BWRDC launches Into Speed, a new initiative to boost female participation

Thursday 11 January 2024

The British Women Racing Drivers’ Club (BWRDC) is proud to launch a new initiative, Into Speed, to encourage women to try motorsport for the first time.

Into Speed with the BWRDC is a programme designed to introduce women to the thrills and rewards of motorsport competition, from the first stages of sitting in a car through their first runs on track to contesting their first competition. It aims to give a clear, friendly and cumulative pathway for women of all ages.

The programme will centre around the hillclimbing discipline, which is contested against the clock in a range of easily accessible and affordable road cars throughout the UK. Motorsport UK has contributed a fund to underwriting the programme as part of its ongoing commitment to increase female participation throughout the sport.

Women wishing to participate in the initiative can follow a three-stage process. Initially they will have a day’s tuition at Harewood Hill near Leeds in late March where they will focus on getting comfortable in a car and learn the different ‘basics’ associated with motorsport such as timing and safety, before driving the hillclimb course. Driver kit will be provided on this day.

A second optional day may then take place at Curborough Sprint Course where participants can start to dial into their driving style with one-to-one tuition from BWRDC competitors and other expert driving tutors.

The final stage will be the chance to enter an event with the full support of a BWRDC mentor. There will be three such opportunities available and points will be accrued from each of these to identify a series winner. Throughout the process participants will also be introduced to the different roles available throughout motorsport, including stewards, engineers, media and marshals.

The events will take place at Shelsley Walsh (Worcestershire) in May, Prescott Hill (Gloucestershire) in June and Harewood Hill (Yorkshire) in August. The BWRDC will likewise guide women through the acquisition of a racing licence, with the support of Motorsport UK.

A representative fee will be payable for each day to cover the entry fees. Participants must be willing to use their own road car for the driving tuition days and any competitive events.

The BWRDC was formed in 1962 by Mary Wheeler MBE, with the aim of promoting and supporting women in all forms of motorsport. Members compete for some of the most prestigious championships held worldwide, from racing to hillclimbing to rallying, from Monte Carlo to Silverstone to the Nurburgring. They have set records, inspired trophies and won championships.

Helen Allen, Chair of the BWRDC, commented: “The British Racing Drivers Club was created to represent women in a sport that is perceived to be only for men. In 2022 we celebrated our 60th anniversary, but we wanted to continue to inspire a new generation of ambitious women.

“With the support of Motorsport UK we are proud to have created this programme to take women through the sport from the very early stages to their first competition. It is all about access and enjoyment, and trying to show that there is a place for everyone in motorsport.

“We aimed to create a safe environment for women to ask the questions they may not have the courage to do in a mixed environment, and to build their confidence in a welcoming and open way. We will offer training, tuition and hand-hold through every step of the process until each participant feels able to compete independently.”

Caroline Ryder, BWRDC Vice Chair and a hillclimb veteran herself, commented: “Over a racing season we meet many women who attend events either as a fan, or as part of a family group, but have never tried out motorsport for themselves. One of the principal reasons has always been a certain element of trepidation in competing.

“Hillclimbing is a great place for women to start their motorsport journey. It’s a very open and friendly paddock and while competitive, the only person you compete against is ultimately yourself. We just want the women to know that they can count on us to support them at every stage.”

Hugh Chambers, CEO of Motorsport UK, added: “Probably the largest unrealised opportunity for motorsport is the greater involvement of females, whether competing, officiating, or running the sport. Motorsport is one of the few sports that presents no fundamental barriers to full gender inclusivity. And yet, at present women make up just 10% of our membership. We know from recent research that many more follow the sport within the community or via the media, so it is not from lack of interest but rather a lack of clear pathways into the sport. We are very proud to assist the BWRDC, which has for so long supported women, in reaching a new generation of women to enjoy the challenge of motorsport.”