W Series, the international single-seater motor racing championship for female drivers, is finalising plans to move to a team-based championship from 2022 and beyond, fulfilling a key development strategy planned since inception.
The move has been enabled by strong interest from motorsport teams, independent businesses, brands, and ultra-high net worth individuals, all keen to support the W Series mission and be part of the championship at an early opportunity.
To manage both the uncertainties presented by the global pandemic and the on-boarding of new commercial and team partners, W Series has assigned 2021 as a transition year as it implements the numerous changes both on and off track.
"In a short period of time we have made a mark in the sector for our disruptive and innovative approach," said Catherine Bond Muir (Chief Executive Officer, W Series). "This new structure paves the way for significant new investment to supplement our current series sponsors, which supports our continued rapid growth and our partnership with Formula 1."
The team structure for this year will start with the allocation of two drivers from the existing W Series stable to each of the new team partners. Additionally, it allows sponsorship of those teams by third parties through naming, car livery, team overalls and so on.
As part of the transition, W Series will debut an unofficial team championship in 2021 using a robust points system which, if successful, will remain in place next season and beyond.
Despite the timetable challenges presented by Covid, a significant proportion of the grid for 2021 will comprise new team partners, including Bunker Racing, M. Forbes Motorsport, PUMA W Series Team, Racing X, Sirin Racing and Veloce Racing.
"We hold an unwavering amount of respect for W Series and what it has achieved for women in motorsport," said David Bren (Founder, Bunker Racing). "For some time now, we have been looking for a platform to help us globally announce our main business while allowing us to support and promote female automotive enthusiasts. W Series is a natural fit for us and provides a unique opportunity to challenge social norms and inspire individuals to pursue their passions along the way. W Series is leading, creating and driving cultural change in motorsport, a compelling proposition to pass onto our partners and one we're proud to be a part of."
"We have been tracking the remarkable progress of W Series for some time and exploring ways of being a part of its ongoing success," added Miguel Forbes (Founder, M. Forbes Motorsport). "We are incredibly excited to join W Series in 2021 with a long-term commitment to supporting the series that is promoting women in the motorsport and automotive industries. The dial is shifting and it's time for women to take the spotlight in motorsport and all fields traditionally dominated by men. We cannot wait to get the season underway and witness these talented women go from strength to strength as professional racing drivers, inspiring young girls to take up karting along the way."
"The partnership with W Series is thriving," said James Clark (Head of Sports Marketing Motorsport & Operations, PUMA). "PUMA has already designed - for the very first time - tailormade race suits for W Series' female drivers to ensure a perfect fit. Now, being able to announce our own race team with W Series is a fantastic second step. We want to show our full commitment to empowering women all around the world to get inspired by W Series' drivers."
"As a competition that showcases the very best female racers and consistently delivers top quality action, W Series is the perfect platform for Veloce," added Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Team Manager, Veloce). "Veloce has a passion for pushing boundaries, demonstrated by our thriving esports set-up and pioneering Extreme E team, and entering W Series is another significant step in marking us out as a forward-thinking, disruptive presence in motorsport."
During the transition season, all W Series drivers will race as usual, but not all will be allocated to partner teams. The remaining drivers will be assigned to W Series home team pairings - and for this season these two teams will carry the Ecurie W and Scuderia W names.
With fan engagement in mind, W Series will also debut a striking range of newly designed liveries to ensure that all the cars and drivers are easily distinguishable. Branding by our existing sponsors, Acronis, Hankook, PUMA and ROKiT remains in place during the transition year.
Prioritising the importance of driver skill within the championship, and to ensure technical equality, all 18 cars, although sporting a variety of liveries, will remain mechanically identical, with preparation and maintenance managed by W Series Engineering.
"This is brilliant news for drivers too," said Jamie Chadwick, the 2019 W Series championship winner. "We learned so much about the cars and the tracks in 2019, but a team set-up will take us to the next level - giving us great insight into what it's like working closely with a team partner and racing with a team championship in mind rather than just for yourself."
The 2021 W Series championship teams, driver numbers and pairings are as follows:
Bunker Racing: Fabienne Wohlwend (5) and Sabre Cook (37)
M. Forbes Motorsport: Beitske Visser (95) and Ayla Agren (17)
Puma W Series Team: Marta Garcia (19) and Gosia Rdest (3)
Racing X: Alice Powell (27) and Jess Hawkins (21)
Sirin Racing: Miki Koyama (54) and Vicky Piria (11)
Veloce Racing: Jamie Chadwick (55) and Bruna Tomaselli (97)
Ecurie W: Emma Kimiläinen (7) and Abbie Eaton (44)
Scuderia W: Sarah Moore (26) and Belen Garcia (22)
W Series Academy: Irina Sidorkova (51) and Nerea Marti (32)