W Series, the new European-based single-seater racing series for female drivers, has announced 28 candidates who have been approved to go through to the next stage of the selection process, including three Americans. They were chosen by judges David Coulthard, Alex Wurz, Lyn St James and Dave Ryan from 54 drivers who attended the series’ three-day selection event at the Test and Training International facility in Melk, Austria run by ex-Formula 1 driver Alex Wurz.
“All W Series’ qualifier-drivers here at the Wachauring are superstars, every single one of them,” said Catherine Bond Muir, W Series CEO. “But the sad fact is that not all of them will continue to the next stage of our driver selection program. That’s competition. That’s sport. That’s racing.
“So to all of them who’ve made it through to the next stage, I say: congratulations and good luck in Almeria in March, the final stage of our driver selection program.
In Almeria, Spain, the chosen 28 candidates will take part in a four-day test in the W Series Tatuus F318 Formula 3 car (pictured below). From this group, 20 drivers (18 plus two reserves) will be selected to race with W Series at six events in support of the DTM series in Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy and the UK, running from May through to August.
“The past three days has been excellent, but it has not been easy for the drivers or for the judges, the instructors and the people putting on the program,” said former IndyCar and sports car racer St. James. “As much as we’d like racing to be an exact science, and even though it’s always ultimately about lap times, this program has been able to put so many little pieces together to help evaluate not only the drivers’ talent but also the drivers’ potential.
“It’s very difficult when you start to put those pieces together to analyze, assess and evaluate them all. But I believe, taking into account the conditions, everything has been fairly equalized, so that nobody has been at a disadvantage. The on-track action has been in production cars — Fords and Porsches — which, of course, aren’t what they’ll be racing in W Series. Inevitably, I think it’s been difficult for a lot of the drivers to bring out their best in these cars, even though some have had experience in cars like them.
“I feel, as a driver, it was difficult to watch some of the struggles, especially where I saw the talent and maybe the potential, but didn’t witness it being delivered because of their being out of their comfort zone.”
Fellow judge Coulthard, former F1 racer and W Series advisory board chairman, added: “I’ve been immensely impressed by the commitment and attitude of all the competitors, and I really feel they’ve come here with open minds. They’ve really embraced this Test and Training International facility and organization, which is world class.
“The whole process has further validated that the right team of people has been brought together since the initial conversations with Catherine [Bond Muir, W Series CEO] and Sean [Wadsworth, W Series Chairman]. When I look at all of the experience we’ve hired, and when I look at many of the people whom I’ve worked with in the past in Formula 1, now part of the W Series team, it further confirms that we’re doing this the right way and giving the right opportunity to those who may have not have had this type of opportunity ever before.”
The 28 successful qualifiers, in alphabetical order, are:
Sarah Bovy, Belgium
Jamie Chadwick, UK
Sabre Cook, USA
Natalie Decker, USA
Marta Garcia, Spain
Megan Gilkes, Canada
Grace Gui, China
Esmee Hawkey, UK
Jessica Hawkins, UK
Shea Holbrook, USA
Francesca Linossi, Italy
Vivien Keszthelyi, Hungary
Emma Kimilainen, Finland
Natalia Kowalska, Poland
Stephane Kox, The Netherlands
Miki Koyama, Japan
Milou Mets, The Netherlands
Sarah Moore, UK
Tasmin Pepper, South Africa
Vicky Piria, Italy
Alice Powell, UK
Gosia Rdest, Poland
Naomi Schiff, Belgium
Shirley Van Der Lof, The Netherlands
Beitske Visser, The Netherlands
Alexandra Whitley, Australia
Fabienne Wohlwend, Liechtenstein
Caitlin Wood, Australian