The W Series women-only championship has been wrought with controversy and confusion since it was officially announced in early October. Whether you support it or not, the series is still forging forward, with the official list of candidate drivers being released a few days ago.
What does ‘candidate’ mean? Well, out of what the W Series claims to have been one hundred applicants, they’ve selected 55 talented female drivers to duke it out for the final grid that will actually compete in the inaugural 2019 season. They’ll whittle down the list with a three day on- and off-track trial, which includes time spent behind the wheel of the W Series car. Ultimately, a panel of judges will decide who’s most fit for the role.
You can find the full list at Motorsport.com. It’s interesting to note that the list seems to have been curated from top drivers across plenty of disciplines and countries. Some names are more familiar than others. Frequent Jalopnik readers might recognize Jamie Chadwick, Natalie Decker, Shea Holbrook, Carmen Jorda, Hanna Zellers, and Alice Powell—among plenty of others.
The list has been received with mixed feelings. It’s great to see the names of so many talented female drivers on the same list—but it’s also frustrating to know that this many women see the W Series as their only option to succeed in motorsport.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll admit that the W Series doesn’t sit well with me. Racing is one of the few sports in the world where morphology doesn’t matter—men and women are capable of competing on equal terms. A willful segregation (and one that’s being judged by a panel of men) is frustrating, because we don’t necessarily need it.
And the more I spend time thinking about it, the more hesitant I grow. Let’s imagine our first-ever W Series champion. Say she goes on to race in a category like Formula 2—but doesn’t have the sponsorship support to secure a place on a good team. If she doesn’t beat every single man on the field, it reflects poorly on her presumed lack of skill, but it’s only worse for the other women that the champion beat on her way up the ladder. It becomes a pretty easy way to write off a lot of women in one fell swoop.
My boyfriend, on the other hand, has changed his mind. Seeing familiar names on the list of candidates has inspired him to give the series a chance, to see how it plays out. I want to join him in that boat, but it’s difficult for me to see this list of candidates as a positive thing. It looks like a lot of women who might see their careers tarnished due to a three-day event.
No matter how I—or anyone—feels about it, the list is here, and so is the W Series. We have no other choice but to see what happens.