From the glory days of the Indianapolis 500 to Formula 1, racing has always been a man’s domain. But the truth is that as soon as the first race car appeared women became interested as well as men. There are not many female drivers in the racing world since it was challenging to shatter stereotypes at the time. But these units are In recent years, women have been making their mark in racing.
Female racing legends such as Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher have proven that women can be successful in racing. Today, women compete in all forms of racing—from drag racing to stock car racing, and everything in between. Currently, female drivers are breaking boundaries and inspiring the next generation to pursue racing as a career. From up-and-coming stars to experienced veterans, get to know some of the inspirational women who are changing the game and inspiring a new generation of female racers.
- Female Racers Are Changing the Game.
- The Best Female Racing Drivers
- Breaking Through Gender Barriers
- Paradox of Female Racing Drivers
Female Racers Are Changing the Game.
Who was the first female racing driver?
In 1888 Bertha Benz traveled the 106km journey from Mannheim to Pforzheim in Germany. It was her husband Karl Benz, who participated in the world’s first car creation. Then, without permission, a map, or fuel, but with the car, she left the house and became the original driver. Was it a passion or an informed decision? Who cares? Bertha Benz was the first female driver.
Many female racers have established themselves as champions on the track, thanks to their commitment to training and ambition. From Susie Wolff at Williams F1, Leilani Munter in NASCAR, and Milka Duno in IndyCar, these and other female racers are embracing the challenge and creating a whole new generation of racing superstars. They’ve broken records, pushed past limits, and created a path for others to follow.
Female Racing drivers Making History
Today, it’s difficult to imagine what waves they made then. A talented female racing driver can be found in the hall of fame of almost every racing championship. Here are first woman in racing:
Lella Lombardi was that first woman F1 driver, who started Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix in 1976 and scored the points. Also Lombardi was the first ever female driver in the DTM, when debuted in 1984.
Desiré Wilson is the only woman to win a Formula 1 race. In 1980 she won the British Aurora F1 championship. One of the Brands Hatch grandstands named in her honor.
Janet Guthrie became the first woman Indy car driver to race in the Indianapolis 500 in 1977.
World Rally Championship
Michèle Mouton became the first ever female rally driver in 1981. And needs to say French is the most successes female in World Rally Championship till these days.
NASCAR racing also marked with own original first woman driver. In 1949 Sarah Christian became the first female racing driver in NASCAR at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
24 Hours of Le Mans
Even so difficult race like 24 hours of Le Mans also remarkable with female driver debuted. In 1930 Odette Siko became the first female driver to race the Le Mans 24 Hours and made motorsport history.
Behind the Helmet – What Drives a Female Racer?
The success of female racers is powered by passion, dedication, and an unwavering commitment to push the boundaries of the sport. Beyond chasing dreams and shattering records, these women are determined to create positive change for the next generation of female racing drivers. By becoming role models for young girls and supporting one another on the track, these powerful female athletes are proving that anything is possible with sheer dedication and hard work.
Let’s discover the the most successful female racing drivers and what makes them so special.
The Best Female Racing Drivers
Ellen Lohr – “Queen of DTM”
Beate Nodes was the first female racer to reach the podium in DTM in 1986 as third on the Avus in Berlin. But Ellen Lohr broke through in 1992, at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg. She has remained the only woman to have won a DTM.
In 1987, still a BMW driver that year, Lohr finished second at the Salzburgring.
Before she retired from the most popular international touring-car series at the end of the 1996 season, she secured another podium by finishing third at Diepholz in 1994. Altogether, she contested 144 races and secured 302 points.
No other woman was able to match Lohr’s achievements. The last female racing drivers to make it to the points in DTM were Susie Wolff, née Stoddart (2006-2012, Mercedes-Benz, 4 points), and Rahel Frey (2011-2012, Audi, 6 points). But both failed to secure a better result than seventh place.
Sabine Schmitz – “Queen of Green Hell”
The German female racing driver was named the “Icon of the Nurburgring”. Nurburgring, or Green Hell as they call it, is the most difficult racing circuit in Europe. Sabine Schmitz was unmatched during the 24 Hours of Nürburgring race. Schmitz was overall winner in 1996 and 1997 (BMW), third in 2008 (Porsche), ninth in 2011 (Porsche), sixth in 2012 (Porsche). Sabine Schmitz had driven around the track more than 20,000 times!
In December 2004, Schmitz gained popularity in the United Kingdom after appearing in the BBC television show Top Gear with presenter Jeremy Clarkson. She subsequently became a presenter on the show alongside Chris Evans in 2016.
