Plans emerge for a women-only motor racing championship
Plans have been drawn up to stage an historic women-only motor racing championship which could be launched in 2019.
In a proposal circulated earlier this year, the potentially groundbreaking series intends to see women drivers compete at six races -- five of which will be staged in Europe and the other in America -- with the champion promised a Formula One test drive.
The London-based company behind the project are believed to carry the financial muscle required to get the landmark proposal off the ground -- and its ambitious organizers expect the championship to be second only to Formula One as the biggest international motor racing series within three years of its launch.
After racing in DTM, Susie Wolff became a development driver for the Williams F1 team before retiring at the end of 2015. Mark Thompson/Getty Images
It is understood that the aim is to run a condensed summer-time calendar. The series has the support of Felix Porteiro -- a former Spanish racing driver who competed against Lewis Hamilton in F1's feeder series GP2 -- and the leaked document also claims that a number of television companies have expressed an interest in broadcasting the series.
Motor racing remains the biggest sport which does not offer an alternative for women to compete in standalone events, although there are no regulations preventing women competing in the top series in the sport.
The proposal seen by Press Association Sport fits with Bernie Ecclestone's desire for an all-women's F1 championship. Back in 2015, Ecclestone, the sport's then chief executive officer, hoped a separate event for women racers would showcase their talents and ease the path to compete in Formula One.
British driver Susie Wolff was a development and reserve driver for Williams and took part in four grands prix practice sessions, but she retired when it became evident she would not be provided with a full-time race seat.
It has been more than 40 years since a woman driver entered a Formula One race when Italian Lella Lombardi took to the starting grid at the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix. Carmen Jorda, the Spaniard who was also an F1 development driver -- first for Lotus and then Renault but never tested the car -- is still a familiar face within the F1 paddock.
"I believe a women's F1 championship would give us the chance to achieve our dreams and compete on an equal footing -- as in other sports," Jorda, 29, said. "One day it will happen and it is the right thing to do.
"They think because we are driving a car we are on the same level as men which is completely not true because we will never be the same as them. I have had to fight through many things to get to the top of this sport, just because I am a women, and that is not fair."
A number of leading women drivers -- racing in Britain, Europe and America -- have been approached by organizers about the series, but some are understood to be skeptical and believe a women's-only championship may harm and undermine their position within the industry. SHE Championship was the name proposed for the series, but it has since been scrapped following grievances expressed by those women racers approached.
A spokesperson for the organizers said: "There will be no announcement for a number of months as we are undertaking a lot of research and completing our strategy. Starting something from scratch takes an enormous amount of time to get right."