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Girls on Track – The latest initiative to encourage women into motorsport
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Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Mar 2018   |  4:20 pm GMT  |  187 comments

This week saw the launch at the Geneva Motorshow of a new initiative aimed at encouraging young women to get involved in motorsport – the Girls on Track karting challenge.

The initiative is backed by the FIA Women in Motorsport commission and its president ex-rally driver Michele Mouton as well as Susie Wolff and Tatiana Calderon, who was named as test driver for the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team this week.

With funding from the European Commission – via the Erasmus educational programme – and sponsorship from Yokohama, the programme is aimed at bringing girls between 13 and 18 years old to motorsport.

The Girls On Track programme is very much a grassroots programme, using the fast growing discipline of karting slalom, which is a very low cost entry level category that can be set up in city centres and urban settings.

Eight European national federations are participating – Belgium, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Sweden. The target is to reach more than 3000 girls.

Three finalists from each country will be invited to take part in the European final at Le Mans in March 2019, and six drivers will be chosen to form a European Team that will undertake a full FIA backed sporting and educational programme.

Although the programme does not set any goals in terms such as having a female F1 driver in the next five to ten years, the objective is to increase the ‘funnel’ of girls participating in the sport. One of the main reasons cited why there is no female F1 driver today is because not enough girls participate at grass roots and kerting level so the funnel is too narrow, compared to boys.

All Grand Prix drivers started their careers in karting in some form or another and that has been the case for many years now.

“This project is a huge challenge, although essential to raise awareness about motorsport among young girls and detect the female champions of tomorrow. With The Girls On Track programme, we have a great opportunity to open up the world of motorsport to a new generation” said Michele Mouton.

Calderon will be working in the Sauber simulator and also attending several Grands Prix to work with engineers, although the deal does not appear to include any test time in the F1 car itself.

If you or one of your friends or family is interested in finding out more about Girls on Track then click on this link www.fia.com/TheGirlsOnTrack

What do you think? Leave your comment in the section below

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1

I think that women in motorsport is great for the following reasons (In no particular order) :
1. Forget football, the sport that has men and women competing together will be THE sport.
2. Lewis and others have admitted that the thing that enabled their success/ caused their loss was mental toughness and women often have in spades. I don’t agree that the grid would comprise all the men followed by all the women.
3. The soap opera will be good. We know that several of the drivers are mates and there will be relationships. I bet that Lewis and Nicole would have stayed an item if she was another one of the drivers.
4. They will brighten up the proceedings. It’s a bit cynical, the grid girls have gone but will be ‘replaced by’ the most glamourous female drivers.
Concerning the physical aspect. I recall that Steve Davis was asked about women in snooker and remarked that he played the top lady player 5 times in all and beat her soundly every time. He said that in the professional game the fine physical differences between men and women conspired to allow his win each time. He remarked that if she attended ‘your’ club she’d beat everyone there. There’s that chap Greg somebody or other who trained David Walliams to swim the channel. I’d like to hear from someone like him on the physical issues.

2

@James-

Regarding the readership on this forum -I wonder if you ever had a POLL on this website that shows the ratio of male is to female readers?

Just curious, It proves nothing, but this article makes me wonder about the spectator demographics. I think the Motorsport.com yearly surveys ask for the readers gender, but I do not recall if I have ever come across the male is to female ratio in the results.

Any Idea?

3

It’s 90% male on this site, based on the 2016 survey we did.

4

No UK participation? #Shame

5

These are the grid-girls I want to see.

6

First & foremost, I want to say bring it on.

This is a good thing, because a lot of females I have spoken to have the mistaken perception that they can’t compete equally. In physical strength sports, this may be true, but not in motor racing.

In Australia, we have Garth & Leanne Tander. Both have won the Australian Formula Ford Championship & Leanne almost won the Formula 3 as well.

Females racing face 2 major hurdles.

1 is belief. They must believe they can, in the same way as Lewis Hamilton.

The 2nd is a huge blight on society called discrimination.

Swiss racer Simona De Silvestro recently felt this at the Clipsal 500 at Adelaide.