She suffered from a serious illness in 2017 and tragically passed away in 2021. It became a huge tragedy for world motor sport as FIA Formula 1 noted “Sabine Schmitz was a unique, much-loved and cherished member of our sport’s family, and a force of nature for inspiring a new generation of motorsport enthusiasts.”
Michèle Mouton – “Queen of WRC”
In 1975, Michèle Mouton was the female racing driver to participate in the 24 hours of Le Mans.
Michèle Mouton made history in sportscar racing when she joined the grueling World Rally Championship in 1981. She quickly became a formidable competitor, routinely pushing herself and her Audi Quattro through long hours of ice and dirt tracks that tested both nerves and driving skills.
Althought, she debuted in 1974, but won Rally San Remo in 1981 with co-driver Fabrizia Pons. Winning at this tough event made Mouton the first female ever to win an international rally event — an achievement which has never been matched since.
Year later Mouton won three rallies in Portugal, Brazil, and Atcropolis and became the WRC’s vice-champion in 1982. Her rallying career shocked male-dominated sport of that time. Autosport magazine named her “The Driver of the Year”.
Mouton is the only woman to have won the FIA World Rally Championship.
Michèle Mouton has made and continues to make a huge contribution to motorsport. She has so many achievements it is impossible to list them all.
She won the race at Pikes Peak mountain in 1984 and 1985 and set the record for the race.
Michèle Mouton became the first ever President of the FIA women’s Motorsport Committee in 2010!
Today she sais “What has always been important was to prove to myself that I was able to do it.” That is not in vain, because Michèle Mouton contributes to the management of the All Female W series today. It was she who supported the idea of creating a special series for female drivers in 2017.
Susie Wolff – “The woman in Formula 1”
Another inspirational female racer who left an imprint on motorsports is Susie Wolff. In the past, nee Stoddart was a member of the Formula 1 Williams team. She participated in Formula 1 as a test driver from 2012 to 2015, making her the first woman in 22 years to participate in a Formula 1 weekend event.
Thus, she scored 284 points in Formula Renault UK and took fifth overall in 2004.
Susie Wolff participated in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) from 2006 to 2011 and the Porsche Carrera Cup. The majority of Wolff’s popularity came to her after her racing career as a female driver, and we saw her as a successful businesswoman in the racing world.
Since 2011, Suzzie Stoddart has been known as Suzzie Wolff since she got married to Toto Wolff, the owner of the Williams team at the time and one of the most successful individuals in Formula 1.
In 2015, she introduced the ‘Dare To Be Different’ campaign which aimed to elevate and celebrate women working in motorsport.
In 2018, she joined Venturi Racing in Formula E as Team Principal, while the team entered a powertrain partnership with Mercedes-Benz. Her husband Toto Wolff is CEO of Mercedes in Formula 1. In the 2020-21 season, it was her team’s most successful campaign. She became Venturi’s CEO in November 2021.
María de Villota – Female F1 driver
Remarkably, at the time of Susie Wolff’s participation in Formula 1, there was another F1 female driver. But this story is tragic and shrouded in mystery to this day. Spanish María de Villota was very talented and also raced in many series, including the FIA WTCC and finished 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race in the 2005.
In fact, Mara de Villota stood in the shadow of Wolff as Formula 1 already had a woman driver. In 2012, she joined the Marussia F1 Team as a test driver, but crashed in her debut with the team shortly afterwards. Her car crashed into a stationary truck. Doctors saved her life, but María de Villota got threatening head and facial injuries and had lost her right eye.
After 17 days, she returned to her home Spain. De Villota made her first public appearance only after four months. Spanish female F1 driver gave an exclusive interview. She was full of energy to get back to work in racing. But after just a year she has been found dead in her Seville hotel room.
María de Villota was awarded with Golden Medal of the Royal Order of Sports Merit.
Jutta Kleinschmidt – “ Queen of Dakar”
Jutta Kleinschmidt is not well known to everyone, but that is in vain. She is a woman in racing, which is something that even men admire and respect. She raced her first Paris Dakar Rally in 1988 on a BMW motorcycle. After seven years in 1995 she switched from bike to racing cars.
Jutta Kleinschmidt became the first woman to win a stage of the Dakar rally in 1997. But it wasn’t just luck or something, as the following year she was also on the podium. In 2001 Jutta Kleinschmidt became the first female driver to win the Dakar Rally. Next year 2002 she finished Dakar in second position, and in 2005 she was third. Furthermore, the woman racing driver in Extreme E placed sixth in the overall standings in 2021.
