The following article was found in a lovely little corner of the internet called Motorsport & More. The author, Gabriella B, provides some interesting insights into women and motorsports from the other side of the Atlantic. Enjoy!
Women participating in motorsports has been a perennial problem in the sport: in the entire history of Formula One there has only ever been five female drivers who have started a Grand Prix.
Motorsport is one of the few sporting activities in which men and women can compete alongside each other on equal terms yet only 8% of those to hold a professional racing licence are female.
Although there are financial barriers to entry for anyone wanting a career in motorsports with feeder series costing tens of thousands of pounds to enter, these issues are disproportionately affecting women.
From an early age, young girls are not exposed to motorsports and often encouraged towards more ‘feminine’ pursuits and those who do take an interest in karting often run out of money pretty early on as they struggle to generate sponsorship revenue.
At present, there is a focus on diversifying motorsports and having more female figures on the broadcast feeds to inspire young girls – such as Naomi Schiff and Natalie Pinkham on Sky Sports F1 – however without a female driver there isn’t really much to look up to.
This balance has tried to be addressed many times through many formats with the most recent (unsuccessful) effort being the W Series championship.
W Series aimed to improve women’s access to professional motorsports by providing a fully-funded F1 support series exclusively for female drivers.
The series did benefit some with driver Abbi Pulling saying,
“I love W Series and I see it as a stepping stone to progress your career and get that kind of exposure as a female, really, I wouldn’t have gone into F4 if W Series didn’t come around. The aim was always to get to W series and then hopefully use that to progress my career.”
It sounds like a great step forward however in reality the series was beset with problems.
One of which was that there was no progression from the series. Jamie Chadwick won all three W Series championships that were held yet never broke into F2 nor F3 and has instead moved to Indy Lights in the US where she is making less of an impact.
This led on to the second problem which was that very few people actually watched the races and took an active interest. Most feeder series don’t have a particularly strong following and W Series was even worse due to not having a clear route to F1, drivers you’d heard of or any amazing racing.
The lack of fans then caused the biggest problem with the series that led to its demise – finances. W Series barely had any sponsors and running a fully-funded international racing series certainly isn’t cheap. There are no full accounts online but I’m pretty sure they didn’t break-even…ever.
What is publicly available is W Series’ statement of financial position (balance sheet) which paints a pretty grim picture. As a business, it had total debts of over £13 million pounds, was worth less than its debts and had a gearing ratio of -69.53% – far from ideal.
Furthermore, the business’ debt ratio was 2.34:1 (so for every £1 of assets they had £2.34 in liabilities) and a liquid capital ratio of 0.60:1 showing that the business had little means to meet its short-term obligations and probably failed due to liquidity and cash flow struggles.
From the ashes of W Series, Formula One has launched a new all-female racing series – F1 Academy – although it seems to be in a similarly poor state to W Series before it even begins.
The races no longer support F1, they are not broadcast anywhere, in the first race the polesitter has been disqualified, they have no real sponsors and the drivers have to fund half the cost themselves thus not solving the problem nor being an advance on what came before.
There are some genuinely talented female drivers who with the right support could feasibly have a career in motorsport (if not F1) yet the barriers to entry are insurmountable for many and any attempts to address this have been abysmally executed.
The entire article, by teenaged F1 fanatic Gabriella B, can be found here: