Megan Gilkes, Natalie Decker and Shea Holbrook are among the 28 competitors still hoping to earn one of 20 spots for the inaugural Formula 3 W Series — the all-female driver competition launched by the FIA last October to promote and provide a stepping stone to Formula 1 in effort to overcome motorsports’ gender gap — slated to debut later this year.
In a series of individual tests, the W Series qualifiers wheeled the Momentum Motorsports Ligier JS F3 car around American FIA-grade tracks, training for their final four-day evaluation in Almeria, Spain, at the end of the month.
“The car was absolutely amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed the horsepower, downforce and handling of the car and it was like nothing I’d ever driven before,” Gilkes, a Canadian championship karter turned formula driver, commented after climbing out of the Ligier cockpit.
The female racers tested a spec Ligier JS F3 chassis that meets the most current global FIA safety specification, including the first North American application of a race car Halo.
“I was surprised that once in the cockpit, the Halo completely leaves the field of view, allowing me to focus ahead,” said Holbrook, a decorated American sports car driver and drag racer. “This chassis is challenging, yet the driveability and balance is fantastic. It’s relatively stiff and certainly rewards commitment which the Hankook can aid in providing. Coming from a long career in Honda Touring Cars it takes some time to trust the downforce. One similarity though, the Honda power. At more than 300hp this turbo just builds and builds. It’s actually quite cool as you can hear the turbo build pressure so I knew exactly how much power was being delivered. The Ligier JS F3 is such a blast to drive and offers anything a driver would want in a race car.”
The Ligier JS F3 is powered by a 303hp Honda Performance Development version of the new Honda Civic Type R turbocharged K20C1 motor and was equipped with a set of Hankook slicks.
“The Ligier JS F3 is crazy fast,” said NASCAR standout Natlie Decker. “It is very different than anything I’ve ever driven before. It has tons of grip and much better reaction. I would like to thank my sponsor N29, my family, Max from Ligier Automotive and Momentum Motorsports for setting up the test to give me seat time prior to the final selection of the W Series.”
More than 100 drivers from various racing disciplines all over the world started the W Series process. From there, 55 drivers were selected for the first three-day combine held in Austria. The roster whittled down to a 28-driver short list for the final evaluations. The drivers who make the final cut in Spain will embark on a six-race series contested in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and the UK. The season is scheduled to run from May through August of 2019 with the overall winner receiving $500,000 to advance her racing career.
“I’m doing everything I can to prepare for the W Series final qualifiers and it would be pretty cool to do some F3 Americas racing permitting the opportunity,” Holbrook continued. “Thank you to Max Crawford, HPD and Momentum Motorsports for help making this possible.”