The two youngest drivers on the 2022 W Series grid will enter the Academy team, gaining a two-year programme in the all-female single seater championship: 16-year-old Juju Noda is joined by Bianca Bustamante, 17.
Having announced its 17-driver line up for the upcoming 2022 season, W Series proceeded to confirm the team/drivers pairings in the following days: five rookies were joined by four returnee and the eight-automatically qualified drivers from the 2021 points standings. Two-time champion Jamie Chadwick will return to the championship with newly-founded team Jenner Racing, alongside American rookie Chloe Chambers. Click2Drive Bristol Street Motors Racing will line up an all-British duo, with runner up Alice Powell and Jessica Hawkins. Title contender Emma Kimiläinen is set to represent global sportswear brand PUMA together with 18 year old karting star Tereza Babickova, while CortDAO - the first community owned racing team – will see an experienced line-up of proven font-runners with Fabienne Wohlwend and Marta Garcia. Trading and crypto platform Quantfury team has opted for an all-Spanish duo, as 2021 best rookie Nerea Marti will team up with Belén Garcia. W Series fictional entities Sirin Racing and Racing X also completed their line ups with Beitske Visser and Emely De Heus (Sirin) and Abbi Pulling and Bruna Tomaselli (Racing X), while Sarah Moore is the only confirmed drivers at Scuderia W , which is likely to see a rotating second driver among the pool of reserve drivers. The two remaining drivers – Juju Noda and Bianca Bustamante – were thus added to the W Series Academy Team, which is specially designed to ensure a two-year programme to two of the most promising youngsters across all motorsport disciplines. Graduating from the 2021 Academy team is Nerea Marti, while Irina Sidorkova has been sidelined until further notice. Noda missed the first selection test at Inde Motorsports Ranch in Arizona, but was later added to the line up of the invited drivers at Barcelona. One of the most anticipated drivers in European single seater racing, Juju is the daughter of former F1 and Indycar racer Hideki Noda and made global headlines since starting testing in F4 machinery in Japan before she was even 10. Her international racing debut was an outstanding win in her first race in Danish Formula 4, and she has since claimed several other podiums in the Danish-based series over the course of 2020 and 2021. At 16 years of age, Juju Noda will be the youngest ever W Series driver.
"I'm still young, but I've already been racing for a long time and I'm ready to take the next step in my career with W Series" – said Noda. "I've watched lots of W Series races in the past and the standard is very high, so this is a great opportunity and I really like what W Series is trying to do for females in motorsport."
"Everything is new to me with these cars so I wasn't sure what to expect, but the pre-season testing helped me get up to speed and I've been training hard physically and mentally to prepare myself."
Noda has also attended last week's Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine collective test as she continues to collect mileage in F3 Regional machinery.
"I don't feel pressure, I just want to do well, and I appreciate all the support that people give me. I can't wait to start the season in Miami, and I'm obviously looking forward to racing in front of my home crowd at the Japanese Grand Prix in October."
For the first time in the history of the series, in fact, W Series will expand its operations to Asia and will support the Japanese F1 GP at Suzuka.
"I've never raced at Suzuka before, so that will be a very special weekend and I'll be giving it everything."
Bianca Bustamante, 17 from the Philippines, will be making her formula car debut in W Series, having just graduated from karting. She is a three time Philippines Karting Driver of the Year, a two-time Asian Junior Karting Open champion and a three-time Macau International Kart GP winner. Having started competing at 5, she quickly moved up the ranks of the Asian karting scene, before venturing in Europe last year.
Bustamante was in fact selected for the second edition of the FIA Women In Motorsport's supported Girls on Track - Rising Stars programme and attended the assessment tests at Paul Ricard as one of the most promising female karting talents in the world.
Her achievements gained her the invitation at the W Series test in Arizona and later progressed to the collective tests in Barcelona. Most recently, she attended the USF Juniors test at Barber Motorsport Park.
"I'm thrilled to be part of the W Series Academy this season" – said Bustamante. "It's a dream come true and I'm still pinching myself. All my life, I've had my sights set on Formula 1, and now my racing career has taken a big step in the right direction thanks to W Series." "There's still a lot of work to do, and every day I'm learning because everything is still new to me. I've enjoyed every moment so far learning what it takes to become a professional driver, and I'm going to give it my all both on and off the track. The two drivers will have a dedicated group of engineers throughout the season and will receive coaching in the areas of race craft, fitness, nutrition and media. They are also expected to represent W Series at official media and promotional events. "I never knew what training meant until I spent the last few weeks with W Series' professional trainers, but I'm making big gains in both my physical strength and mental focus" – Bianca added. "I'm also super excited to be team-mates with Juju this year, and my hope is that, together, we can demonstrate to the world what the next generation of racing drivers from Asia can do." Juju Noda and Bianca Bustamante are the second and third W Series drivers from Asia, after Japan's Miki Koyama returned to home soil to race in Formula Regional Japan with support from the Toyota GR young driver programme. The 2022 W Series season gets underway in May at the brand-new Miami Grand Prix. The 18th driver and the reserve driver roster will be announced in due course.