After months of preparations behind closed doors, at the end of last year the bombshell was dropped: the creation of the W Series, a motor racing championship just for women. This opened the debate once again about whether it is a good idea or not to segregate men and women in a male-dominated sport in which the girls are starting to make a name for themselves. For some it is an opportunity for female drivers to show their skill at the wheel, but others see it as an obstacle to real equality and the eternal aspiration of competing equally in Formula 1.
A year ago, British driver Pippa Mann opened Pandora's box. After learning who the 55 finalists were, she posted a strongly-worded letter on social media in which she stood up for herself and those who, like her, don't understand the separation from their male rivals.
"In Europe they have decided to take another step towards segregation," it read. "They are spending millions and, instead of spending it on an education system to grow talent, women drivers are being forced into a situation where the only way they can race is under segregated rules."
Mann knows what she is talking about. She had to move to the USA because there was no place for her in motor racing in Europe.
"Rarities" in motor sports
After this outburst, the head of the championship, Catherine Bond Muir, responded that women are "a rarity nowadays" in motor sports, but said that with the W Series as a catalyst they hoped "to transform the diversity of this sport, and even encourage more girls to take up professions they had not considered before".
Other Spanish drivers, like Laia Sanz (nine times Dakar champion in the women's category) believe there should be no segregation by gender in sports where men and women have the ability to compete under equal conditions. "There is no reason for it in motor racing," she says. With regard to the W Series, she says that only time will tell whether it is a trampoline to equality or not.