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2023: Women in Motorsport, a Year in Review

Updated: Jan 8

The year that we just left behind was another extremely important one for women in motorsport. We analyzed the biggest trends in a comprehensive overview of the top female talents making strides in the sport.


Iron Dames
Photo by: Burke Motorsport Photography | @burkemotorsportphotography

The year that we just left behind was another extremely important one for women in motorsport. Over the last five years, participation as well as performance witnessed a significant increase and, after a few establishing seasons, important projects and initiatives are now really starting to bear fruits - especially in the ever expanding world of sports car racing, where we could appreciate important successes at the highest level of the sport.


On the single-seater side, 2023 was the year of the launch of the all-female F1 Academy championship, which took over from the ashes of the just defunct W Series project to establish a new platform for female racers. With F1 taking the task into its own hands, some of the W Series issues were addressed - now targeting mainly younger drivers at F4 level - while some others will require some time in order to monitor the real impact on a bigger scale.


Despite a questionable initial broadcast strategy, the inaugural season of F1 Academy was the biggest involvement from F1 itself in a more accessible single seater ladder, providing unprecedented track time at the best value for money at F4 level. This resulted in the biggest increase in over five years of female drivers competing in Formula 4 championships, 35 in 2023 - an increment of 18 drivers from the 17 of 2022. Although the number is heavily influenced by the all-female series, it is interesting to note that numbers of female entries increased in mixed-gender F4 series as well, in a +2 from the previous season.


The demise of W Series, on the other hand, significantly drove down the numbers of female competitors at Formula Regional level, with 8 drivers returning to F4. F1 Academy, though, was only partly to blame: 9 drivers raced at this level in 2023, returning to the exact same figures of 2020, when W Series cancelled its on-track season due to the pandemic.


Eleven drivers stepped up from karting to F4 globally - and while F1 Academy could have targeted this segment more, the figure still represents an encouraging trend that is likely going to pick up momentum in the next few years, as more young female drivers will move up to race cars with the aim of reaching the F1-promoted championship.


One of W Series' main hurdles - the difficulty for its top drivers to advance up the ladder - has been successfully tackled by F1 Academy, as a partnership with Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine has granted the inaugural winner a seat in next year's season, thus moving up to the elite series and back into mixed-gender championships. This really positive development announced after the season finale is set to address one of the crucial points for female athletes, who had previously struggled to break the glass ceiling.

This trend was further highlighted by the fact that only one driver had made the jump from F4 to FRECA in 2023.


With a clearer progression path now in place, the single seater ladder looks a bit more promising than one year ago - although the real impact won't be noticeable on the short term - and female participation will hopefully increase into the third and second tier of the formula pyramid, today with only three drivers competing at this level.

It was nevertheless a great year for the only woman in FIA Formula 3, who climbed the order race after race and was in the top ten to score points for the first time ever since the series rebranding.


Jessica Hawkins, Aston Martin F1 Team
Photo: Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team / LAT

Another highlight of 2023 was obviously the return of a woman behind the wheel of a contemporary F1 car - although just for a test - which was nevertheless important for its symbolic value and inspiring power to the younger generations, having broken a five year hiatus. Clearly, there's still a lot of work to be done at the base of the pyramyd in order to finally shatter the 47 year spell that separates us from Lombardi's last F1 start.


Unlike the previous years, in fact, no women raced in FIA F2, Super Formula or Indycar full time - except for an equally historic qualification at the Indy 500 for Katherine Legge, who became the fastest woman ever at the Speedway. The promotion of the three time W Series champion to Indy NXT, though, turned out to be a highly encouraging one, with her performance clearly improving throughout the season and with several top ten finishes in her biggest step up to date.


While the single seater route is set to require more investments in the coming years to break more barriers, a new golden era of sports car racing is shining a bright light on outstanding talents that continue to add spectacular chapters in the history books of motor racing.

2023 was a milestone year for the World Endurance Championship, with the first ever female win as well as the first win for an all-female crew - which finally crowned the efforts of Iron Dames after five years of consistent developments.


With more manufacturers than ever before getting involved, endurance racing is thriving - and female racers definitely proved a point: when given proper chances and equipment, they will deliver. The history-making successes highlighted a generation of young women battling at the very front-end of the pack in their respective classes, ready to break new grounds week in and week out: from prototypes to GT racing, the trend in sportscars seems in fact more organic than in single seaters.


It is indeed no surprise that the increased interest in LMP3, GT4 and GT3 is already producing tangible results, in a year that saw a significant increase in the participation at top international championships: for example, 7 drivers entered elite series such as GT World Challenge Europe as well as IMSA SportsCar Championship. Over 40 female class victories were recorded in the last year in the major GT series.


Endurance racing saw the most success; female entries in LMP3 almost doubled in one year and the biggest increase was recorded in GT4, with a 220% surge in major series. Drivers with previous experience of single seaters and GT4 moved to the GT3 platform - including a couple moving up straight from karting. This highlights how the quest for the next female F1 star shouldn't take away from the continuous progression in sports car racing, where enormous steps forward have been made in the last 5 years.


Driven by the Iron Dames successes, all-female teams are on the rise and proved to be podium contenders in most of the series they competed in: from IMSA, WEC, GT World Challenge, FFSA GT, GT4 America, GT4 Germany, WRL.

Several of these line ups were selected via shoot-outs - which once again displayed how female talents can deliver when focus shifts on performance rather than fighting for funding.


Girls On Track - Rising Stars selections Franciacorta 2022
Photo: FIA Women In Motorsport

Despite the prestigious Girls On Track - Rising Stars programme coming to a close at the end of 2023, more female shoot-outs are indeed returning in 2024, with more selections set to award seats mainly in sports cars, both in Europe and in the US. In this regard, Porsche North America particularly stood out, with scholarships and support programmes making the difference in both Porsche Carrera Cup NA and Porsche Sprint Challenge NA.


It has been also a pivotal year for female-led Shift Up Now, as the collective launched a non profit foundation and was able to award its first ever sponsorship grants. The organization has been supporting a growing number of elite female racing drivers based in the United States, helping them to fund their seasons by taking care of traditional sponsorships, partnerships and media agreements. Led by Indy500 star Pippa Mann and under the presidency of GT3 race winner Erin Vogel, Shift Up Now is increasingly becoming a real reference point for female athletes in the States - and the first seven grants awarded in 2023 are a further testament to this mission.


2023 also marked a giant leap for women's sports by and large, as the industry starts to capitalize on its huge commercial potential. With a relatively small amount of data available, More Than Equal released in 2023 its first major report that highlighted the biggest trends in motorsport, finally researching the topic with a scientific approach and providing industry experts with concrete data to identify areas where improvement is necessary.

While there's still monumental work to be done, there is certainly hope for the progression made thus far to carry on into 2024.


As per tradition, our website contributors nominated their top-10 drivers of the year - and it has never been as difficult as this year to elect the final list: as many as 48 drivers received at least one nomination, which once again shows the amount of groundbreaking achievements recorded in the 365 days we've just left behind. Here, we would like to acknowledge all the drivers that made 2023 a memorable year.


OUR TOP 10

Doriane Pin, Prema Racing, FIA WEC 2023
Photo credits: Drew Gibson

Doriane Pin


Few drivers have embodied the rise of a generation of young female talents in sports car racing like Doriane Pin. In just a couple of years, the 19 year old Frenchwoman has been able to climb to the top of world endurance racing and establish herself as one of the leading silver-rated drivers in prototypes.


Pin joined Iron Dames in 2021, making the switch to GT3 from touring cars - and from there she would immediately join the main line up in part time campaigns in GT World Challenge Endurance Cup, WEC and ELMS in 2022. Her dominant season in Ferrari Challenge Europe offered a glimpse of her potential, which she displayed on the world stage in both GT3 and GTE appearances; part of the winning team at last year's 24 Hours of Spa and at the 4H of Portimao, Pin remained one of the pillars of the Iron Dames team in 2023, across their IMSA and GT World Challenge efforts.


While the switch to Lamborghini machinery required some time of adaptation for the whole team, Pin put on extraordinary performances in the pink Huracan at her first season stateside, stunning everyone with both qualifying and race pace.

At the 6 Hours of the Glen, Pin qualified third in GTD - also setting a faster time than six cars in the GTD Pro category and literally tenths away from factory drivers ahead despite having never raced at the track. She would then go on to take the lead in the early stages of the race.


An equally outstanding run at the Petit Le Mans saw Doriane spending the majority of the 15-minute qualifying on top of the GTD and GTD Pro classes, eventually ending second in class. Having taken the lead in the race, she put the #83 Lamborghini in the position to battle for the win in the 10 hour race before sustaining damage from a hit by a LMP3.


Pin turned heads in her LMP2 debut as well, making the leap from GTE to prototypes with the Prema Racing crew in 2023. Doriane joined Lamborghini factory driver Mirko Bortolotti and former F1 racer Daniil Kvyat at the wheel of the #63 Oreca and made history straight away at debut, climbing the podium with a second place at the FIA WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring. Minutes away from a victory - before late refuelling - Pin and her teammates looked on course for a championship fight.


At Portimao, Doriane became the first woman to start from pole position in LMP2 in WEC - and again showcased front-running pace, often on par with her way more experienced teammates. She continued to perform throughout the season, although misfortunes and some technical gremlins hampered the second half of the season, which nevertheless ended with a top five at the 8H of Bahrain, having proved to belong to the top drivers in class.


The last months of the year brought more surprises for Pin, who started testing F4 machinery and made her single seater debut in the F4 South East Asian championship at Sepang. Despite joining the championship only half-way through the season, Doriane claimed a podium at debut and, with a third, a second and a win at the season finale, she finished the year with second place in the championship standings.


Sophia Floersch, VAR, 2023 FIA Formula 3
Photo credits: Thomas Marzusch

Sophia Floersch


Floersch is the only driver that so far has made it into all our end of year top-10 lists since the launch of our platform in 2019 - and her presence in 2023 was just as straightforward.

At her return to FIA F3 after three years spent in sports car racing, the German made history and became the first woman to have scored points in the series in its current form.


Sophia had first raced in the international F3 championship that supports F1 in 2020, when she contested a double campaign in LMP2 as well as in formulas. With Spanish team Campos, Floersch had a positive progression towards the end of the season, but she fully focused on endurance racing in the two following seasons. In 2021, she made her debut in FIA WEC and continued to race in LMP2, also making her debut in DTM. Making history as the first female LMP2 podium finisher in ELMS in a one-off appearance at the end of the year, Floersch repeated the result with a second place at the Paul Ricard season opener in 2022, often contesting for top positions throughout the year despite several unlucky circumstances.


While proving to be highly competitive at the wheel of the Oreca prototype, Floersch had the chance to climb back in a formula car in 2023 and joined German team PHM Racing, at the team's debut in FIA F3. In her first year as part of the Alpine Academy and with the support of a junior programme for the first time, Floersch emerged as the team leader and, in a crescendo that culminated with a seventh place finish at Spa, was the protagonist of a superbly solid campaign.


After an initial adaptation as the team familiarized with the platform, Floersch kept making good progress and she was consistently battling around the top-15. The Red Bull Ring round - one of her favourite circuits - represented a breakthrough point of the season and the German driver claimed her first top ten with a stunning charge to ninth place. Unfortunately, a post race technical inspection ended in a disqualification for a displaced front wing endplate, but Floersch continued to impress in the following rounds, eventually making history with a seventh place at the Belgian GP.


Floersch returned to Dutch team Van Amersfoort Racing for the Macau finale, where she was once again among the protagonists of one of the most iconic races on the motorsport calendar. At the Guia Circuit, Sophia battled for the top 10, eventually claiming a highly positive P11 in the main race - having recovered from 17th in qualifying.


With 20 races under her belt in 2023, she never lost one position and gained 141 places in total - an extraordinary average of 7 positions per race.


Sarah Bovy, Iron Dames, FIA WEC 2023
Photo: FocusPackMedia - Marcel Wulf

Sarah Bovy


Belgian Sarah Bovy was a strong contender at the top of many of our top ten lists - and unsurprisingly so after yet another spectacular season as the Iron Dames bronze-rated driver.

From the moment Bovy joined the all-female team, she's been one of the pillars of the project, quickly joining the main line up in 2021 and impressing in her first GTE outings.

In 2022, she competed in FIA WEC, ELMS, GT World Challenge Europe - and made history by claiming the team's first pole position in WEC at Monza, which also became the first ever female pole position in the World Endurance Championship.


She was then part of the Spa 24H winning team, before securing another pole position and the team's first ever win in ELMS at Portimao. Her epic qualifying battles with Corvette's Ben Keating resumed in 2023, when Bovy remained one of the series' top qualifiers despite the Iron Dames' car change to the Porsche 911 RSR-19. Bovy's driving style was a perfect fit for the Porsche and she conquered three pole positions out of seven races, securing two podiums, a win and the vice-champion title.


She would add a class pole in GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup, with also two entries in IMSA SportsCar Championship - at the 24H of Daytona and at the 12H of Sebring, where she pulled a double duty racing in both the IMSA and WEC races in two different machines.


Her masterful qualifying performances were frequently followed by equally impressive first stints of the race; Bovy has been a guarantee for Iron Dames, with clean starts as well as great battles that often ended in the Belgian handing over the pink car on top of the class standings at the end of her stints. Few drivers have displayed such consistency in different cars and across different series - and her talent was acknowledged at the end of the year at the Royal Automotive Club of Belgium awards ceremony, when Sarah was crowned Driver of the Year.


Lilou Wadoux, Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari, 2023 FIA WEC
Photo: Ferrari Races

Lilou Wadoux


Young French female racers and endurance racing has been a winning combination and Lilou Wadoux is no exception: having joined Ferrari as the first ever female GT factory driver, Wadoux represented the Italian brand at the top of sports car racing globally in IMSA, GT World Challenge Europe and GT World Challenge America - switching from the 488 GTE, LMP2 Oreca, 296 GT3.


In only one season of competitions, Wadoux entered iconic races such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Crowdstrike 24H of Spa, the Sahlen's 6 Hours of the Glen as well as the 8H of Indianapolis, often impressing alongside some highly experienced and highest-rated teammates. In a handful of seasons, Wadoux went from the Alpine Europa Cup to LMP2 and then GTE, with two hypercar tests in the last two years - including the Le Mans winning Ferrari 499P at the latest Bahrain FIA WEC Rookie Tests.


