FIA Girls On Track-Rising Star: the future is now
Twenty of the most interesting female karting prospects took to the track at Paul Ricard for the opening stage of the FIA Women In Motorsport's "Girls on Track - Rising Star" selection. Let's meet the 12 ladies that will advance into the second part of the assessment.
Earlier this year the FIA made an announcement that marked a new and important step in the fight towards gender equality in the motor racing world, thanks to a new project funded by the FIA Women In Motorsport Commission named "FIA Girls On Track-Rising Star".
Twenty of the most promising girls from 12 to 16 years of age were initially selected to complete an extensive training camp focused on both on-track action and off-track activities - spanning from all the skills that a professional race car driver has to master in order to make it in the uber-competitive world of today's motosport.
After the first days of this training camp, held at Circuit Paul Ricard in the South of France, twelve of these young ladies have made the cut to the second stage of the program, which will notably offer to the drivers that will most impress the experts' jury the huge chance to enter the Ferrari Driver Academy.
As widely covered last year, Ferrari had expressed the intention of adding at least one female junior driver to its family and, as the 20 karting drivers entered the first day of training, they received video messages from two famous faces: the two Ferrari F1 drivers Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel had kind words towards the project and for the upcoming athletes that one day could potentially follow in their footsteps at the top of motorsport's ladder.
"I know it is an extremely important day for you and it is a unique opportunity for your career. I remember the first time I arrived in Maranello, I always dreamt to be a Ferrari driver and be part of this huge family, so I just want to wish you the best of luck. Enjoy it, because it is extremely important and will help you to succeed in what you are doing. Good luck to all of you!" - those were the words of Charles Leclerc, followed by his German teammate Sebastian Vettel:
"I'm sure you're very nervous and excited, but I wish you all the best. I wish you to enjoy your days and hopefully sooner than leter we will se one of you, or many of you, behind the wheel maybe in Formula One. It would be great to have some more girls and some women around. This sport is waiting for it, we all want that, so my fingers are crossed. I wish you all the best for your future."
After the first days of activities, the girls went through the track walk - an essential part of a track familiarization for every race driver - safety briefings and a series of workshops overseen by the respected industry professionals of 321 Perform, a driver performance centre with experience of F1, Formula E and WRC.
In-depth workshops about mental, physical and nutritional development followed, before the equally important training on media awareness, where the drivers could learn how to interact with the media personnel.
The 12 girls that are going through after the first three opening days of the training camp and that came out on top after both the on-track driving tests and workshops assessment are:
- Belgian-Spanish Maya Weug, 16 years old. Already a Richard Mille Young Talent Academy member, Maya has a very important karting resumé so far: she was a WSK Final Cup winner, the first woman to win the Copa De Campeones, and was vice-Spanish champion in 2015.
Maya also had the opportunity to drive a Formula 4 car at Le Mans and, last year, she was awarded in Paris by the Women In Motorsport Commission at the FIA Karting Prize Giving ceremony.
Few months ago, we had the pleasure to have a chat with Maya Weug and get to know her a bit better. You can find our interview here.
- French lady Lola Lovinfosse, born in 2005. She has competed in the French IAME Series, in the 2018 Championnat de France and has entered several WSK competitions, as well as in the Wold Karting Championship in the OKJ category in Alaharma, Finland.
Just like Maya, we also had the opportunity to talk with Lola in the past months as part of our "Eyes on the Future" column, which focuses on the most promising female talents of tomorrow. Here's our interview with Lola.
- Brazilian Julia Ayoub, 15 years old. She was the first lady from Brazil to compete in the Karting World Championship, and at the beginning of this year, she was awarded with the Ayrton Senna Kart Trophy in the women category. She added to her notable racing experiences so far a couple of appearances in the FIA Karting European Championship, both in 2019 and in 2020.
- Another Brazilian to make the cut into the twelve selected drivers is 14-year old Antonella Bassani. She's vice-champion of the Sul-Americano Rotax championship; a podium scorer in the Brazilian Karting Championship and made appeareances in several other important competions on the Brazilian karting scene. In the past, she was also supported by one of the most famous Brazilian female racing drivers, Bia Figueiredo.
