Catherine Bond Muir came into the spotlight after an idea she had whilst on maternity leave skyrocketed into a vision beyond her wildest dreams. The former lawyer dreamt up the concept of W Series after giving birth to her son. Now, she watches in awe as 18 women compete in front of packed grandstands as a support race for Formula 1.
That’s the power of hard work, grit and determination.
“Women should support women,” the Chief Executive Officer of W Series tells Females in Motorsport.
Last year, instead of stitching together a calendar that would've most likely raced in one country with half of the competitors present, the series made the decision to put the championship on hold until 2021. This resulted in it coming back stronger than ever by racing on the biggest stage motorsport has to offer.
However, 2020 was by no means a walk in the park for their CEO who had questioned whether the series was going to even survive.
“We were having very advanced conversations with some sponsors and they just fell out overnight,” she says. “The world stopped literally. There was obviously months and months trying to figure out whether we were going to race or not.
“It gave us the time to do the F1 deal that you’ll appreciate took quite a lot of time to get over the line. It was Chase [Carey] who wanted to do the deal so it was fantastic that it was led from the top because he made it happen.”
It’s a relief to hear that the pinnacle of motor racing has welcomed W Series with open arms - a positive step not only for the championship but also for equality in motorsport.
“They’ve treated us really well and I’m not just saying that,” she says. “The support that we’ve received from them is really extraordinary. They can promote us in a way that we can’t promote ourselves just because of the size of their platform in comparison to us. But, we’ll get there. I’m not sure when, but we will.”
The third round of the 2021 season was held at Silverstone in front of capacity crowds. Females in Motorsport were there, cheering on a grid of talented female racers. It was special. A goosebumps moment.
“Silverstone was just really extraordinary,” Catherine says. “Words can really describe the personal effect on me just thinking where it all started and then being at one of the largest sports events of the world.”
The feedback that Catherine and the team have received from fans and the very top has been staggeringly positive and rightly so.
“I’m just a boring old lawyer and people constantly came up to me and said they thought W Series was great and it was brilliant,” Catherine says. “Having that feedback from the fans that people really enjoy us and our racing and the brand and everything that we stand for is brilliant.”
All of this is important as Catherine wants the series to be as open as possible - a stark contrast to traditional motorsport series which are well known for being closed off to fans.
“I want us to be accessible,” she says. “We’re about engaging with people. My belief is that people want to engage with individuals and people, and in order to do that we need to be as accessible as possible.”
2021 brought the introduction of teams. With nine teams on the grid having two drivers each, this has been a welcome addition to the series for Catherine and a “crucial lifeblood”.
“We’re having people who want to get involved with us commercially,” she says. “Ultimately, we’re a business and not a charity. It’s of absolute utmost importance that we have those teams because that assures our future for many years.
“For someone like PUMA, they have millions and millions of followers. They can put out tweets and clips across social media and millions of people see it. We’re starting to get that ability to attract global brands. That helps our marketing.”
Catherine has two jobs: one to make sure that there’s money coming in so they can fund the future of the series and the other is to grow the audience.
“In the most simplistic terms, people like Dave Ryan look after cars and they make them go around circuits,” she says. “We have lots of engineers and mechanics. We have people who’re more than capable of managing that. It’s just of crucial importance to the ongoing success of the business.”
The future of W Series? Global domination.
“I want W Series to be famous across the world - that’s quite ambitious from a start-up, but hey, let’s crack on and have big ambitions,” Catherine says. “What I want to do is convert a significant amount of that awareness into love. I want us to be an inspirational brand for young girls all over the world.”
When she first launched W Series, Catherine held the view that if it was successful then the championship would cease to exist a couple of years down the road. However, this standpoint has changed.
“I’ve moved on because what we do is produce very entertaining sports,” she says. “Why can we not exist? There’s no moral imperative to race against men. If women racing against women creates great sport then let’s carry on.”
As a part of her vision, Catherine has started speaking in schools about motorsport. She has had teachers writing back to thank her because their students are wanting to work harder in maths because they want to become a W Series engineer.
“The wonderful thing about motorsport generally is when people say how did you get into it, I say do what you want to do because motorsport is this extraordinary sport,” Catherine says. “It accommodates 90% of jobs and you can’t go and work on an oil rig in motorsport but you can do practically everything else in it.
“It’s not all about being a journalist or a PR person, it’s about being an accountant, or a lawyer, a business leader, operations person, let alone being an engineer, mechanic, driver. It’s this wonderful sport that has so many touchpoints.”
The success of Catherine’s esteemed career came full circle when someone she admired came to her for her first instruction when she was a solicitor.
“My first client was Rachael Heyhoe Flint - she’s been in the press recently as sadly she passed away,” Catherine says. “She was an absolute glee, an extraordinary woman. I advised her on whether it was legal for an MCC to exclude women. It was actually this week I thought I can’t believe my first instruction as a professional that came direct to me was the question of the legality of separating women.
“She was a really really extraordinary woman but also what she did was really pave the way for women in male sport.”
It is, perhaps, rather fitting now that Catherine is carrying Rachael’s legacy on in a way by inspiring the next generation of women in motorsport and beyond.
All images are courtesy of W Series.