After an immensely successful debut year where W Series hit “all of its targets” CEO Catherine Bond Muir reflects on its inaugural season, the challenges faced and the importance of 2020.
“Me as a character is never going to be 100 percent happy with things,” Catherine says. “When it all stops, I’ll look back and actually think that we’ve made something more than I think at the moment...”
In 2019, W Series took the racing scene by storm. An idea that was three years in the making was thrust into the spotlight. All eyes were on the women-only series - would it live up to expectations?
“I know that Pippa Mann said in one of her tweets that it was a dark day for motorsport when we made the announcement,” she says. “Well, really? Was W Series a dark day for motorsport? We’ll put 18 female drivers on the grid! From my point of view, Brands Hatch was my biggest moment of W Series last year.”
Many see the 2019 season finale at Brands Hatch as a pivotal moment in W Series’ journey. After five fierce rounds of competition supporting the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM), the championship came to a close at one of Britain’s most loved circuits in a weekend that saw a party atmosphere combined with exciting wheel-to-wheel racing.
“I went round in a bubble thinking this is magical and there was some stardust,” she says. “Will Buxton said this is important, this is beautiful. Maybe it was just a combination of all of the unbelievably hard work in the previous three years - it felt as though it was a fantastic day.
“There were young girls in W Series outfits and families there - a husband, wife, and little kids were there, all interested. How is that a bad day for motorsport? It just wasn’t. It was absolutely the opposite.”
Regardless of the overwhelmingly positive reaction to its first year, Catherine knows how important it was to have David Coulthard - the Advisory board Chairman - by her side.
“People like David were so invaluable to us last year because people speak to David, whereas no one would speak to me; no one would have a bloody clue who I was,” she says.
Having an ex-F1 race winner on board meant that W Series was able to secure talent like Technical Director Dave Ryan and Communications Director Matt Bishop.
“What’s this W Series? It may sound like a good idea, yes - but motorsport is always full of ideas and nothing ever happens,” she says. “David was very good at opening doors and after all he introduced Dave and Matt. Without David, we wouldn’t have been able to make those contacts.”
Moving forward, Catherine feels that 2020 is going to be a “massively important” year for the championship. With 12 returning drivers and several new additions - including previous sceptic Abbie Eaton - W Series will once again visit race tracks across Europe in its quest to promote female talent.
“We found out that women could produce excellent motor racing - who knew!” she says. “That was something that women never knew amongst themselves, because obviously anyone has only ever seen possibly seen one woman on a race track at a time.”
Despite the praise received for 2019, Catherine isn’t resting on her laurels. There’s an immediate story-line present with reigning champion Jamie Chadwick returning to the grid but Catherine doesn’t predict a one-way fight.
“What we have to do this year is just get bigger and better in every single sense,” she says. “What’s great about this season is that there’s a great story to begin with. Right at the beginning, there’s a number of championship contenders.
“Obviously Jamie, but Alice had two DNFs [last year], Beitske is competitive, Emma has got to be the one to watch because she only completed three races - came fifth in the championship and won one race.
“The wonderful thing about the beginning of the series is that there are lots of potentials and then we’ve got all of these new drivers."
Abbie Eaton also joins this year’s line-up. Having never raced single-seaters before the selection test, Abbie is best known for her determination and straight talking, having also starred alongside Jeremy Clarkson and co on The Grand Tour.
“Abbie isn’t a single-seater driver but she’s going to do some testing and increase her experience,” Catherine says. “Can she transfer her skills into single-seaters? That’s another story that we don’t know!”
With 2020 potentially being a make or break year for W Series, there’s plenty on the horizon, including new partnerships, new car liveries and maybe even new calendar announcements.
For the full story though, we’ll just have to sit patiently and wait.
All images credits go to W Series