When it comes to the automotive world, dedicated females are few and far between. Like many women I assume, I personally was introduced to the automotive community by attending car meets, and eventually races and other events – that’s how I got hooked.
There were always plenty of females in attendance (usually with their significant others), but it took years for me to finally find another female genuinely interested in cars. It actually wasn’t until I got my second job in the auto industry with our parent company, Power Automedia, that I was introduced to a few other girls in the field.
Five-plus years ago, if you had asked me what I thought I would be doing today, I never would have thought I would grow my just blossoming passion for cars into a full-time career – getting paid to write, learn, attend events, and do other things for what I was already doing.
I hate to be that person, but because you come across women like myself that are genuinely passionate about cars so rarely, we often are doubted at first – and I think that somewhat hinders the growth of the amount females in the sport.
In order to be a successful racing driver, you have to be skilled, determined, competitive, brave and physically fit, but you don’t have to be a man – David Coulthard
Catherine Bond Muir hopes to expand this small group with a new women-only racing series, dubbed “W Series.” Unfortunately for us in the States, it is based out of the United Kingdom. She explained, “Women in motorsport are something of a rarity today. Of all the many thousands of people involved in the technical side of our sport across the globe, only a handful are women.”
The series made its official debut earlier this week and has its first race planned for May of next year – with five following, at circuits across Europe and around the UK. The one-seater vehicles, provided by W Series, will house a 1.8-liter turbocharged motor with adjustable aero and grippy tires. Each will be fitted with a Formula 1-style “HALO” safety device, providing the highest level of driver protection possible.
Although the series will be free to enter, interested applicants will be narrowed down to only 20 competitors, by having them take part in simulator appraisals, fitness trials, on-track testing, and more. The array of tests will be judged by some big Formula 1 names, such as David Coulthard, Adrian Newey and Dave Ryan. Coulthard, who is a multiple Formula 1 Grand Prix winner, said, “We at W Series believe that female and male racing drivers can and should compete on equal terms if they have the same opportunity and training – and we’re here to make that happen.”
The W Series has drawn quite a bit of attention thanks to its offering of a total grand prize of $1.5 million for 2019. With a promise of rapid driving-skill improvement, it is hoped to provide the experience necessary for progress within the sport – hopefully up to the Formula 1 level.
“The last woman to start a Formula 1 Grand Prix was Lella Lombardi more than 40 years ago, and there has never been a female Formula 1 Grand Prix race winner, let alone a world champion. Our mission is to change all of that.” Muir said.
The founders hope to raise awareness of the sport among female students, to inspire future generations of engineers, technicians, aerodynamicists, and others in the automotive field.
“We hope to transform the diversity of the sport – and perhaps even encourage more girls into professions they had not previously considered. This is a tremendously exciting time for motorsport in general and for women in particular, as we aim to bring the sport up-to-date and show the world just what women are really capable of. Many sports in which women and men compete equally also run segregated events purely to increase the numbers of women who participate. Until now, motor racing has been the only sport in which there were no separate series for women.”
Providing safe and supportive groups to help exercise this passion is extremely important. With overall engagement (youth, especially) steadily declining over the course of the past few years, I believe, organized events and race series such as this one are what are going to keep the sport we know and love alive.
For more information, check out W Series’ website HERE.