Pippa Mann says motorsport never needed the all-female W Series, which now finds itself in financial trouble a few events short of the season’s close.
Founded in 2019, W Series is a regional Formula 3-based competition that was designed primarily to increase female participation in motorsport.
The series received support from several high-profile pit lane personalities at its inception and has gone on to feature on the support card to Formula 1.
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However, the series has had its critics too, who say that it promotes segregation in a sport that is otherwise gender neutral.
W Series was set to support Formula 1 races in the United States and Mexico later this year. Now, that’s looking unlikely.
The Telegraph in the United Kingdom reported this week the series is $12.8 million in debt according to accounts filed with Companies House on September 5.
Despite allegations of contractors being owed “significant sums”, W Series founder Catherine Bond Muir backed the series to stay afloat.
“We’re having lots of conversations at the moment and I’m very optimistic,” she said.
“We’ve had to fight from day one. It has always been a struggle but we’re fighters.
“We’re looking at our budgets. We’re confident that we’ll continue to raise money. You have to understand W Series is a brand new sport.
“Tennis has equality now because Billie-Jean King fought for those rights 50 years ago. Football is slowly starting to become more equal. Rugby? We saw recently that England’s women flew economy to the World Cup where their male counterparts flew business.
“It takes time. We’re only in our third season. But we have had a huge impact already and we are a force for good.”
However, experienced racing driver Pippa Mann believes it’s time to give up the ghost.
Mann, who has seven starts in the Indianapolis 500, has been a vocal opponent of W Series since its inception.
She was among those to criticise the category at its launch for segregating female participants, labelling the announcement “a sad day” for motorsport.
“Those with funding to help female racers are choosing to segregate them as opposed to supporting them,” she wrote in 2018.
“I am deeply disappointed to see such a historic step backwards take place in my life time.”
After news of the financial difficulties broke this week, she took to social media calling for investment to be focused on individuals.
“Women have competed in motorsport for decades,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Try funding them as equals and watch the results. Women don’t need their own series in motorsport, and never have. They need funding. Period.”
Among the criticisms is the apparent failure to promote the best drivers in the series to higher forms of motorsport.
Jamie Chadwick could seal her third W Series title at the Singapore Grand Prix if the season is brought to a premature close.
Chadwick has earnt support from Williams as a development driver, but has not made the logical step up to the FIA Formula 3 Championship – the third rung on the F1 feeder series ladder.
While supportive of the W Series concept, Lewis Hamilton said more needs to be done to help women make the next step.
“For them, I really feel it is great that we have the W Series,” said Hamilton at the Hungarian Grand Prix earlier this year.
“But we as a sport need to do way more for young girls getting into the sport and for these women, if there is no progression from there, from W Series.
“It has been three years, so we need to really work on trying to create something. When you win that, do you progress into GP2 [Formula 2] or whatever it may be?
“We can definitely do a lot more to support those girls.”
Chadwick told reporters on the eve of what is currently round seven of the 10-round calendar that drivers were briefed on the financial status of the series.
The Williams development driver said there is still a desire to see the series continue.
“When we were all briefed about the situation, it’s really cool to see how much the series means to everyone,” Chadwick told reporters.
“It’s been a huge opportunity for all of us and I think there’s a bit of emotion that comes with that and all of us obviously don’t want to see it go.”
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