Women in Motorsport Commission announces its first Ambassadors
Tue 03.07.12, 5:05PM
The FIA Women in Motorsport Commission (WMC) today announced its first Ambassadors who represent excellence in different segments of the motor sport world. At the launch of the FIA Women in Motorsport Ambassadors programme in Paris this afternoon, five women who lead the way in their sectors were awarded the accolade and will represent the Commission globally as it continues to promote and encourage women in to the sport.
The FIA Women in Motorsport Ambassadors are:
Michèle Mouton (Honorary Ambassador)
Maria de Villota
The Ambassadors’ mission will be to spread the messages and actions of the Commission, with particular emphasis on demonstrating how to succeed in all areas of the sport, while also playing a part in driving all-important safety messages.
The announcement of the Ambassadors - made in the presence of FIA President Jean Todt - came at the end of the Commission’s first National Coordinators’ Seminar. This brought together representatives from the FIA’s national sporting authorities around the world, providing the opportunity to discuss issues that affect women in motor sport – both at national and international level – with a view to putting in place strategies and policies that will promote education and training worldwide.
The FIA Women in Motorsport Ambassadors:
Michèle Mouton was the first and remains the only woman to have won a round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The Frenchwoman claimed victory in four World Championship rallies in the 1980s and was Vice FIA World Rally Champion in 1982. She is President of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission and Manager of the FIA World Rally Championship, and last year was awarded the rank of Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the former French President.
“We need Ambassadors - role models - women who can represent the Commission internationally, spreading our messages and actions. Our Ambassadors represent excellence in different sectors of the sport and they have kindly accepted this role. They are high profile, professional and influential women with a voice in our sport; they are proof that where there is a desire, there is a possibililty to succeed.
“We believe it is possible to change people’s perception of women’s role in motor sport, but we need the help of our National Co-ordinators too; they can see the issues they face in their own countries and through the Commission and our Federation - the FIA - we hope to be able to change attitudes and perceptions. Our Ambassadors are also proof that women can be successful, and there are a whole host of other women around the world who are high achievers in our sport. It is our job, that of our Co-ordinators and Ambassadors - as well as all the partners and stakeholders in our sport - to try and remove barriers that may exist and to demonstrate that gender is not an obstacle when you want to succeed in your chosen field.
“The Commission, it’s Ambassadors and National Co-ordinators also provide another avenue for communicating messages relating to the FIA Action for Road Safety campaign. Around the world our ASNs are already using motor sport and its stars to highlight actions that can be taken to improve road safety. Driving these messages gives us further opportunity to reach out to youngsters and if we can educate from an early age, this will help change attitudes long term.”
Indian-born Monisha Kaltenborn is currently one of the most prominent women in world motorsport. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Sauber Motorsport, the first woman to take on this role in Formula One. A trained lawyer, Monisha is also a member of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission.
“Women nowadays do have the competence, the self confidence and the education to follow a professional career in any area they choose, but still they need the right opportunities to achieve their goals. The challenge now is to develop the platforms for them, so they have equal chances to show their abilities in all business areas they are interested in, which may include motor sport.”
Susie Wolff, like many racers, started her career in karts and having worked her way through the motor sport ranks is now a full-time DTM driver with Mercedes-Benz. The Scot’s talent has, most recently, rewarded her with a seat with the Williams F1 Team as its development driver.
"It is a great honour to be an Ambassador for the Women in Motorsport Commission. I’ve been racing since I was eight years old, coming through the ranks of international karting, Formula Renault and Formula 3. I was twice nominated for BRDC McLaren Young Driver of the Year.
“When I started in DTM six years ago I wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t been good enough to compete on merit, and that’s a big part of the reason why I was given the chance to become Development Driver for the Williams F1 Team. Motorsport is a competitive world and no one likes to beaten, male or female; whoever you are, you need to prove yourself.
“There were not really any role models for me in motorsport when I was younger, but my mother and grandmother were both very strong, inspirational women. Certainly my mother taught me to believe that I could do whatever I put my mind to, and that’s what helped me in following a career path that other women didn’t. If what I am doing can inspire just one girl to give racing a go, then I would feel I had made a positive difference."
Maria de Villota - daughter of ex-Formula One driver Emilio - has raced in many single-seater and sports car categories and first tasted Formula One when she tested for the Lotus Renault GP Team in 2011. The Spaniard has now joined the Marussia F1 Team as a test driver.
“To be an Ambassador is first of all an honour. It is also a big responsibility and we must support and help other women who work hard to achieve their goals.
“I am very determined and, for me, it was not enough to just be in motor sport – I wanted to get to the very top. This year I achieved that goal with my test driver role at the Marussia F1 Team.
“It is very important to let other women know that with enough belief and application, you can overcome any hurdle . If I can be an F1 test driver, I am sure a lot of women can do it too. It is purely a question of talent, hard work and commitment. I gave my life to motor sport and just kept the faith that my optimism would be rewarded.
“For women who love motor sport, it is very important to visualise yourself doing what you want to do. Being different is hard. Not having another woman around to ask is tough and your destiny really is in your own hands. Having everyone's eyes watching your every move is a lot of pressure. But, if there is passion, then there is no option but to keep pushing. It’s like anything in life, no one is going to make it happen for you but if you work hard to fulfil your dreams, the taste of success is unbeatable. I am very proud of how far I have come because I relied only on myself to get here.”
Katherine Legge, born in England, began her career in karting and won numerous races and championships during the 1990s. She tested the Minardi Formula One car back in 2005 after winning three races in the Atlantic Championship. After two years in the Champ Car series and three seasons in DTM, her passion for open wheel racing has taken her to the United States where she competes in IndyCar. Unable to join her fellow Ambassadors at the launch, Katherine is in the USA preparing for this weekend’s Milwaukee IndyFest.
“I am very proud and honoured to continue my work with the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission. I feel like my experience should be of some benefit to those looking at a career in racing. If I can help young people in their quest for success in racing, whether it be driving or otherwise, then I see that as a great way to 'give back' to the sport. These are exciting times for the Commission; we have big plans for the future.”