Another driver (that I won’t name) failed to give way entering turn 8, as per local Race Stewards instructions, & forced his way ahead of “The bloody Girl”, clipping Simona’s nose & forcing himself to run wide into the concrete at nearly 200kph.

The next day, the same driver tried to push her into the concrete barrier for revenge for the day before. Had Saturday’s Turn 8 incident been 2 male drivers, the discriminating arrogant idiot would have trailed into Turn 8 & not hit the wall.

The one other occasional danger, actually occurred at the 2017 Bathurst 12 hour.

Garth Tander was about to lap some slower class cars at Turn 1. Leanne Tander, leading her class as usual, was the innocent victim of another car clipping Garth, causing him to knock Leanne’s car out of the race.

When his stint was finished, a reporter asked Garth if he was worried about an upcoming Stewards enquiry about the Turn 1 incident, to which he answered “No, I’m worried about facing my wife”.

I personally enjoy watching Females race because I believe they have more finesse & flow with a race car than most Males.

If anybody wants proof, just YouTube anything with Sabine Schmidt.

7

Many race tracks are kept alive by using lot of tax money. If a government says we don’t pay as long there aren’t race events for girls too…

What would happen?

Suddenly there would be race events for girls?

Or more probably: will there be only races in countries who don’t care about gender correctness like Bahrain, Quatar,…?

8
Tornillo Amarillo

With funding from the European Commission – via the Erasmus educational programme – and sponsorship from Yokohama

Are there any money to fund Kubica?

He is the first fast zombie returning from death, handicaped and pushing alone to race in F1… but any money, any programme, was funding him! Crazy this world, they accept other money, no rules here.

Conclusion, they want just more girls paying tickets, TV and merchandising. Once I’ve made the mistake to go with my teen girl to a concert of Katy Parry… we were only 2 men in the full hockey stadium! I’ve only heard an uninterrupted loud “Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiih” from the public from the 1st song until after the last one, only that…

9

It seems to me that a female F1 would be a good starting point. If there are no icons for girls to aspire to be like then the interest is always going to be limited, and the problem becomes an ongoing cycle.

The only way it changes is if a woman happens to break through and changes the perception that women cannot compete with the top drivers. I dont know if they can or can’t, but my guess is that a world class talent could make up for any lack in physical strength with driving ability. But they would have to be special.

A female support series to F1 would give the opportunity for top women drivers to test and regularly race F1 cars, and the times could be compared with the men.

10

Sometimes I think the world is full of ‘social police’ who like to tell other people and other organisations what they must do and how they must spend their money despite having nothing to loose themselves. Until motorsport is run like some sort of social enterprise – funded with monopoly money? – I do not expect much change. This is similar to the people currently telling Hollywood how they must make films and who they must employ yet they are not offering to foot the bill. I don’t think we will see an other Lella Lombardi for some time.

11

F1 is a very physically demanding sport, the trouble is I think a lot of people assume it’s ‘just’ driving a car and hence get upset at the lake of female drivers. Lack of understanding. Any of us who’ve done a few laps in a decent kart will tell you it’s pretty tiring after a short while. I know JB seems to think females are as physically strong as males but that simply isn’t the case for the vast majority.

We don’t have mixed football, rugby, golf etc so surely the best way to encourage female drivers to have female only racing series. These could be run alongside existing events to ensure decent coverage.

I have a wondefully intelligent 13 year old daughter so I’m very keen that she is not disadvantaged in any way as she pregresses through life. I’d certainly not recommend her competing physically with males but against other females – certainly!

12

Going back to the 1940s the American Gofer Babe Didrickson asked to be allowed to play in mens tournaments but she was refused. She had been an olympic long jumper and hit the ball as far as most males. All these women today are so lucky that there is nothing to keep them out of motorsport !

13
Richard Mortimer

Neil

Actually, this is something I have given much thought to for a long time. It’s not actually strength, it’s the power of concentration! Maybe women just do not have the same ultimate capacity as men in that regard?

Pat Moss did rather well. Danica Patrick has won in Indy car, if not done so well in NASCAR. In the late 1980s / early 90s there was a dynamite kart driver called Jeanette Peak. I thought she might make it.

