W-Series: Looking at 2019

The W-Series has been something discussed on the Podcast since approximately the fourth episode, that far back in 2017. Back then we weren’t sure what it was, what it would be, and who was doing all of this. Slowly then, until October of 2018, the “all-female racing series” took shape. Announced on October 10, 2018, the W Series promises to be an all-female free-to-enter series for women featuring single-seaters and will have a prize fund of $1.5 million. This money will be split among all eighteen drivers, with the overall winner of the “number of racers” will receive the pay out of $500,000. For the 2019 series, the races would be in Europe but they’re proposing in further years to be racing in Australia and America. Participants would receive training consisting of: driving techniques, simulator exposure, technical engineering, fitness, and media skills. All of this, free to enter

Names were attached to it and opinions were quickly formed. For me, the problems with this series were clear. It separates the women and provides confirmation bias. I felt it also would limit growth of a female racer who has started to race in a discipline. Due to the hardships of finding consistent sponsors, many female racers engage in multiple series. By having a women be in this series, it may limit them from participating in other series. Additionally, by having women set up to compete only against themselves in a series it allows statements to be said that “women can only race other women” or “women can’t handle being in the same series as men” or “women need their own series because they can’t cut it” and this series can be pointed to as evidence.

The first season of the series wrapped up a few months ago with Jamie Chadwick (UK) taking the first place, Beitske Visser (Netherlands) taking second, and Alice Powell (UK) taking third. Did the Series really do what it set out to do? Has awareness increased? Are the drivers now receiving more opportunities? In a very unofficial and unscientific test, here’s my answer: probably, but it also feels too soon to tell. Looking at the top 3 drivers Chadwick and Powell have received both additional opportunities and positive press following their win. Chadwick is a finalist for the Aston Martin BRDC Autosport Young Driver of the Year Award, and Powell drove the MSR Acura at VIR just weeks following the conclusion of the W-Series. However, both Chadwick and Powell had impressive resumes to begin with. Meanwhile I was hard pressed to find any mentions of Visser following the conclusion of this season.

The Series as a whole did see positive growth during the 2019 season. At the end if was shown in over 50 countries and indicates they’ve reached approximately 350 million households. I think results are inconclusive. I don’t believe there’s been any negative ramifications for the women involved in the series. Ultimately most of them received winnings at the end of the season and they did get publicity through the series and the opportunity to race. I think we need another season to gauge the series. If the future is an indication of growth, I’ll end with these two statements about the 2020 W-Series Season.

Katherine Legge, a woman with an all ready stellar racing resume, has put her hat in for the next season.

The top 8 ranked drivers at the conclusion of the 2020 season will earn points towards their FIA superlicense.