FIA Women in Motorsport Seminar – ‘Successes and Achievements’ | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

FIA Women in Motorsport Seminar – ‘Successes and Achievements’


Michèle Mouton, President of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, headlined the opening plenary which looks at progress to date

FIA, Motorsport, Mobility, Road Safety, F1, WRC, WEC, WTCC, World RX

The Women in Motorsport Commission was established back in late 2009 and hosted its first international seminar in 2012, where the first Ambassadors were also announced. From the Commission’s perspective, progress over the past four years has been made on four different axels; competition, ASN representation, the first regional seminar, and promotion with two very active Steering Committees headed by Ambassadors Leena Gade and Silvia Bellot.

Michèle Mouton outlined the progress made on the track and rally stages, both areas where drivers and co-drivers supported by the Commission have achieved success. At the all-important grassroots level, France’s Lucile Cypriano and Spaniard Marta Garcia have both competed in the CIK-FIA Karting Academy Trophy, winning races and Garcia taking the title last year. As such, Cypriano moved into touring cars and the SEAT Leon Eurocup, again with victories and podium finishes, while Garcia has progressed into Spanish Formula 4 where she has just one race meeting but three finishes in the top six under her belt.

The Women’s Cross Country Rally Selection, in conjunction with the Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation, was also a huge success story and gave the opportunity for three all-female crews to compete in a round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies. This led to the driver and co-driver who showed the most all-round promise - Emma Gilmour and Sandra Labuscagne - receiving a funded drive in the Italian Baja earlier this year, and the crew are now looking at an outing in Baja Portalegre later this month with the support of the Automóvel Club de Portugal and its President, Carlos Barbosa. “This shows what can happen if we work together,” said former Dakar Rally winner, Jutta Kleinschmidt. “All this has only happened because of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission.”

Gilmour also had a successful season in the Australian Rally Championship, the New Zealander becoming the first woman to win a round of her native championship. And in Finland, Anita Mäkelä took her second FIA European Top Fuel Championship title in drag racing with two wins and two second positions. Despite the daunting prospect of piloting a nitro drag racer with 10,000 horsepower that can accelerate from 0-100 kph in less than half a second, Mäkelä has seen the sport and female participation grow, with a lot of girls now in junior dragsters. “When we win, how much joy this sport gives to everyone, that is so unique,” said the Finn.

“We have made a lot of progress with drivers,” said Mouton. “We are active in nearly all disciplines and it’s fabulous to have Anita as an FIA champion. I think I always explain the difficulties we have; if you look at the base of the pyramid and how many men are on the top level, we can say 20 or 30. The base for girls is so narrow, of course it makes it more difficult; we need more volume. And we cannot have success on the top if you don’t start at the national and regional level; all our ASNs need to support and encourage young girls.”

Regarding representation around the world, there are now 74 national Women in Motorsport representatives working on behalf of their Federations (ASNs) and with the Commission, something Mouton is particularly proud of. “When I see all these people here supporting our actions and being motivated to make progress, this is a very big achievement,” she said.

On a regional level the first Seminar in Qatar proved a great success, drawing together nearly 50 women from within the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region to discuss issues specific to their part of the world. A Woman in Motorsport Regional Co-ordinator was also appointed for the first time; Jordan’s Randa Nabulsi taking on the important role alongside her Vice-Presidency of the Commission.

The Steering Committees, headed by FIA Women in Motorsport Commission Ambassadors Leena Gade and Silvia Bellot, have also made great progress in the fields of volunteers and officials, and engineering. Bellot, who has been involved in motor sport all her life, has fulfilled many differing roles in the sport, from being a runner to secretary, steward and race director. “Before 2014, the Commission focused on drivers but since then we decided to try and promote and encourage more officials and engineers,” said Formula One’s only female Steward. “Within the FIA we have worked with sporting commissions and we are pushing hard to have more stewards, because more women are there, and in fact we had the first all-female panel of stewards at Norway round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship earlier in the year. But that is not enough, we want to help the ASNs to attract, retain and develop female officials, we want to know what tools they need to do this. In terms of officials, is quite difficult to have senior female officials. I invite everyone to go to a race track or a rally stage and see the amazing number of female marshals we have. But when we look at senior positions, these numbers are very low. We do really need to keep working to have more female Race Directors, Technical Delegates and Stewards.”

