Meet the first ever all-female team at the FIA Motorsport Games
Updated: Nov 3
Sofia Correia, Mariana Machado, Rita Teixeira and Anastácia Khomyn: meet the first ever all-female team in the history of the FIA Motorsport Games, who took on the Karting Endurance competition representing Portugal.
Amidst the many new features of the second ever edition of the FIA Motorsport Games – held last weekend at Marseille/Le Castellet – arguably one of the most interesting was the expansion of the karting disciplines, with 168 drivers across Karting Sprint Jr, Karting Sprint Sr, Karting Slalom and Karting Endurance. One of the most accessible forms of circuit racing, the Karting Endurance saw 16 nations lining up four drivers each, battling in a four hour race for medals on the very technical Paul Ricard karting track, part of the complex hosting the F1 French GP until 2022. The entry list included very interesting drivers with international karting resumés, as well as a few racing drivers with car racing backgrounds and drivers at their first experience in such events. Despite the diversified field, the four-hour final provided plenty of close action and an exciting battle for the victory until the final hour. Each team had to line up at least one female driver – and a few countries, like Georgia and Bahamas, opted for a 50% male-female crew. But one national federation went even further and wrote a piece of Motorsport Games' history by becoming the first ever all-female team. With Sofia Correia, Mariana Machado, Rita Teixeira and Anastácia Khomyn, Team Portugal pioneered the first female team in all mixed-gender categories – but the four young women were certainly not just after a few headlines: the target was clearly a top ten. "Our ASN - FPAK, chose to promote our participation in this year's FIA Motorsport Games", Sofia Correia told us. "For all of us it was such an honor but also a challenge", she explained. "We had never competed together in Endurance. So everything was a novelty. Nevertheless, we committed to do our best and make our country proud."
In two of the four free practice sessions – one for each driver – Portugal set the sixth fastest time overall, and in the remaining sessions they kept running within the top-10.
"I think we did great in free practice, ending up in P6" – summed up Khomyn.
Mariana Machado was behind the wheel of the #5 Tillotson T4 kart for qualifying – which put team Portugal in eighth place on the starting grid for Saturday's race. Machado, 18, rose to international attention in 2020, when she was selected by the FIA Women In Motorsport for the first ever edition of the Girls On Track - Rising Stars program. Mariana had previously made history on home soil by becoming the first female winner of the Portuguese karting championship – and has since then continued racing in high level karting, as well as made her debut in rally cars. Machado also started the race and completed the first stint, before handing over to Rita Teixeira after having been as high as fifth during the pit stop sequence. Teixeira also has experience of karting sprint senior competitions in the Portuguese Championship, but had never raced in endurance before. "It was just a totally new experience for all of us" – Rita Teixeira described. "We were discovering but of course with our well-defined objective - the victory." After a clean run, it was then the turn of Anastácia Khomyn, another young Portuguese talent that is climbing the ranks of the Rotax national competitions.
Mariana Machado would return behind the wheel for another stint, as the Portuguese team stuck to the strategy, in an extremely clean race that almost had no yellow flags. The all-female team battled between ninth and eighth place at the midpoint of the race, before finally settling in eighth, on steady pace, for the last two stints. Sofia Correia got behind the wheel in the fifth stint – in another flawless and penalty-free run. "We enjoyed the track and the whole event around it" – Correia continued. "We had good pace from the beginning of the race and kept our position until the end." "We managed to stick to the initial strategy, and everything went smoothly", she explained. "No mistakes or penalties. We missed a bit of pace to move forward, but we felt we did our best." At the final pit stop, team Portugal had cemented eighth place and Mariana Machado brought the #5 kart across the finish line to complete their first ever endurance race together well within the top-10. "What an adventure!" – Machado commented. "A completely new and different experience considering that none of us had done endurance races before." "[In] the 4-hour race we finished P8 which left us desiring for more!" – Anastácia Khomyn added. "But we learned a lot about the track and will definitely do better next time".
"We are proud to be the first all-female endurance team" – echoed Rita Teixeira: "I think we achieved our goal to be a competitive team, but above all, with values inside and outside the track. It was with great pride that I was part of this team."
As Khomyn highlighted, the mission of the four young Portuguese women felt even bigger – and one that these projects can help achieve.
"As the first ever all-female team we felt great responsibility on our shoulders to give our best and we hope to be the inspiration to other females to join the sport".