Richard Mille Racing & Iron Dames to step up to WEC
Richard Mille Racing and the Iron Dames will both move up to the World Endurance Championship in 2021, as both the all-female crews that entered ELMS in 2020 confirm their driver line-ups.
They climbed the ladder of endurance sports car racing in 2020 and they are now ready to make more history in 2021: both the all-female crews that entered the European Le Mans Series last year will step up to the World Endurance Championship in 2021 and will keep battling at the top of their LMP2 and GTE categories.
FIA Women in Motorsport's supported programs Richard Mille Racing and Iron Dames have in fact announced the switch to WEC after their strong performances in 2020, including a double top-10 at the legendary Le Mans 24 Hour race - which saw for the first time a fully-female lineup in a prototype class.
The Swiss outfit Richard Mille Racing - led by luxury watchmaker and FIA Endurance Commission President Richard Mille and created in 2020 with the clear aim of promoting female participation in motor racing - will return to the racetrack with its Oreca 07 LMP2 car, again with technical support from French endurance powerhouse Signatech.
The drivers line-up has been also confirmed: Beitske Visser, Sophia Floersch and Tatiana Calderon will drive the #1 prototype after making their sportscar debut during the 2020 ELMS campaign.
The drivers - some of the brightest female talents in international motorsport - all come from a formula racing backgroung: 20-year old Sophia Floersch from Munich, Germany, managed to combine a double program in ELMS and in the uber-competitive FIA Formula 3 last year, as she hopes to double-up again in 2021.
25-year old Dutchwoman Beitske Visser, after competing in the GP3 Series and Formula Renault 3.5, was runner up in 2019 in the women-only championship W Series, while also completing testing duties for BMW as she holds the position of factory driver for the German manufacturer.
Colombian racing star Tatiana Calderon, 27 years old from Bogota, is also an accomplished driver with experience of the fastest single-seaters in the world: having scored points in the GP3 Series (now rebranded FIA Formula 3) and after a season in F1-closest feeder series FIA Formula 2, Calderon made her debut in Japan's premier championship SuperFormula while retaining her role as Development Driver of Alfa Romeo Formula 1 Team.
"I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to continue with the Richard Mille Racing Team." - said Tatiana. "To race in the FIA World Endurance Championship against the best drivers in the world will definitely be another milestone in our careers. This year will bring new challenges. The car will have a bit less power and will run on Goodyear tyres. We will have to explore the car in testing as soon as possible, but the experience we gained last year will benefit us no matter what."
The three ladies shared the Oreca LMP2 at Le Mans, Monza and Portimao, impressing for both their constant progress and sheer performance - which ultimately resulted in their promotion.
‘We are really pleased to continue the Richard Mille Racing Team adventure!" - commented Philippe Sinault, director of Richard Mille Racing's technical partner Signatech.
"It’s an extremely motivating project as it transcends the sporting dimension by generating a lot of emotion and enthusiasm. We are taking a step forward in joining the FIA World Endurance Championship, but we are confident, given the skills and the learning curve of our three drivers."
"There will be some new things to figure out, notably with a new package and an operating balance different from last year’s, given the rule changes in LMP2, but we have great ambitions. We’ve all seen that a great dynamic is developing within the team and that motivates us all the more to go for the best possible results."
Shortley before the Richard Mille Racing announcement, Ferrari had revealed its customer teams for the 2021 WEC championship - including Italian Michelin Le Mans Cup title-winning Iron Lynx. The team led by Andrea Piccini has also been running the Iron Dames project in the 2020 European Le Mans Series, bringing the other all-female crew to fourth in the GTE standings with three podium finishes.
Manuela Gostner, Michelle Gatting and Rahel Frey - who are also protagonists of a web series released on Youtube - were also confirmed as the Iron Dames line-up for 2021 and will share the #85 Ferrari 488 GTE for their third season together.
"I am super excited to announce that I'll be entering the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2021 together with the Iron Dames, Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting and the Iron Lynx Motorsport lab team", said Manuela Gostner.
"If I think about when I started and where I am now, in such a short time, I can only thank all the people who helped and supported me from the bottom of my heart", she added, thanking her driving coach Giorgio Sernagiotto, as well as Iron Dames' project masterminds Deborah Mayer and Claudio Schiavoni.
"Finally I can unveil what will probably be the highlight of my 2021 season and probably also in my career so far." - said 25-year old Danish driver Michelle Gatting.
"We're going to run the FIA WEC, also known as the FIA World Endurance Championship - that is, the world championship for GT cars. It doesn't get much bigger than that and it's something I'm extremely proud to say I've reached."
"It's going to be the way you know it under the Iron Lynx team, with my two fellow drivers Rahel Frey and Manuela Gostner. This is our third season together and I'm incredibly happy to enter the WEC with two fellow drivers I know so well."
"One thing I'm even more proud of is that Le Mans is obviously a branch of the championship, so we're written for that race ourselves, but think about it: this will be my third Le Mans in the last 3 years. Who would have thought it 3 years ago, not even myself I think".
The 2021 WEC calendar is scheduled to start on 13-14th March at the US venue of Sebring, with the pre-season collective testing preceding the 1000 Miles race at the Florida racetrack.
The series will then move to Europe, with the 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps before the most anticipated round of the season at Circuit de La Sarthe, as it hosts the biggest endurance race of the planet.
Monza will be the stage of the final European round in July and will precede the final two Asian races, respectively at Fuji Speedway (Japan) and Sakhir (Bahrain).
2021 WEC Calendar - Provisional
Test Sebring (USA), 13-14 March 1000 Miles Sebring (USA), 19-21 March 8 Hours of Spa (Belgium), 1-2 May 24H of Le Mans (France), 12-13 June 6 Hours of Monza (Italy), 17-18 July 6 Hours of Fuji (Japan), 24-26 September 8 Hours of Bahrain, November 19-20