Over the last few weeks, W series has announced its longlist of the 60 drivers who will battle it out later this month to try and secure one of the 18 places on the inaugural grid in May 2019. Within those 60 racers there are over 25 countries represented, and the UK is no exception. So, who are the British women hoping to fight for the W Series title?
Of the 5 Brits taking part in this month’s selection process, the most well-known is probably Jamie Chadwick. The 20-year-old has had a love of motorsport from a young age, spending her weekends watching F1 and some of her childhood having been spent on the Isle of Man. However, her family had never been involved in the sport, with her saying to me last year: “we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves in to…We were not used to being involved in that environment and taking part”. Despite her first race not being until she was 12, a relatively old age for many racing drivers starting out, it wasn’t long until success came her way. In 2012/13, Jamie won a Ginetta Junior Scholarship, meaning she had a fully funded season in the championship. It was at this point that the possibility of racing became less of a dream, and more of a reality. One of Chadwick’s most notable achievements is her 2015 British GT Championship win. Partnered with Ross Gunn and racing for Aston Martin, the pair went into the season with little expectations from others due to the duo being so much younger than their competitors. However, they did triumph, beating their opponents and making Jamie the first female to win the championship. Since, she has gone on to race for 2 seasons in British Formula 3, in her debut year she finished 9th overall with a podium finish to her name, and last year bettered this, finishing the season in 8th overall and taking her first British F3 race win. Jamie Chadwick has huge potential and with her likely to be successful in the selection process, could be one to watch in the series overall.
Esmee Hawkey has also had her fair share of success, and again all at the age of 20. Much like Chadwick, Esmee didn’t begin racing until a slightly older age, starting when she was 9. Before she was born, Hawkey’s father had competed in endurance racing himself and so there was always a motorsport culture surrounding the family. Having spent 6 years karting with many achievements, she moved on to car racing at the age of 15, participating in the Ginetta Junior Championship. The following year, she progressed to GT racing where she drove a Porsche Cayman GT4. In her debut year in the category, she was crowned 2016 Vice-Champion before collecting multiple wins and fastest laps in 2017. In 2018 she continued to drive within the Porsche Motorsport Pyramid, running in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB Championship. Competing in 16 races, Hawkey achieved 2 podiums and a fastest lap, finishing in 5th overall in the Pro-Am category. Although Esmee Hawkey may not be a name as well-known name to the wider motorsport community, Hawkey does have a strong backing from Porsche. Last year, Esmee was a Brand Ambassador for the Jardine group’s Porsche Centre South London and so it is clear that companies such as this can see her potential.
23-year-old Jessica Hawkins spent 8 years karting before taking the step up to car racing in 2014. As a former British karting Champion, Jessica had many impressive junior results, however struggled to complete a full season racing cars for several reasons including financial difficulties. In 2017, Hawkins raced in the MINI Challenge’s Cooper Pro Class and this was her first opportunity to mount a title campaign. Driving for Excelr8 Motorsport, Jessica finished 2nd overall in the championship with 5 wins, 13 podiums, 3 pole positions and 1 fastest lap from the 18 races she took part in. Previously, at the end of 2016, Hawkins raced in the final round of the VW Racing Cup and despite this being her only track appearance of the year, finished the weekend with 2 top 10 results. With little preparation and practice, Jessica has proved that she is able to handle whatever is thrown at her, having achieved results despite this. This will be a vital skill for the selection process and she will have to quickly adapt to the car on the day.
Sarah Moore is the 4th British participant. Having made the progression from karts to cars in 2008, she is one of the more experienced drivers within the 60. Like many aspiring racers, she began driving in the Ginetta Junior categories. Racing in the Ginetta Junior Winter Series, Moore finished 2nd in the championship achieving 4 podiums out of 4 races. The following year she returned to the series and after winning 5 races, was crowned Ginetta Junior Champion, becoming the first female to do this. After another year in the series, she moved onto race single-seaters. However, in 2013 she chose to focus on driver coaching, though it wasn’t long before she returned to racing. In 2014 she was runner-up in the Toyota GT86 Cup before winning the European ProKart Endurance Championship a year later. Following stints in the Mighty MINI Championship and Henderson Insurance LMP3 Cup, last year Sarah returned to her winning ways in the BritCar Endurance Championship. Moore’s teammate for the season was Matt Greenwood, who she has been coaching since he was 11 years old. Partnered together, they won the championship, with this being Greenwood’s first title in cars. Her experience in a range of series and also driver coaching will likely come in handy in the intense selection process in Austria later this month.
Along with Jamie Chadwick, Alice Powell is one of the most well-known and respected names on the longlist of drivers. Having started driving as a 6-year-old, 2 years later she began karting competitively. Powell is quite the modern pioneer for women in the junior categories leading to F1, with her holding many accolades of being the first or only woman to race in a particular series. In 2009, she competed in the Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship, making her the youngest female driver to do so. However, the following year at the age of 17, she became the first woman to win a Formula Renault race in the UK before going onto be the first to win a Formula Renault Championship. Alice then raced in F1-feeder series GP3 and after finishing 8th in the Italian Grand Prix sprint race, became the first female points scorer in the series. Following stints in Formula 3 and the MRF Challenge, Powell has taken a break from single-seater racing herself, but has been mentoring young drivers, helping them to progress their racing. Working with those such as Billy Monger and Bryony King is very rewarding, however W Series could give her the prospect to get her racing back on track too. Before making the longlist, Powell spoke to me about the opportunity: “it is something I would be interested in. I have not raced for 4 years now and I would love to get back out racing again. The W Series is that chance.”
With 5 British women in the mix for one of the final 18 places on the W Series grid, there is a good chance the country will be represented in the inaugural season. Possibly the standout candidate would be Jamie Chadwick. Her successes both on and off-track have proved her to be a brilliant role model, a reason why she was recently announced as an ambassador for motorsport initiative Dare to be Different. However, Alice Powell, who is also a D2BD ambassador, has had experience racing in GP3’s single-seaters as well as being a former Formula Renault Champion. Although she has taken a break from racing recently, her hunger to get back to what she loves shouldn’t be underestimated. Despite these 2 drivers being the most well-known, Jessica Hawkins, Esmee Hawkey and Sarah Moore shouldn’t be ruled out either. All 3 have had huge success in their careers and when it comes to racing in equal machinery, it will be incredibly interesting to see which of these brilliant racers come out on top and which of them will be making history on the inaugural W Series grid in May.
(Heading photo credits: @alicepowell, @JamieChadwick55, @1JessicaHawkins, @smgirlracer23, @esmeehawkey)