While she wasn't able to take the start of the Sebring season opener after a big crash for one of her teammates in the opening stint, her WEC campaign was off to a promising start in Algarve, when she was the protagonist of a stellar recovery that saw the Ferrari driver bringing the Richard Mille machine in contention for the race win. She would finish second - but the first historic victory wasn't far away, as Lilou made history at the following round at Spa Francorchamps, where she became the first ever female driver to take victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship.


Wadoux scored more points in Monza, Fuji and Bahrain - often displaying front-running pace in her stints. She adapted quickly to the new 296 GT3 as well and claimed a class podium in GT World Challenge Endurance Cup in Barcelona, before showing her talent in at the 8H of Indianapolis and the Gulf 12H, despite misfortunes ruled out further top-three finishes. A new challenge will now await her: Japanese premier sports car series Super GT.


Ashley Freiberg, 2023 Porsche Sprint Challenge North America
Photo credits: Kyle Schwab

Ashley Freiberg


Ashley Freiberg's story is possibly one of the most inspirational tales of resilience that, from the outside, could actually seem scripted for a feel-good movie. The 32 year old from Illinois, first generation racer, started karting and advanced to single seaters in 2007, becoming the first woman to step on the podium and win a race in a Skip Barber National race. Between 2008 and 2010, she took 25 race wins and two series titles - before having to put her racing career on hold for funding issues.


She managed to return to sports car racing in 2013, became the first woman to win a North American GT3 Cup, before enjoying a positive stint between the Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge and IMSA, where she showcased her talent and quickly rose up the ranks of the American sports car elite thanks to the BMW North America Scholarship Driver program. Despite only contesting part-time seasons, she also made history in Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America, becoming the first ever woman to stand on the podium in the Lamborghini one make series globally. From there, budget constraints forced her on the sidelines, only entering one-off rounds here and there until 2022.


A Shift Up Now member, Freiberg then finally had the chance to return for her first ever full-time racing program since 2015 thanks to the partnership with Shift Up Now and the Yokohama Tire "All-In" campaign, aimed at promoting inclusiveness in the sport. Joining the ranks of MDK Motorsports for the 991 class of Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, Freiberg was in a league of her own.


She would secure the title with 7 victories, 12 podiums and two pole positions out of 14 races, in a dominant campaign that saw the American often battling with cars from the faster class. A clean sweep at Sebring in her return to sports car racing - after several years out - was followed by two runner up places at Barber Motorsports Park, two more wins at the challenging VIRginia International Raceway and a further victory at Mid-Ohio. Road America brought another second place and win - which she then lost to a post race penalty. Ashley bounced back and swept the weekend at COTA, then wrapped up the championship with a podium in the season finale at Indianapolis.


Having endured difficult seasons for funding issues despite her evident talent throughout her career, Freiberg was on a mission to capitalize from the moment she stepped in the #122 MDK Motorsports Porsche 991 GT3 Cup, in her first full-time opportunity in a long time. And she delivered brilliantly - testament of the importance of funding programs and Shift Up Now's support.


Antonella Bassani, Porsche Cup Brasil 2023
Photo: Porsche Cup Brasil

Antonella Bassani


17-year old Antonella Bassani made history by becoming the first woman to win in the Porsche Cup Brazil - and went on to secure the title as a rookie, at her first full year in race cars.


Bassani - who is coached by former Indycar racer and leading figure for women in motorsport in Brazil Bia Figueiredo - switched from karting to the Porsche one-make series with support of the Young Racing Academy – a Porsche programme designed to help young talents moving up the Porsche ladder nationally and potentially internationally.


Her speed was evident from the get go, as Antonella stunned everyone in her debut at Interlagos – merely days before being announced as part of the programme – when she climbed the field to fourth. One round later, she became the first woman in the series to score a pole position - and then climbed on the podium with a second place.

Nothing could stop her progression and Bassani kept writing history by claiming her first win with a stunning run at Goiânia – in yet another historic moment for the series.


More podiums followed and she eventually established herself as one of the title contenders with another pole position, another race win and a consistent streak of podium finishes. With one round to go, Bassani remained in contention for the title at the INterlagos season finale, under the eyes of the F1 Brazilian Grand Prix audience. A third place in race 1 kept her chances alive and, in a dramatic final race, a contact between the title rivals ended in the disqualification of her competitor, which resulted in the championship crown for the Brazilian teenager.


In her first full season of car racing, Antonella Bassani showed speed, determination and racecraft, establishing herself as one of the most exciting female prospects in GT racing.


Samantha Tan, BMW Motorsport prizegiving 2023
Photo credits: BMW Motorsport

Samantha Tan


Canadian driver-owner Samantha Tan is not afraid of big leaps, as she has often proved in her racing career - especially so in the last few years, as she brought her ST Racing squad to the international scene.


From the beginnings in touring cars up to the first seasons in GT4, Tan's progression has always been continuous yet natural, as she made big steps forward in her North American campaigns across the SRO platform. From the TC class of Pirelli World Challenge to GT4 America SprintX, Samantha Tan laid the foundation of her family-run team that grew into a solid organization able to make the international step in 2021.


In her first season overseas, Tan enjoyed a historic year claiming six titles in the CREVENTIC 24H Series, securing among the others GT4 class and overall championships and becoming the first Asian woman to win a major endurance championship.

The achievement brought the young Canadian on the radar of global sportscar competitions - and she became brand ambassador for BMW Motorsport.


The following year featured yet another historic success for Tan, as she took the brand-new BMW M3 GT3 - the first ever car delivered to a customer team - to victory worldwide with Samantha Tan Racing's dominant win at the 12H of Mugello, in Samantha's second ever race in GT3. A few logistical challenges hampered her rookie season in GT World Challenge America in 2022, but she proved to be up for the task of a major international GT3 championship in her outings. The relentless driver-owner would then make her debut in the European GT World Challenge, with a first participation at the 24 Hours of Spa.


This important step among the world's elite GT3 drivers and teams was only the prelude to her full-time 2024 GT3 programme, which included a double campaign in GTWC America - with BMW machinery - and in GTWC Europe Endurance Cup - for the first time, with Ferrari machinery. In the American series, Samantha secured five podiums and took a first victory at Elkhart Lake, eventually finishing fourth in the ProAm standings.


Piloting the ST Racing by Rinaldi Ferrari in Europe, she was third in the championship standings in the ProAm class, with three podiums and a win to her name - conquered at the Barcelona season finale in the new 296 GT3.


Smooth drives and consistent stints were often Samantha's trademark, but her pure speed was also on display this year - particularly in a few GTWC America's rounds where Tan was the class of the field and opened a gap also over some Pro entries. Importantly, her ability behind the wheel was also echoed by her management of the team: a close group of trusted and loyal collaborators who have been able to expand to an international operation while maintaining a positive family-run environment.



Marta Garcia, Prema Racing, 2023 F1 Academy
Photo: Racers Behind the Helmet

Marta García


As the inaugural winner of the F1 Academy title, Marta García couldn't miss the list. And, despite clinching the honor with two races to go, her path to the crown was definitely not all plain sailing.


The 23 year old Spaniard had joined the all-female championship switching over from W Series, where she was the protagonist of highly encouraging seasons (2019, with a win to her name at the legendary Norisring) and more challenging ones in 2021 and 2022, although she had recovered with a very positive second half of the last season, culminating with a podium in Singapore that had brought her back among the front-runners.


García joined top team Prema Racing as the last announced driver in the series, and immediately became one of the championship favourites. She would have to beat strong opposition from fellow former W Series driver Abbi Pulling - also considered as one of the top opponents - Hamda Al Qubaisi and Léna Buhler, both returning to F4 with rather impressive resumés in single seaters.


Up until the W Series selection, García's career had seen a sudden halt due to budget constraints, following a world-class karting career that had turned heads globally.

Despite running on minimal testing - limited to the collective days included in the F1 Academy calendar - Marta's season was off to a sterling start and she claimed two victories at the season opener at Red Bull Ring, capitalizing on a difficult start for Carlin's Pulling.

At her home track in Valencia, García stacked up another win beating compatriot Nerea Marti - but also saw the first win for Hamda Al Qubaisi, who was recovering from a serious arm injury in pre season.


Despite not climbing the top of the podium in Barcelona, the Catalan weekend turned out to be a crucial point for García, whose consistency and experience really paid off: throughout the season, she always made the most out of every circumstances and picked up enough points to always retain the championship lead even during the mid-season recovery by Al Qubaisi. The Emirati had her best weekend at Zandvoort - where García also recorded her first DNF to a technical issue, but from Monza onwards, Marta was unstoppable and sealed four more wins to claim the title at COTA.


With her main rivals battling for the runner up spot, García never lost her cool and wrote her name in the history books with a total of 7 wins, 12 podiums, 5 pole positions and 6 fastest laps. It was a great story of redemption, awarded with a funded seat in next year's FRECA thanks to the new F1 Academy's progression scheme. 


Chloe Chambers, Monoflo INternational Porsche 718 Cayman GT4, Porsche Sprint Challenge North America 2023
Photo credits: Porsche Sprint Challenge NA

Chloe Chambers


American teenager Chloe Chambers makes the list for two equally impressive achievements: her race winning campaign in Formula Regional Oceania, as well as her stellar first full season in GT racing, where she made a statement with dominant victories in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America's Cayman GT4 class.


Coming off her rookie season in W Series, Chambers was one the nine female drivers globally to compete in Formula Regional machinery also in 2023, by entering the New Zealand-based Formula Regional Oceania. A championship with a long and prestigious history as Toyota Racing Series, several top female drivers have traveled to New Zealand in the past to prepare their campaigns; none had managed to accomplish what Chambers did, when she stood on the top step of the podium following a spectacular race 2 at Taupo.


In FROC, Chambers collected crucial track time, made big improvements every weekend, had brilliant starts and completed spectacular passes. She was always comfortable in the battles with more experienced drivers and, once learnt the challenges of New Zealand's tracks, she delivered. Chloe became only the fourth woman to ever clinch a win in a mixed-gender Formula Regional series, and gained her one FIA Super Licence point with ninth place in the drivers' standings.


The switch to GT racing was just as smooth and promising. At the wheel of the TPC Racing Monoflo International-sponsored Porsche 718 Cayman GT4, Chambers soon established herself as one of the most exciting female prospects worldwide in sports car racing and joined the Porsche North America Female Driver Development Program thanks to her outstanding results.


Despite missing the opening round at Sebring, Chambers was in fact utterly dominant in most of the rounds she entered, starting from a clean sweep at Barber Motorsports Park, with a double pole position and a double race victory. Two more pole positions, two fastest laps and a race win followed at VIRginia International Raceway - as she continued to be the class of the field throughout the season.


Scoring pole position, two victories and three fastest laps at Road America it was a round to remember for Chambers, who was only denied the perfect weekend for a penalty in a rescheduled race 3, after a late-race safety car period wiped away an over 20 second gap to the second placed car. She then turned around a challenging weekend at COTA, in a masterful performance that brought two wins from fourth on the grid.


While the series' point-scoring format meant that she wasn't in contention for the title entering the final weekend at Indianapolis, Chambers still rounded out her first season in GT racing with eighth podium finishes out of 12 races, seven wins and three pole positions.



Maya Weug, KIC Motorsport, 2023 Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine
Photo: Racers - Behind the Helmet

Maya Weug


After positive seasons in Formula 4, Maya Weug was confirmed as part of the Ferrari Driver Academy and promoted to Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine. Despite the series having dropped the fourth car rule for the female drivers, Weug landed a seat at KIC Motorsport, a team that had struggled to score points in the previous season due to several changes in the drivers line up.


With support from Ferrari, Weug immediately found herself at home at KIC Motorsport and worked well with the Finnish squad in preparation for one of the most competitive single seater junior championships in the world. In a field of over 30 cars, Weug straight away claimed her first top-15 at Imola in her first round of the season. While she endured more challenging rounds at Barcelona and Hungaroring, she kept learning the car and put on a masterful performance at Spa Francorchamps, where the Dutch-Belgian racer secured a seventh and sixth place, scoring her first points in the series.


Her second race at Spa also gained her the first win among the rookies, in a field filled with some of the most promising stars of the future. Maya carried momentum at Mugello - one of the most physical tracks of the championship - where she proved that her results were not a one-off; two more point-scoring finishes followed at Paul Ricard.


In a series where qualifying is crucial, Weug's improvements continued in this direction and had very solid sessions to start further up the grid week in and week out. Her racecraft was also on display, as she was never afraid of battling elbows out and made up positions in most of the rounds. With a smart qualifying, Weug had great speed in Monza as well and collected more points, always battling in the top-ten.


The final two race meetings were more unfortunate, as mixed-weather conditions made for difficult qualifyings and she couldn't maximise her speed in Zandvoort and Hockenheim. Nevertheless, she quickly shrugged off a big accident in the penultimate round to wrap up her brilliant rookie campaign with more recovery drives in Germany, ultimately totaling 27 points across the 10 events, finishing six times among the point scorers.


The Tatuus Formula Regional machine has traditionally been one of the heaviest and most physically demanding cars, but Weug mastered it and completed the season third in the rookies' classification. 



TOP-3 MOMENTS OF THE YEAR


Iron Dames claim maiden victory in FIA WEC


The Iron Dames progression into the echelons of sports car racing has been such an important one for the movement and for motorsport as a whole that as soon as the team reached a certain competitive level, the expectation for the first win exponentially increased. The historic moment arrived - possibly at an unexpected moment, with the 24H of Spa win in the Gold Cup class in 2022; on that momentum, the team claimed another historic win in European Le Mans Series at the end of the year - but a new era started in 2023, with significant changes as Iron Lynx became Lamborghini factory team.


Two new cars awaited the whole Iron Dames crew - the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and the Porsche 911 GTE, employed in the final year of GTE regulations in FIA WEC. Nevertheless, the all-female outfit continued to be competitive straight away in the World Endurance Championship: with pole positions and superb stints at the very top of the GTE class, Bovy, Frey and Gatting had only one mission: winning.


They were close multiple times throughout the year, often with podium results that left the three drivers slightly disappointed. But everyone knew that the first win at the pinnacle of endurance racing was a matter of when, not if - and the final race weekend in the history of GTE turned out to be the memorable one.


From yet another Bovy pole position, to an almost caution-free race, everything worked smoothly and all three drivers performed at the top of their game. Strategy was on point and the whole team ran flawlessly; Bovy, Frey and Gatting optimized the strategy, didn't crack under pressure towards the end and emerged victorious in a historical result for the team, for the series and for the sport itself.


Just as the above mentioned Sarah Bovy, also Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting deserve a mention in our end of season review for their performances all season; they consistently extracted all the potential from their cars despite several unfortunate circumstances, small technical hiccups and ill-timed cautions. The trio works perfectly together and the victory eventually did arrive - but we can be sure that they certainly have no intention of stopping.


Sophia Floersch, PHM Racing, 2023 FIA F3, Spa Francorchamps
Photo credits: Alpine Academy

Sophia Floersch scores points in FIA Formula 3


Not a single DNF throughout the year in one of the world's top formula feeder series; consistently ahead of her teammates in a rookie team: Sophia Floersch put all her experience and racecraft to use in her return season in FIA F3, often battling bad luck in the first half of the year. And, weekend after weekend, she climbed the pack towards the top ten.


Mid-way through, she had collected five top-20 finishes and was steadily battling in the top-15 - but the Austrian race weekend would be the turning point of her season. At the Red Bull Ring, which she often described as one of her favourite circuits, Floersch was the protagonist of an epic drive in the feature race and finished P9 in a historic result that would have gained her her first ever points in the series - and the first for a female driver in FIA F3 in its current form.


Her efforts, though, went unrewarded due to a displaced front wing endplate that resulted in a disqualification - but her history-making achievement just had to wait a little longer: at the iconic Spa Francorchamps, in unpredictable weather, Sophia did even better, with a seventh place in the feature race that rewarded the young German and PHM Racing with their first points, after a progressive crescendo throughout the season.


Floersch capitalized on her smart driving and made up 29 places across the weekend to claim 6 points and a place in the history of the series.


Lilou Wadoux wins 6H of Spa, 2023 FIA WEC
Photo credits: Ferrari Races

Lilou Wadoux wins the 6H of Spa and becomes the first woman to win in WEC


She might not get the same attention as some of her colleagues due to her reserved nature, but Lilou Wadoux is all about focus on performance and no distractions. A character of few words, Lilou goes out there and delivers - the perfect driver for a brand like Ferrari.


And that's how she made history, in a Sunday of April, when the #83 Richard Mille by AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE crossed the finish line to claim victory at the 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps: Lilou Wadoux had just become the first ever female winner in the World Endurance Championship - at her first season as a Ferrari driver, her third race in GTE, and only second full year in endurance racing.


Partnering Luis Perez Companc and Alessio Rovera, Lilou drove an exceptional middle stint in which she drove from fourth to the lead - after clocking the fifth fastest GTE time overall while also being the quickest silver rated driver in practice, which had already highlighted her speed at the iconic circuit.


Wadoux in fact returned to Spa after a podium in Alpine Europa Cup and after achieving her joint best WEC LMP2 finish last season - and she proved to be a fast learner at the wheel of the Ferrari 488 GTE, with superb passes and a brilliant four-way fight for the lead in her double stint: after taking the lead on lap 62, she extended the gap and never looked back.


With determination and extreme focus yet hardly under the spotlight, Wadoux had a central role within the team throughout the year, consistently being one of the fastest silver rated drivers at the top of world endurance racing.



HONORABLE MENTIONS

Jamie Chadwick, Andretti Autosport, Indy NXT
Photo credits: Penske Entertainment / Travis Hinkle

While it was a learning-oriented season after a big step up in her career, Jamie Chadwick enjoyed a highly positive rookie season in Indy NXT, becoming the first full-time female racer in Indycar's top feeder series in 13 years.

The three-time W Series champion had a new car - the significantly faster Dallara IL-15 - and a whole set of new tracks to learn, in her first racing season in the United States; yet, the 25 year old British driver learned quickly, made very few mistakes and got progressively closer to the top 10. She collected her first P10 at Mid Ohio, where she started a four-race streak of top-ten finishes that included her first ever race on an oval track at Iowa Speedway. An eighth at Nashville was then topped by a sixth place at Portland, as the Andretti Autosport driver significantly made steps forward in the second half of the season.


Fellow former W Series driver Jessica Hawkins, now Driver Ambassador of Aston Martin F1 Team, obviously made headlines for her F1 test at Hungaroring. In mixed weather conditions, Hawkins completed 26 laps and became the first woman to drive contemporary F1 machinery after Tatiana Calderon's Sauber tests in 2018 and 2019. Hawkins also raced in the Zeo Prototype Series, claiming podiums and victories.

She will continue to work with Aston Martin in 2024, also supporting and coaching the team's F1 Academy entry.


F1 Academy's first season was actually much more competitive than what results might look like, with several drivers battling throughout the field during the whole season and with 11 drivers out of 15 stepping on the podium - and 9 taking at least one victory. Coming off a partial FRECA campaign - halted a few rounds in for funding issues - Swiss racer Léna Bühler bounced back with a brilliant comeback season in F1 Academy: having joined the Sauber Academy, Léna was certainly one of the most consistent drivers, scoring 13 podiums and two wins. Her first ever victory in single seaters was particularly memorable, as she fought back after an unlucky DNF in race 1 at Barcelona, when a technical issue denied her the deserved success.


Bühler had the best over Hamda Al Qubaisi for the runner up spot, but the Emirati was also the protagonist of an iconic victory - race 1 at Valencia. Hamda had suffered a heavy accident in the final race of the F4 UAE championship at Abu Dhabi, which left her with a shattered arm. The injury put her participation to the inaugural F1 Academy season in jeopardy, but Al Qubaisi tirelessly pushed through pain and joined the pre-season testing, where she could barely hold her steering wheel.


There would be no racing for at least four months, she was told. Incredibly, not only she made the grid, but she completed 26 overtakes to take second place at Red Bull Ring. One week later - and only 75 days after her accident - she took victory at Valencia. In an iconic moment, she pointed to her injured arm in parc fermé after the win: Hamda knew that she had just done something remarkable.


Hamda Al Qubaisi, MP Motorsport, 2023 F1 Academy win in Valencia
Photo: Racers - Behind the Helmet

Fourth in the championship standings, former W Series front-runner Nerea Martí also had a strong return to F4, with six podiums and a victory. Martí had a promising first round with a podium, although she would later lose it post-technical inspections for a non performance-gaining infraction. On her home track in Valencia she was one of the drivers to beat and scored two second places after a brilliant battle with compatriot Marta García. She carried the Campos Racing squad to two more podiums on tracks where the Spanish team had little previous data, before her first win at Paul Ricard. A strong finish at COTA allowed the Spaniard to edge Pulling in the championship standings.


Often underestimated, Amna Al Qubaisi proved once again to be a race-winning driver with a very solid campaign. Having always been competitive in F4 machinery, Amna took four podiums and two wins - including a double-Al Qubaisi podium in Austria, where the sisters shared the rostrum.


Filipino star Bianca Bustamante also took two wins - the first of her car racing career. The Valencia success made worldwide headlines and landed her a giant billboard in Manila - and at her favourite track in Monza she put on a show with great passes, a win and two podiums. Effectively at her second season of race cars, Bustamante showed great improvements thanks to the increased track time.


Both Jessica Edgar and Emely de Heus won their first races as well - with the British racer enjoying a particularly strong final part of the season. Lola Lovinfosse had a stellar home race at Paul Ricard with two podiums - and overall had convincing recoveries with good passes in several rounds.

