What started as rumblings back in 2017 turned into a list of fifty-four (an initial list of forty-eight with an additional six added), narrowed to twenty-eight, and most recently narrowed again to eighteen. In roughly one month, the series has its maiden race in Germany. How did we get here?
If you can recall, or if you cannot, back in spring of 2017 there was some pop up on social media about an “all female racing league”. We even dedicated a majority of an episode to these rumors back in June of 2017 (you can hear that episode here). It was a dark spectre over the sport, people knew something was out there, but not what it was. Sort of like the smoke monster from Lost actually. It would rise up at unscheduled moments, making a lot of us pull our hair out because – what in the world.
On October 10, 2018, the W Series launched. It promised to be an all-female free-to-enter series for women featuring single-seater and will have a prize fund of $1.5million. This money is split among all eighteen drivers. The overall winner will receive the payout of $500,000. Currently, for this season the races will be in Europe but they’re proposing in further years to be racing in Australia and America. Participants? They will receive training consisting of driving techniques, simulator exposure, technical engineering, fitness, and media skills. This is free to enter based upon the information provided on the W Series website. I wrote about the initial release on that same day (you can read it here). I still stand behind my statements.
At the end of November, the series released their list of fifty-four initial applicants. The list did include a number of drivers from different series, different countries, and different backgrounds. I was part of a panel discussion on the list (listen HERE) and it was interesting the lack of overall diversity of the list. A few weeks later, the W-Series added an additional six names to their list. Two drivers that I’ve enjoyed watching were on that initial list: Sabre Cook and Bruna Tomaselli. Prior to the list coming out, Sabre was on our podcast and told us she had applied and discussed her reasoning (you can hear that interview – HERE). As I have continued to state, I am not standing in the shoes of the women who have entered into the series. I can only sympathize with how hard this sport is to get funding and to get a shot at driving. There is no judgment for applying and going through the process.
That is why we are hoping that the establishment of W Series will have a positive trickle-down effect throughout motorsport, encouraging more girls into junior karting and more sponsors for women drivers as they move on up into Formula 4 and on up through all the other motorsport series. (from the W Series Website)
The list of fifty-four went to Austria in late January. It was a multi-day test session. The women spent time on the track in cars. They were appraised for media and presentation, and also fitness. The women were observed and judged by David Culthard, Alex Wurz, Dave Ryan, and former female racer Lyn St. James. Roughly a month before the test, I attended a female panel at the PRI Show in Indianapolis, Lyn St. James was a panelist. Dr. Salvaggio, another panelist, gave a great moment on the unspoken issue in the room – the division amount female drivers over the W-Series. She talked about how we as women need to support each other and likened the struggles we as a gender face to the early settlers did at night: circle the wagons. What you don’t do – is shoot across the wagon circle.
On January 28, the list of twenty-eight was released. There were some genuine surprises (Ayla Agren was missing), some heartbreak (Bruna Tomaselli did not make it), some irony (Carmen Jordan didn’t make it, though she claimed it was a “sponsorship issue”), and excitement as Sabre made it through to the next round.
This past weekend, the group of twenty-eight underwent their second round of testing. Now in Spain, the focus of the second round is was primarily on racing. The women spent time in the cars slated for the series (Tatuus T-318 Formula 3). They were graded on their lap-times, their improvement, and how they interacted with their engineers and mechanics during the time in the cars. While the races for the series will be only thirty minutes in length, the women were also reviewed for physicality.
We have the final drivers now (you can read the release on the W-Series’ website here). Personally, I am happy that Sabre Cook made the list. I think she has a vast amount of talent and ability (my write up of Sabre is available to read HERE). I remember when she mentioned she had applied I kept thinking on something my father taught me: do what you have to do. I work in a very male-dominated profession, and sometimes you have to use any opportunity that comes your way. Sabre is brilliant and I am hopeful this is helpful to her.
The series starts May 3 at the Hockenheim circuit. It’s a wait and see approach. It’s somewhat ironic given that women in other motorsports have started to really step forward. You only need to look to WeatherTech to see the Heinreicher racing all-female line up doing amazing things. Women in NHRA have continued to make waves. NASCAR has an up and coming woman winning races.
Do we need this?