WIM - “Partnerships create greater opportunities and visibility” | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WIM - “Partnerships create greater opportunities and visibility”


As FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars heads into its second season, Deborah Mayer, project leader of the Iron Dames programme, spoke to fia.com about how partnership with the project and the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission is helping to unearth and nurture future female talent.

Having come from a professional background where the level of female participation could be counted on one hand, Deborah Mayer is a passionate advocate for equal opportunities across every spectrum of the sport. It took time to build the foundations for a project that would provide concrete possibilities for women, but the Iron Dames programme has developed and flourished since its creation in late 2018 and now, together with the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission and other key partners, is helping to bring many talented women to the top level.

“It is an honour and privilege to be working with Michèle [Mouton] and the FIA Women in Motorsport team, sharing and developing ideas where there are no boundaries,” commented Deborah Mayer. “Partnerships create greater opportunities and visibility and together we can bring more young eyes to the world of motor sport. Girls on Track – Rising Stars, for which we are a main partner, has created a real momentum, it is a fantastic and dynamic programme that is showing young girls they do have the possibility and opportunity to be part of the sport, and that they can and should dare to take the first step.”

The first Iron Dames – Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting, Manuela Gostner and Deborah Mayer – teamed up for the 2019 season where they successfully started racing in the European Le Mans Series, Michelin Le Mans Cup and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Fully supported by FIA Women in Motorsport, Deborah’s philosophy of working with professional racing teams has been crucial to development and being able to reveal real talent, not only of drivers but also of women looking to progress a career across one of the many aspects of the sport. With podiums behind the wheel of their GT machinery, the Iron Dames are now also eyeing success in their debut season in the FIA World Endurance Championship, as well as building on their three consecutive top nine placings in the LMGTE Am category at Le Mans.

As a main partner of FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars, which is also supported by the FIA Innovation Fund, the Iron Dames programme continues to expand and doors are also opening through association with the FIA Girls on Track - Rising Stars major partner, the Ferrari Driver Academy.

As a direct result of their participation in the Rising Stars season in 2020, Maya Weug and Doriane Pin are two of the latest Dames and are already demonstrating good potential. Maya, who won the inaugural FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars last year, became the first-ever female student of the world-famous Ferrari Driver Academy and is now competing in the Italian and ADAC F4 Championships as an Iron Dame. As one of the four finalists of FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars, Ferrari also recognised Doriane’s talent and awarded her a test session in its 488 Challenge EVO. Also under the watchful eye of Iron Dames’ racing partner Iron Lynx, Doriane’s prowess behind the wheel of the GT car catapulted her into a full-time drive in this year’s Michelin Le Mans Cup, where she has already notched up three podium finishes.

“Importantly, the Iron Dames project is very long term, it has to be for us to develop and expand its reach and make a real difference to women in the sport,” said Deborah. “And I think we have a competitive edge with our partner Iron Lynx, as we can offer a whole range of racing possibilities, from karting to formula cars, GT or prototypes. All our drivers, and staff, have the opportunity to try something in a different discipline, we are not fixing one person in one box; nothing is rigid. Some will perform, develop and blossom in formula cars, others in GT or prototypes. Partnerships with very performant and professional teams give possibilities to talented women, and it is also important to us that this project is not just for drivers, but across the broadest scope for women in motor sport. We are a completely mixed team.

“We continue to develop in different categories and formulas, and there are many other options with the potential to expand outside Europe too,” added Deborah. “Collectively, the more ideas brought to the table the better; some are developed, others not. But let’s see what is possible, if not today then perhaps tomorrow. My hope is to bring more and more women to motor sport; Iron Dames is a very long-term project that is here to stay for many years. The dream would be to bring a talented female driver to Formula 1, of course, but the overall goal is much broader and deeper,” she concluded.


The second edition of FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars is well underway with 71 applications received from the FIA’s global ASNs for this season’s worldwide talent detection and nurturing programme for junior drivers in karting and more senior drivers qualifying to race in Formula 4.

Similar to last year, the national sporting authorities were invited to nominate their most talented kart racers in both the junior and senior categories. Following receipt of 71 applications from 28 countries, the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission’s Detection Cell has whittled the applications down to 28 – 14 in both categories – and those drivers will now be invited to a three-day shoot-out planned for October at the Circuit Paul Ricard.