2019 SEASON REVIEW – W SERIES
W Series was launched to the world on Wednesday October 10, 2018, the brainchild of CEO, Catherine Bond Muir, who saw an opportunity, not only to address a major gender imbalance within motorsport, but to do it in a sustainable way that would be attractive to partners, sponsors and fans alike.
Based on the firm belief that, with the same opportunities, women and men could race on equal terms with one another, Catherine identified a mechanism to increase the numbers of women in motorsport at a stroke, and W Series was born.
With a robust and ambitious business plan on the table, Catherine pulled together a proven management team with both motorsport and business expertise to bring the project to life.
An agreement with ex-Formula 1 star, Gerhard Berger, the Chairman of ITR, the umbrella organisation of DTM, (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters), defined an inaugural season of six W Series races at some of Europe’s most famous circuits, including Hockenheim, in Germany, Zolder, in Belgium and Brands Hatch in the UK. W Series would share race weekends with the FIA- affiliated DTM, the world’s most respected silhouette racing series.
The racing cars – the Tatuus T-318 – would be prepared, run and managed by the UK-based international F3 racing specialists, Hitech GP. Race clothing supplier, Puma, tyre supplier, Hankook and wheel supplier, ATS, were the first to join a rapidly expanding roster of partners, as the team geared up for the first race on May 4, 2019.
The pool of over 100 driver hopefuls was reduced to around 50, and then refined to 28, then just 20 following intensive assessment first at the FIA-endorsed Test and Training International organisation, in Austria, run by run by ex-Formula 1 driver and double Le Mans 24 Hours winner, Alex Wurz, then at Almeria in Spain after testing the actual W Series race car.
The shortlist covered 15 different nationalities, including drivers from the UK, USA, Australia, Japan, and across mainland Europe, and this provided unique opportunities to raise the profile of W Series in those markets before a single competitive lap had been raced.
The historic first race, at Hockenheim, Germany, on May 4, perfectly set the scene for the five races that followed. It was won by Jamie Chadwick, but more importantly, provided a key insight into the highly competitive nature of the on-track battles to come.
It was also immediately clear that many of the faster drivers were extremely closely matched and were set to become key figures as the season played out – Jamie Chadwick, Beitske Visser, Emma Kimilainen, Alice Powell and Marta Garcia.
The following four races, with their contingent suite of triumph, disaster, excitement, surprise and disappointment, confirmed that W Series had become a racing success, fully meeting its ‘talent-first’ ethos, and its mission to challenge conventional racing formats.
Ultimately, the final race of the season, the W Series ‘home fixture’ at Brands Hatch, was a triumph and the culmination of a dream for Catherine Bond Muir and the W Series team. Not only did it bring to a close a season that had exceeded their expectations, but it also provided one of the best motorsport spectacles of the year, as the two title contenders, Jamie Chadwick and Beitske Visser, diced for championship victory, while Alice Powell took the actual race win.
Work began on the 2020 season as soon as the chequered flag dropped on 2019, with a flurry of exciting and transformative announcements, including a major new multi-year sponsor – ROKiT Phones – and the confirmation that W Series would support two Formula 1 race weekends in 2020, at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and at Mexico City.