14

Yes. Strength and endurance have something to do with muscle strength and fitness but actually are mostly in the head. Among other things, there are visualisation techniques to measurably increase strength and performance, and visualisation techniques to change core feeling, leading to the disappearance of the sensation of muscle fatigue and pain, and the introduction of “turbo mode”. All adaptations to racing with men 😉

15

So because the average female isn’t as strong as the average male, an exceptional female racing driver should be prevented from racing against males, because she happened to be born with lady bits?

I’m not suggesting males and females should play rugby together, but I don’t see why females can’t race against males. Yes, it’s physically exhausting, but it’s not the same kind of physical demand as playing rugby against a 6’5″, 230lbs male.

If females can compete against males in offshore ocean racing, or at top level acrobatic/stunt/fighter jet flying, they can do it in F1, or any racing car.

I highly doubt a modern F1 car is more demanding to drive than an Audi Quattro from the Group B era – Michelle Mouton already showed she could hang with the boys.

16

Twitch – I think that by encouraging a ‘mixed’ racing series you’re creating a strong bias against females. To compete in current F1 a female would have to be exceptionally talented and physically a match for the already incredibly fit males. That’s not fair on females who are incredibly talented drivers.

Creating female championships would allow a lot more females to compete and raise the profile of the sport. Seems like a no brainer to me – look how many other female sports are really taking off now.

I realise that to some my first sentence above may apear sexist, but it’s really not. It’s a reality that quite often gets put by the wayside within the current climate to the detriment of the fairer sex. Actually that’s probably sexist too – what a minefiled! BOOM.

17

Neil – I think there’s many things you aren’t considering.

Who would watch a female only F1? Think of how few people watch F2…do you think FF1 would pull more numbers than F2? I highly doubt it.

If FF1 is going to pull a fraction of the numbers of MF1, then where is the money going to come from? F1 teams claim to struggle with their current budget….the teams in FF1 would be operating on a fraction of a fraction of their male counterparts (unless its mandated by rules), and therefor, the cars would be slower, from a technical point of view. So again….who would watch female F1 when the cars are objectively slower?

You could make female F1 a spec open wheel series…like Indycar, which has had female drivers in it for over a decade now….F1 playing catch up to the rest of the world with this one lol.

How far down the junior ranks does the split go? Again, who is going to pay for 2x as many feeder series around the world?

Here’s a curveball. How would your gender split F1 series handle a driver like, oh let’s say Max Verstappen, decided one day he wanted to be Maxine Verstappen, and had gender reasignement surgery. Would she be allowed to compete in female F1, or would she be too good to race with the slow women?

18

Twitch – I see your point regarding potential viewing figures for female only F1, you’re basically saying who cares about watching women drive when you can watch men drive? Your comment could therefore be seen as being incredibly sexist even though (we know) you mean well.

Regarding speed differences between male F1 and female F1, assuming differences in car performance due to budget, I really think the interest comes out of the competitive nature of the sport. I’d way prefer current F1 to be 10% slower based upon restrictions to aerodynamic grip and watch how the racing improves. You can’t see mph on tv but you can see wheel to wheel racing.

As for gender reassigned drivers, they’d obviously need their own series just to ensure complete political correctness was observed 😉

19

There are no women driving full-time in the WEC, which is probably physically more demanding F1.

20

A good first step. Like others have said, could probably start younger to ensure opportunities aren’t missed.

Also, I’ve never been a big fan of these types of efforts (gender or race-specific only, etc…), but this may be the case where it really is needed. If you set-up a few female only feeder series, and one or a few drivers really dominate their competition, then they will probably get a serious look from established teams in open series. Those drivers might otherwise have never gotten a chance to shine, so it seems to make sense. And those that don’t make it, maybe they end up in motorsports in other capacities after exposure to that world, and that can only be good for everyone.

21

I’d like to make the comparison with female fighter pilots. There are more and more of them and they’re just as good as their male counterparts. So it’s not a question if women are able to perform at the same level.

That said: there are only 20 seats in F1 and it’s very difficult for any driver to land a seat. However, if an exceptional talent comes along, I doubt teams will look at gender 1st and pace 2nd. If you’re good enough, then you’re good enough.

