W Series Qualifiers: Who are the Australians hoping to make the final 18?

Australia’s love of motorsport is clear to see with the Australian F1 Grand Prix always having a large turnout. Despite there being relatively few racing series in the country compared with others nations, there are still many drivers from ‘down under’ hoping to make it big on the international stage. With Europe being considered the epicentre of motorsport, it is a long way to come, but for a chance of being on the inaugural W Series grid, it seems it was an opportunity these 4 racers couldn’t turn down. So, who are those hoping to be one of the 18 to make the cut?

credit: @chelz34

Chelsea Angelo’s introduction to motorsport came at a very young age with her father being an experienced Superbike racer. As a child she drove karts and rode mini motorbikes making her motocross debut at the age of 9. Between 2008 and 2011, Chelsea’s success in karting increased as she was crowned State Karting Champion in Victoria, qualified on pole and after spinning on the first lap went onto win a race, and qualified 4th in the National Series in Junior Max. At the age of 16, Angelo had begun to catch the attention of race teams in various series. In 2012, she spent the year testing for Evans Motorsport team in Formula Ford and even raced for them during the season. In her Formula Ford debut at Philip Island, Chelsea finished 6th going on to break the lap record at the same venue. She also won her first race later in the season at Sandown Raceway. The following year in 2014, Angelo progressed to Formula 3, winning 4 of the 7 races in the National Class and finishing 2nd in the overall standings. In 2015, her racing took a slightly different turn as she began racing and testing V8 supercars. In her first race with THR Developments she crossed the line in 22nd and 18th, before going onto test for Image Racing at the end of the season. After continuing to race supercars, in 2017 Chelsea tested various vehicles including a Formula Renault in China and Porsche 991 from the Carrera Cup Series. Last year was spent racing in the Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge Australia, in which she finished on the podium 4 times and 5th in the driver standings in her debut season. With W Series cars being based on Formula 3’s, this could suit Chelsea very well after a dominant series in the Australian Formula 3 Championship only a few years ago.

credit: @CharPoynting52

After receiving a go-kart as a present for her 11th birthday, Charlotte Poynting quickly began racing. Now 20 years old, and she has been successful in both local and national levels in karting and cars. In 2015, she won the Women’s Nationals in 2 karting categories (Clubman Light and Senior National Light) proving her to be one of the country’s best young racers. In 2016 at the age of 18, Charlotte moved onto car racing in the Aussie Racing Cars Super Series, winning a race in her debut season and so becoming the first woman to do so. She finished the season in 22nd overall, however she has since raced the last 2 seasons in the series, improving to a 12th place finish in the standings in both years. This success has lead her to receive the WAMS (Women of Australian Motorsport) Junior Development Scholarship for 2017/18 which tailors assistance to help progress and develop young and talented female racing drivers. With her being identified for a scholarship, it is clear this young racer has a lot of talent and although Charlotte may not have as much experience as some of the other drivers, what is obvious is that she is committed to learning and improving to the best of her ability.

credit: RYS (Reiters Young Stars)

21-year-old Caitlin Wood started karting at the age of 7. Although it began as a hobby, the possibility of it being something more than that didn’t appear until she was 12 and started to race in junior categories. After a couple of years of karting locally and regionally, Wood moved onto national series winning the Ladies Australian Junior National Championship in 2010 before continued success in Australia’s other karting championships. In 2013, Caitlin made the transition to cars in the New South Wales Formula Ford Championship, in which she finished the season in 3rd. In the same year she became the second woman to be selected for CAMS Women in Australian Motorsport Development Scholarship. In 2014 and 2015, she raced in the Australian National Formula Ford Championship with the Synergy Motorsport team and despite 2014 being her debut season in the series, had a best result of 7th before bettering this the following year with a 5th place finish. In 2015, she also became the first female driver to complete in the Australian F4 Championship. After racing nationally, Caitlin’s attention turned to Europe and driving on an international stage. In 2016 she began competing in the European GT4 Championship, being victorious in the inaugural Reiters Young Stars Championship which runs across 5 rounds of the GT4 Championship. Her European racing continued in 2017 with entry into the Blancpain GT Series where she achieved 3rd place on her debut in the Silver Cup category of the Blancpain Sprint Cup. Having already raced overseas, the technical European tracks shouldn’t faze Wood which could work to her advantage in the W Series selection process that will be held in Austria later this month.

nz v8 utes
credit: NZ V8 Utes

Alexandra Whitley didn’t start karting until she was 16 and despite this being a relatively late start, immediately knew that racing was something she wanted to make a career out of. In the years that followed, Whitley’s father began engineering her kart ready for races. In this time, she won multiple races, made the top 3 in several championships and triumphed in the Australian Ladies Nationals 7 times. With the pair travelling around the country attending as many races as they could afford, the challenge of finding funds to make the next step up in Alexandra’s racing career became a real struggle. Budget restraints led Whitley to stop racing, however after hearing about a female-only test day at Queensland Raceway, she decided she had ‘nothing to lose’ and so hired a race-ready car and applied. On the day, Alexandra was paired with her mentor Heather Spurle. After keeping in touch with Heather, they continued to try and find a way that Whitley could race, however financial difficulties always stood in the way. Over a year later in 2014, Spurle contacted her about an opportunity in New Zealand that she had been offered but would be unable to accept and so had suggested she take the place. Once she had gained her racing license, Whitley moved to the SsangYong Racing Series, however she would no longer be racing karts, she would now be driving what is referred to as a ‘ute’ (pick-up truck with a tray behind the driver compartment). After a difficult first race, she was asked back for the remainder of the season and after a few more disappointing results, she went onto qualify second and win the same race by over 3 seconds. The rest of the year went well and so Whitley returned to the series for the following season, winning more races and podiums. Her 3rd season (2016) in the series was harder and she didn’t achieve the results that she had initially hoped for, however this did lead to her inclusion in the 2017/18 Porter Group NZ V8 Ute Racing Series in which she went onto finish 5th in the driver standings. The resilience gained by the difficulties Alexandra has had in her career will surely be a positive in her racing.

Although all 4 drivers have had experience karting, not all have had the opportunity to race Formula cars as will be used in W Series. Chelsea Angelo would appear the front runner out of the 4 on the basis of her previous Formula 3 experience, however Caitlin Wood has also raced in Formula Ford and Formula 4 and has experience of racing in Europe. Despite this, neither Charlotte Poynting nor Alexandra Whitley should be ruled out with both having a hunger to race fulltime and show what they can really do.