Particularly deserving of a mention is Chloe Chong - the youngest ever driver on the F1 Academy grid joined the series at 15 years of age and was the only driver to make the move up from karting to F1 Academy - as the series' mission initially stated. From no F4 experience, Chong conquered a top-6 at her very first race and made big improvements throughout the year, finishing with a strong four-race scoring streak between Le Castellet and COTA as she built more experience.


Joining F1 Academy this year will be Tina Hausmann, the new Aston Martin recruit who had a highly promising single seater debut in 2023. The young Swiss turned heads at her very first F4 race in Formula Winter Series, when she stood on the podium in Jerez. Joining the world's most competitive F4 series in Italy, Hausmann raced for AKM Motorsport and impressed for her work ethic and learning skills. Despite a big accident at Misano that sidelined her for a few races, she scored her first rookie top 10 at Le Castellet and topped the Female Trophy class on seven occasions. In the Monza round of the Euro4 Championship, she just missed out on her first outright top 10 among Europe's top F4 drivers.


Another driver to keep an eye on in 2024 will be Aurelia Nobels, who contested her first season as part of the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2023 in Italian F4. Nobels' season also was hampered by a couple of injuries but the Brazilian always bounced back and had a very consistent campaign, clinching a P11 as best result in Imola.


One of the big stories of 2023 in single seaters was Juju Noda, as the 17 year old Japanese sensation defied the odds and secured a victory in Euroformula, having taken on the bigger teams with a small, family run operation. Noda's victory at Paul Ricard came after a podium at Budapest, where she also battled for the overall win.


Belén Garcia, 360 Racing LMP3 Ligier, 2023 Michelin Le Mans Cup
Photo by: Sergey Savrasov

The switch from formulas to prototypes paid off for Belén García, who made her debut in LMP3 at the end of 2022 and then contested her first full season in Le Mans Cup. García improved at each race and, although a few circumstances outside of her control hampered her first half of the season, in the second part of the championship she consistently battled in the front pack, eventually scoring three consecutive top five finishes. She was part of the only crew able to do so - and was the second top-scorer in the second half of the season.


Karen Gaillard, 22 from Switzerland, also took on her first season in prototype racing, as she joined the Ultimate Cup Endurance Prototype Challenge at the wheel of the Nova Proto NP02 prototype, a 400hp machine with performance almost comparable to LMP3. Gaillard conquered four podiums out of six races – and two top-fives overall, including the final 4 hour race at Le Castellet, where she was one of the fastest drivers in her class and battled for the class and overall victory for most of the competition.


With a victory in her first ever year of LMP3 competitions, Gabriela Jílková obviously deserves a special mention: the Czech driver joined the Van Ommen Racing by DataLab team aboard their Duqueine D08 for the highly competitive Prototype Cup Germany - and consistently battled in the top-five, eventually securing her first podiums in Zandvoort race 1. Just one day later, she claimed her first win in prototypes.


A GT4 specialist, Jílková also won the Matmut GT4 selection for female drivers and was selected for a funded season in the French FFSA GT Championship together with Lucile Cypriano. Together, they proved to be a very fast and reliable team, scoring four class podiums and third in the championship.


Alongside the Volant Matmut 100% Féminin, a similar initiative was launched by The Heart Of Racing team in the US, as an all-female driver shootout resulted in two drivers being picked up by the top Aston Martin team to contest the 2023 GT4 America campaign. Hannah Grisham and Rianna O'Meara-Hunt emerged as the winners - and made history when they took back-to-back class victories to sweep the final round at Indianapolis.

Grisham was particularly impressive, as the Shift Up Now athlete secured two pole positions and made some stellar recoveries - including at the Indianapolis season finale.


Texan racer Taylor Hagler also deserves the acknowledgement: the two time IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge champion in the TCR class took the leap and signed up for her first European season, in a double campaign on the two sides of the Atlantic. In her busy year of flyaways, Hagler tackled a whole new set of challenges like a new car - the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 - a new team, and new tracks where her competitors had years of experience under their belts. Nevertheless, Hagler - who also raced at the mighty 24 Hours of the Nürburgring - was in the top 5 at Misano and had class podium-worthy pace at Hockenheim, although she couldn't capitalize for contacts and technical issues outside of her control.


Sheena Monk, JG Wentworth Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3, IMSA 2023
Photo credits: Halston Pitman

Graduating from GT4 to GT3, Sheena Monk was a really positive surprise in the GTD class of IMSA SportsCar Championship. Monk had previously shown her potential in the GS class of Pilot Challenge, but her maiden campaign in GT3 proved to be way above expectations: always at ease behind the wheel, she contested several qualifying sessions - often finishing ahead of more experienced bronze drivers - and completed her driving time flawlessly in the races, rarely making mistakes. The driver pairing with her coach and long time friend - as well as racing legend - Katherine Legge was certainly a successful move and, while they missed out on a podium finish which looked realistic on more than one occasion, the addition of Tatiana Calderon in 2024 to the JG Wentworth Acura line up is nothing but encouraging.


While it turned out to be a more troubled season compared to her rookie campaign last year, Ashton Harrison's step up to the Pro class of GT World Challenge America still ended with the Vice-Championship title. Harrison, who teamed up again with Mario Fanbacher at Racers Edge Motorsport with WRT, scored two class wins and one overall victory at COTA, adding 6 Pro-class podiums to her resumé after being crowned Pro/Am champion in 2022.

She combined this with strong runs in the IMSA Endurance Cup, where she collected three top-ten finishes, including a particularly convincing performance at Daytona - where a technical issue in the closing minutes denied her a potential podium.


Team Rebelleo Motorsport saw the light of the day in 2023, as former W Series racer Abbie Eaton launched her own racing team - a project that aims to challenge the status quo in motorsport and break down barriers to make the sport more accessible.

Eaton herself returned to racing full time, in a highly competitive programme in Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe: among almost 50-car fields, the British driver showed potential for top five and even podium finishes in the Pro class - and would claim her first podium at Nürburgring.


Abbie Eaton, Rebelleo Motorsport, 2023 Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe
Photo credits: Rebelleo Motorsport

There was female representation also in the other high-profile one make series, Ferrari Challenge Europe, as former WEC and ELMS driver Manuela Gostner fought for the Shell Cup title. With a win and a podium at the season opener at Valencia, Manuela was consistently a front runner in the championship, having also collected a dominant win in a 70 car field at Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans. She would add one more victory at Spa Francorchamps to her name, alongside six podiums ahead of the season finale, where she cemented the second place in the championship standings.


Compatriot Vicky Piria was also in championship contention in Italian GT, at only her second year of GT racing. Piria joined Enrico Fulgenzi Racing ahead of 2023 season and, with minimal testing, she was immediately competitive in the GT Cup class in the new Porsche 992 GT3 Cup car, which she adapted quickly to; as she got up to speed and continued learning the secrets of GT cars after spending years in single seaters, Piria won two races out of the three contested and was second in the championship due to dropped score. Overall, her second season highlighted her consistency in longer stints, which really gave the team a competitive advantage in the endurance format.


One of the most exciting debuts was Laura van den Hengel's arrival on the GT3 scene from karting. The quantum leap was barely visible: the Dutchwoman made huge progress in her two weekends in GT Cup Open Europe, where she showed proper speed in the Ghinzani-run Porsche 992 GT3 Cup, especially in mixed-weather at Monza.


