While motorsports likes to promote itself as something that can be enjoyed by all the family, the ethos of inclusivity has been sorely lacking behind the wheel.Recent research by Betway highlighted the current state of play, with every established top-class series currently dominated by male drivers.The German Touring Car Masters (DTM) currently has two female competitors, but notable examples elsewhere are extremely thin on the ground.
However, the launch of the Extrem E Rallye series in 2021 has been widely viewed to by a hugely positive step for motorsports in general.Every team competing in the debut season comprises a male and female driver, each of whom split the driving responsibilities in equal equipment.
The series has been backed by rally legend Michele Mouton who is now the President of the FIA Commission for Women in Motorsport.”For many years we have been striving towards gender equality and equal opportunities in the sport,” she said at the launch.”Extreme E is supporting this philosophy and has taken a concrete action that highlights female racers’ competence, and it’s for me a very important element.
“We are really supporting seeing more women competing in a mixed environment and we are extremely pleased with this great opportunity for them.”Mouton’s second place finish in the 1982 World Rally Championship driving a fearsome Group B Audi supercar demonstrated that women can compete with men in motorsports.
Despite this, opportunities for females have proved hard to come by since then, with all major motorsports series guilty of a lack of diversity and inclusivity.Pippa Mann has been a notable exception to the rule, making eight appearances in the prestigious Indianapolis 500 from 2011 to 2019.
She believes that a lack of sponsorship is a major hindrance for female racers, with the purse strings often controlled by men who want to invest in sports people they can relate to. “The biggest hurdle still in my opinion for any racing driver, whether male or female, is the sponsorship side and literally being able to find the money to keep competing,” she said.
“You still have the lingering stereotypes that may not be directly affecting the person who is making the decision, but the person deciding whether to award this sponsorship money and who is going to get it has to do so based on what’s best for their brand.”
While there are undoubtedly still plenty of obstacles to overcome, Extrem E Rallye does appear to be a significant step in the right direction.
There has been plenty of optimism in motorsports that young female racers will be inspired to pursue their dreams after watching the series.Whether that will be enough to break the male stranglehold on Formula 1 is a debate for another day, but it may well have an impact on other high profile racing series.While change is unlikely to happen overnight, the fact that it is happening at all can only be considered to be a positive development.