Omar Ismail, Cameron Das, Jamie Chadwick British F3, Rockingham, 2017

A separate championship for women? No: Girls want to race guys


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Following last week’s article on why few women racing drivers reach the top of motorsport we sought the view of one on whether having separate championships for men and women would be a step forward. British F3 racer and 2015 British GT champion (GT4 class) Jamie Chadwick gives her opinion.

As one of comparatively few women racers in junior single-seater categories I am frequently asked for my view on why so few of us get anywhere near racing an F1 car.

My response is always the same. From my personal experience and knowledge of the sport, I have never experienced any issues that would exclude me from making it to the top in motorsport. That’s not to say there wouldn’t be enormous hurdles, but there is no ‘glass ceiling’ that makes me think I have limitations – aside, that is, from the same difficulty many young drivers face – the necessary and significant financial support.

The factors that make a great driver are numerous – hard work, total dedication, physical and mental fitness, communication skills, natural talent, good management, a front-running car – and much more. But, if all of that can be achieved then gender should be irrelevant. Although it has yet to be demonstrated, there is no reason why a woman cannot get to the top of this, currently, male dominated sport

Jamie Chadwick, British F3, Rockingham, 2017
Chadwick and her rivals at Rockingham last year
Which is why, when the idea of an all-female race series comes up, I, like so many other female racers, am completely opposed to it.

I do understand the argument for it. The ratio of men to women in motorsport is far from balanced. It’s possible that if more women had started competing in motorsport earlier we would already have separate, segregated championships, as is the case in football, tennis, skiing and, in fact, most sports. And, I can see why it might be popular. Motorsport relies on its media profile to attract viewers and sponsors and a female grid would be a refreshing new angle – but it could also be seen as a frivolous and less serious championship – more to do with entertainment than the best cutting edged racing.

It’s also true that, because racing drivers need so much financial backing to progress, many talented drivers and, in particular females, competing in the lower ranks never get the opportunity to prove themselves on a bigger stage. Like men, women can accelerate their progress to the top if they have wealthy sponsors. Additionally, some may capitalise on the fact they ‘look the part’. With an all-female series, it might well be easier for the talent to rise to the top.

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However, what I like about motorsport is the opportunity for women to be able to compete on equal terms alongside men. This is almost unique, and it would be a great shame to ever lose it.

If I don’t qualify on pole because I braked, say, 10 metres too early into a turn, or missed an apex or a gear – these are mistakes not my gender’s. I have to make sure I’m quicker and make fewer mistakes than my competitors.

Danica Patrick, IndyCar, Indianapolis 500, 2005
Patrick led the Indy 500 in 2005 and will return this year
Although no female has started an F1 race for decades, women have proved that they are certainly capable of doing so. Most recently Susie Wolff showed it is physically possible for a female to complete a race distance in an F1 car. The likes of Danica Patrick, Tatiana Calderon and Simona De Silvestro – to name just a few – have proved it is possible for us to run at the front in top level motorsport. And, like most females, I want to be the best I can possibly be – the best in the world if possible, but to achieve that I need to be competing against the best drivers in the world male and/or female.

The recent furore over grid girls has hopefully demonstrated that F1 cannot be seen to be sexist, and those in charge can now turn their attention to the need to increase the number of women who compete behind the wheel. We can do the job without our own race series.

Follow Jamie on Twitter here and find out more about her racing career here.


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Jamie Chadwick, British F3, Donington Park, 2017
Jamie Chadwick, British F3, Donington Park, 2017

54 comments on “A separate championship for women? No: Girls want to race guys”

  1. Agree 100%. That would be the best way, they only way.

    1. +1 Great article @jamiechadwick
      To instate separate championships is to be sexist as in motorsport gender is irrelevant. It’s unbeknowst to me the challenges of a career in motorsport, but, as far as I know there’s not nearly as many women interested in racing as men, and there it lies the fact we don’t see many female racers, and as a consequence fast women, therefore to me it’s only a natural occurrence, it means nothing besides that.
      To do something artificial about the fact not many women care about racing it is to be sexist, that said I wouldn’t mind some artificial measures though I’m not an upcoming racer. In the end, what’s important is to ensure whoever wants to race can race.
      Some sports that are gender neutral, ex: darts do boost female practitioners with segregate championships.
      I’m sure some people may not see this subject past the fact that there aren’t that many women interested in racing and instead think women can’t drive, on the other hand I’m sure many people would love to see women on the top championships, to some extent as a novelty, even if they didn’t get there solely on merit, as it has been the case for many drivers heavily backed by their flags, cases of which we never discuss.

