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Women in Motorsport Commission announces first ambassadors

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Penny Hopkins
WVoN co-editor

The governing body of motorsport, the Federation Internationale de l’automobile (FIA) has announced the names of its first Women in Motorsport Commission (WMC) ambassadors.

When establishing the Commission in April 2012, FIA President Jean Todt said:

“The FIA’s membership around the world comprises men and women; each has an identical part to play in sport. Like many international federations, we will support, promote and help advance the participation of women in motorsport to ensure equal opportunities at all levels.”

The Commission wasted no time in signalling its intentions at its first National Coordinators Seminar on 13-14 June in Paris.

Representatives from the FIA’s national sporting authorities (ASNs) all over the world discussed the issues affecting women involved or trying to get involved in motorsport.

It is working at a strategic level to introduce policies that will promote education and encourage more women into the sport.  It will also take a role at international forums and conferences devoted to wider issues in women’s sport.

As a first step, appointing ambassadors is an important one.  Their remit is to disseminate the messages of the commission, with an emphasis on showing how women can succeed all areas of motorsport as well as pushing forward the FIA’s Action for Road Safety campaign.

The five women ambassdors are all achievers in various aspects of motorsport:

Michèle Mouton (President of the Women in Motorsport Commission and honorary ambassador) was the first, and so far only, woman to have won a round of the FIA World Rally Championship.  She won four World Championship rallies in the 1980s and was last year awarded the rank of Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French President.

She described the ambassdors as “high profile, professional and influential women with a voice in our sport; they are proof that where there is a desire, there is a possibility to succeed.”

She said that their aims are “to try and remove barriers that may exist and to demonstrate that gender is not an obstacle when you want to succeed in your chosen field.”

Monisha Kaltenborn is chief executive officer of Sauber Motorsport; the first woman to take on the position in Formula 1.

“The challenge now is to develop the platforms for [women] so they have equal chances to show their abilities in all business areas they are interested in, which may include motorsport.”

Susie Wolff started her career in karting and is now a full time driver for Mercedes-Benz.  She is also a development driver with the Williams Formula 1 team.

“There were not really any role models for me in motorsport when I was younger….If what I am doing can inspire just one girl to give racing a go, then I would feel I had made a positive difference.”

Maria de Villota has tested for the Lotus Renault GP team and is now a Formula 1 test driver for Marussia.

“It is very important to let other women know that with enough belief and application, you can overcome any hurdle.  If I can be an F1 test driver, I am sure a lot of women can do it too…Being different is hard.  Not having another woman around to ask is tough and your destiny really is in your own hands.”

Katherine Legge also began her career in karting, winning many races during the 1990s.  She tested for Minardi Formula 1 in 2005.  She now competes in the United States in IndyCar.

“If I can help young people in their quest for success in racing, whether it be driving or otherwise, then I see that as a great way to ‘give back’ to the sport…we have big plans for the future.”

I make no apologies for including this level of detail about the ambassadors.  I’m not sure how many of us can say we have heard of any of these outstanding sportswomen, and that is another issue altogether, but just reading about them is inspirational.

If they can raise the profile of motorsport for women and help more women get involved there could be exciting times ahead both for women and for the sport.

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