Former Supercars driver Renee Gracie returned to racing after last competing in Super2 in 2017. Having launched her own team with a first generation Audi R8 GT3 and joined GT World Challenge Australia. Gracie won 8 races with 8 fastest laps out of 8 races in the GT Trophy class, securing the class title with an utterly dominant season. She then switched to the Am class for the final round once she moved to a newer Audi R8 LMS Evo 2 - and clinched three class podiums and two overall top-5.


RAFA Racing Club has been a disrupting force in the world of sportscars in 2023 - and its founder Rafa Martinez has so far championed the support for female drivers. In the inaugural season of the McLaren Europe Trophy, Martinez himself shared the car with young British talent Jem Hepworth, who's been a positive suprise among the 570S class; Hepworth and Martinez had a consistent first half of the championship which featured a win at Nürburgring, then won again at Hockenheim ahead of the final round at Barcelona. In a dramatic finale, the duo was one lap away from sealing the title, when a technical issue shattered their championship dreams.


Luisa Kahler, BMW M2 Cup
Photo by: Gruppe C Photography

In touring cars, the BMW M2 Cup has traditionally featured a very high percentage of female drivers among its fields since its inception in 2021. The one-make series is specifically designed to help driver development and focused on equality of equipment - and young female talents have found a good platform to move up the ranks of touring cars and eventually GT racing. Claudia Henning, Luisa Kahler and Carmen Kraav were the latest drivers to collect crucial experience in the series that supports DTM: karting graduate Kahler emerged as the most consistent driver, thanks to a great progression in the second half of the season. Both Henning and Kraav had peaks of great performance as well as exciting battles, as they will aim to apply the gained experience in their 2024 racing plans.

In the Italian series, a historic result saw young Emma Segattini leading a female 1-2 in Imola, where she took victory ahead of guest driver Vicky Piria.


The British racing scene has also forged world class talents in its grassroots movement - and the Ginetta championships are one of the greatest examples.

Racking up an impressive tally of 10 race victories across the 2023 season, Ella Lloyd ended the year as one of the winningest female drivers globally. A further 8 podium finishes meant that the teenage racer finished second in the GT5 Pro class of the Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT Championship. Ella looked set to claim the title midway through the year, before a controversial incident at Brands Hatch derailed her charge. Nonetheless, Lloyd’s one-lap pace was excellent and this will be vital if she is to take the step into single seater racing for 2024.


By finishing fifth in the Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship, Alisha Palmowski secured the highest overall finish by a female driver in the series’ G40-era. Claiming 10 podium finishes across the season, Palmowski’s sophomore season in Britain’s premier junior championship was undoubtedly a success. Alisha was unfortunate not to claim a maiden victory, finishing runner-up on six occasions while leading a sizeable number of laps in the season finale at Donington Park. At just 17 years of age, Alisha’s future looks bright with the young driver assessing a wealth of options as she aims to take her first steps into senior racing.


Alisha Palmowski, Elite Motorsport, Ginetta Junior Championship 2023
Photo by: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Liona Theobald is undoubtedly one of the most improved drivers in 2023. In just her second year of circuit racing, her first at senior level, Liona stepped up to the GT Pro class of the Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT Championship. Despite missing the round at Cadwell Park, Theobald finished sixth in the championship with her race pace a particular highlight.


Fiesta championships also provide a great outlook on young emerging talent in British club racing. In just her first full season of circuit racing, Morgan Kidd can call herself a champion. Securing a total of five victories across the campaign, Morgan claimed the AIRTEC Motorsport Fiesta ST240 Club class title. Kidd developed her skills during the course of the year, claiming two pole positions in the latter half of the season in addition to a phenomenal 9 fastest laps. Regularly racing alongside the Pro class drivers, Morgan’s potential was evident to see as the teenage driver sealed the title in the final round at Silverstone. To close out the year, Kidd has tested TCR machinery with a view to progressing up the touring car ladder.


Competing as one of just a handful of full-time privateer teams on the TOCA package, Lydia Walmsley made significant strides forward to end The Vertu Motors Mini Challenge season tenth in the overall standings. Failing to finish in just one of the twenty races across the season, Lydia’s consistency was a significant highlight of her campaign as finished inside the top-10 for three-quarters of the races. Competing in the main feeder series for the British Touring Car Championship, Lydia and her family run team maximised their potential. It was at the penultimate round at Silverstone where Walmsley achieved a career best result of fifth, regularly matching the leading drivers in treacherous conditions.


Anna Inotsume, Japan TCR 2023
Photo by: TCR Japan

There was a slight drop in female participation in TCR-sanctioned series, although 2023 recorded the first ever female champion in a national sprint series. Anna Inotsume in fact secured both the Saturday and the Sunday series championship titles in TCR Japan with five wins and seven podiums in the five double headers. Inotsume was almost unbeatable throughout the season and swept the weekend at both Suzuka and Okayama, then returned to the top step of the rostrum at Fuji after a tough BoP made for a difficult Motegi round. Wrapping up the season with two more second places, Inotsume sealed the titles and became the highest ranked woman in the TCR world ranking.


TCR Italy featured the largest fields in national TCR series - and hosted three female drivers across the season. None of them completed a full campaign, but they certainly displayed positive results. Francesca Raffaele had raced in the series in the previous two years as well - and started the season with a top ten at Imola - then went on to finish all races she completed within the top-15, in +30 car grids. Experienced racer Carlotta Fedeli took a class victory among the DSG-gearbox entries at the Imola curtain-raiser, then led the championship standings into Misano with four consecutive podiums - but, just like Raffaele, halted her campaign after Mugello. Last but not least, Seda Kaçan made her debut at the final round of the championship in Imola, securing two DSG class podiums as well as overall top-20s. The first ever Turkish woman to win a circuit race on home soil, Kaçan is now aiming for international success.


It was a widely unfortunate season for two-time TCR champion Taylor Hagler in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, as the US American couldn't defend the title and faced a series of misfortunes which denied her podium finishes - often in the closing minutes. On the positive side, her race pace was competitive and got to experience stints in the second half of the race, scoring three top-five results.


TC America had an equally exciting year for female drivers: the switch from single seaters to touring cars paid off for Maddie Aust, 18, who made her race car debut in 2022 contesting the F4 US Championship and a part time campaign in USF Juniors. Once at the wheel of the BMW M2 CS of the TCX category, she was immediately at ease and by her second weekend she was already on the podium, with two top-3 finishes, a fastest lap and a pole position at Circuit of the Americas. One round later, she added an outstanding double-victory in a dominant weekend at VIRginia International Raceway. The young Texan then recovered from a big accident at Elkhart Lake and scored another podium at Sebring.


Maddie Aust, TC America 2023
Photo by: Frederick Hardy II / SRO

It was a breakthrough season for Sally McNulty who competed in the TC class for the first time after graduating from TCA, and came home with her first podiums of her professional racing career, with a second and a third place at VIRginia International Raceway. At the same time, the first generation racer made her IMSA debut, competing for the first time in a TCR vehicle.Sally enjoyed a clean and promising debut in Michelin Pilot Challenge, making great improvements throughout the final three rounds.


This time last year, Caroline Candas had just completed her first season of circuit racing driving a humble Peugeot 208. Fast forward twelve-months and Caroline’s next race will take place in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America at the legendary Sebring International Raceway. Due to budget constraints, Candas was unable to complete the full TC France season in 2023, however with podium results in double digits, her performances were not going unnoticed. As a result, Caroline was nominated to take part in the inaugural RAFA Racing Club Shootout. Candas sensationally came out on top despite being the only driver without rear-wheel-drive racing experience, earning herself a fully-funded place on a Porsche Sprint Challenge North America grid.


