ST JAMES: The future is bright

Image via @PippaMann/Twitter

ST JAMES: The future is bright

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ST JAMES: The future is bright

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I’m encouraged to see so many more girls and women actively engaged in racing in various roles across all forms of motorsports. It takes a critical number of anything to make an impact, and support the idea that there is growth and change. It’s much easier today to find out how to join a car club or organization of like-minded people who enjoy what you love, and to learn what’s out there.

It’s hard to single out individuals because there are so many, but here are some who are doing great things already, who have a bright future ahead of them, and who have received support from industry leaders to help advance their careers. Besides having the talent and desire to succeed, what impresses me most is how the leaders of motorsports are not only recognizing how important it is to provide the support, but they’re taking action and doing it.

Parella Motorsports Holdings (SVRA, TransAm, F4, FR Americas), along with its partners, announced three Powering Diversity Scholarships in the 2021 F4 championship, including two to young, talented female drivers: 18-year-old Emily Linscott, who will be racing for Kiwi Motorsports (co-owned by Teena Larsen), and 16-year-old Chloe Chambers, who will be running for Future Star Racing.

The Gorsline Company announced 20-year-old Courtney Crone as the recipient of the 2021 Gorsline Scholarship, which includes support and training from PitFit in Indianapolis and Dr. Jacques Dallaire of Performance Prime. Crone joins a list of talented past Gorsline Scholarship winners that include Katherine Legge, Danica Patrick, Patrick Long, Dylan Murry, Josef Newgarden, and Bryan Herta.

Crone’s march towards racing’s top levels received a boost when she became the latest recipient of the Gorsline Scholarship. Image by Chris Green

Mazda announced a $75,000 scholarship for the top female invited to the Mazda MX-5 Cup Shoot-Out, and Savanna Little was the first recipient.

What makes these so important is that they come from the motorsports industry leaders who are now recognizing the importance of identifying female talent and providing them with meaningful support. Another great example is when female racers support other female racers, such as Shift Up Now. Shea Holbrook Chorley and Pippa Mann have created a membership organization that highlights talented racers in different series (main image), enabling fans and industry partners to join and support these drivers.

Globally, the FIA Women in Motorsports Commission is generating educational programs in both off and on-track activities; the W Series will begin season two soon (including eight weekends as support races on the F1 schedule) and we’ve seen some of the drivers from season one go on to successfully compete in other forms of motorsports; IMSA has Katherine Legge, Christina Nielsen, and Bia Figueiredo in GTD with support from Champion Porsche and other partners like Richard Mille for Team Hardpoint. And we’re all anticipating a terrific Indianapolis 500 for Simona De Silvestro and the women-led race team Paretta Autosport.

Most of these drivers and programs are pretty visible, but there are other drivers which I’m going to be watching because I know they’re better than good, and are continuing to progress to get even better. In open-wheel racing, one driver I hope can achieve her goals is Sabre Cook. I met Sabre some years ago and watched her kick butt and win championships in S1 karting. She can be super aggressive and has lofty goals, including graduating with an engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines. She’ll be competing in her second season of the W Series and pursuing her goal of racing in the IndyCar Series.

Cook will be returning for a second W Series campaign this year. Image via W Series

Another one is Hannah Grisham who is a karting champion, won the NW Spec Mazda Championship and has open-wheel aspirations. And in addition to Emily Linscott and Chloe Chamber, there’s a 14-year-old Juju Noda in the F4 Series to watch.

While all the eyes and pressure are on Hailie Deegan in NASCAR, others try to gain the experience to reach the top levels in stock car racing. Watch for Brittney Zamora, Toni Breidenger, Gracie Trotter, and Kaylee Bryson. And there are several women racers who have settled into success in USAC Midget and Sprint Cars, like Shannon McQueen, Jessica Bean, and Brie Hershey.

You might be asking, “what’s different now than in previous years/decades?” For one thing, everywhere you look, in every form of motorsports worldwide, there are now women competing with solid teams in top equipment, and sending a strong message to young females aspiring to have a career in motorsports that they can be successful. Now, how can we leverage that and build momentum? We need more partners to come on board. We need to find the top talent and help prepare them for success. Each one of them is unique, has individual skills, strengths and weaknesses, goals, and aspirations. The sport is constantly changing, and it’s challenging to understand who you can trust, where to go, and how to get there. We need mentors (some of the drivers mentioned have mentors such as Pippa, Sarah Fisher, Shea, Buddy Rice, and myself) who can help guide them through the minefields.

We need these women racers to continue to compete, and hopefully, with the support behind them, we will see more of them on podiums and in winner’s circles. This is not only powerful for them, but it sends a positive message to sponsors and industry leaders that it’s the right thing to do, and to the next generation of female racers that’s it’s worth the effort to continue to pursue their dreams. It’s the single best opportunity to grow the sport, and it’s the most effective use of resources to invest in the future.

Currently in the works is a merit-based contingency program for women racing in professional series in the United States. Contingency programs have existed in racing forever. This would be another way to generate exposure for the women racers who are achieving success on the track, and provide a financial reward to the best of the best.

As we end Women’s History Month, I’m looking forward to celebrating women’s accomplishments in motorsports throughout the year!

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