An account by FinM editor, Helena Hicks.
The sun is shining which is nice for a late September day in England, but that isn’t what hits me first - no, it’s the number of young women that are smiling and utterly captivated by Veloce Racing driver Jamie Chadwick and what she has to say.
There’s something awfully special about a large group of women, all sitting together, talking about motorsport. Some are being exposed to racing for the first time in their lives, others are all accustomed to hearing Lewis Hamilton’s name on the news. The idea of having a motorsport champion amongst us is exciting - mix in hearing from the woman at the helm of a global racing series that’s supporting Formula 1 and heads are turning.
“This is so cool,” one of the pupils mutters to her friend. Yes, this is rather cool.
Perhaps a decade ago this was unheard of, but we can be assured that our sport has come a long way since then, thanks to the tireless work of initiatives like FIA Girls on Track U.K. and the female-only W Series.
Why is something like Girls on Track UK needed? Well, the UK is arguably one of the biggest countries in the globe for motorsport activity. Despite that, such a small percentage of those involved in the sport are female. By giving young women the chance to experience some of the roles that motorsport has to offer, their eyes are opened to the prospect of a career in STEM or something they had never previously considered.
After the easing of the lockdown earlier this year, they’ve been able to execute two other events, beginning at Gravity in Wandsworth, London. Further activity days will take place in Cornwall and Bath later on in the year. Wherever they go in the country, the days have exactly the same goals: to showcase, inspire and connect.
The event at Epsom College is no different. Joined by W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir, Veloce Racing Team Principal Mariella Bailey, reigning W Series champion Jamie Chadwick, motorsport medical expert Dr Clare Morden and Formula 1 Broadcast Journalist Rosanna Tennant, there’s no shortage of fantastic women to inspire a room full of secondary school girls.
“I was at a school like Epsom College and to have that feeling of knowing what we’re doing here could inspire just one of the girls to get involved in motorsport is important,” said Chadwick. “Whether that be as a driver or in any area of motorsport - it’s great.
“This is a catalyst to inspire more women to get involved. At this stage and age, it’s vital to widen the talent pool and make it that bit bigger.”
100 school girls had the chance to interact with Chadwick as she visited the different challenge areas, including the Batak response challenge and testing different fuel properties in the chemistry labs.
“It’s my favourite type of event to come and do,” said Bond Muir. “Most of the kids who I speak to are really, really engaging.
“I went to a school a few months ago and the teacher wrote me a letter to say that one of the students, who’s only seven, is going to work extra hard at maths because she wants to become a W Series engineer.
“If you can just make one girl see that there are exciting opportunities, that’s amazing.
“Motorsport, for example, puts science in some sort of context and makes it so much more interesting. It makes them more engaged in it.”
Racing is an option no matter your gender, race, background or orientation. It’s a tough industry and there hasn’t been a level playing field for a very long time, but FIA Girls on Track U.K. makes achieving your ambitions that little bit easier.
So here’s to inspiring the next generation of women in motorsport, one of the very few sports in the world where women race against men.
All images were captured by the brilliant Lou Johnson for MotorsportUK.