      Another subject that’s never discussed and irrelevant to the task of driving, is the fact women might naturally “carry” in a sport as precise as f1 less weight and lower centre of gravity. I’m sure any team regardless of the weight limits or cockpit size, is interested in having the shortest and lightest possible driver, so why not look at female racers? Teams only look for performance. You can find 2 racers of the same height but if one is a woman she has the potential to be considerably lighter than the man, as women are naturally lighter, their muscle/fat ratio gives them less potential strength but also less weight. Motorsport is right to try and negate any advantage earned that is unrelated to driving prowess but you don’t put other sprinters beside Bolt racing on their own because they are 10 cm shorter. Don’t go to crazy with equality, everyone’s their own self, everyone’s different.

  2. Girls and boys should have equal opportunity to work their way up the ranks, with talent being the determining factor to success. Unfortunately it’s not that simple (pay drivers etc.) but it would be good to see. If someone is good enough, regardless of gender, race etc. then they should have the opportunity to succeed.

  3. Personally, I don’t have an objection to female only championships (which are already in existence on some local levels). I do have an objection to male only championships.

    So why can’t we have both? Female only championships will probably attract more females and the best of them can advance to the open championships. And those females who don’t want to race in the female only championships can start immediatly in the open championships.

    Other sports (like chess) have this kind of structure as well. I’ve even seen it in (lower levels of) volleybal or soccer.

    1. You call chess a ‘sport’? I guess crossword puzzle solving is a sport too then. Far to far in the past, when I raced FF in the States, there were a few woman drivers. There was never any thought they should race separately from men; they were drivers, that was all. And that’s how it should be.

      1. Yes, chess is officially a sport, whereas solving crossword puzzles isn’t.

        And I agree with you. But if it helps to bring more women into the sport by also having female championships, why not?
        As long as the women can also compete against men, I don’t see a problem.

      2. What would you call it then?

        1. A game. Just like Risk is a game. Just like Scrabble is a game. Just like checkers is a game. Just like Go is a game.

        2. Further: an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

    2. That’s just further encouragement for unnecessary forms of segregation. Women are either capable of competing with men in motorsport, or they are not. I believe they are, and in that light, believe we should be ensuring that there are no discriminatory barriers in the way preventing them from doing so. A female only championship undermines the whole point (unless of course it is concluded that women couldn’t possibly compete due to some form of limitation – which I don’t expect to happen).

      1. I believe they are capable too. And I am against segregation. But if it helps to bring more women in the sport, why not?

        Racing is still seen primarily as a mens sport. Having female championships might change that and thus bring more women in the sport, who can choose which championship they want to race in.

        1. Ok I see your logic, fair point. Personally I think female-only championships would be superfluous if motorsport was open enough to equal competition. We’ll have to see how it progresses.

        2. @silfen You can’t have both. If you create a women only formula, you would need to also have a men’s only parallel formula for equality, so you’re basically banning women from entering the current formula.

        3. petebaldwin (@)
          5th February 2018, 20:40

          Yeah I get your point – it would create a buzz and you’d see which women out there were the best. I’m fairly sure that if someone stood out significantly, they’d have a few F1 teams interested. People pretend that F1 teams are against employing a female F1 driver but I think most would be delighted to as it’d be great PR and would bring a load of new sponsors in.

          I wouldn’t want to see a women’s only series in the long-term but as a short-term thing, it may help to promote some of the talented drivers out there. Perhaps not a whole Championship – it could be something like the Race of Champions just to test the waters and see how it works.

  4. There is no reason that I can see to segregate women in motorsport, as Jamie says. What needs to happen if we really want these women to rise to the top is to have a larger pool of talent in the years to come. This will only happen if more girls compete at grassroots, something that is happening slowly but will take a long time to filter through. There are not quick fixes, as with all quick fixes we have seen in F1 for example, they don’t work.

    Invest in promoting grassroots racing for both genders and they will make it to the top, in time.

  5. Good to hear a nice positive view from Jamie.
    First saw her in Ginetta Juniors her a few years back on the BTCC undercard and remember rooting for her and Lando Norris. Would love to see her at Le Mans one day.

    1. Also another bizarre / amusing memory regarding Jamie…

      After finishing on the podium, she was doing an interview with Steve Ryder and my Dad suddenly blurts out with “oh, she’s a girl Jamie”. Then proceeded to shout for my mum to come down and watch.

