Emilie Villa is the first ever ERA Racing Pride scholarship winner
"ERA championship is a huge opportunity in my career as a racing driver and I definitely want to prove that women can compete against men in motorsport." - Emilie Villa became the first ever winner of the ERA Racing Pride Scholarship, a highly innovative initiative to support LGBTQ+ drivers in the newly-founded all-electric series.
ERA Championship announced the first winner of the Racing Pride scholarship: Emilie Villa, 27, is the first ever recipient of the 150,000 € fund aimed at increasing diversity on the grid of next year's ERA season.
The championship - which is an acronym for Electrical Racing Academy - is a fully electric open-wheel feeder series that was founded in 2022 and is meant to provide a path for drivers and engineers for the ever-growing electric motorsport, which currently includes Formula E, Extreme E, eTCR as well as the full-electrical World Rallycross Championship.
ERA Championship is set to fill a void on the single-seater ladder, as drivers out of karting are increasingly looking to electric racing as a career path, with currently no other electric formula before Formula E being available to young drivers to learn the technology.
"The Driving Force" that is responsible for Porsche Carrera Cup Benelux, for example, stands behind the project, with Software AG joining as sponsor.
The cars used will be the all-identical "Mitsu-Bachi F110e", manufactured by Japanese Dome: the "F1110" chassis is also being employed in the Japanese Formula 4, and is powered by a 130KW motor, with a 24KWh battery and tyres from Goodyear.
After a demo race in 2022, the championship is set to start its first proper season, after logistical and pandemic-related issues delayed the debut of the championship. In partnership with ERA, Racing Pride announced a highly innovative scholarship that brings inclusivity to the forefront in the new championship: a €150.000 fund for the 2023 season would be assigned after a selection program aimed at LGBTQ+ drivers.
The number of applications was substantial from many different countries and a shortlist of six drivers was then released: Emilie Villa, Jordan Rand, Nina Hahn, Luke Pullen, Milan Fasotte and Samantha Evans were the drivers that took to the track for a test day at Circuit Zolder, to collect their first impressions and experiences of the all-electric open-wheeler.
Alongside track time in the ERA car, the candidates also had access to the simulator, media training and were interviewed about their future plans in racing.
At the end of the selection, it was 27-year- old Emilie Villa from France/Madagascar to claim the scholarship for a fully-funded season in the 2023 ERA Championship.
"Winning this scholarship wasn't easy because I was against 5 shortlisted amazing drivers" - Emilie Villa commented. "I am really proud to become a Racing Pride and ERA driver."
"There is a lot of progress to work on regarding LGBTQ+ inclusion and representation in motorsport, and I’m sure we will do amazing things together as a team", she added.
"ERA championship is a huge opportunity in my career as a racing driver and I definitely want to prove that women can compete against men in motorsport."
Emilie had some experience in GT4 France and had competed in an Aston Martin Vantage GT4, as well as tested in single seaters before.
“We are so pleased to announce Emilie Villa as the Racing Pride scholarship winner for the Software AG ERA Championship Series Europe 2023", said Beth Georgiou, co-founder of the ERA championship. "Emilie brings immense talent and determination to our grid, and is a passionate voice for LGBTQ+ inclusion in motorsport."
"We are excited to launch her electric racing career and look forward to working together over the next year.” - Georgiou, concluded.
The Racing Pride movement, co-founded by racing driver Richard Morris, aims at positively promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity within motorsport. The Scholarship program in cooperation with ERA is not only a huge step forward for LGBTQ+ athletes, but for European motor racing as a whole.
“Emilie was hugely impressive throughout the entire assessment day process", added Richard Morris. "She was charismatic and clearly communicated why she cares deeply about representing the LGBTQ+ community both on and off track, as well as where racing in the ERA Championship would fit in her career alongside her GT4 programme with Aston Martin."
"In terms of her on track performance, Emilie gave good, solid feedback to the mechanics, as well as taking on board the feedback the mechanics gave back to her.” - Morris added.
"I also want to be an inspiration for young ladies who think that the racing driver's life is only for men", Villa said. "Everyone can live their dreams on track!"
The 2023 five double-header calendar is set to run alongside the FIA eTCR championship in Europe and will be part of the electric-TCR broadcast package, airing on both Eurosport and Twitch. The full calendar - and the rest of the drivers line up - will be announced in due course.