Vibrant, diverse, lively.
These are all words I used to describe the W Series paddock at Brands Hatch during the final race weekend of its inaugural season.
It was a pleasure to see the Brits do so well with Jamie Chadwick taking the championship win (come on, we all expected it, she’s sensational), and the fantastic Alice Powell getting her first win of the season.
But what really struck me was the atmosphere in the paddock.
Walking into Brands Hatch, there was already the buzz from the busy DTM race weekend. I was pumped.
I spend most of my time at club race weekends and while I love that friendly, family vibe, it’s easy to forget just how busy the paddock can be alongside some of the bigger race series. Even British GT was quiet in comparison.
Stepping into the W Series Village, though, was a completely different feeling altogether.
I’ve been quite open about how motorsport can be quite stuffy. Still run by the same old white men it always has been with very little new blood in at the top levels to shake things up.
Economic uncertainty and general stagnation within motorsport has seen grids dwindle (for all sorts of reasons). This is partly why Racing Mentor was born, because the world was changing but people didn’t realise they needed to change their approach to motorsport too.
A fans-first digital approach to bigger motorsport series has helped with engagement (thanks Formula E!) but the lessons from that are yet to trickle down to club racing.
Yes, the W Series round at Brands Hatch was an end of season party but the organisers got so many things right there. Paddocks should be bright, inviting places with great fan access but also a place to offer opportunities to all sorts of people.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a race weekend with such diversity in the crowd in terms of race, background, gender and sexuality. And why the hell not? It’s not just rich straight white men that love motorsport.
When the W Series was first announced, I was sceptical but the incredible team behind the series was enough to make me keep my mind open. I thought there were better solutions to the huge gender divide in motorsport but I didn’t have any real suggestions as to where that kind of money could be spent. All I knew was that I desperately did not want this to be a gimmick; using women as a novelty within motorsport.
It’s safe to say that my mind has been completely changed.
After a few meetings with the team from W Series, I soon began to see their vision. Then the Channel 4 live coverage was announced and I knew they weren’t mucking around. These were serious people who knew exactly what needed to be done to see success for the championship and the women racing within it.
Then the first race came along and I was hooked. Most of the drivers (certainly all the British ones) were women I’d been following for years. To have a grid that was the epitome of girl power was very exciting to me, plus the racing was fantastic!
I might have been feeling some sisterly love while watching the W Series races but there were so many people who enjoyed the racing – and the great coverage that came along with it – for exactly the racing alone.
At Brands Hatch, I danced, I relaxed, I cheered and I made some amazing friends (shoutout to Helena, Cammie and Grace).
I posted on social media that the first person to find me would win a copy of Get Paid to Race. Sim racer Cammie was the winner.
Modern motorsport needed a shake-up and I think the W Series has disrupted the industry in the most wonderful way possible.
You only need to look at some of the tweets coming out of the race weekend to see how it’s inspiring young women. We need more women in motorsport, in all levels across all roles but there’s been a distinct lack of role models for so long. Having women and minorities represented on the global stage is huge for the sport because people can now say: “That person is just like me, maybe I can be a racing driver too.”
And if you don’t think that’s the most wonderful thing ever then fine, but it’s the thing that made me realise that W Series is doing a lot of good in our industry.
The preparations for the 2020 season are already underway with the selection process beginning all over again on the 16th, 17th and 18th September. The top 12 drivers from the 2019 season automatically go through, meaning there are eight spaces up for grabs.
I can’t wait.