Alpine launches all-female karting programme
Alpine F1 Team steps up its inclusion programme Rac(H)er, which will now include support for six up-and-coming female karting drivers.
There was plenty of important news last night at the Alpine launch of its 2023 F1 challenger. While the announcement of Abbi Pulling's promotion to a full Alpine Academy role from her previous "affiliation" had come earlier in the week, new exciting additions were revealed on Thursday, starting from an update on the Rac(H)er programme. Rac(H)er - Alpine's five-point programme aimed at tackling gender imbalance within the automotive industry - was launched last year, and included actions to increase inclusion internally throughout the Alpine Business Unit; funding scientific research to address alleged hurdles for female competition at the top level of motorsport; the launch of a fund to finance female talent within motorsport; an education programme in cooperation with schools to boost awareness and interest among girls; a long term advocacy programme across the industry. In the second part of the Alpine A523 launch, Laurent Rossi, Alpine CEO, and Claire Mesnier, Alpine Human Resources VP, illustrated the progress made since the launch of the initiative, as well as some exciting new plans. With a science-oriented approach at its core, Alpine will launch the Human High-Performance Centre in Enstone, aimed at developing individual training programmes for drivers and tackle bias and prejudices. “Rac(H)er is key in our continuous quest for performance, to build the future of our industry by driving real change and creating equal and fair opportunities across a range of human talents" - commented Laurent Rossi. "Now that we have shifted our organisation’s culture, we accelerate forwards with the creation of the Human High-Performance Centre as well as by the deployment of numerous internal initiatives to empower women and encourage new generations to join the motorsport industry, whether engineers, mechanics, or drivers", explained Mesnier. The addition of a new high-profile talent to the Academy - Sophia Floersch - goes in the direction of stepping up Alpine's commitment, as the young German - a rising star in endurance racing who will return to single seaters to continue pursue her F1 dream - shows the team's willingness to support some of the most exciting talents with very realistic goals of climbing the formula ladder, alongside Pulling. "Sophia and Abbi, for example, are a fine example of such talents", Rossi continued. "I am delighted that Sophia is joining our programme and it’s an honour to promote Abbi to the Academy. Both drivers, I am sure, will bring a lot to Alpine.” "Her arrival in the Alpine Academy is part of Alpine's ambition to expand its opportunities to young talents, especially in upping its game for the World Endurance Championship and Le Mans 2024", a team statement's read, hinting at Floersch's experience in sportscars. At the same time, the Rac(H)er initiative will direct its attention at grassroots levels, implementing a really interesting project in karting: six female talents will join a karting programme with support and training from the Enstone-based organization. The crucial work behind the scenes of Alice Powell - who took on a role of Talent Identification & Development Mentor for Alpine in July 2022 - has in fact allowed the team to identify and now support the first six drivers that will be part of this programme. The six selected drivers are Aiva Anagnostiadis (15, from Australia), Angélina Proenca (13, from France), Chiara Battig (12, from Switzerland), Lisa Billard (13, from France), Maria Chiara Nardelli (12, from Italy) and Sukhmani Kaur Khera (10, from the United Kingdom).
Racing in karting since she was seven, Aiva Anagnostiadis follows in the footsteps of her mother - a former karting driver. She has competed in the Australian championship, as well as in the Rotax Pro Tour where she had good success in the Light category. Previously, she had also contested the SKUSA Supernationals in the Mini class and was part of last year's FIA Motorsport Games at Le Castellet, representing Australia in the Karting Sprint Senior discipline. French karter Angélina Proenca, 13, raced in the French-based National Series Karting in the Mini and Cadet classes, then graduating to the French Championship. In 2021, Proenca also contested the Rotax Max Challenge International Trophy at Le Mans, while most recently, she competed in the International IAME Games as well as the IAME Winter Cup in Spain - in her first year of X30 Junior competitions. Swiss driver Chiara Bättig is not a new face either in the world of karting. The young talent has competed in some of the most prestigious karting competitions in Europe, including the IAME Euro Series, the highly competitive WSK Super Master and WSK Euro Series. She claimed the Swiss title in the OK Junior category in 2022, as a rookie. In 2021, Bättig was the youngest candidate in the FIA Women In Motorsport's Girls On Track - Rising Stars selections. In the first year of the Junior category, she was among the four finalists. Last year, Bättig also raced in the FIA Academy - finishing every qualifying in the top10 in her group - and stood for the first time on an international podium at the IAME World Final 2022 in Le Mans. Another Girls On Track - Rising Stars finalist selected for the Alpine Rac(H)er programme is Lisa Billard, 13. The young Frenchwoman had some good international experience in the Mini category and has been the protagonist of a remarkable season in the French Championship - as well as Rotax Max Challenge International Trophy - in the Junior class in 2022. She impressed in the Rising Stars selections and has recently raced in the SWK Super Master Series. Maria Chiara Nardelli, from Italy, started her karting journey aged 6 and has raced in the Mini class since 2020. She had her first podiums and victories in the following season - then became Italian female champion in 2022, having contested the Italian ACI Karting Championship. At only 10 years of age, Sukhmani Kaur Khera is the youngest of the selected athletes. Sukhmani raced in the British karting scene in the IAME Cadet category, with a series of really promising results. Powell - who is also managing and mentoring Abbi Pulling - has done a tremendous job in the past years, helping fellow female drivers to advance in their careers and her involvement with Alpine is now starting to bear the first fruits. There is little doubt that under her mentorship, these six drivers will have the chance to thrive. Alpine also announced that Nicola Adams, two-time Olympic Champion and Britain's most successful female boxer of all time, and Zara Rutherford, aircraft pilot, will be joining the Rac(H)er initiative in mentoring and inspirational roles. All these initiatives are clearly aimed at promoting a cultural shift within the team at every level of the workforce, in a push to empower female talent. The objective is to reach a 30% female workforce within five years (compared to a 12% of 2022, before the start of the programme). In the over 70 years of F1 competitions, only six out of 885 drivers have been women. Only two took part in world championship events - the last one almost 50 years ago. Alpine now has the talents and financial means to change that.