Over the past year, we’ve witnessed ground-breaking moments for women in motorsport both on and off the track. The Iron Dames wowed us, winning the Gold Cup class at the 24 Hours of Spa, becoming the first all-women line-up to do it in the race’s GT era. Pocket rocket Doriane Pin dominated the Ferrari Challenge Cup with nine wins and 13 podiums. Meanwhile, W Series entered its third season and achieved record viewing numbers with over one million people tuning in to see the drivers race at Silverstone.
There are far too many other winning women to mention here but highlights include Jess Backman claiming the Vice Champion title in ADAC TCR Germany, Ashton Harrison winning her class in the GT World Challenge America Pro-Am and Aliyyah Koloc taking the Cross-Country Bajas Middle East Cup.
After witnessing so much talent in 2022, it’s clear that 2023 is going to be an exciting year with plenty of trophies and race wins. In the meantime, 2022 has given us plenty to talk about.
The Iron Dames continue to wow
The Iron Dames rocked up at the start of the year in their unmissable bright pink car and pretty quickly showed that they weren’t just there to make up the numbers. Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy and Doriane Pin just couldn’t stop breaking records in 2022, becoming the first all-female line-up to reach Le Mans Hyperpole while Bovy became the first woman to take pole in the European Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). The team became the first all-female line-up on the FIA WEC podium and the first all-female race winners in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS).
At the end of an incredible year, it was only fitting that Iron Dame Dorine Pin was awarded the Volant D'Or "Performer of the Year" award by the FFSA (Fédération Française du Sport Automobile).
Hannah Schmitz: The Queen of Strategy
There’s been a significant increase in the number of women working in motorsport communications but this hasn’t been reflected across every role in the paddock. This year, however, Hannah Schmitz has become something of a household name in the motorsport community. F1team strategy was at the forefront of the conversation and Schmitz became the face of excellent decision-making and composure in the most high-pressure situations.
W Series funding issues
W Series returned after a great 2021 season to a thrilling start in Miami. The drivers got to grips with the tricky circuit and Jamie Chadwick showed why she was already a two-time champion of the series. We saw great battles between drivers with excellent driving from Abbi Pulling, Beitske Visser and Alice Powell.
By the time it got to the autumn, rumours were beginning to circulate of financial troubles as the series prepared to head across the pond to COTA. The rumours soon turned out to be true and W Series was forced to cancel the final two races of the season, making Chadwick champion for a third time.
However, the indication is that W Series will return next year with new funding and with Chadwick departing for INDY NXT (INDYCAR’s development series) it should really open up the championship for some of the younger drivers.
New for 2023: Formula Academy
Towards the end of 2022, F1 decided to get seriously involved in women in motorsport by launching the Formula Academy. The series varies in many ways from W Series, using lower-powered F4 single-seaters and featuring a 15-car grid. However, the most significant difference is that drivers will have to cover €150,000 of their costs (whereas W Series is free to enter).
It is an exciting prospect for up-and-coming female drivers as the cars will be run by current F2 and F3 teams, giving them the opportunity to prove themselves and hopefully gain promotions to the higher series.
There are concerns, however, just as there were with W Series, that segregating drivers reinforces the idea that women are not fast enough to compete with men. We know that’s not true and it’s being shown by drivers like Doriane Pin. There’s also the risk that if women are still struggling to access racing opportunities earlier on in their driving career, then the highest levels of racing will still be out of touch for them.
We’re not the only ones to spot this problem and 2022 saw the launch of More Than Equal. Founded by F1 race winner driver David Coulthard alongside entrepreneur Karel Komarek, it aims to find the “first female F1 Drivers’ World Champion” by scouting young talent and supporting them throughout their career to put them on a level playing field with men.
Growing opportunities and visibility for female drivers in the new year
We’ve seen more and more opportunities open up for women to drive competitively at a professional level – this can only be a good thing. Increasing the number of racing series and initiatives that encourage and enable women to compete at the highest level will improve the quality of female drivers and inspire more young girls to pursue professional racing as a realistic career option.
There are so many exciting things to come in 2023 and we can’t wait to see what happens next.