22

I’m not sure if you can compare fighter pilots wearing highly technically advanced G Suits to motor racing. The average person (and I mean in general, not the informed readers on this forum) has no comprehension of the physical effort required to drive an F1 car.

23

Calderon will be working in the Sauber simulator and also attending several Grands Prix to work with engineers, although the deal does not appear to include any test time in the F1 car itself.”

So she isnt actually going to drive the car? I also notice she finished 18th last year in F3. This is 18 places better than I have ever finished but really?

Seems like the wrong candidates are being selected for the wrong reasons. Surely one of the 17 other male/female drivers should have had a shot at the role?

I am all for female drivers. Bring em on. But only if they are quick or quickest…

24

Did you really finish 36th? Hats off to you!

25

Yes. It was a big entry list that year 🙂

26

“With funding from the European Commission…”

Seriously? The EU is funding girls in motor racing. The UK can’t leave – and stop making contributions to – this ridiculous institution quickly enough.

27

You are quite correct. The UK can’t leave until it agrees to fulfill its responsibilities. So we help pay for it and don’t benefit (until at least 2020 so far). Something everyone knew before the referendum. I have no idea why you are complaining now – clearly, you voted for this disaster.

And, of course, I don’t see anything wrong with promoting equality for women in an age where we are still discriminated against in all areas. A far better use of the formerly 5th richest economy in the world’s money than squandering it on the petulant selfish few who might benefit from removal of the workers rights the EU has enforced.

28

Gary.

The rich and affluent need financial support too You know… The EandU are also supporting such noble causes as “Polo for the middle classes” and “My dad is too fat to push my bobsleigh” and “get me another sherpa” for the poorer professional mountainers amongst us…..

29

Danica Patrick and Simona de Silvestro prove women can participate in high level motorsport IF they are good enough. Apparently they’re not good enough for F1 but they are certainly kicking ass.

30

The top fastest 50 women in the world would not be as fast (or close to as fast) as the top 50 men. This will remain the fundamental reason why we won’t see many women in the top flight. Biomechanics. The top 50 men in the world will run, drive and swim for longer and faster than the top 50 women in the world. All the PC balls in the world won’t change this.

Can I just say though, there’s definitely women out there who could beat Ericsson. So there you go girls. Get yourself Ericsson money.

31

What about Michelle Mouton, in Group B rally? She already proved a woman could hang with the top 50 drivers in the world in her time.

If you think the drivers of the WRC in the Group B era we’re not amongst the top 50 drivers in the world at the time, then you have no idea about the history of Motorsport.

On average, women won’t be as fast as men. That doesn’t mean that an exceptional woman can’t come along and beat every single male out there. The odds are stacked against it, but there’s no reason I can’t happen.

32

Group B was amazing to watch but I’m not sure its as physically demanding as F1. Just taking grip level as a huge difference – Group B was spectacular because of the lack of grip, totally the opposite to F1.

I’m not sure why you’d want one or maybe two exceptional female drivers to compete in F1 when you could have an entire female series opening up so many more possibilities for female drivers. This would percolate down to grass roots level so all those talented girls have a realistic opportunity to follow their dream. Why discriminate?

33

Any chance we can stop comparing motorsport to actual physical based sports where your body is the PU? It’s a lot less sexist that way, Neil & Hello.

34

Discriminate….omg, knock it off with that nonsense. I’m not discriminating at all. I’m doing the opposite. I’m saying everyone should compete against each other. You are discriminating against women by saying they are not good enough to compete against men. The irony here is too real.

35

So by expecting women to compete against men in a physically demanding sport you’re not discriminating?

I assume you’d also like mixed football, golf, athletics etc? Equality should demand that at least?

It’s all a bit silly, words and intentions can be twisted any which way you like. Basically all of us petrol heads would love to see more women involved in the sport we love but I really can’t see that happening without taking the view that most other sports do.

36

Agreed, one or two outliers could and will come along.

37

James,

Completely off-topic but I’ve had this question on my mind for some time now: why is it that in the site’s main menu, under Teams, just McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull are listed? What about Mercedes, Renault, etc.? Looks arbitrary and strangely incomplete. Of course I am aware other teams are covered just as well, but it still looks odd.