- British racer Jessica Edgar, 15, was born with motorsport in her DNA. She is part of a racing family and cousin of Italian and German F4 driver (and Red Bull junior) Jonny Edgar.
Jessica - who is certainly making a name of herself in the most competitive karting copetitions both nationally and internationally - has claimed the CKRC Championship in her debut season and has represented the UK in the FIA Motorsport Games 2019 in Valleunga, Rome. In 2018, Jessica raced in the Super One British and Little Green Man championship, and in 2019 she was on the grid of the UK British karting championship, where she finished fourth in the final standings.
- The 14-year old from Portugal, Matilda Ferreira was the best classified girl in the 2012 Portuguese karting series and competed in 2013 in the Iniciaco Trophy in her homeland - as well as in the National karting championship both in 2015 and 2016.
- Dutchwoman Esmee Kosterman, 15 years old, represented the Netherlands in the prestigious FIA CIK Karting Academy trophy in 2018, while in 2020 she competed in the Rookie4shift class of the Dutch karting Championship.
- There is also a second driver from Portugal between the 12 selected ladies: it's 16-year old Mariana Machado, the first female to win the Portuguese Karting Championship in 2015, in the Juvenil category. This year, Mariana competed in the Portoguese Karting Championship in the highest-level X30 class.
- Toni Naude, 14, is the only Swiss driver to have made the selection. Toni took part in 2016 and 2017 to many home-based competitions and in 2018 she entered the German Junior kart Championship. In the following year, she made the big step to WSK Open Cup, WSK Euro Series, WSK Champions Cup, and added one more appearance in the German championship. Earlier this year, Naude also raced in the FIA European Karting Championship and in the WSK Super Master Series, which definitely make Naude a karting driver with a solid resumé.
- 16-year old Doriane Pin from France has previously won the Women in Motorsport 2019 award, for which she was awarded with a test drive of a F4 single-seater at Le Mans.
In 2019, Doriane won the French Karting Female Championship and is currently the youngest driver in the French Clio Cup championship - where she has already a win to her name after this year's success in the Junior class at Paul Ricard. She is thus among the few drivers to have already race car experience under her belt.
- Ella Stevens, 14 years old from Gloucestershire, UK, is the youngest of the selection and already a multiple-title winning driver: additionally to being British Champion in the BirelART Cadet Class 2018 LGM Privateer Champion, she has won this year the TVKC Winter Series at her debut in the X30 class. Ella can certainly count on the precious advices of a notable coach and supporter: W Series race winner Alice Powell.
- German lady Lilly Zug, 14, started racing in 2015 in the children karting category in Germany and in 2018 she stepped up to the OK-Junior class in the German Junior Kart Championship.
The ADAC Kart Masters and the WSK Super Master Series were her main racing commitments in 2019, while in 2020 Lilly entered the South Garda Winter Cup in Italy. Zug is also among the few to have previously driven a F4 car, as she has completed a testing program with German team Mücke Motorsport.
It is also fair to notice that some of the drivers initially selected to take part in the training camp at Circuit Paul Ricard were not able to join the group due to coronavirus-imposed travel restrictions in their respective countries. Hopefully, they'll get another chance next year.
In the second stage of the selection, eight out of the twelve drivers will progress into the next level, when four of them will have the chance to drive a Formula 4 car at Paul Ricard on 2-4 November.
At the French venue, the girls received visits from the FIA President Jean Todt and FIA Women in Motorsport President Michéle Mouton, as well as from racing stars Beitske Visser and Michelle Gatting - proof of the real commitment of the International Federation in this project. Under Mouton's leadership, the FIA Women In Motorsport Commission has made giant leaps forward in the pursuit of a more gender equal sport and, as the former rally driver said herself, these projects will leave invaluable experiences to all the entrants:
"It really has been a fantastic opportunity and experience that I am sure the girls will never forget, and I believe they will all take something valuable away with them as they continue to progress in their careers."
"There has been strong competition but also great camaraderie among the girls, and they should be very proud to have reached this stage. For our selected 12 girls, the next three days will inevitably become more intense as the prospect of being selected to attend the Ferrari Driver Academy gets even closer."