It was celebration time for W-Series: official prizegiving and awards night at the London Gherkin.
Every success needs to be properly celebrated.
Three months after the end of the first all-female championship, the full line-up of drivers and series management gathered in London, on the top floor of the famous and futuristic "The Gherkin" building, to celebrate together the astonishing success of the inaugural season.
The Gala Dinner also saw the official prize giving ceremony taking place, as well as the end of the year awards.
“This is the culmination of a fabulous debut season, and it gives us so much pleasure to award these cash prizes as we know how important this will be for the careers of these talented young drivers, and especially since many of them will be investing in more racing as a direct result.” - commented Catherine Bond-Muir, founder and series CEO.
Jamie Chadwick received the 500,000$ cheque, followed by Beitske Visser and Alice Powell, who respectively banked the 250,000$ and 125,000$ prizes.
Cash prizes were handed out to the full grid, including the reserve drivers.
“This has been a career-changing year for me, and I still can’t quite believe everything that’s happened over the course of a few short months." - said champion Jamie Chadwick.
"The crowning achievement was obviously winning the W-Series title against some mega-talented drivers, and I’m not just proud of that, but also proud to lead the charge for women drivers in motorsport generally."
Chadwick will line up again on the 2020 grid and will try to defend her title, after failing to secure a FIA Formula 3 seat despite the impressive W-Series money prize. She tested a Dallara Euroformula Open car at Silverstone earlier this year and suggested to be pursuing a double Formula 3 season, combining W-Series to another F3 program. With the many calendar clashes though, Japanese F3 (just rebranded SuperFormula Lights) might be her current best option.
Alice Powell was probably the driver that took the most out of this inaugural W-Series season, as the 26-year old Brit was able to land an IMSA sportscar ride and a full season in the Formula E support series Jaguar iPace eTrophy after a five years hiatus.
Powell left the Gala for an early flight to India, where she'll join other W-Series driver Gosia Rdest in the newborn category X1 Racing: each team will in fact feature one female driver, testament of the short-term impact that W-Series is having on the whole motorsport world.
Marta Garcia's $ 100,000 cash prize will likely be immediately invested back into racing, as the Spanish driver expressed her interest in the upcoming Toyota Racing Series. The New Zealand-based championship will in fact feature a new Tatuus F3 car, identical to the W-Series T318. This will make the Toyota-promoted category even more appealing to the girls in preparation to the 2020 season.
Missing from the London Gala it was American Shea Holbrook: the 30-year old appeared on a video message announcing her first pregnancy.
It was also time for the end-of the year awards:
Sabré Cook won the "Striving Forward" award, for the most race places gained during the course of the season;
The "Best Blooper" award went to Marta Garcia, following the hilarious Champagne fumble on the Hockenheim podium;
Even though the British driver wasn't in London to accept the award, "Best Radio Message" award was assigned to Jessica Hawkins - it sure was a sweary one.
Fabienne Wohwlend was voted by the series staff for the "Spirit of W Series" award, for best reflection of the ethos and purpose of W Series itself.
Finally, the "Drivers’ Driver" award was handed to the flying Finn: Emma Kimilainen was voted by her colleagues as driver of the year.
The 2019 Gala was a fitting end to an incredible opening season. The girls will hit the track once again in May 2020 for the championship sophomore year with few pillars: Jamie Chadwick on the hunt for Superlicence points, Alice Powell willing to take revenge from an unfortunate racing season, the emerging talent of Marta Garcia and Emma Kimilainen's hunger for more victories, together with some talented new entries.
Ph credits: W-Series media