38

I suppose it is another creative way for the FIA to spend some of the $100M they got from fining McLaren.

39
Richard Mortimer

LOL!

40

The observation “. . . because not enough girls participate at grass roots and kerting level so the funnel is too narrow, compared to boys.” Leads one to wonder why the decision was taken to limit the program to age 13 and older. By 13 their counterparts are engaged in full competition kart racing. . . ? Perhaps playing catch-up might be considered a bit of a barrier.

41

@ Boris just below: Paragraph #2 below answers the fundamental question. And the following thoughts flesh it out. Appreciated.

42

Well, Karting classes are age limited. The continental championships are contested by higher classes of kart, with older drivers and it can get expensive. So that’s probably the demographic where the financial assistance is most needed.

43

IMO, car racing is one of the few sports where, realistically, a (very special) woman could beat men at the highest level of competition so I applaud all efforts to encourage more girls to get into the sport.

That said, “bringing girls between 13 and 18 years old to motorsport” – while better than nothing – is about 10 years too late to produce potential world champions, which should be the goal.

Because of the cost factor and ‘old boys club’ mentality, the talent pool in motorsport is already diluted enough compared to far more meritocratic sports like soccer, football and basketball. The last thing we need is to dilute it further just to get more pretty faces on the track.

The future of the sport would be better served if the FIA set up grassroots, dirt cheap, dirt track and karting programs for 4 & 5 year olds in Africa, Asia, America and Europe to help unearth and support the human beings who were born to race – regardless of race or gender.

The racing world doesn’t need more Danica Patricks; we need more Max Verstappens and Lewis Hamiltons – with or without lady bits.

44

Re; Danica Patrick – Actually, she came up through the karting ranks on her own, pretty much as you discuss. I believe her support and encouragement was her father. She went the junior formula car route in Europe, and eventually got into the Indy cars. Her NASCAR run was not any more unsuccessful than some of the good ole’ boys that run at the back consistently. She may have had sponsor advantages because she was a girl. But she competed toe to toe with the guys.

45

She completely had sponsorship deals because she was an attraction more than a talent. Nevertheless she can drive and compete at that level – no doubt.

Its too bad that she has been promoted because she is a female racer (in a pool of mostly ignorant male XYY racers and promoters) and not because she is a prized talent of a race car driver.

That part of this deal needs to change – the mentality aspect – which I suppose such efforts to promote female drivers – will make headway in the future.

46

Her father payed for most of her Karting….but they’re also family friends with the Earnhardt family. I’ve heard an interview where she recalled knowing Dale Jr when they were kids. I just mention that to point out that she didn’t come from complete obscurity.

47

Fully agree. Looks very elitist to begin with when it’s just a few European federations participating in it. When you add the age restrictions, it makes the picture even worse! Lip service is what this appears to be – particularly in light of the grid girls fiasco.

48

Here is my idea of getting more female drivers in F1:

Every team is required to have a 3-driver line-up, 2 males, 1 female. These 3 drivers are going to share the 2 cars each team currently runs. A third car will be too expensive and the current racing facilities can not accommodate a 3-car team anyway. Each male driver will sit out 3 different races of the 21-race calendar and give the car to the female driver to race on these races. Therefore, each male driver will race 18 of the 21 races, while the female will race 6 of the 21 races (3 races from each of her male teammate). Points will be awarded based on the mixed field results. If the female driver won the race, 25 points, finished 10th, 1 point doesn’t matter she’s first amount all female drivers. Contractor Championship will be decided the same way we have now – 2 cars in 21 races doesn’t matter who the driver is. Male WDC will be decided by the 18 races each drove. Female WDC will be decided by the 6 races each drove. It won’t be fair if only have a mixed WDC because males has 18 races and females has 6 only. We could make each of the 3 drivers race 14 times over the year (each male driver give up 7 race to the female driver). However, they wont be all racing the same 14 races so a mixed WDC would still be not fair. Additional cost to the teams will mostly be the salary of the additional female driver to their current line-up.

Any thoughts James?

49
Richard Mortimer

Steve

No, let’s go the whole hog and have 3-car teams (at the front)! Maybe first 4 teams?

