Richard Mille Racing Team closes operations
Richard Mille Racing Team has terminated its operations following the final round of the 2022 WEC season. Over three years, the team challenged biases and broke down barriers with its LMP2 all-female crew at the top of endurance racing.
Launched in 2019 with the aim of breaking down gender barriers in endurance racing, pioneering squad Richard Mille Racing Team announced its adventure in sportscar racing concluded in Bahrain, at the final race of the 2022 WEC championship.
"Our initial aim in creating the Richard Mille Racing Team was to make a strong impact and highlight the lack of opportunities for female drivers" - said Amanda Mille, head of the Richard Mille Racing Team project. "With an all-female line-up, the target was to take them to the highest level of motor racing."
In its first on-track-season in 2020, Richard Mille Racing Team entered a LMP2 Oreca07 in European Le Mans Series, bringing the first all-female crew in a prototype class in the championship. Some of the most talented female drivers were contracted: Sophia Floersch, Tatiana Calderon and Katherine Legge - who was then replaced by Beitske Visser after the British racer was injured in a testing accident.
Both Floersch and Calderon made their endurance racing debuts, as the team provided them a competitive platform to learn LMP2 machinery. The high-downforce car, closely resembling their previous experiences in F3 machines, soon proved to be a great fit for both drivers, who quickly established themselves in the world of sports car racing.
While experienced racer Legge was out for the whole season due to a leg fracture, 2019 W Series runner up Beitske Visser adapted quickly to the car and blended well within the team.
The trio went on to finish their first 24 Hours of Le Mans in the class top ten, at their first ever participation.
In 2021, the team's line up was confirmed but made the step up to the FIA World Endurance Championship, the world's top endurance series.
The team had a very strong season, finishing all races in the top-10 except for the 24H of Le Mans, as an unfortunate accident in the early hours took Floersch out of contention.
Operated by French squad Signatech, Richard Mille Racing Team changed dramatically in 2022, as the all-female line up was abandoned. French young talent Lilou Wadoux was promoted to a LMP2 seat after scoring multiple podiums and a race win in the Alpine Europa Cup - and having impressed in the 2021 WEC Rookie Test in Bahrain.
Wadoux would team up with Charles Milesi and rally legend Sébastien Ogier - with Paul-Loup Chatin joining the team after Le Mans.
"Our approach and performance, in no way inferior to that of our male counterparts, challenged biases", continued Amanda Mille. "Gradually, we developed the project by listening to our drivers. They all told us they would have succeeded in advancing in this world the day men asked to team up with them."
"We succeeded this year with excellent and enthusiastic drivers around our project: Lilou Wadoux, joined by Charles Milesi, Sébastien Ogier and Paul-Loup Chatin later on."
"We have reached a new level each year", continued Amanda Mille, also daughter of watchmaker and FIA Endurance Commission President Richard Mille. "Our performances allowed us to prove many things. We've been lucky to have the support of like-minded people who see the potential of female drivers, and we've had more and more requests to join us."
In 2022, the team continued to progress at the top of endurance racing, finishing for the second year in a row in ninth place in the LMP2 standings.
Wadoux, Milesi and Ogier scored the team's best result at Le Mans - a really impressive sixth place - and were close to their first top-five in Monza.
"We owe this success to Signatech and all the drivers, engineers, technicians and mechanics", Amanda Mille said. "These three wonderful years would never have been possible without Signatech; under the leadership of Philippe Sinault and Giuseppe Bizzoca. They were the only ones who believed in our project and made it move forward by giving it all the means to exist and shine with the best female drivers within an ever more competitive FIA World Endurance Championship. We thank them all for demonstrating that motor racing is a team sport while normalising the presence of women at this level."
"Women’s place in our sport is no longer in question" - echoed Philippe Sinault, Signatech Director and Richard Mille Racing Team Manager. "As our Deputy CEO Giuseppe Bizzoca likes to remind me, some drivers refused to replace Katherine Legge after her injury in 2020. Today, some of them are calling us to join the programme. It shows that women are finally being recognised as full-fledged racers, as they should have always been."
Among the project's top achievements, Sophia Floersch has continued to prove her talent in endurance racing, claiming two overall historic podiums in ELMS; in only one year in prototypes, Lilou Wadoux impressed ACO and was selected to be the first ever woman to drive a Hypercar: the French lady in fact stepped in the championship-winning Toyota GR010 Hybrid at the end of the season WEC Rookie Test in Bahrain.
"It is a strong message and bolsters the fact we have provided them with a top environment thanks to the bravery and determination of Richard Mille and his teams" - Sinault continued.
With the project termination, Wadoux's plans for 2023 have not been announced yet.