After three intense days of assessments and two days of on-track karting action, the four Girls On Track – Rising Stars finalists in the Junior category have been revealed.
It was a demanding as well as emotional week for the 8 Junior drivers that took part in the third edition of the FIA Women In Motorsport’s ’Girls On Track – Rising Stars’ programme.
Having been selected from over 80 applications all over the globe, the eight of the most promising female karting prospects travelled to Circuit Paul Ricard, South of France, for three intensive days of assessment that would bring four of them to the next round.
All under 14 years of age, Gabriela Teixeira from Portugal, Tyra Sundberg from Sweden, Domenika Arellano from Ecuador, Mathilda Paatz from Germany, Sara Matsui from Japan, Lisa Billard from France, Zoe Florescu Potolea from Italy and Shriya Lohia from India gave it their all in the two days of karting action, that included several tests and a final race simulation.
Alongside the track sessions, all the drivers took part in mental and physical tests with training partner 321 Perform, as well as workshops on topics such as nutrition and media awareness.
Despite different backgrounds, all of them pushed each other’s limits and showed improvements across the two days in the Kart Republic karts.
Inaugural winner of the programme Maya Weug set the reference laps and shared the track with the youngsters – in a further opportunity to learn from one of the most inspiring talents currently racing in Italian Formula 4, under the banner of Ferrari Driver Academy.
The jury was just as impressive: Iron Dames’ driver and GT racing ace Rahel Frey, former French racing driver Cathy Muller – who now heads the FIA Women In Motorsport’s Detection Cell – as well as representatives of Ferrari Driver Academy, Winfield Racing School and 321 Perform.
On Thursday, the candidates had a few sessions to learn the track – a technical 964m karting track within the Le Castellet complex, which features a great mix of fast corners and elevation changes that makes it a rather physically demanding circuit – and were then evaluated with a series of exercises, including fast lap skills and consistency.
Despite a brief interruption for a rain shower, everyone was up to speed ahead of the race weekend simulation on Friday.
Under blue skies and rising temperatures, the drivers had a further practice session, a qualifying and a race simulation, where they could show their abilities. The judges certainly didn’t have an easy time making a decision, with some drivers really close.
At the end of three test days, Lisa Billard, Zoe Florescu Potolea, Sara Matsui and Mathilda Paatz were named as the four finalists that will now advance to the next stage – the FIA-FDA Karting Scouting Camp in Italy in November.
After good success in the Mini category, Billard graduated to the Junior classes in the French Championship, where she has collected some remarkable results.
Paatz, 13, also has some experience in the OK-Junior category, having competed in the German championship as well as the ROK Cup international final.
Zoe Florescu Potolea, also 13, is undeniably one of the big names of the European karting scene: originally from Romania, Zoe is representing Italy and is racing in the uber-competitive WSK series in the Junior category.
The youngest of the selected drivers is Japanese racer Sara Matsui, 11, who has collected victory on home soil in the Mini category, before moving to the Junior Max class in the Japanese championship.
They will fight for a place in the sought-after Ferrari Driver Academy, as one will follow in the footsteps of Maria Germano Neto, the inaugural winner of the Junior selections.