To this day, Michèle Mouton remains one of the most accomplished women in motorsport and the only woman to win an FIA-certified World Championship. A championship-winning rally driver and a dominating force at Pikes Peak, her name will forever remain etched in the annals of racing history. And now, she’s setting up young women for their own futures in the world of sport.
Girls on Track – Rising Stars started out in 2018 as a way for young women to become better racers and more knowledgeable individuals in motorsport. It was absorbed by Susie Wolff’s Dare to Be Different program and is now, in part, overseen by Mouton, the head of the FIA Women in Motorsport commission.
“It’s tough for anyone to get to the to the top, especially in Formula 1, only few men are succeeding,” Mouton said in an interview with Motorsport. “So it’s not easy to reach the top of the pyramid, then compared to men our base has been too small. So, of course, fewer could rise to the top.”
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In terms of that pyramid, Mouton is referencing what she hopes will be accomplished with Girls on Track, a four-year program designed for girls aged 14-16 that teaches on-track skills and off-track skills like STEM education, environmental awareness, and safety—all things that make for a strong, well-rounded racer and which is especially important when it comes to women. As Mouton mentioned, it’s difficult for any racer to succeed, but women generally require a much larger skillset to make them more attractive to potential teams and sponsors.
Mouton also hopes to expand the program so that it doesn’t just focus on drivers: it would also encourage women to engineers, mechanics, race officials, team principals, communication leaders, and marketing gurus. Basically, Girls on Track is pursuing any and all ways to get interested women working with motorsport in a hands-on way.
“I am convinced the best way to get there is first to increase this base of pyramid to have more girls interested in motorsport, then to go and continue fighting in a mixed championship,” Mouton said. “This is very important. And to give more opportunity and same material to women. So this is the work our commission is doing to create more opportunity to work with professional teams and also manufacturers. And I think we are nearly there.”
Girls on Track is formatted as something of a mini-championship of its own with a single winner ultimately claiming a place in the Ferrari Driver Academy, which supports racers throughout the ranks with the ultimate goal of getting them into F1.
Thousands of girls applied, but only a handful were invited out to the shootout at Paul Ricard in October. The 12 best drivers at that shootout were invited to a training camp immediately afterward. A second training camp in November would determine the four top drivers, at which point a one-week training camp would take place. The winner was set to be announced in December.
That said, a positive COVID-19 test among the competitors has postponed that final training camp.
Once a selection is made, that driver will work with both the Ferrari Driver Academy and Women in Motorsport for three years to develop her career and establish herself in the racing world.
The process will start all over again the following year, with another 20 racers getting a chance to take home a place in the Ferrari Driver Academy.
After the W Series was announced, both Alanis King and I took umbrage with the format. Instead of a championship that easily segregates women out of mixed-gender competition, why not develop a scholarship format that cultivates the career of a few select drivers progressing through the ranks.
Girls on Track seems to be an answer to some of our concerns. While it doesn’t provide a scholarship to women moving through the ranks of the open-wheel ladder, it does give young women a chance to get their foot in the door, to make crucial connections and impressions that can help her forge a successful career.