Toni Breidinger
Photo by: Frederick Hardy II / SRO

Stateside, ARCA Menards Series had a slight drop in female participation: eight women took the start of at least one ARCA event in 2023, compared to 10 in 2022.

Toni Breidinger had arguably the best season in the series to date, with a few breakthrough performances that included four top-5 finishes as well as her first top three, in a superb run at Kansas Speedway. Breidinger has shown big improvements from her previous seasons and capitalized on clean runs. At the same time, she made her debut in sports cars, having joined the inaugural season of the Toyota GR Cup North America. Breidinger learned at a fast pace and, by the end of the year, she fought within the top-20.


The ARCA flagship event at Daytona, which traditionally opens the season, saw five women on the starting grid: Breidinger was joined by Amber Balcaen, Mandy Chick, Logan Misuraca and Natalie Decker. The race featured epic runs for the many of them, including a top five for Mandy Chick, a spectacular charge from the back of the grid to sixth for Amber Balcaen and clean runs for Natalie Decker and Logan Misuraca - both on the verge of a top-10. Balcaen proved to have speed to battle for the win throughout the event, but she was more unfortunate in her two other appearances and couldn't put together a full-time season. She would make her NASCAR Pinty's Series debut in Canada at the end of the year.


Chick and Misuraca also returned to ARCA events - the former also having another two strong runs in Kansas; Stepanie Moyer also made three starts, eventually securing two top-15s and her first top ten at Toledo Speedway. Police officer-turned NASCAR driver Rita Goulet contested most of the ARCA East championship, finishing 12th in the standings with an 11th place as best finish. Colorado-native Mariah Boudrieau made her ARCA West debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and came home with a respectable 15th place.


Hailie Deegan concluded a three year stint in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series as the popular American driver is set to graduate to Xfinity in 2024. Deegan scored 13 top-20 finishes and two top-ten results - like in 2022 - at Texas Motors Speedway and Talladega respectively. With a P6 as personal best, she was 19th in the drivers standings.

Toni Breidinger valso made her Truck series debut at Kansas Speedway, impressing with a P15 in her first outing. Series veteran Jennifer Jo-Cobb also returned behind the wheel after an illness and made the grid at the Kansas Lottery 200.


After the ARCA opener at Daytona, Natalie Decker committed to a part-time schedule in Xfinity series and took the start at Charlotte Motor Speedway as well as at Daytona. Sportscar and Indycar star Katherine Legge was also scheduled to make Xfinity appearances on road courses, but she could barely make the start at Road America, before a fuel pump issue curtailed her race after 9 laps.


Hailie Deegan
Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

With a professional resumé that includes stints in Indycar, IMSA and Brazilian StockCar, Bia Figueiredo made history in Brazil when she crossed the finish line at Cascavél, fifth round of the Copa Truck championship, to become the first woman in the 17 years of history of the championship to win a race. Figueiredo, who also holds the position of South America representative for the FIA ​​Women's Commission, claimed the historic achievement by working alongside a female engineer, Rachel Loh.


In the World Rally Championship, Finnish duo Sami Pajari and Enni Malkönen stormed to victory in WRC2 machinery on home soil. It was the first class victory for the reigning WRC-3 co-driver champion, who navigated Pajari to a stellar seventh place overall at Rally Finland.


Gender equality has been at the centre of the Extreme E format since day one - as the all-electric off road series requires one male and one female driver in each team's line up. Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky joined the list of female champions in 2023, following a spectacular season with Rosberg X Racing's teammate Johann Kristoffersson. Åhlin-Kottulinsky had proved to be one of the quickest drivers on the grid in 2022, but the crown had slipped away at the final round in Uruguay. One year later, the Swedish 31 year old was finally rewarded and brought the title to RXR for the second time in three years.


Åhlin-Kottulinsky's speed among the female drivers has been often unmatched and never finished lower than fifth throughout the year. After two third-places in Saudi, she won a quali heat in Scotland before dominating the first Island X Prix in Sardinia. Three more podiums completed her championship path, which ended in spectacular fashion at the Chile grand finale where she crossed the finish line with a broken suspension.


Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, Rosberg X Racing, Extreme E 2023, Chile
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / LAT

While it was a heartbreaking finish for Laia Sanz, who entered the last race as the championship favourite before a crash in the final, the Spanish driver has made huge progress since switching from motorbike racing only a handful of years ago.

2021 champion Molly Taylor returned to compete full time in Extreme E and brought Veloce Racing to a top three in the standings, with 3 wins that make the Australian the series' most victorious female driver.


Young American off-road racer Amanda Sorensen, at her first year in Extreme E, was one of the most exciting new entries and took two podiums and five qualifying heat wins for GMC Hummer EV Chip Ganassi Racing. 17 year old Lia Block made her first appearance at the wheel of the Odyssey21 midway through the championship, but certainly left her mark on the series with a fifth place in Sardinia and really good times. Fellow Carl Cox Motorsport's driver Christine GZ only entered the first two rounds but had a brilliant run at the Hydro X Prix in Scotland, where she overcame tricky conditions to score the team's first and only podium.


Drag racing, both in the US and in Europe, continues to be some of the most gender equal competitions in motorsport. The 2023 FIA European Drag Racing Championship Top Fuel class finished with three women on top of the standings: Ida Zetterström preceded Susanne Callin and Jndia Erbacher, while Norway's Linn Fløysvik was crowned champion in the Top Methanol category.


Linn Fløysvik, 2023 FIA European Drag Racing Championship Top Methanol champion at the FIA prizegiving gala, Baku
Photo credits: Grégory Lenormand / FIA

While this non-exhaustive overview will have celebrated the achievements and offered a positive view on the present state of the industry, we entered 2024 also with the clear goal to address the hurdles that are still holding women back to further progress.

As the first More Than Equal study highlighted, female participation currently sits at about 10% across karting and car racing - described as the gender participation gap. What the organization has defined as the gender performance gap, on the other hand, is the fact that female talent is not progressing at the same rate - mainly due to barriers faced up the ladder and systemic biases.


Obviously the talent pool at grassroots levels needs to be expanded in order to increase chances of progression, and the ever-growing costs and financial barriers need to be addressed to become more sustainable for females and males alike. The research, though, shows how women are struggling more to secure funding with too few investors and sponsors willing to take a chance. Another significant point highlighted by the More Than Equal research is the absence of dedicated technical, physical, psychological training tailored to female drivers - an issue that the organization itself will attempt to tackle with the launch of a specific Driver Development Programme.


More research is also being conducted on mechanical challenges and gender design biases that potentially represent barriers to female drivers - as car manufacturers are for example starting to experiment with more accessible power steering designs.

Overall, female racers have historically received significantly less track time compared with male drivers throughout the junior career: from testing to intensive racing schedules, young women are nowhere near the amount of track time afforded to some of the drivers that eventually went on to climb the ladder.


In this regard, sponsors are performing very poorly in driving the change - but as the motosport audience expands to a younger and more aware fanbase, more commercial opportunities could emerge.

With the media also playing a crucial role in this paradigm shift, we are more committed than ever to continue to play our part in highlighting achievements and fighting stereotyping into 2024 and beyond. 


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