Bob McMurray: Women's series will foster equality
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“What a sad day for motorsport. Those with funding to help female racers are choosing to segregate them as opposed to supporting them. I am deeply disappointed to see such a historic step backwards take place in my life time.” — Sometime IndyCar driver Pippa Mann.
“W Series is an extremely important development for women drivers.” — Single seat driver Vicky Piria.
“I think this is awesome as it’ll help us to finally find new great female F1 drivers soon!” — F1 World Champion Nico Rosberg.
It’s fair to say, like the quotes above, the announcement of the new W Series for women only has divided opinion among those in the sport. Some are upset about this series.
I thought long and hard before concluding the series can only be a good thing.
It can only help promote the cause of women in motor sport. A serious, fully funded series, regulated to ensure even competition and with the exposure of appearing at the international German Touring Car Championship rounds, the W Series is the first professional push to bring female drivers to the fore.
Many have said the millions to be invested in the series would be better spent targeting specific women drivers through the ranks. But surely it makes better sense to create an opportunity for 18 female drivers to race in a competitive environment and act as a launchpad for their careers. More often than male drivers.
In almost seven decades of F1, there have been in excess of 900 Grand Prix drivers. Of those, only two have been females. The current model has not worked.
This new series will be no bar to women racing against men, as they can continue to do that, if they want, in other series.
There are some successful women drivers but none in international single-seater racing has reached heights greater than GP3 or perhaps the occasional outing in Formula 2.
Female stars in the world of motorsport are few and far between — Michele Mouton in rallying, Danica Patrick and Janet Guthrie in the US, Spaniard Ana Carrasco in motorbike racing and Lella Lombardi in F1.
Lombardi was the last female to race in Formula 1, 42 years ago.
As the former McLaren F1 team manager and now racing director of the W Series, Kiwi David Ryan said during an exclusive interview on the Radio Sport Driven Hour: “If you look at the feeding point (in motorsport) for every 100 males there is one female. We don’t think people should pay to race and if we can provide a platform for younger female drivers to come through then once they are racing with us, that is the springboard for them to go forward. The rest is down to them”.
As he points out, next year there will be 18 female drivers on the grid in the W Series. Possibly only two would have found the funding to be in the sport regularly.
The women drivers will be trained and marketed to be stars and given every chance to progress. Far from creating inequality, I believe the series will further the cause of eventual equality for women drivers.
It is not a charity and will need sponsorship and support.
I leave the last words to former Formula 1 driver Gerhard Berger:
“Some of the greatest sports stars in the world are women, and that has been the case for a long time.
“However, in motorsport, the number of women who have reached the winners’ podium in top international categories is really, really small.
“I want to see women one day race cars at the highest levels against men.
“W Series will give female drivers the necessary skills and experience that they currently lack in order to raise their performance to the level required to compete against men at the highest levels, and I’ll definitely therefore be watching the W Series races closely and with great interest.”
●Read more about the W Series at wseries.com/