Maria Germano Neto wins Girls On Track Junior selections
11-year-old Portuguese karting racer Maria Germano Neto is the first winner of the FIA Girls on Track Junior program, and will receive backing for an international karting championship with Tony Kart
Maria Germano Neto, 11, was announced as the first winner of the FIA Women In Motorsport-support "Girls On Track - Rising Stars" Junior category program and will thus be awarded with a funded season in international karting in 2022.
The project is a further step forward in the direction of expanding the base of the pyramid in female participation at grassroots levels, aimed at potentially finding the next female F1 driver. Karting plays a crucial role in the development of young drivers and an increased number of female entries will result in bigger chances of formula racing success.
Girls On Track - Rising Stars was launched in 2020 and saw Dutch/Belgian driver Maya Weug emerging as the winner. The 16-year-old karting star became the first ever female driver in the history of Ferrari. With support from FDA, Weug made the switch to race cars and competed in Italian F4 under the banner of Iron Dames/Iron Lynx.
In 2021, the program was expanded to 2 classes: Juniors (11 to 14) and Seniors (14 to 16). From a pool of 72 drivers across the categories, 4 Junior and 4 Seniors were selected for the final stages. Both the Junior and Senior class participated in a training camp focused on driving technique, physical training and communication skills; the Junior entries also hit the track at Paul Ricard at the wheel of Praga karts for the first on-track assessment, while the Seniors had to wait a few days more for the final shoot-out, stepping in the Formula 4 cars.
The four selected drivers in the Junior Class were Mexican 13 year old Ivanna Richards, Sweden's Milla Sjöstrand, Swiss racer Chiara Bättig and Maria Germano Neto from Portugal.
The Junior finalists completed intense days of on-track testing at Franciacorta, Italy, from 25th to 30th November - where they gave their all on Tony Kart machinery.
After deliberations, Portuguese Maria Germano Neto emerged as the winner and was announced via an online conference by the FIA. She will also have the opportunity to join the Senior category next year, competing for the highly coveted FDA contract.
In 2019 and 2020, Germano Neto raced in the IAME X30 Mini classes before moving into the WSK championship - the home of elite international karting. A steady presence at the top of Italian races, the young star made it into the FIA programme with limited experience of the karts used in the Junior category. Maria has already won the overall national championship title in the Portuguese Cup, at the Portuguese Open and Bridgestone Cup, as well as stood on the top step of the podium in the Spanish and Italian championships. Despite her young age, these achievements resulted in two nominations for the "Young Hopeful" award by the Portuguese Sports Confederation.