Gade, former engineer and multiple race winner at Le Mans for Audi Sport Team Joest, may have ‘closed her eyes’ to any obstacles getting into the sport, but has never received negative feedback from men she has worked with. “The biggest barrier people see is women don’t think they can be an engineer,” she says. “Their peers, friends, family, they don’t see so many women in engineering and that’s a shame; we are so few. It is important for ASNs to acknowledge that there are female engineers out there and they’re making a difference and working at high technical levels. We must use these women as examples, role models. Media have maybe treated me differently at times; I can count on one hand the number of technical questions I’ve had from journalists. No one would ask me technical questions about my car! That was quite telling and while I think we’ve broken one part of the barrier, perhaps not all of it.”

The FIA was also delighted to welcome Nita Korhonen, Women’s Commission Director at the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme, to share experiences of its two-wheel counterpart. Their Commission was created 10 years ago and its missions are very similar to the FIA’s, with focus on five main areas; communications, education, involving women, recognition and tracking success. Their most recent education programme is on training camps for the Circuit, Trial, Enduro and Motocross categories and they are working towards further increasing engagement with the national federations in this area.

“The perception in bikes has changed every year,” said Korhonen. “We can see a huge difference already in a short time, so for sure women feel welcome and it has become more natural. We need role models, we don’t have the volume the guys have, but we are working hard to improve the situation.”

Frédérique Trouvé, Director of the ASN Development Programmes and Manager of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, also took time to explain the strong concrete support the FIA can now give to the ASNs in the form of three big pillars; the Women in Motorsport Commission’s support at international level, the new ASN Development Programme Department, and the grant programme which is in place to help fund federations’ projects at a national level.

She also confirmed the FIA now has a clearer idea of the number of women involved in the sport on a global level, the result of extensive data collection from the FIA’s 140 sporting ASNs. “We started from nowhere a few years ago, it’s been a long three-year process and we continue to work on this to complete the database by the end of the year to see what our global position is,” said Trouvé.

Former race and cross country drivers, Cathy Muller and Jutta Kleinschmidt, also joined the panel, the pair discussing the Commission’s ‘Detection Cell’. In attendance, Marta Garcia is evidence enough of its success, having been spotted in karting and successfully graduating to Spanish F4. “I learned a lot in my first year of karting and was selected by the commission again the following year to compete in the CIK-FIA Karting Academy Trophy,” said the Spaniard. “I did my best and won the title!” Australian rally driver Molly Taylor, who received early support from the Commission, now has a factory drive with Subaru in the Australian Rally Championship, and 18-year-old Tamara Molinaro, starting out in the same discipline, is now under the wing of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission. “We have had successful drivers in lots of racing disciplines,” said Kleinschmidt. “We need the ASNs to come back to us with the names of potential drivers in their countries so we can help detect and monitor this talent. We can be proud of what we have achieved, there is a lot going on and I’m happy about that. But we always want more and I think the most important thing is to find people in all positions who support women in motor sport. We need support from the press, we need the industry to help us, and that’s why we are here.”

Adding to her comments, Muller said: “The major problem is money, we need budget to create programmes and to race, so that’s why we need the ASNs to create projects and selections in their own countries.”

In relation to this, Michèle Mouton concluded the session by confirming the Commission’s plans for an ambitious European selection for young drivers in 2018, working along the lines of a karting slalom. “It will be like a pilot programme and we hope to be able to develop this in different countries and regions,” she confirmed.