Back in college I produced a thesis about why we see a lack of women in motorsport. Motorsport is not a man’s sport, but undeniably you can state that is still very male-dominated. Things are changing though and for the better. This thesis took me months and during the research for the project I looked into the ideas that circulated about a women’s motorsport championship. The people that I had found that backed the idea, I will be honest with you, I didn’t have much respect for them or their values. Therefore, the fact they were promoting this idea of a segregated championship just for women didn’t appeal to me at all. Fast forward five years later and W Series is announced.
Because I hadn’t really revisited that idea of a women’s-only championship since that time in college, W Series seemed a bad idea. I created up so many scenarios in my head such as what it would be like having a ‘female media pen’ for us motorsport journalists, plus it wasn’t helped that in the early stages it seemed only men, like David Coulthard, were promoting this segregated championship; both things I discussed with W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir when I sat down with her at the beginning of the year.
Then in January of this year I attended Autosport International. W Series had a huge stand next to the main stage and I met some of the W Series team including Matt Bishop, Bond Muir and Desiré Wilson. They understand my concerns, agreed with many of my initial thoughts and helped educate me more on the championship and how they don’t segregate women but instead offer them an artificial platform to race on.
“The most common [negative comments] are about segregation, which I just don’t believe we are. We do not segregate women at any time. Even in the racing we are not segregating women, at all. We actively encourage [our W Series drivers to race with men] because that is what we are all about, to train more drivers so they can compete more effectively with men,” Catherine Bond Muir said to me when I spoke to her for an exclusive feature for WTF1 which I will link at the bottom of this blog post if you would like to have a read.
Soon I went from seeing W Series as a step backwards for women in motorsport to seeing it as a platform that would actually help take up-and-coming women three steps ahead in their racing careers. I followed the selection process closely, as well as watching the races when I could. The series got people, in and out of motorsport, talking about the female racers and soon it became part of our racing calendar. The races were good, with the raw talent of the competitors clearly being shown out on the track.
In just the same way that many women in motorsport talk about racing alongside men, ‘once the race helmet goes on, your gender is irrelevant, it just matters how fast you can go’, the same applies for W Series. When you are watching the race, you are too occupied at the nail-biting racing on track to take notice of that racer’s gender.
However, it was the series finale at Brands Hatch a fortnight ago that really cemented the change W Series had made to my attitude to an all-womens motorsport championship and it was just one simple thing.
Despite being looked after in W Series in their hospitality suite, constant reminders of the championships success over the previous five races, it was when I took a step out of that bubble that I realised the true imprint this series was having on its followers. The W Series paddock was always busy and bustling with fans, but it was the young girls with their families that had the biggest impact on me. For them, it was like the motorsport-equivalent to Disneyland. Their eyes were so wide open and filled with excitement and happiness as they got to see the cars up close, with the drivers taking time to stop and talk with them and pose for photos. The next generation of women in motorsport were here, right in front of me and for some of them experiencing their first taste of motorsport in person. Whether they wanted to becoming a race car driver, or had an interest in engineering or media, they could find a woman there doing that job and open their eyes and minds to say “hey, that dream you have, it’s possible you know”.
That is something that wouldn’t have been possible without W Series.
If you would like to read the interview I had with W Series CEO Cather Bond Muir, you can find that here: https://wtf1.com/post/the-ultimate-goal-of-the-w-series-is-to-get-a-driver-into-formula-1/