W Series

Before W Series Racing: All You Need To Know On Greatest Female Drivers

For as long as there have been cars, there have been women racing them. From the glory days of the Indianapolis 500 to the Daytona 500, men have dominated the racing world. But racing has always been a man’s domain – that is how it was, but it was in the past. 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. This resulted in one of the most significant achievements in women’s racing – the All Female W series racing. Let’s find out what females have contributed to world racing and what the W racing series is.  

Through the history of women’s racing.

As soon as the first race car appeared, racing started and women became interested as well.Proofs are always required for any suggestion. So there is one question that we are very interested in. Who was that first female 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.

Although you can’t find the first female car races until the W Series is founded. In any case, their success was remarkable in history.

Odette Siko 24 Hours of le Mans
Odette Siko 24 Hours of le Mans 1930/ wikipedia

First female drivers 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.

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 NASCAR racer at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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.

All these females made women’s influence in racing possible. They just broke the rules and stereotypes and cliches. Their delicate appearance was deceiving, because as soon as they swiped to the racing cars, these ladies were ready for wheel-to-wheel battle.  Any doubts? Take a look at this list of the five most successful women in world racing. 

Five most successful women in racing

Sabine Schmitz – “Queen of Nurburgring”

The German female driver was named the “Icon of the Nurburgring” because she was unmatched during the 24 Hours of Nürburgring. 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 speed”

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. But Mouton is the only woman to have won the FIA World Rally Championship. She debuted in 1974 and won Rally San Remo in 1981. 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.

In 1975, Michèle Mouton was the first female driver to participate in the 24 hours of Le Mans. Autosport magazine named her “The Driver of the Year”.

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! That’s that. 

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”

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. Even though Wolff didn’t take the same place as the main driver, she was successful on the track.  

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. 

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. 

Besides, Susie Wolff was another woman who supported the founding of W Series. Her husband supported her in founding Dare to be Different. Together with Claire Williams and Tatiana Calderón they supported events across the UK to invite girls to participate in motor racing-related activities.  

Susie Wolff was awarded an Honorary Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh “in recognition of her role as an ambassador for women in sport”. Also in 2017 Wolff was honoured as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to Women in Sport. 

María de Villota

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 IndyCar”

There’s no one in the world who doesn’t know who Danica Patrick is. Her achievements in Motorsport are priceless. This female racing driver is a queen of motorsport.

She 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.

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.

W Series car

Why are there no female F1 drivers?

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, but they can. As you can see from the examples above.

Someone claimed the problem is in the lack of women in Formula 1 . Statistically, there are far fewer women trying to make a professional career of being a racing driver. This means that there are even fewer women with the financial backing to make it to Formula 1.

I’m a firm believer that if the pipeline of women coming into the sport were to suddenly triple in size, the female demographic in open-wheel racing would drastically change, and that’s roughly what the W Series is banking on.” – Ryan Lewis “The Drive”

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 racers. That is tradition. That’s hard. Apart from women drivers, racing academies are also geared towards men.

W Series
Photo credit: wseries.com

What is the W series racing and why did women need their own race?

W Series was launched in 2018 and was completely up to date. There is 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. This was done by creating a pipeline of future female racers with the support of the FIA. That is how the W series racing began.

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.. Therefore, the W series proved to be the most effective field to maximize experience.

The W Series racing is the most suitable opportunity for female racing drivers as it is a free-entry championship. It provides 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 allows females to race in F1, even if the challenge is a bit different.

Jamie Chadwick
Jamie Chadwick one of the most successful W Series driver

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.

About W series crash

At the same time, it would be a mistake to call W Series racing completely safe. This is how six cars were involved in a horrifying accident during the W Series season 2021 at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium.

Ayla Agren and Beitske Visser have been transferred to hospital.

Is W Series racing a good idea?

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.

“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 backward take place in my lifetime.”

Pippa Mann on CNBC

The arguments died down over time because at least the W series allows female drivers to experience racing. 

Sums Up:

Today, the FIA Women & Motor Sport Commission aims to help develop women’s talent in racing. So, there are many more opportunities for women in all formulas and at all levels than twenty or even ten years ago. But it is remarkable that such a step would never have happened if there were no talented successful women in racing at every level: from female drivers to businesswomen and talented managers. 

Through stereotips, Sarah Christian, Janet Guthrie, Lella Lombardi, Odette Siko and the others broke the rules and dared to be involved in racing no matter what.

Thanks Michèle Mouton, who started her career as a rally driver and stepped through all the levels with a great 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.