‘At the moment, women racing drivers tend to reach a ‘glass ceiling’ at around the GP3/Formula 3 level on their learning curve, often as a result of a lack of funding rather than a lack of talent’

A female-only motorsport championship dubbed the W Series will kick off in May next year, aimed at narrowing the gender gap in the male-dominated world of motorsport.

The last woman to compete for championship points in Formula 1 was Lella Lombardi. She raced in 1976, and was just the second female driver in the sport’s history,

Six half-hour races will take place throughout Europe when the W Series gets rolling, with events in Australia, America and Asia on the cards down the road.

A grid of 20 drivers will race a fleet of 2018 Tatuus Formula 3 cars, powered by a 1.8-litre turbocharged engine. They’ll run slick tyres and a halo device, the latter of which is featured on current Formula 1 cars.

The prize pool will be AUD$2.1 million, with the top driver taking home $706,000 – money will be distributed all the way to 18th position, though.

The W Series is free to enter, but the pre-selection process is gruelling, involving technical engineering, simulator sessions, fitness examinations, and on-track testing.

The selection judges are David Coulthard, Adrian Newey, and former McLaren Formula 1 sporting director, Dave Ryan.

The announcement created controversy almost instantly, with former IndyCar driver, Pippa Mann, expressing her thoughts on Twitter.

“Those with funding to help female racers are choosing to segregate them as opposed to supporting them. I am deeply disappointed to see such a historic step backward take place in my lifetime,” she wrote.

Coulthard, who obviously represents the series, believes it’s about giving women an opportunity to shine.

“At the moment, women racing drivers tend to reach a ‘glass ceiling’ at around the GP3/Formula 3 level on their learning curve, often as a result of a lack of funding rather than a lack of talent,” he said.

Catherine Bond Muir is the W Series CEO, and wants to see change in how women are represented in motorsport.

“The more I looked at how other sports promoted women, the more I thought this was a really good thing to do. We still don’t have a woman in F1 – this is just another method of trying to do that,” she said.

Australian Subaru Do Motorsport driver, Molly Taylor, told CarAdvice, “there are a number of really talented females coming up through the ranks who need the funding and support behind them, so initiatives to help support those girls is great”.

“However, I think if their end goal is to compete in a certain series, they should be supported within that rather than a stand-alone series,” Molly argued.