Changing the demographic on track

Friday 08 March 2024

The concerted and well-conceived programmes to encourage more women into motorsport are starting to produce some very significant – and quantifiable – results with record numbers entering the sport and now beginning to make their mark further up the career ladder.

Whether inspired by the successes of fellow British driver Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion now competing for Andretti Autosport in INDY NXT, or the standout successes of the Iron Dames team in international sportscar racing, more and more young women in the UK are making their presence felt in all areas of the sport.

This year’s enhanced F1 Academy will see two ambitious British talents – Jessica Edgar and Abbi Pulling – lining up for Rodin Motorsport on the grid when the 2024 season commences this weekend in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Both drivers were among last season’s front-runners, with Edgar ending the campaign on a massive high with a maiden victory in Austin, Texas.

Closer to home, Pulling will also be contesting the ROKiT British F4 Championship certified by FIA when her F1 Academy commitments permit – here she will be joined by three more promising stars in the making, Chloe Chong and Ella Lloyd, plus Nina Gademan from the Netherlands

After several seasons cutting her teeth in junior UK karting, teenager Chong first marked her card as a finalist of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission’s Girls on Track Rising Stars scheme. Last year she stepped up to car racing with PREMA in F1 Academy and, despite being the youngest driver in the field, posted points scoring finishes. She is now looking to build on those achievements with JHR in British F4.

Lloyd switches to single-seaters having impressed by finishing vice-champion in the GT5 class of the 2023 Ginetta GT Championship when she racked up no fewer than 10 race wins across the season.

Lloyd, Chong and Pulling are also among a record number of 18 female representatives in the 2024 Motorsport UK Academy – a well-proven initiative established to help the very best of UK motorsport’s rising stars to progress on the path to higher levels of competition, including 53 female athletes since 2013. George Russell and Elfyn Evans are two of the higher profile past beneficiaries of the scheme.

Underlining Motorsport UK’s role in creating tangible opportunities, close to 20 per cent of the 2024 Academy’s selections are female. Pulling is a member of the Team UK elite squad while Lloyd and Chong are two of no fewer than six females in the Team Futures system. Lloyd is in her second year on the programme while Chong lines up in the Year 1 intake alongside other promising teenagers such as Ella Stevens, Jasmine Shaw and Jude Peters plus F4 race winners Freddie Slater and Will Macintyre. And all have their sights focused on F1 stardom.

Another area where females are making their mark is in rallying with nearly half of those selected for the Academy’s co-driver programme in 2024 being women. Although there are currently no female co-drivers within the WRC elite, there are significant numbers among WRC2, WRC3 and Junior WRC crews.

With an increasing number of inspirational role models, abetted by a career path fuelled by a growing number of excellent initiatives from grassroots to elite level, motorsport both here in Britain and overseas is becoming more and more inclusive by the day.

Katie Baldwin, Head of Competitor Development commented: “It’s really encouraging to see the numbers of girls coming into all levels of motorsport competition now. In the past girls would not have considered motorsport as an activity, but thanks to entry-level programmes like Discover your Drive and Girls on Track, they have found a real passion. As more come through the ranks we get more information on what it takes to succeed at elite level, so the picture for future years looks even brighter.”