24h Le Mans
FIA WEC – Women racers step up a gear
Season Nine of the FIA World Endurance Championship will see two all-female line-ups take to the track. Supported by the FIA Women In Motorsport committee, Richard Mille Racing Team and Iron Lynx continue to climb the endurance ladder.
Richard Mille Racing Team
After a successful début European Le Mans Series campaign that earned them 10th place in the final championship standings, coupled with an outstanding performance in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (9th in the LMP2 class), the all-female trio of drivers sponsored by the watchmaker will now take on the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). The #50 Oreca 07-Gibson will once again be driven by Beitske Visser, Sophia Flörsch and Tatiana Calderón who all honed their racing skills in single-seaters. “To race in the FIA World Endurance Championship against the best drivers in the world will definitely be another milestone in our careers,” says Calderón.
The forthcoming season will bring further challenges as rule changes mean that the car will have less power and will run on Goodyear tyres instead of Michelins. The trio will soon get to grips with this new package in testing and are looking forward to building on their 2020 experience. “I am sure the team will help us to understand and get the most out of these tyres as quickly as possible to experience a good season,” adds Visser. The three drivers will also venture outside Europe and discover new circuits.
As in 2020, Philippe Sinault’s Signatech team will provide technical support for the Oreca 07-Gibson which will sport the number 1 at the 89th 24 Hours of Le Mans (12-13 June 2021) and throughout the season.
After two seasons in the European Le Mans Series, the Iron Dames project created and led by Deborah Mayer, Ferrari ambassadress for women in motorsport, is set to take on a new dimension. Like the Richard Mille Racing Team, the Ferrari 488 GTE Evo driven by Manuela Gostner, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting will also be stepping up to the FIA WEC.grid in time for Season Nine. The three women finished fourth in the European Le Mans Series LMGTE driver standings in 2019 and fifth in 2020. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, they secured ninth position in the LMGTE Am class in each of the last two editions. Building on the experience garnered over the last two years, the trio has achieved a remarkable level.
“WEC is the ultimate championship in which all endurance drivers aim to race. The Iron Dames are embarking on their third season together and have made constant progress,” Deborah Mayer explains. “It’s a real honour for us to join all these teams and compete in prestigious races such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It will be our third consecutive start and we shall pull out all the stops to reach the LMGTE Am podium. Manuela, Rahel and Michelle are highly motivated and delighted to continue within a good group who work well together. Iron Lynx offers the best possible structure to grow and progress. Our project which began in 2018 is geared for the very long term. It is extremely close to my heart as it aims to promote women in motorsport as drivers, team leaders, engineers and in areas such as communications and marketing. Our main challenge now is preparation. These races are technically difficult and physically gruelling. They call for thorough preparation – and not only in the simulator. Nothing replaces practice out on the track and talking with the engineers. We cannot wait to get started as racing in FIA WEC will be a fascinating experience. We are really pleased there will be an all-female team in LMP2 also. There is mutual respect between us and we are looking forward to welcoming other women drivers.”
When questioned recently about the prospect of two all-female driver crews in the premier league of endurance, Automobile Club de l’Ouest president Pierre Fillon replied: “We are immensely proud and delighted. We have been working with the FIA for several years to boost the presence of women drivers in our discipline. This work is now paying off. I think the WEC will be the world championship with most women drivers so it is a great success.”