      For the next year, every weekend (regardless of race or not) my mum, with no intetest in motor racing would always ask how she had done.

      My mum was later disappointed to find out that fellow racer Jamie Caroline was in fact not a girl.

      1. My mum was later disappointed to find out that fellow racer Jamie Caroline was in fact not a girl.


    2. @eurobrun
      Ginetta Juniors is unironically one of my favourite racing series, great cars and the driving standards are often better than the BTCC.

  6. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    5th February 2018, 13:22

    I’m not trying to stereo-type or label by gender or sex but it seems to me boys like to race and girls don’t. I’m generalising of course!

    Is racing hunting for men? being first to the kill?

    Do women just not see the point of racing? or feel the need?


    1. I believe boys/men are on average more inclined to want to be involved in motorsports in some capacity. That said, I also believe that we should be ensuring that anyone who wishes to compete/join in (and has the means to do so, i.e. funds, equipment etc.) should be able to give it a shot – they should not be discriminated against because of gender, race, sexuality and so on.

      1. I expect that no one disagrees with you on that point.

      2. @enzov6
        Of all the comments I’ve read over this subject in the past week I don’t think I’ve seen one that said women should be discouraged from racing. The only difference of opinion comes from whether they should benefit from positive discrimination, and whether the sport needs to change it’s image to attract more females.

    2. There are many activities and things that are currently associated with women/males that used to be different.

      A hundred years ago, most teachers were male. Now in many places it is hard to find more than a handfull of male teachers in a school. The colors pink and purple are often seen as “girlish” now, but pink and purple used to be male only in centuries past.

      A lot of what we see as the natural and logical way for things to be is actually part of our culture.
      For example, children aged about five see no issue in girls liking mathematics. But by about age 7 both boys AND girls think/expect that boys are better at it (despite the statistics showing that it is not true). That is due to what we all learn is expected of us as “normal” from a young age onwards.

  7. Great attitude, motor racing isn’t about being big and strong, quite the opposite in fact, so absolutely no reason why women can’t compete with men directly.

    So why don’t they? I’m no biologist, but even I know we are all slaves to our hormones, and they drive us in different directions. That is not to say the whole chemical balance thing doesn’t lie on an elongated curve with much intersection between the sexes, but to deny it exists as some do, is to deny known science.

    Most of all, this doesn’t ‘fixing’, it’s about individual choice, and simple observation will tell us that nature does the sorting ahead of any imaginary barriers.

    1. *need ‘fixing’*

    2. +1

      She lost me at “now turn their attention to the need to increase the number of women who compete behind the wheel”

      There is no need. If a female makes it on merit having to overcome all of the same obstacles as men then great. I look forward to that day. If they don’t then they join the ranks of the tens of thousands of males who also failed due to talent limitiations, physical limitations, financial limitations etc. but who hopefuly had fun in the attempt.

  8. In 10 years time the half the grid will be women, the other half will be gay or transgender and almost all will have been sexually harassed by their team principles at some point in their careers.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. Men are some sort of dinosaurs, it’s a matter of time until they go extinct… from motorsport. of course!

  9. Take at look at the Force sisters in NHRA.

    Yes, their Dad is a legend in the sport, but drag racing is a great example of how the girls can take on and best guys (even if one of them happens to be their own father !!).

    1. Not just the Force family (and dad John, at near 70, still racing to show that age is no barrier either) but there are many female drivers in all the Grades of HNRA. Erica Enders in pro stock springs to mind and not forgetting Angelle Sampey winning on those beast of pro stock motorbikes, Leah Pritchard won a race in an all female final against Brittany Force. Brittany Force is the current Top Fuel Champion.

      Gender or age is no barrier in drag racing.

  10. Im all for women and men competing against each other in motorsport, to me its a gender neutral sport, I have lots of female friends ive made through the years where I was involved in karting with my son.

    biggest issue I had over the years was the trophies being issued to the top placed female driver, I understand the trophy was there to encourage female drivers to the sport and I initially thought it was a good idea, however when the girls say they want to be treated the same as the guys but gladly accept a trophy of being a girl kinda contradicts what we are trying to achieve surely.

