PHOENIX - As the Daytona 500 wrapped up, some racing fans are diving into the world of women's racing.
For the first time ever, the W Series came to Arizona to race on one of the country's best racetracks. The W Series travels across the world to find the best female drivers in single-seater events, proving they can compete and win just as much as the men.
An intense race with challenging course awaits drivers
15 of some of the world's best female drivers traveled to the Inde Motorsports Ranch in Wilcox for a chance to showcase their skills and prove that they have what it takes to, one day, race in the W Series.
"So, W Series is the first and only all-female, single-seater women's motor racing series in the world," said W Series CEO and Founder Catherine Bond Muir.
This sport is not for the faint-hearted. The Formula Four single-seaters used in the race can reach speeds of up to 165 miles per hour, and Formula One cars can reach over 220 miles per hour.
"Our cars are much more powerful, more difficult to drive, so we can’t guarantee a seat to our drivers because we need to see them race in our cars," said Bond Muir. "You know they need to be strong enough. This is a taste of the big time. A lot of these drivers who are here today have been very successful in karting, whereas once you start going up through the ladder in single-seaters. you need to be strong, and you need to have strength," said Bond Muir.
As for the course, it is pretty challenging, as it comes with a lot of twists and turns, which really helps drivers showcase their skills, and put them to the test.
Men dominate racing, figures show
Racing is a sport that does not often see female competitors. According to figures by the motorsports governing body Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), only 1.5% of all competitive drivers are women.
"There are so few women around," said Bond Muir. "You know there were isolated women. There was Danica Patrick driving. There were a few other drivers driving, and I looked at the previous eight years, the numbers were actually going down year-on-year. So in motorsport, the situation was actually getting worse for female drivers."
That was when Bond Muir founded the W Series, with the goal of giving female drivers the same opportunities as men to grow, and compete against the best.
"I think with motorsport, it's all about money, and that is why at W Series, we pay for everything for the drivers," said Bond Muir. "We just want to find the best drivers. We don't want to find the richest drivers. We just want to find the fastest drivers."
Would-be competitors attend tryouts
For those who participate, the tryouts are the biggest opportunity to make their lifelong dreams of joining a pro racing circuit a reality.
One of the racers taking part in the W Series is Julia Ayoub. The 16-year-old is from São Paulo, Brazil.
"We work three times more out at the track, inside the track, because we girls, we need to prove everything, so we are always working hard. So, just know that we can achieve whatever we want, and we are achieving it," said Ayoub.
Ayoub started karting with her father and brother in Brazil, switching from ballet lessons to driving lessons. She is one of the youngest drivers at the trials, and is considered a rising star.
"Well, I can’t really define it, in words, how excited it is to be here today. I am so happy. I worked really hard for it, and I'm finally achieving my dreams, and I hope everything goes well," said Ayoub. "We usually see just one or two girls in our local races, and to be together with a lot of girls with the same goal, with the same dream, is just amazing."
Another competitor, Chloe Chambers from Monroe, New York, is already an accomplished athlete in the world of motorsports.
"I have a Guinness World Record that was set in 2020 for the fastest vehicular slalom," said Chambers, 17. "I did it in a Porsche 718 Spyder."
Chambers joined the sport after watching her dad compete when she was just eight years old. Now 17, she is hoping to leave her mark on the W Series crew.
"My favorite part about racing is the competition of it," said Chambers. "I like it being just, you know, one driver against the other driver, and most of it comes down to talent and, obviously, the team aspect of it."
Season set to start in months
The racers range from 15 to 27 years old, and many of them have been driving since elementary school. Bond Muir says the purpose of the test is to get to know a new group of drivers, as the W Series team finalizes its 2022 lineup.
The season officially runs from May to October, and consists of eight races at tracks alongside Formula One races, as it attempts to be a feeder series.
"We want women to transcend the W Series, and to go and race against the men and, of course, beat them, and that is what W Series is all about, is giving drivers an opportunity that they otherwise wouldn't have had," said Bond Muir.
The next test trials will be held in Barcelona. Then, it is onto the races.
The W Series calendar will consist of Formula One support races across the world, but two of them will be held in the United States. One of them is scheduled for Miami in May, and the other one is scheduled for Austin, Tex. in October.
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