IndyCar | Equal Opportunity Racer

Will the next full-time female IndyCar driver be a product of the newly-formed all-female W Series, or climb the more traditional ladder to the top-tier of open-wheel racing in America?

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IndyCar | Equal Opportunity Racer
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Don't tell me what I can't do. It will just make me more determined to prove you wrong.

Don't remind me about the limitations of others before me. They are not me.

Don't speak for all. Share your opinions, but keep an open mind.

One of the greatest things about social media is that we can share our thoughts, feelings, and experiences with so many different people around the world. Regardless of our ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, social class, or physical location, we all choose to dwell in this digital domain.

Within this global domain, there are millions of habitable areas that can accommodate our varied interests and obsessions. We can choose where we want to go and whom we want to interact with. It's our choice to make.

One of the greatest things about racing is that there are so many different kinds of events to compete in. From soapbox derbies to 24 hour sportscar endurance races, there are numerous paths to take and choices to make on one's motorsport journey.

It's because of this diversity that I am puzzled by the recent backlash towards the new all-female single-seater W Series that's being launched next year, to help female racers reach the upper echelons of motorsport.

Thanks in large part to the seemingly unlimited connectivity we have these days, opportunities in racing are abundant.

The hard part is finding the money to go racing consistently, if you don't have personal sponsors who are willing to invest in you or personal wealth to help fund your ambitions. It's not like picking up a ball, racket, or club and going to the nearest tennis court or golf course. There is an exorbitant amount of expense involved in auto racing, including but not limited to parts, personnel, driver gear, track time, promotional, and travel expenses.

When a unique opportunity such as this comes along, there are those who will jump for joy upon hearing the news that there's a series that will promote up-and-coming female racing talent. However, there are others who firmly believe that it's a giant leap backwards for women's equality in a male-dominated sport. We have the freedom to express our opinions, and we also have the freedom to choose our own path.

“At the heart of W Series’ DNA is the firm belief that women can compete equally with men in motorsport. However, an all-female series is essential in order to force greater female participation. W Series is therefore a mission-driven competition, the aim of which is not only to provide exciting racing for spectators and viewers on a global scale, but also to equip its drivers with the experience and expertise with which they may progress their careers, racing and honing their skills in W Series before eventually graduating to existing high-level mainstream racing series.”

After multiple readings, this quote from David Coulthard, former F1 and DTM driver and one of the main backers of the W Series, sounds less like a segregation solution to the difficulties of female drivers reaching the top level of open-wheel racing and more like a potentially successful springboard into bigger and better things. It's not trying to be an all-female F2 alternative. The plan appears to put them on a path to higher levels by giving them a place to display their abilities, amongst other talented lady racers, and earn a valuable season-ending prize.

Admittedly, the $500,000 first place prize seems far short of their pronounced goal of competitive escalation in the European open-wheel ranks, compared to the $1,000,000 check that was recently awarded to this year's Indy Lights Champion Patricio O'Ward. It's early days, and that prize fund could also help a young female racer procure support from other backers or sponsors who want to aid in their progression.

The most persistent argument against the W Series is that it somehow supports the stigma that the "girls can't compete equally with the boys." They need their own series in order to truly stand out and shine.

To those individuals, I would happily direct them to Instagram or Twitter so they can see the recent achievements of female racers like: Flick Haigh (2018 British GT Champion), Carrie Schreiner (2018 DMV GTC GT3 Class 1 Champion), Hailie Deegan (recent NASCAR K&N Pro Series winner), Jamie Chadwick (BRDC British Formula 3 winner), and Katherine Legge who is currently challenging for the IMSA GTD class title with MSR-Acura this weekend at the Petit Le Mans. The list goes on and on...

There may be purists (female or male) who followed the groundbreaking efforts of Janet Guthrie or Shirley Muldowney, and feel that the W Series promotes a separate but equal solution to the glass ceiling that appears to be holding back the next female open-wheel stars. To them, it may appear to be a contradiction to the recent female racers who have inspired the current generation of fans. Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, and Simona de Silvestro all stood out because of their efforts against the men that skeptics said they couldn't beat in equal machinery. Seeing them all race against each other now wouldn't seem half as inspiring, but times have changed.

If female tennis, golf, basketball, and football (or soccer) players can compete against each other in their own league or series, why can't female racers? Why are prominent female racers and journalists shaming the series before it's even begun?

It all comes down to choice.

If you're a racer, who also happens to be female, and you want to be a part of an inaugural single-seater season that could help shine a brighter spotlight on your talents and help you progress to the next level, then you shouldn't feel ashamed of choosing that path. You should be encouraged to do what you feel is best for your career.

If you're a young racing fan, who also happens to be female, and you are looking for other female role models to inspire your desire to do whatever it is you want to do in life, despite overwhelming odds, then you will soon have a series to follow that could lay the foundation for a less obstructed path to the IndyCar Series, Formula E or even Formula One.

Despite the naysayers, I'm sure that professional racing series all over the world will be taking notice of the W Series and how it could help funnel more female talent into the upper tier of motorsport.

Perhaps, it's the fact that it is being led by men or the "series" tag is contributing to much of the backlash. A women's multi-event Winter season competition would be too long of a title, I guess. I too was skeptical when first hearing of this, but I'm looking forward to seeing the best-of-the-best (who have already beaten their male counterparts in other series) compete in equal equipment for their fans and, most importantly, for themselves. It's not a destination. It's just another stop on a much larger journey.

Janet Guthrie, the first woman to qualify and compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, pretty much sums it up, whether you are a male or female racer with grand ambitions:

"It is a matter of spirit, not strength. It is a matter of doing your best each little moment. There's never a break. You must have desire, a very intense desire to keep going."

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