50

This is a terrible idea. The goal is for women to make it on merit not to be forced in as part of a quota. There is no reason a female driver can’t make it to the top, its just a numbers game. More girls at the grassroots level will result in more getting to the top.

Your idea will just result in inferior drivers being overpromoted. We will have a bunch of drivers a second or more off the pace because they were out of their depth and don’t have the ability. If there was a female driver good enough she’d already be in a car because the commercial a upsides are enormous.

51

How would you handle trans gender drivers? What if Seb decided he wanted to become Sebrina. Could Ferrari then not hire Kimi, Charles, and Sebrina as their 2 males and a female?

Do you think Seb putting on some eye liner, changing his name, taking some estrogen pills, and maybe chopping off his pitot tube that he’d suddenly lose all his talent and speed?

Or would you discriminate against transgender people, and say that the gender assigned to a person at birth is the gender they must compete under?

I’ve got an idea….how about we just pick the 20 fastest drivers in the word, regardless of sex, gender, race, religion, nationality, etc. Why not just pick the 20 fastest in the world, period. Seems rather simple, almost elegent, to me, wouldn’t you agree?

52

And the 20 best drivers would still be all men.

53

Averages tell us it would be more likely to have more males in the top 20 than females. But people are not averages. There’s no scientific evidence available that indicates it is impossible for a female to come along who does not conform to the averages, who had the ability to be amongst the top 20 drivers in the world. Odds are against it, it’s not likely to happen tomorrow, but it is possible.

54

Quite possibly the worst idea ever?

Who in there right mind would pay to watch a GP where there favourite driver is forced to sit out in the name of diversity. That’s rediculous.

55

Just to emphasize. I live in Canada. Let’s say #44 is my favourite driver.

Now let’s say, based on putting a strategy together for the whole season, Merc announces that #44 will be sitting out the Canadian GP, and that Susie Wolfe will be taking his place.

Only reasonable response to that is, “thank you for saving me the price of buying a ticket.”

Now imagine you’re an F1 fan, living in canada…and it just so happens that Lewis, Seb, Max, Esteban, Charles, Fernando, and Carlos. ALL happen to be schedualled to sit out the Canadian GP. Seriously, who in their right bloody mind would watch that, never mind PAY to watch that.

Appreciate the effort, but man; put some thought into these ideas 😉

56

Sounds very contrived to me.

Besides, as soon as you make it a requirement to have a female driver everyone will think that the female driver is there not on merit but because it’s enforced. This view will be strengthened in the event that the women drivers don’t perform on par wth the male drivers, which is likely.

57

I get moderated if I reply to that load of bullocks the way I want too.

58

I think I remember in David Coulthard’s book that he said his sister used to beat him.

59

Vettel’s older sister said she was quite good in cart but couldn’t say no to her little brother when he asked to drive the cart.

The only chance i see for girls racing are school projects. Competition between schools and each school has to send boys and girls.

60

Here we go again. If any female is good enough they’d already be in formula one without the political correctness garbage.

61

But isn’t that like saying, any child that is naturally clever enough can go get a degree from Cambridge. However, clearly not every child grows up with the same level of opportunities (money, quality of schooling, encouragement from family, etc) so it doesn’t work out like that.

I think this is about creating more opportunities for girls to get involved in karting and, more importantly, to a spark a child’s interest in such a sport they may otherwise not have considered.

If you take women’s football or the paraolympics as examples, 15 or 20 tears ago, these barely existed. Nowadays it’s much more mainstream and popular and women or people with disabilities now see these sports as something they can aspire to do.

62

I’m guessing none of these girls will be

1. From a council estate.

2. Unattractive

3. Have parents who are in need of money from the EU.

63

Face it, even the best boy has no chance if he has no connections to teams and sponsors.

How many of the drivers had not a father or uncle who was a driver? How many of the drivers had no easy access to a race track when they were kids?

How many drivers are from a country which doesn’t own a race track?

64

Yes the cream should rise to the top but F1 cream needs to be spotted early and then fully supported.

Didn’t somebody once say that the best driver in the world is probably driving a tractor in a field in Uzbekistan (or words to that effect).

65

If you want women competing at the elite levels then you need women only race series. I know it is such a radical idea for some but just about every other sport does it.

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