Formula 1 hasn’t seen a female driver attempt to compete since 1992 and 1980 was the last time a woman actually took part in a race. Susie Wolff is Scotland’s female representative on the big stage and despite her connections she’s still not competed in F1. Her work with Girls on Track and Dare to be Different is encouraging more youngsters to get into the sport at competing level as well as behind the scenes. But with the introduction of the W Series and Lynne Jordan competing in this year’s Formula Women competition, the future for women in the sport is looking brighter than ever.
Lynne was only a child when she first became interested in motorsport. Coming from Greenock and being a woman meant that none of her friends were interested in going to races together. She was also the first in her family to get a driver’s licence.
“I work better under pressure than having time to prepare for things”, Lynne opened up when I asked her if she was looking forward to the first stage of competing in Formula Women in November.
Formula Women is a competition that gives women the opportunity to get into motorsports, given that it’s really difficult to get into the sport if you are female and not to mention expensive. People like Lynne, who have always been fans of motorsports have the opportunity to meet people in the industry and get contacts so that even if she doesn’t go all the way, (am I guilty of being bias if I say, we 100% believe she will get all the way) she can still find opportunities to get involved at a competing level.
Considering Lynn hasn’t even competed yet, she’s been hard at training. Having started PT sessions means she has managed to focus on her fitness. We had a chat during our interview, discussing whether we reckoned we could fit into a race car with big boobs, *spoiler*, we don’t believe I can, but after Lynne’s fitness adventure over the past three months, she has reassured me that it is no longer a concern for her.
Motorsport is one of the most expensive sports to compete in, so even to take part in Formula Women, you need sponsors: “Formula Women has provided us with so much support. They have given us contacts for everything you could think of, so that you know exactly where to go when you need help. At one of the events, they were giving out packs with a template sort of thing, with how to find sponsorships, how to approach them, what are the right things to say to get them to pick you.” Lynne showed me the leaflets she made for potential sponsors. Using all the information and tools given to her by Formula Women, she secured a sponsorship with Sharp Tuning, which will get their logo printed on Lynne’s helmet or car when she starts competing, along with lots of other local businesses that have helped with financial sponsors.
“Even though I’ve not started competing, there are lots of costs, like one-to-one car training sessions and karting. I’ve done simulator training through Formula Women as well.
“I travelled down to Silverstone, and the people who are down there are the ones teaching the guys from Formula 1, so you feel really professional. It’s the best, but the costs build up, just like all motorsports”. Knowing that Lynne has her sponsors behind her means she can focus on her performance and getting the best results. After all, it’s about time that women got the same opportunities from local businesses as men and the local football team.
“A big thing for me is equality in the sport” Lynne works with people with disabilities, she wants to prove that having a disability doesn’t have to be a barrier to get into sports and hopes to encourage more diversity in motorsports. “That’s my aim, for the end of this, to introduce more people with disabilities to the sport and make sure there are equal opportunities.”
Enter, W Series.
“In setting up the W Series, I wanted to create a pathway for female talent that focuses purely on ability rather than wealth, which is why the competition is entirely free to enter.” Said Catherine Bond Muir, CEO and Founder of W Series. I’m not messing around here, we got the main women to give us the low-down on what it’s like to be the one levelling out the playing field for women’s motorsports.
For myself, growing up, on the weekends the TV was constantly turned to F1, at first I didn’t get it, they were just going round and round in a fast car, where’s the talent in that? Fast forward 10 years, I am obsessed and my dad is honestly surprised with my knowledge. But now I’m wondering why is it only men driving those cars?
I’ve recently come across the W Series, which as Catherine said, is giving women, globally, the opportunities to take part in racing at the same F1 tracks. After leaving Corporate Finance, Caroline had a similar thought to my own, why aren’t female drivers visible in mainstream motorsport?
The W Series was thus created; “I set about raising the substantial capital needed to get a motor racing series off the ground and was lucky enough to meet Sean Wadsworth – our Chairman – who became the cornerstone investor.”
In the past 46 years, we have not seen a single woman compete in F1; “Women have not historically had the same opportunities as men when it comes to progressing through the ranks of motorsport. In theory, I believe women can absolutely compete on equal terms with men in F1. However, there is not one female driver today who has received the same funding and training that any F1 driver has. Women have competed in Formula 1 races before, but it’s never been equal when it comes to women in motorsport and W Series is here to level it out.
“When they’re not competing in the W Series, our drivers are racing predominantly against men, and many of them have come top of their class in other junior competitions.” What Catherine is saying, is that we know women can compete against men, because it’s been done before. But all too often sponsors favour the male side, because it means more exposure. This is seen in all sports and one of the reasons that female sports struggle for funding, in turn making it harder to diversify women’s sports.
There are young women who are winning titles at big events, competing against men. Alice Powell, a British racing driver competed and won the Asian Formula Renault Series in 2014. She was the first woman to score points in the GP3 Series in 2012. Only five years before George Russell won the title; “The issue is that funding often dries up at a crucial stage of a driver’s development and sponsors have always considered male athletes a safer bet. When women receive as much support as men, motorsport will be truly equal.”
“Put simply, because it’s a mixed sport and there are a lot of ambitious female drivers out there who deserve as much visibility and support as the male drivers do. It’s also part of a wider issue and that’s gender equality. We have seen a fantastic – if overdue – boom in the popularity of women’s sport in recent years and motorsport should be included in this. The sport will continue to be made up overwhelmingly of male drivers unless we give young girls visible role models to look up to.”
As a woman from Greenock, there wasn’t much encouragement for Lynne to get into motorsport at a young age. Her taking part in Formula Women will change that. Giving hard-working women like Lynne the platform and funding makes young girls and women believe it’s possible for them to do the same. In a sport where money and status are equally important as talent, seeing someone from the most impoverished town in Scotland (Children in poverty Inverclyde) taking part in the international sporting stage will bring new and talented people to the sport.
It’s going to take women like Lynne to encourage girls with an interest in motorsports to see that they can do that. With the help of Formula Women and the W Series, we will see more women getting to the top level. And we are well on to see women compete in the top levels of motorsport.