10 October 2018

A women-only racing series

There is to be a new racing championship called W Series, designed for women drivers only. It will be a one-make series in terms of cars as well, with plans for 18 and 20 drivers who will, according to the W Series press statement, all pass “a rigorous pre-selection programme/examination involving on-track testing, simulator appraisal, technical engineering tests, fitness trials etc. The successful applicants will then be given a thorough training programme centring on driving techniques, simulator exposure, technical engineering approaches, fitness, media skills etc, all of it carried out by a group of experts with decades of Formula 1 experience, meticulously recruited for the purpose”.

The W Series says that it has “the firm belief that women can compete equally with men in motorsport”, but that an all-female series is needed in order to generate more female participation in the sport.

The cars will be Formula 3 cars built by Tatuus, with Autotecnica Motori inline four-cylinder 1.8-litre turbocharged engines. There will be a prize fund of $1.5 million, with $500,000 for the winner. The series will be led by CEO Catherine Bond Muir, a British sports lawyer and corporate financier. She conceived the idea while on maternity leave three years ago. Dave Ryan will be the Racing Director, with the commercial side of the business run by Tim Crow, who was with Synergy company for 18 years, working in the world of sponsorship. He had been CEO for 10 years but left a year ago. Also involved is former McLaren communications man Matt Bishop. The advisory board includes David Coulthard and Adrian Newey.

It will be interesting to see if the series is successful. As to whether it is needed, I will leave that up those who wish to argue the matter. Women have proved in the past that they can compete at a high level in motorsport.

It is worth noting that there were female-only championships and events in history, the first being in 1927. There were a number of events just for women, notably a Le Paris - La Baule  car race and the Paris-Saint Raphaël Rally but the idea died out in the early 1930s, after which women raced against men.

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