Pippa Mann is a veteran of six Indianapolis 500s.PHOTO BY MOTORSPORT IMAGES-LAT
Mann wishes backers would spend money to help female racers in ‘real cars, real series’
BY: SAM HALL
The W Series, an open-wheel racing series for women that will run as a support effort to the Deutche Tourenwagen Masters, or DTM, throughout Europe in 2019, continues to polarize those within the industry.
The W Series, on its website, touts that, “Talent does not have a gender. We believe anyone with skill, passion and commitment should have a chance to race at the pinnacle of motorsport, and W Series will create those chances, open doors and fuel our future.”
And while a platform for women to showcase their driving talents is a good thing, a platform built on segregation falls into a different category for some racers.
On Nov. 28, series organizers posted the names of 55 female drivers who made the first cut to be among the eventual field of 18 drivers who will be supplied with cars and expenses to compete in the $1.5 million championship. The W Series is slated to begin May 3 at Hockenheim, Germany.
Those 55 drivers on the list are due for on-track testing in the series’ Tatuus T-318 Formula 3 cars, powered by identical Autotecnica Motori inline four-cylinder 1.8-liter turbocharged engines, as well as off-track physical and mental exercises.
Autoweek asked IndyCar driver Pippa Mann, a veteran of six Indianapolis 500s, her thoughts on the W Series and the hurdles faced by women who are trying to break into racing’s top levels.
Autoweek: When the W Series was announced, what were your initial thoughts as a successful female racer who already competes head to head with men?
Pippa Mann: To me, the reason female racers have struggled to break through the glass ceiling is a lack of financial support and sponsorship, not a lack of talent. We are viewed as more of a risk, and as a female racer, if you chose to be visible as a woman in this sport, you’re automatically polarizing to a large sector of the audience.
I’m just as aware as anyone else that the system in motorsport is tough for anyone, male or female, but I am strongly opposed to segregation as the only option for many of these female racers to find the funding to continue to compete as a viable pathway forward.
AW: It seems like a silly question, but can women compete on an equal footing to men in motorsport?
PM: Yes. When we have equal resources and equal opportunities, we can, do, and have proved we can compete. You only have to look at the list of female race winners in open wheel just one step down from IndyCar, and the women winning sports car races and championships here in the U.S. where the prejudice is less to see, that this is actually a nonissue when given equal opportunity to succeed.
AW: If the list of drivers competing shows us anything, it is that the talent pool is there. How would you propose to promote this talent differently than the W Series idea?
PM: There is a huge talent pool of female racers, but so many are struggling to find the funding to continue competing. Imagine if we took the word female and changed it to British. Imagine if we were searching for a British driver who could be the first one in years to make it to F1. Imagine if we spend money as part of a scholarship fund or racing steps foundation to help these British drivers succeed and continue their careers. It’s not that hard to imagine because this is what we do. Yet for the most promising female drivers, those with the money, have apparently decided that segregation is the solution.
AW: What are the main barriers that face women in motorsport? Are we talking physical barriers or is it just a matter of perception within the industry?
PM: The main barrier, as for all drivers, is the financial one. However, female racers have another barrier to face financially beyond this. I’ve already mentioned that to choose to be visible is to automatically be polarizing, and in the modern world of the internet, internet forums, comments and social media, female racers in general come in for a much higher level of vitriol and negativity than our male counterparts.
A male racer has a rough weekend, even a rough couple of weekends, but if he’s “good,” it’s no big deal. For a female racer, a rough weekend is exactly the type of event the hordes of trolls are waiting for, as proof you don’t belong.
The level of hostility online can be staggering, and this hostility not only affects you, it’s targeted at the brands who support you. I may not have the opportunity to race very often, but when I do, I’ve been exceptionally lucky to be able to have the support of some very strong brands who not only believe in me as a racer, but who also believe in the bigger picture of equality and women having a voice in this world in general.
AW: You’ve been fairly outspoken about the negatives of the W Series. Is there anything that you like about the championship?
PM: There are talented racers on their list who potentially have the opportunity to race next year who otherwise would not. This is a positive. However, I strongly believe, in the firmest possible terms, that this money should be spent helping field those same racers in real cars, in real series, in nonsegregated competition. This would benefit them, women in motorsport in general and potentially motorsport full stop, as we would have the opportunity to watch them grow, compete and rise through the ranks to the top.