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WIM - Girls take to the track on International Women’s Day

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Female racers Tatiana Calderón, Gosia Rdest and Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky joined the Girls on Track Karting Challenge on the first full day of activities of the European Final, sharing their experiences in the high-octane world of motor sport.

On International Women’s Day, exactly one year after the FIA’s European Young Women Programme was launched at the Geneva Motor Show, the 27 finalists of the Girls on Track Karting Challenge got their first taste of the thrill of international karting competition at the Le Mans Circuit International de Karting. The first full day of activities at the European Final saw the girls split into two groups, not only putting their skills to the test on the track but interacting with other participants from all nine European nations during sociological, educational and communication workshops.

After torrential rain last night, clear skies and a drying but slippery track greeted the girls for their first session in the junior specification 125cc karts. After a period of track familiarisation, the girls were encouraged to set ‘hot laps’ around the 1.3 kilometre circuit, benefitting from the experience of the trained FFSA Academy coaches who talked them through their racing lines, acceleration and braking points.

Tatiana Calderón, test driver at the Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team and Formula 2 racer, was an interested observer, the Colombian Ambassador to the Girls on Track Karting Challenge impressed with the level of commitment demonstrated by the aspiring racers.

“I remember when we launched the project a year ago in Geneva, and to actually be here now with the finalists and see their huge potential really motivates me,” said Tatiana. “I feel really proud of what has been achieved by everyone involved in the Girls on Track and hope it’s just the beginning of a great future for some of the girls. I hope I can continue to support them in any way I can, and keep building awareness for female racers. I was really impressed with some of the driving, especially as the track was a bit slippy and of course a lot of them have only done slalom before, not driven on a full race circuit. The level was high.”

At the Academy, the educational aspect of the project focused on delving deeper into the involvement of women in the sport and ways to further encourage their participation. CDES-PROGESPORT at the University of Limoges (the Centre for the Law and Economics of Sport), who are the academic partner to the project, have already conducted surveys with  nearly 1000 girls who attended the national selections in all nine countries.

The opening workshop hosted by the Girls on Track partner sought to identify potential barriers for girls to get involved in motor sport. Debates about outside perceptions, prejudice, attitude, money, physical ability and a lack of role models to aspire to were all part of the discussion. The girls were then tasked with formulating a recruitment plan for a theoretical club seeking to grow its female membership. And finally, each of the groups was asked to create a communications plan for the recruitment of the new membership, formulating slogans and imagery to encourage female participation.

The 27 aspiring racers were then treated to an interactive session with Tatiana Calderón, Swedish touring car driver Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Poland’s GT racer Gosia Rdest. The three race winners shared their own career paths and experiences in the sport and discussed the importance of physical preparation, nutrition, personal presentation and using social media as a means of creating a personal connection.

The Girls on Track Karting Challenge European Final continues on Saturday with Academy-based activities including reaction, sport, physical and memory tests, before concluding with a video debrief of the girls' driving performances.

Find more pictures here.