Danica Patrick – “Queen of Speed”
She is not only the most successful female racer in American motorsport history, Danica Patrick is one of the best all-around drivers of any gender. Danica Patrick remains one of the most successful women in motorsport, having made history with her first IndyCar Series race victory in 2008.
From becoming the first woman to take pole position at an IndyCar race to being the highest-finishing female driver in both Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, Danica Patrick has shattered many glass ceilings throughout her time in motorsports.
Danica Patrick was 9th in the Formula Vauxhall Winter Series in 1999. After a year, she became a test driver for Haywood Racing and Mygale Factory Team and took second place in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.
The American female driver received “Rookie of the year” in 2006. She continued to do successful tests in different teams with victories for Rahal-Letterman Racing and Andretti Green Racing.
Patrick became the first female driver to sit on the pole at the Daytona 500.
Danica Patrick won the Indy Japan 300 and became the first woman to win the open-wheel race. She finished almost six seconds ahead of two-time Indy 500 winner, Helio Castroneves.
Today Danica Patrick is a presenter, and a coveted guest on TV shows. She is smart, beautiful and never afraid to argue with men. Even if it is a male-dominated sport.
Danica Patrick isn’t the only one. Ana “Bia” Beatriz Caselato Gomes de Figueiredo, or Bia Figueiredo is a Brazilian IndyCar driver and one of the stars of modern motor sport who has achieved success against the odds.
She burst onto the international scene as Champ Car World Series Rookie of the Year, quickly becoming British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star of the Year in 2007 and Formula 3 Sudamericana Champion in 2010 before joining IndyCar in 2011.
She became the first woman to win a race in the Indy Lights series. Bia Figueiredo won her first Indy Lights race at Nashville Superspeedway on July 12, 2008. Next year she repeated success and became the first woman to win a race car event at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.
In 2012 she became the first ever feamle racing driver to win an IZOD IndyCar Championship race. Her impressive body of work was recognised with an honourable mention in 2016 as Motorsports Woman Of The Year by Autosport Magazine.
Today, Ana “Bia” Beatriz races in touring cars in Brazil.
In 2002, Fisher was the first female driver to win pole position in a major American open-wheel race and competed in the Indianapolis 500 nine times, more than any other woman.
American female racing driver competed in the Indy Racing League and the Indianapolis 500 intermittently from 1999 to 2010. She also raced in the NASCAR West Series in 2004 and 2005.
Sarah Fisher chose another way. In 2008 she founded the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing auto racing team which competes in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Today she is studying part-time while keeping the passion for racing. In 2022 she was the honorary pace car driver as well
Shirley Muldowney “Drag racing’s Queen”
“Cha Cha” and the “First Lady of Drag Racing” or Shirley Muldowney is without a doubt one of the most famous female race car drivers of all time with a remarkable career.
Shirley Muldowney has an innate talent for racing that is no less impressive than Niki Lauda‘s.
Breaking onto the Top Fuel drag racing scene in the ’60s, she quickly earned a reputation for her skill behind the wheel.
Not only was she the first woman to earn an FIA international drag racing license, she was also the first ever female to win a major drag racing event. This was achieved in 1976 in Columbus, Ohio.
Muldowney won three NHRA Top Fuel championships (1977,1980,1982) despite explicit rules from NHRA which forbid women from competing at some of their events.
In 1984 Shirley Muldowney was crushed. She broke her hands, legs and got necessitating half a dozen operations. She spent about 18 months in therapy. In the late 1980s. She returned to the circuit and continued to race throughout the 1990s in IHRA competition. She returned to the NHRA towards the end of her career, running select events until her retirement at the end of 2003.
In 2008, ESPN ranked her 21st on its list of the Top 25 Drivers of All Time, citing her record as the first woman to win a major racing championship.
Has a woman ever won a Nascar race?
As compared to other racing disciplines, Nascar is the one where you can find more female drivers than any other. Of course, we’ve seen many talented and competent female co-drivers in WRC 3 and WRC 2, but still.
Thus, Hailie Deegan, Shawna Robinson, Manami Kobayashi, and Gracie Trotter remain the only women to have won a race in one of NASCAR’s touring series. Robinson won three times between 1988 and 1989 in the now-defunct Dash Series. Deegan won three races in the K&N Pro Series West between 2018 and 2019.