  11. Just wanna put my two cents in here…
    I for one agree wholeheartedly with Jamie and hope she continues her career with the same spirit. Personally though, as a man, who has done well in Karting as a kid, had a lifelong interest in Engineering and motorsport, think that the main reason that there are less women in Motorsport, and no women in Formula 1, is the same reason I am not in formula 1: Money and talent.
    Most F1 drivers up to a point come from very rich backgrounds (most, not all I admit) but it requires a drive from themselves, willing parents/family, and most of all talent. No matter how good you are, if you can’t afford a go-kart (as I couldn’t neither my family) then you don’t get a shot. It’s not like Tennis, football, or other mainstream sports that are essentially free to practice, motorsport is expensive just to try, let alone practice, get good, compete etc.
    This really has nothing to do with male/female, and those women who have gotten close are the same as the multitude of men who have also got close: they’re just not good enough. THat is totally fine, and I think it’s what Jamie is saying, that if she’s good enough (and has sponsorship) then she’ll get there. Why should she (or any female racer) have an easier shot at something that nearly every 10 year old dreams of doing at some point. It comes down to ambition, money and talent. Yes, we should encourage anyone who wants to race, regardless of gender, to try, but unless they can afford it, they don’t even get a chance to see if they’re any good.
    Stereotypes don’t help but that’s really not the issue. There are plenty of really good racing drivers, male and female, who don’t get to F1, and there are currently only 20 full time seats and another 10 or so testing seats with limited time behind the wheel. If women were being artificially blocked from F1 (and they aren’t) then we’d see lower championships filled with the women who were rejected, but they are just not there.

    The impossible needs to happen, and make motorsport cheaper to participate, perhaps with electric cars, in the future that might happen but in reality only those whose parents have the cash to throw on a whim for their kids get this shot…. male or female, and as someone above said, whilst most boys dream of being Schumacher, do girls dream of being Danica Patrick?

  12. I fear the debate will be over when a female driver wins the championship.
    But worry not, as my wife and I are expecting a baby girl

  13. This is so wrong.
    No female F1 category was the main reason why there is so little women participation in F1. Just like tennis grand slam, it was the highlight of the sport.
    No parent would spend endless of money to support his daughter motorsport career if there no viable career path to the glory. No much sponsor would willing to do so either.
    If there was Female F1 like some proposed few years back we would already cherish Susie Wolff as F1 champion today and we would discuss all new breed of girls talent on newly formed lower formula today.
    We could have ‘battle of sexes’ in the separate event any day.

    1. No parent would spend endless of money to support his daughter motorsport career if there no viable career path to the glory. No much sponsor would willing to do so either.

      Why is there no viable path? Or why would it be less viable than an equally talented male driver? I really don’t understand this comment. Nor the bit about tennis.

      If there was Female F1 like some proposed few years back we would already cherish Susie Wolff as F1 champion today and we would discuss all new breed of girls talent on newly formed lower formula today.

      Why? For one thing I don’t think she’s at all the most talented woman from the last decade.

      1. Tennis segregates their male and female championship. So yes, there is a more viable path to be female grand slam champion without having to face male that had the physical advantage. About Susie, it’s just an example.

  14. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    5th February 2018, 20:01

    Good article. On a serious note though, is there any sport where women genuinely compete with men? I don’t mean compete against men in a literal term, I mean actually beat men? Is there a sport where you’d conside the world’s best athlete/competitor to be female? I prefer to watch Simone Biles over anyone else but gymnastics is segregated for obvious reasons, the women are more graceful though.

    I can’t see out of all the sports in the world, that it will be F1 that sees a world beating woman.

    1. Well, yes there is. Equestrianism in general and Three Day Eventing in particular where the horse and riders complete a very tough cross country section, then a jump course in the arena and finally a dressgage competition in another arena.
      As a sport it leaves me cold, but it’s the very lifeblood for my partner who absolutely loves it. Occasionaly I get dragged along to see something like the Badminton Horse Trials and I have to say that the determination and endurance of all the riders impresses me. And the relevant thing here is that many, many of the most successful competitors are women.

      1. I am informed that Trotting or Pacer racing (where a single horse draws a driver or rider on a sulky) is also gender-neutral, but there may be restrictions on minimum weight of driver plus sulky. Partner is checking this.

    2. There aren’t many sports where physicality doesn’t have a bearing on the results. Equestrian and motorsport are the only ones that spring to min.

      1. I just wondered if precision sports like snooker, bowls, bowling, pool and even shooting (shotgun, pistol or rifle) are open to both sexes on equal basis.

        1. They’re mostly not. Bowls, bowling and pool are strictly male/female, except for some mixed team classes.

          Snooker is theoretically open to mixed gender competition, but only if you pick the PDO side of the equation… …which women rarely do because it doesn’t have the career prospects of entering the ladies’ title in BDO snooker, and competitors can only be on one side of the divide at a time.

