WIM – Girls on Track European Team complete FIA Training Camps and look to a future in motor sport

  • fr
  • es

The six-strong European Team selected from the final of the Girls on Track Karting Challenge have now completed their two FIA training camps, each designed to support them through a sporting and educational motor sport programme. The second camp, based in Genk and Veldhoven, was focused on driving skills and fitness and, now, the final closing event in Brussels in October will be the last in an intense series of activities intended to aid the development of young women in motor sport and help the girls successfully navigate their way through the sporting ladder.

As part of a two-year programme supported by the EU’s Erasmus+ funding, the FIA’s European Young Women programme, the Girls on Track Karting Challenge, invited young girls to give motor sport a try at urban karting slalom events in nine European countries. It culminated in a European Final in Le Mans in March earlier this year, where six ambitious and talented young women were selected to take part in two training camps to support and enhance their careers in the intense world of motor sport. 
After their first training camp during the second round of the FIA World Touring Car Cup - where the young girls were totally immersed in all aspects behind the scenes of the Race of Hungary - this second camp was focussed on driving and fitness. During the first of the four-day programme, the girls took to the kart track for a number of driver training sessions, including in-depth evaluations of their performances through data analysis with the coaches and former CIK FIA Academy Trophy World Champion and double Formula 4 champion, Richard Verschoor.

“The week was hard for the girls and we were all very impressed by them,” said coach, Mats Van Den  Brand. “Despite the difficult weather conditions they kept going with driving, sports, fitness, racing and overtaking. It was really nice to see their progress and we could definitely see some natural talent.”

The following day, sessions in professional simulators at the Netherlands-based Adrenaline Xperience also came under great scrutiny from Dutch professional GT racer Xavier Maassen, with telemetry for each lap ensuring the girls could analyse and improve their performances. Carlos Corell, physical trainer to a number of Formula 2 and 3 drivers, was on hand to underline the importance of health and nutrition, helping the girls to formulate programmes to optimise fitness, strength and stamina. While extreme temperatures in Belgium and The Netherlands were far from ideal for the girls during their driving sessions, such conditions actually underlined the importance of hydration and peak fitness. The final two days were spent at the Eindhoven and Genk circuits where the girls took part in qualifying runs, sprint and endurance races against the clock.

“The two training camps have really given the girls a unique insight into the sport and shown them there is also a wealth of opportunity, both on and off the track,” said Michèle Mouton, President of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission. “The FIA Girls on Track programme aims to inspire and promote the involvement of women in our sport and over the last two years we have connected with thousands of young girls and tried to demonstrate that every aspect is open to them as a potential career option. Each and every young woman who takes that step into motor sport takes us closer to our goal of gender equality and increasing the participation of women in the sport.”

Now, with a wealth of knowledge across all aspects of the world of motor sport, the six young women are equipped and ready to continue their journey in this highly competitive arena. From here, they will convene in Brussels on 2 October for the Closing Conference to the European Commission. FIA President Jean Todt, along with Michèle Mouton, will both deliver keynote speeches to assembled EU officials, public institutions, international sporting organisations and project partners, as well as participate in a panel discussion with EU officials about gender equality and grassroots motor sport.

See what the FIA Girls on Track European Team had to say about their second training camp and the future ahead:

Michalina Sabaj, Poland
“During the camp I had the possibility to drive and train and I gained a lot of experience. There were different moments, sometimes a bit hard, but the meeting was really fruitful for me. After the Girls on Track training camp at the Hungaroring I participated in the Polish Karting Championship and in ROK Cup Poland rounds. I dream about Formula 4, and I hope my motor sport dream will not be dashed. Life is a race.”

Nina Pothof, Netherlands
“If your goal doesn't scare you, then your goal isn't hard enough! I learned a lot this week and the coaches and trainers are helping me to push to my limits. Since the first training camp I have been continuing to drive the Dutch championship, but I also drove in KZ for the first time. I plan to test a Formula BRL (Benelux Racing League) in September; I'm really looking forward to driving a Formula car. Also, I want to get my racing licence so I can drive races in Formula cars and get some experience.”

Maja Hallén Fellenius, Sweden
“During this camp we have worked a lot with professionals while driving both karts and simulators, and I think that has helped me a lot to improve my skills. Since the last camp I have done my first-ever car race and I have also done a couple of interviews and I think my experiences with the Girls on Track have helped me to succeed with those. My future aspiration is to be able to get to the MRF Challenge at the end of this year, and my ultimate goal is to make it to Formula E and to be the first female world champion there. I hope that I can get help from the FIA and this programme to reach my goals.”

Anna Glaerum, Sweden
“My future plan is to continue training, get better and better and into higher classes. I have learned a lot from this session about driving, fitness training, hydration and nutrition. Since the last camp I have continued to practice karting and I have also exercised a lot.”

Matilde Fidalgo, Portugal
“With this training camp I have learned so much and I’m also starting to better understand race craft and the important aspects about nutrition and exercise. After the last training camp I started to race in the Portuguese Championship but my biggest goal is to become an F1 driver and win an F1 Championship.”

Joanna Piwowarek, Poland (replacing Milja Kukkonen from Finland, due to illness)
“I joined the training camp after the meeting at the Hungaroring and feel I’ve made quite a lot of progress. Sometimes it is not easy, but I would really like to continue with motor sport because I love it.”