Pathways open for Women to develop racing career cross disciplines- where are they?

Pathways open for Women to develop racing career cross disciplines- where are they?

Pathways open for Women to develop racing career cross disciplines remains work in progress. Over past decades, Women have tackled challenges to push their race careers on upward trajectory by gaining financial backing to race, by overcoming gender bias on and off track, along with sustaining momentum of racing abilities through developing diverse and adaptable talents within Motorsport industry.

Leila Lombardi first woman to score point at F1 Austrian GP in 1976.

From Women competing in FIM Women’s World Cup in 2005, to females making journey to pursue race career in Europe’s SBK Championships, to Women who raced Dakar Rally over terrain inhospitable to any person let alone rider, to females who bravely tackled cultural and gender norms sustaining status quo of ‘who can race and who cannot’ –  all set bar high on how Women would fulfill racing career ambitions in the future.

No doubt, initiatives to promote grass-roots Motorsport for girls via FIM Women in Motorcycling Commission and FIA Women in Motorsport Commission have edged local, regional, National and International organizations to take up the mantle and encourage girls on the track.

Countries such as Australia, have been particularly successful with promotion of programmes which enable girls to ride, race and drive at any level. Resources have been negotiated to provide development of ability, talent and skill across States, with inspiring role models providing the necessary promotion and exposure that women can enter Motorsport cross-disciplines.

America’s Grand National Cross Country Series has given rise to class of Women who race as professional riders over full calendar season. Most importantly, GNCC offers females entry at any level, from girls taking part on weekends with family, to younger women training and racing outside school studies, to die-hard females who pursue race career as an athlete, as ambassador for sponsors and role model for mainstream gendered public.

Ana Carrasco test at Motorland Aragon, WSBK SSP300 2021.

Gaps on gaining access to next level of race-time do exist though. Call it glass ceiling which has yet to be smashed through, or tough economic climate within Motorsport in general, or sheer competition against peers to gain rides under Teams- Women still face challenges on gaining selection to top tier in their sport.

To make shift from racing National Championships, within whichever discipline to International has become massive hurdle to conquer for many women athletes around the world. Sacrifices are high, financial costs of relocation are huge, commitment to fulfilling ambitions hit off the scale – mostly with unknown factors of ‘will it be worth it?’.

Equally, progression up the ranks of racing, remains still at the mercy of ‘will results lead to ride under Team?’. Certainly, close collaborations between women and sponsors enhance likelihood of future partnerships, question remains will traditional means of career advancement be enough in times of change?

Shining bright on development of Women entering top echelon of Motorsport has to be FIA Women in Motorsport Commission initiative ‘Rising Stars Programme’ whereby winning female driver gained selection to train, learn, experience and develop race-craft in single-seater cars under Italy’s Ferrari Driver Academy. Maya Weng, 16 years of age, recently became the first female to enter such high profile programme for furthering her race career.

Founded in 2019, WSeries, all women F3 Championship has provided the world’s best single-seater drivers opportunity to compete in full race season on iconic circuits with all expenses paid. Not only has WSeries elevated profile of F3 women drivers in terms of racing action, but also raised awareness that Women remain hands on behind the scenes on making improvements to car set-ups, working with engineers, analyzing performance, learning with simulator training along with development of Media presentation to fans watching.

Maya Weug first female to join Ferrari Driver Academy racing F4 Championship with Iron Lynx Team.

So, what comes next? For sure, forming collaborative partnerships to open pathways for riders on dirt, racers on road, and drivers on circuits to gain access to extend their race skills at higher level than currently in, would be priority.

Australia’s SBK rider Hannah Stewart, 16 years of age entered ASBK SSP300 in 2020 displaying talent, skill and determination to pursue racing career. Wouldn’t it be great if Hannah gained ‘Wild Card’ entry to race WSBK SSP300 along-side sole female 2021 WSBK SSP300 rider Ana Carrasco?

Spanish warrior of Enduro/Extreme Enduro Sandra Gomez, who became first female to race and complete Red Bull Romaniacs 2020- would gain huge boost from full season financial backing to pursue what must be described as THE toughest discipline out there.

And, selected top 5 emerging female Motocross riders- from Oceania, America’s, Africa, Europe and Asia would broaden diversity of opportunity for Women competing in FIM Women Motocross World Championship – which as WMX stands has been proudly founded on those women who forged the Championship’s pathway some 16 years ago.

Header Photo: GNCC WXC rider Rachael Archer Photo Credit: Mack Faint.

Words: Sharon Cox.


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