Autosport – 22 August 2019

(Barré) #1


he inaugural W Series season drew to a close at
Brands Hatch earlier this month with Jamie
Chadwick a triumphant first champion. Almost
overnight – if the plethora of international
television and mainstream press appearances
are anything to go by – Chadwick’s star power and notoriety
have trebled, but so too have W Series’ own.
From the outset, W Series has been subjected to intense
scrutiny, and its second year will only bring even higher
expectations. Continuing the upward trajectory it has
established will now be more important than ever.
By its own admission, the series has adopted a trial-and-error
approach to running such a unique championship. That method
has proved successful so far, but that’s not to say there are not
still some changes to be made as it heads into trickier waters.
One of the biggest talking points of the first W Series season
was the experimental full-points-order reversed-grid non-
scoring race run at the penultimate round at Assen, won in
spectacular style by Megan Gilkes. The success of that race
means its core concept is definitely something W Series
should be keen to keep for the future, but the organisers are
understandably reluctant to introduce a second race so as not
to compromise their lucrative Channel 4 television deal.
But still, the drama of that Assen race was made for TV and

would be especially interesting to the casual viewer that W Series
is keen to attract. So why not keep one reversed-grid race – but
with points – as the penultimate round of the season to introduce
new jeopardy and shake up the championship before the finale?
Doing it as a one-off means the entertainment of a reversed-grid
event remains part of the W package without risking suggestions
of its integrity as pure motorsport being compromised, which
would surely follow a wholesale move to reversed grids for the
entire calendar – and without threatening the TV presence.
With just six races in the space of three months this year and
now a nine-month off-season ahead, another obvious area for
improvement for 2020 would be to expand the calendar. For this
there is one option that doesn’t require too much change at all.
The most sensible – and most likely, in the spirit of not trying

The first all-women W Series championship was a big hit with racers, spectators and

television viewers alike, but it will have to evolve in order to build on its success


What W Series needs to do next

“W Series has been subjected to

intense scrutiny and next year

will bring higher expectations”


to run before you can walk – way of expanding is to stick with the
DTM and appear at all of the rounds. That would take the total up
to nine races per year, which could even go so far as to make the FIA
more generous when it comes to deciding how many superlicence
points will be awarded to W Series for next year.
The awarding of superlicence points in 2020 and the chance
of another shot at a pretty helpful prize fund means it would be
unsurprising if all of 12 of the 2019 drivers guaranteed a drive in
W Series in 2020 – including Chadwick – took up that option
and returned for another year.
It can be argued that, by way of the short calendar and the bad luck
experienced by Alice Powell and Emma Kimilainen this year, we
were denied a four-way championship battle rather than the two-
horse race we had between Chadwick and Beitske Visser. Getting
those four back for a title fight would be perfect for that crucial
television profile, and there was also a range of lesser-known
drivers proving their skill in the second half of the season – giving
them another year to develop could make 2020 even more open.
But there is a flipside to this. If W Series works as intended,
there will be no reason for drivers to stick around in it for more
than two or three seasons before moving on to bigger and better
things. Yet for drivers at the lower end of that top 12, it would be
a difficult decision to choose to walk away from a championship
that is fully funded and does offer so many unique benefits. That
could lead to some of the field remaining in W Series indefinitely,
possibly creating the ‘segregated’ championship that W Series
has fought so hard to prove it is not.
For this reason it may be worthwhile establishing a limit on how
many seasons can be contested by a driver, but again – as with
most things in this new series – there is an element of needing to
wait and see what happens before introducing drastic measures.
Perhaps more important than any of these points is that W
Series needs to keep proving why its greatest asset is its own ability
and willingness to transcend the ‘motorsport bubble’ in the hope of
inspiring real change for women and girls in every walk of life. At
Brands Hatch, the series invited 100 young girls and women from
the London Youth group to attend as VIPs and allowed people a
glimpse into a world it’s very unlikely they’d have seen otherwise.
Irrespective of whatever happens in 2020 and beyond, that
W Series has been so committed to opening doors and doing
all it can to make a difference in an environment often totally
entrenched in its ways is both admirable and refreshing. Formats,
calendar and prize funds are all minor priorities for the series
compared to maintaining its inventiveness and keeping up
the pressure on the world of motorsport.

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