Ahead of the first race in the new all-female W Series championship on 4 May, Jamie Chadwick, first female to win the British GT Championship, talks to Autocar about what the series means to her, and why it’s a better idea than its most vocal critics suggest.
You have the highest profile of any driver in W Series, so is it fair to say you have the most to lose?
“You could look at it like that, but I could also have the most to gain. When I was looking at my options for this year, naturally a racing driver’s budget comes into it. I looked at what was possible. It certainly didn’t look like the new [Formula 1-supporting] FIA Formula 3 series was an option because the budget for that was out the window. We’re talking €800,000 to €1 million, and there aren’t many seats.”
So why did W Series appeal?
“I’ll be quite open, initially the idea of racing just women wasn’t necessarily of interest. But the opportunity that the W Series provides is far greater than anything else on the table. It’s a funded series, which makes a huge difference, but it’s also top F3 cars on great circuits and obviously it pays prize money at the end of the year. The support you get as a package, I don’t think I could turn it down when I looked at it like that.
The people involved in W Series, including David Coulthard and Adrian Newey, must be a big part of the attraction.
Massively. That’s what I’m saying when I talk about the support network. You now it’s a serious project when you look at the names involved, behind the scenes as well as out front. I wasn’t sure how the driver assessment in Austria was going to be and went with an open mind, and it was really professionally run. That reinforced my decision to do it.”
What do you say to the critics of this series?
“I don’t want to say anything to them. I want to wait a year, get the first year of W Series done and look at it then. It’s not about now, it’s about getting more women into the sport in the future. It’s going to be game-changing. I can’t see it as damaging. Speak to men as well and they say if there was something like this for them – if you have brown hair you can race, for example! – they would do it. Racing drives never turn down opportunities.”