Plans have been unveiled today (Wednesday) for a new female-only motor racing series which aims to bridge the gap to elite championships and create “global superstars” out of its drivers.
Offering a prize fund of $1.5m (€1.3m), the single-seater W Series will launch in the spring of 2019, with organisers stating it will encompass a number of races run on some of the “best and most famous” circuits in Europe, most of which have staged Formula One races for many decades. In forthcoming seasons, the W Series schedule is set to expand to include races in America, Asia and Australia.
W Series will provide identical cars for 18-20 drivers in season one, all of whom will have entered and passed a rigorous pre-selection programme involving the likes of on-track testing, simulator appraisal, technical engineering tests and fitness trials. The successful applicants will then be given a thorough training programme centring on driving techniques, simulator exposure, technical engineering approaches, fitness and media skills.
W Series has recruited a group of experts with decades of Formula One experience to oversee this programme. They include former F1 driver David Coulthard (pictured); Adrian Newey, regarded as the most successful chief design engineer in modern F1 history, most recently with Red Bull Racing; Dave Ryan, who has 40 years’ F1 experience in team management with the McLaren and Manor teams; and Matt Bishop, F1 journalist and former head of McLaren’s communications, content, media and PR operation.
The British Racing & Sports Car Club (BRSCC) have been appointed by W Series as the organising club. W Series chief executive Catherine Bond Muir said: “There are just too few women competing in single-seater series at the moment. W Series will increase that number very significantly in 2019, thereby powerfully unleashing the potential of many more female racing drivers.
“W Series drivers will become global superstars – inspirational role models for women everywhere – and every organisation, every company, every sponsor and indeed every single person who helps W Series’ winners and champions achieve those ground-breaking successes will be able to celebrate their part in it, publicly, to lasting worldwide acclaim. W Series is an inspiring innovation whose time is now.”
Italian Lella Lombardi was the last woman to enter an F1 race when she drove in the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix. Newey said: “Having worked in international motorsport for more than 30 years, and having watched at very close quarters some of the greatest racing drivers of all time – including a number of Formula One world champions – I have a reasonable understanding of the constituents of a top-class driver’s necessary skill-set.
“With proper training women are physically strong enough to tick that constituent. The reason why so few women have so far raced successfully at the highest levels against men may, however, be from a lack of opportunity rather than a lack of capability.”