, and it'll clearly be a big help to ambitious female racing drivers everywhere." Euro F3 racer Sophia Floersch took to Twitter to say that she "did not think women should have their own category," writing, "I agree with the arguments -- but it [sic] totally disagree with the solution. Women need long term support and trustful partners. I want to compete with the best of our sport" (MOTORSPORT, 10/10).