W Series to move towards team-structure
The all-female W Series championship has moved towards the direction of a team structure rather than a centralized approach like in 2019, reflecting a demand for deeper involvement of commercial partners.
With one of its most important changes to date, W Series announced it will strategically move towards a teams structure, in order to allow a deeper involvement of its new commercial partners.
At the series inaugural season in 2019, the championship was centrally operated by British motorsport team Hitech GP, under the scrutiny of the series itself. By swapping chassis and race engineer allocated to each driver with a draw at each round, W Series had found an innovative solution to take spec-series racing to the next level, always guaranteeing a level-playing field. The format was referred to as pure-spec.
The series, created by Catherine Bond Muir, was funded by equity, with businessman Sean Wadsworth taking on chairman duty.
The series successfully completed a 6-event calendar on the DTM platform. Then came Covid.
The pandemic forced the cancellation of the W Series' sophomore season in 2020, as the challenges posed by the global health crisis meant that the championship moved to a fully-online iRacing-based eSports series. W Series announced its return to the track in 2021 with a fresh and groundbreaking partnership with F1, that included 8 races on the support bill of the biggest motor racing championship in the world.
With Hitech leaving the operation in 2020, we understand that all the cars will be operated and maintained by another British team specialized in junior categories, but the format will no longer include cars and engineers being randomly assigned to drivers, who will rather work on a more consistent level with a team of engineers. Unlike the first season, drivers will also have a consistent livery, which will allow better recognition.
In a key-development, W Series announced a move towards a team-based championship "from 2022 and beyond" and has assigned 2021 as a transition year.
"In a short period of time we have made a mark in the sector for our disruptive and innovative approach." – says W Series CEO, Catherine Bond Muir. "This new structure paves the way for significant new investment to supplement our current series sponsors, which supports our continued rapid growth and our partnership with Formula 1."
While technical equity will be guaranteed by the W Series team partner – drivers will be divided in 'teams' of 2, with each outfit being allowed to take advantage of livery and overall branding from third parties. Said teams will also score points for an unofficial team standings.
Among the entries are Esports giant and Extreme E team Veloce Racing – that also manages Jamie Chadwick's career – Puma W Series Team, as well as American entities Bunker Racing and M.Forbes.
The move is a response to "strong interest from motorsport teams, independent businesses, brands, and ultra-high net worth individuals, all keen to support the unique W Series mission and be part of the championship at an early opportunity", W Series says.
The original business model was always going to be W Series' biggest challenge to pursue in the long term. Sponsorship money required adequate exposure, and this solution opens up to a plethora of commercial opportunities. Likely, the uncertainties presented by the pandemic sped up this process, as Bond Muir had previously stated that her target was to reach the break-even point with a three-year plan.
Inevitably, though, this direction raises concerns in the long term regarding core features of the series. It is currently unclear how drivers will be selected after the transition year(s) and if each team will still have to guarantee a free-to-entry deal to the drivers, or if they will operate like any racing team in any racing championship – thus bringing technical and financial disparity into the equation.
Understandably, W Series needs to find a sustainable business model, but cannot compromise on some of its disruptive values.
2021 W Series line up
Bunker Racing: Fabienne Wohlwend (5) and Sabre Cook (37)
M. Forbes Motorsport: Beitske Visser (95) and Ayla Agren (17)
Puma W Series Team: Marta Garcia (19) and Gosia Rdest (3)
Racing X: Alice Powell (27) and Jess Hawkins (21)
Sirin Racing: Miki Koyama (54) and Vicky Piria (11)
Veloce Racing: Jamie Chadwick (55) and Bruna Tomaselli (97)
Ecurie W: Emma Kimiläinen (7) and Abbie Eaton (44)
Scuderia W: Sarah Moore (26) and Belen Garcia (22)
W Series Academy: Irina Sidorkova (51) and Nerea Martí (32)