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WIM – Girls on Track European Team undertake first FIA training camp

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The six-strong all-female European Team selected from the FIA’s Girls on Track European Final underwent their first training camp last weekend, totally immersed behind-the-scenes of the second round of the FIA World Touring Car Cup, the Race of Hungary in Budapest.

Over the last 18 months, 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 last month, where six ambitious and talented young women were selected to take part in two sporting and educational training camps to support and enhance their careers in the intense world of motor sport. 

Their first weekend at the Hungaroring provided an exceptional insight into all aspects of a race meeting, ensuring the girls had a thorough awareness and understanding of the work of each of the stakeholders, and their relationship and vital association with others involved in the series. Thanks to the support of FIA and race officials, Eurosport Events - the Promoter of the WTCR - and five of the registered competitors in the series who nominated drivers as native-speaking mentors to the aspiring women racers from five different nations, the girls benefitted from unparalleled access behind-the-scenes at one of the FIA’s top racing championships.

After meeting their mentors on Friday afternoon - reigning WTCR Champion Gabriele Tarquini, Tiago Monteiro, Tom Coronel, Daniel Haglöf, Andy Priaulx and Thed Björk - the girls had a unique opportunity to accompany them to the all-important Drivers Briefing, before heading to scrutineering and administrative checks to follow the technical work of the FIA and event scrutineers. They then joined their drivers’ teams for FP1, observing the work of the engineers refining race cars to perfection.

On Saturday, the girls were afforded access to the teams’ pre-FP2 briefing sessions ahead of watching qualifying. They were also treated to a hot lap of the circuit with Jean-Karl Vernay in an Audi RS 3 LMS before observing the last-minute race preparations on the grid. Having watched Argentina’s Nestor Girolami win an action-packed Race 1, the girls were invited to participate in the winners’ press conference, posing questions to the drivers alongside the world’s accredited media. Throughout the weekend, they also met many women working in a variety of different roles, providing a valuable insight into the numerous career options in motor sport.

The final day of the race meeting included a tour of Eurosport’s highly impressive TV operation and a safety workshop during the build-up to Race 2 and 3. To round out an all-encompassing and unique insight into a race meeting, the girls assisted with the Race 2 podium procedure, alternated between being back with their teams to watch the races, and being invited in groups to Race Control to witness first-hand the exceptional work of the Race Director and the team managing the sporting element of the event.

One of the mentors, Sweden’s Daniel Haglöf, team boss and driver at PWR Racing who finished third in Race 2, was full of support: “It was a really good experience. We showed them a lot of things inside the team and how we work. From my side I explained how I manage the weekend and what I prioritise. For PWR it comes quite natural for us; we always try to push women into motor sport. We have Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, the first female victor in TCR so it was natural for us. Motor sport is fantastic in that way, where men and women can compete under the same conditions, so it is quite unique, and we try to push Mikaela so hopefully we’ll see her on the WTCR grid in the future.”

See what the FIA Girls on Track European Team had to say about their first training camp, which was designed to open their eyes to all aspects of the motor sport world:

Michalina Sabaj, Poland
“I spent this weekend following Gabriele Tarquini. I learnt a lot from him and am really thankful for the time he spent with me and for his attention. I also really appreciate every person that spent time with us and showed us their work, and of course our FIA team. It was an amazing weekend and I can’t wait for the next one.”

Nina Pothof, Netherlands
“It was such an incredible weekend. It's amazing to see the teams, drivers and officials putting all this effort in the sport, and also to see that I could be more than only a driver. Words can't describe what I'm feeling right now.”

Maja Hallén Fellenius, Sweden
“I think that the first training camp has been a success. We’ve learned a lot and had so much fun. I’m happy to have met all these people that I hope I can keep in contact with. We got to see all the parts of a race which we normally don’t get to see, such as race control, scrutineering and TV. But also the teams, and to understand how much is actually going on behind just driving on the track. It was also nice having one of the drivers as a mentor during the weekend. But finally I just really want to thank the FIA for this opportunity and I’m sure it will help me in my future.”

Anna Glaerum, Sweden
“This weekend has been very educational and is the best thing I have ever done. I have learned a lot about many different important jobs. It was amazing to see people who work as engineers, in the media and safety; it was fun to see them all working hard to get everything perfect. It was fantastic to try new things and to get a hot lap in a real WTCR car. I’m very thankful to have been here and it was very interesting to see everything from another view that you have never seen before. The weekend was absolutely amazing. Thanks to the FIA and everyone who has participated, you have done this weekend to the best.”

Matilde Fidalgo, Portugal
“If I could use a word to describe this weekend it would be unique. I learned all the components that are necessary for a world race. I simply loved everything! It's a kind of life that I see myself doing all the time.”

Milja Kukkonen, Finland
“The weekend at the Hungaroring was very amazing. I got the opportunity to see how the team works and follow the competition with them. I was with PWR Racing and I couldn't be happier  because they were such an incredible team. I learned lots of new things and both drivers were so friendly and nice to me. We also had lots of other activities and the best one was the car ride on the promotional lap! We also got to the grid, to the podium and race control. That's something that I'm probably not going to see again so I’m very thankful about those days in Hungary. The weekend was crowned when my mentor got to the podium with such an amazing drive. I can’t say anything else than that was the perfect weekend for me.”