Besides, Leilani Münter is an American race car driver, who has competed in various auto racing series including ARCA, NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East and the Indy Lights series. In addition to her racing career, she is also an animal rights activist and a climate change activist, and was featured in Leonardo DiCaprio’s award-winning documentary The 11th Hour.
So, under certain circumstances women can race as much as men, but it still depends on many things. Female racing drivers have a more difficult time achieving the same goals as male drivers.
Breaking Through Gender Barriers
Why are there no female F1 drivers?
The one and only reason why there are no female F1 drivers is that they don’t have the same support. As a result, female racers need to prove their worth at every stage of their careers. It is important to include sponsorship. Younger racers will have more opportunities and sponsorship support than young female racing drivers. That is tradition. That’s hard. Apart from women drivers, racing academies are also geared towards men.
Is sounds like a conspiracy, as too many sources have their own theories. Someone suggested that there hasn’t been a major role model for women in Formula 1, in terms of someone actually competing in the sport like Susie Wolff. Someone predicts that women are less powerful and cant bring the same results due the forces in Formula 1.
So, at that moment in 2018 there was no other way to bring women into racing than to make the sport more popular in the public and provide the good staff for Formula 1 in the future. It would be naive to bring a talented female F1 driver into Formula 1 and hope that she achieves the best results soon. There is a long way to go with a lot of practice, even in DTM, Indycar and etc.. That is how W Series was launched.
What is the W series?
The W Series racing was the most suitable opportunity for female racing drivers as it is a free-entry championship. It provided equal opportunities for women and eliminates the financial barriers that have historically prevented them from progressing to the upper echelons of motorsport. All Female W Series allowed females to race in F1, even if the challenge is a bit different.
With the launch of the All Female W series, the possibility of providing new opportunities for female drivers was opened. However, the idea was met with opposition. A major stumbling block was the separation of the W series from Formula 1, since it became a separate championship. Many people decided that it was a step back. Pippa Mann, a British racer who won the U.S. Indy Lights series, described her thoughts at the time very objectively.
The W series ended in 2022. There is a finding for another way to improve female racing drivers.
About W series cars
Comparing the W Series to Formula 1 All Female W Series racing is a single seater racing series featuring ten races, and running in support of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship. About W series cars.W Series race car Tatuus F3 T-318 features side impact panels, front and rear carbon impact structures, wheel tethers, an extractable seat, and the Halo system.
The car is fully homologated to the latest FIA F3 specification Compared with any F1 car, the W Series car presents a much easier challenge, except for the intensity of emotions. The average speed of the W Series is 112.88mph or 181.29km/h. It’s like comparing F3 and F1 cars. Less power, but more safety.
In some ways, Jamie Chadwick has something similar to Lewis Hamilton. When it comes to racing, she has no equal, and she knows how to talk to the press effectively. The young female driver inspires others with her talent and her belief in herself.
Jamie Chadwick won All female W Series 2022 races and she doesn’t think to stop as her main goal is to drive for the Formula 1 team.
Today, Chadwick is a development driver for the Williams F1 team.
Although, there are reasons to be nervous about Jamie Chadwick’s future. As she approaches twenty four years of age, she wants to improve herself through more advanced rules such as Formula 2 or Formula 3.
However, as the story was told, Sophia Flörsch and Tatiana Calderón did not succeed in Formula 3 and Formula 2. Sophia Flörsch failing to score a point during the 2020 season. A member of Sauber’s junior team, Calderón had more experience in grand prix-supporting junior series but still struggled with her HWA Racelab car until Anthoine Hubert took a race win with the same car that season before his tragic death on track. Jamie Chadwick may now be in a position to move forward, but will she be able to compete among so many talented rivers and still succeed? That is an open question.
Paradox of Female Racing Drivers
Many women still struggle to compete on the same terms as their male counterparts – from unequal access to resources and sponsorship, to different rules for racing cars.
In addition, the path of a female racing driver is difficult. Racing Trend has also heard horror stories about how women’s racing dreams break down due to men’s dominance.
On the other hand, the constant struggle led Sarah Christian, Janet Guthrie, Lella Lombardi, Odette Siko, and the others to break the rules and be themselves.
Thanks Michèle Mouton, who started her career as a rally driver and stepped through all the stages of her career with high respect in the FIA. Susie Wolff also played a huge role in the development due to the professional skills, talent, and support she provided.
It is Danica Patric and Jutta Kleinschmidt who remain the main inspirations for women around the world.
A paradox of female racing drivers is that breaking boundaries and stereotypical expectations makes them special, but not all women are ready for the fight.