An all-female race championship series will launch next year, organizers announced Wednesday. The W Series will race 18-20 cars in 2019 with an all-female field. The series is meant to offer a platform for female drivers who’ve been largely overlooked by other race series, organizers said.
“There are just too few women competing in single-seaters series at the moment. W Series will increase that number very significantly in 2019, thereby powerfully unleashing the potential of many more female racing drivers," W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir said in a statement.
Critics say the series is inherently unequal and distracts from female drivers already racing in top series, or vying for sponsorships to compete in those series.
"As female racers we are racers first, and our gender comes second," IndyCar driver Pippa Mann wrote about the proposal last year.
Former racer and W Series advisor, David Coulthard said the series was about opportunity and exposure for those drivers.
"At the moment, however, women racing drivers tend to reach a glass ceiling at around the GP3/Formula 3 level on their learning curve, often as a result of a lack of funding rather than a lack of talent," he noted.
W Series will race in Europe next year, though organizers didn't specify the tracks. Drivers will be given identical Tatuus T-318 Formula 3 cars powered by Autotecnica Motori 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4 engines paired with six-speed sequential gearboxes. Like F1 cars, they will also be fitted halo safety devices.
Organizers say the race entries are free for the selected drivers. A $500,000 purse will be awarded to the overall champion.
Following its inaugural season, W Series says it will expand outside of Europe to include races in Asia and North America.