          Double trap shooting used to be open to both genders right up to Olympic level… …until the day a woman won gold. Then men and women were separated into different classes. Other classes, I think, were always divided.

    3. NHRA drag racing, women compete with men on an equal basis. Current Top Fuel Champion is a women.

    4. Some of the ladies really clean up in Poker.

  15. It’s a tough one but I don’t agree that we shouldn’t have female only championships. I think I can see a place for them.

    Look at when F1 first started going to some of the Tilkedromes in the 2000’s, China, Malaysia etc. Weak crowds aplenty. People suggested – as part of a range of measures mainly orbiting the ticket price, I accept – more local championships in order to (in the longer run) try and increase the possibility of a local driver to boost crowds. Noone was ever saying “well the local Malaysian hotshoe MUST only race in the local Malaysian F3 championship” (or whatever, I’m just making up the example). The Malaysian hotshoe was perfectly entitled to go and try and make it in British F3. But I don’t see why the Malaysian hotshoe would complain about at least having the possibility to drive in Malaysian F3, a seat that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

    I think the principle is the same with women-only championships.

    If we said right now “we’ll have a female F1 and a female F2 and a female GP3 and women can only compete in them and can never compete in men’s F1” etc. that would be ridiculous, crazy and, yes, sexist. But if someone out there wants to create a female only championship, thinks there’s a niche in the single seater ladder that that can exist in, and that results in seats being available that wouldn’t otherwise exist, surely it’d be crazy for them not to get used by someone. Female racers would still have the opportunity to go and try their luck in any of the other championships and, as would be their right, completely forego it.

    I think it might also help to concentrate some of the female talent to help make it clearer where there is genuine female talent, as opposed to a handful of individuals getting swamped amongst the huge number of men in the myriad number of race series.

    A bit like the current fashion for plucking the best e-racers out of sim series and the like, putting them in a real race car in some random series and seeing how they go, what you’re doing is effectively trying to go to the mountain and dragging an unconventional talent pool together to see what happens and then taking the best of that, rather than just sitting back hoping for the mountain to come to you.

    Yes of course the real issue here is basically weight of numbers at karting. Until there are significant numbers of girls in go-karts it’s not exactly going to be surprising if the flow of women to series further up is merely a trickle. And I totally get that noone wants to get to the top by being positively discriminated. But that doesn’t mean to say that other things can’t be tried, especially if you want progress faster than just hoping that if you get the initial conditions right eventually it results in what you hope for many years down the line.

    So in summary of that – I don’t think segregating ALL championships as men/women only is remotely helpful, but I DO see a place for some individual women-only championships. Also, just as a random thought experiment, what if we turn it around somewhat and get someone to create the first single seater series with a 50:50 split of men and women? Ten two-car teams, each team runs one man and one woman full-time. What would be the general thought on that…?

    1. If an established series created that rule, it would be fine (at least, until someone not considering themselves on the gender binary wanted to join). A new series would need a considerably more powerful “hook” than that to get going.

  16. PC Culture Kills
    6th February 2018, 6:23

    They will lose and like the WNBA would die.

  17. What a fantastic video profile on Jamie. Blimey, I’ve got tears in my eyes!

    I can’t wait for one of these ladies to start racing in F1.

  18. excellent, wise words form a person who´s opinion matters.

    Can everybody please stop banging on about sexism and artificially elevating women into positions that they did not earn now?

    Jamie is 100% on the money, if everything falls into place, a woman will get a drive, there are no glass ceilings holding them back and a female series would just make a mockery of people involved.

    I look forward to the day when we see talented women competing for the WDC but they must get to that position on merit and Jamie has stated that there is nothing to do with her gender that is stopping her from doing so.

  19. WHy do so few women reach F1? Because women on average have 30% less muscle mass than men do.

  20. I’m very much in favour of all female top-level racing series. But I noticed the general opposition and ridicule Carmen Jorda received when she voiced that idea. I also note that many female drivers, like Jamie Chadwick, do not support the idea either. Although it would be an enrichment to the world of motorsport if there were top-level female drivers, in the meantime there are many likeable male drivers to support, so it’s not a priority for me to force this point. Just realise the consequences.

    Without all-female top-level motorsport competitions:
    -There will be no significant female participation in any of the top-level series ever. Female participation will be limited to the few rare exceptions like we have seen in the last 120 years.
    -Without role models in the top-level series female participation in lower categories and karting will likely remain low as well.

    If you can live with that, then just carry on as we used to do.

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