A FEW months ago sceptics thought a plan to launch a women-only motor racing series aimed at getting the fair sex into Formula 1, was a joke.
Very few females were likely to want to be involved in Formula 1, the pinnacle of motorsport, where no woman has competed since Italy’s Lella Lombardi, back in 1976.
But Formula W, as the newly launched series is known, has already attracted more than 100 applicants from around the world, and the series starts at the Hockenheim circuit in Germany in May, next year.
So far, 55 have been selected to undergo testing, three young Australians among them.
The drivers, ranging in age from 17 to 33, now face on and off-track tests with former grand prix racers David Coulthard and Alex Wurz among the judges.
There’s a lot of talent among them.
The Aussie trio are 20-year-old Charlotte Poynting, of Newcastle, Chelsea Angelo, 22, of Melbourne, and Caitlin Wood, a 21-year-old of Maitland, NSW.
Charlotte had six years of karting and was the first female to win a race in Aussie Racing Cars, Chelsea broke the Formula Ford record lap record at Phillip Island – and has had 69 races, 9 wins and 20 podium places in her career so far.
Caitlin Wood, despite her tender years, has had almost 100 races and won the inaugural Reiter Young Stars Championship in GT4 in 2016.
Other drivers are from Norway, Poland, Romania, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, China, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Spain, India, Belgium, the UK, Czech Republic, the US, Denmark, Canada, Venezuela, Finland, Hungary, Malaysia, Brazil and Lichtenstein.
Some are well known in international motorsport, among them Spain’s Carmen Jorda.
The 30-year-old is a former Lotus and Renault Formula 1 development driver.
Then there’s Amna al-Qubaisi, 18, the first female racing driver from the United Arab Emirates who has competed in Italian Formula Four and is also scheduled to test for a Formula E team, and Britain’s Jamie Chadwick, 20, who won a British GT championship and this year became the first woman to win a round of the British Formula 3 series.
The W Series is different from most forms of racing in that there is no cost to enter the series.
All the cars owned and maintained by the series itself.
The cars are all identical Tatuus T-318 Formula 3s powered by a 200kW turbocharged 1.8litre Autotecnica Motori engine and a Sadev six-speed sequential transmission.
Formula W CEO is UK lawyer Catherine Bond Muir, and the backing for the first season one has been covered by Sean Wadsworth, a major shareholder, who sold his recruiting company for a small fortune some years ago.
W Series plans to be funded via advertisement, sponsorship, and financial partners and initial partners include some from industries as diverse as tyres, financial services, pharmaceuticals and fashion.
Each race will feature 18 to 20 drivers in the six-round series cars with a US$1.5 million prize pool on offer.
The organisers say they want to provide a platform for women to develop their skills before taking on male drivers further up the motorsport ladder.
“It’s no secret that motorsport is an incredibly tough industry often dictated by financial factors,” Jamie Chadwick said.
“As a funded championship, W Series not only offers a fantastic opportunity for top female talent to race but will also encourage many more young females to enter the sport.
“I’m a racing driver and, if I could, I would race 365 days of the year.
“I will still race against men in other championships but W Series is the perfect supplement to help me develop and progress further through the junior motorsport ranks. I’m excited about what’s to come.”