2021 is going to be the year of the woman racer.
Despite the fact that girls make damn good racing drivers, seeing them nab a seat in a top-level form of motorsport can be rare—there are still a lot of stereotypes about what women can and can’t do, and plenty of folks haven’t joined us here in the 21st century. But that’s not stopping women from absolutely killing it in the racing world this year. 2021 is going to be a great year for women in motorsport.
In the past few days, tons of women have been announced to be competing professionally in some of the most prestigious forms of racing. We’ll run you through who to watch and why this is so important.
Excited to join Paretta Autosport for the #Indy500. A dream come true to be able to come back to the speedway in this constellation with the association of @Team_Penske @IndyCar 🏁😃.
Thanks to Porsche for the support & letting me compete in this race @PorscheRaces. pic.twitter.com/MxuVCbjIgd
— Simona De Silvestro (@simdesilvestro) January 19, 2021
Beth Paretta’s Indy 500 Entry for Simona de Silvestro
Simona de Silvestro wasn’t nicknamed the Iron Maiden for nothing. This 32-year-old Swiss driver has kicked ass in countless forms of racing, from open-wheel IndyCar, electric Formula E, and touring car Australian Supercars. On May 19, 2011, Simona crashed during a practice session for the Indy 500, receiving second-degree burns on one hand and superficial burns on another. Five days later, she was behind the wheel again, where she qualified for the biggest race in the world.
Now, Simona is once again making an Indy 500 attempt. That race is the crown jewel of American open-wheel racing that traditionally takes place on the Sunday before Memorial Day in May. 33 competitors battle for 500 miles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, hoping to cross the line first to join a century-long legacy of speed.
And even better, this year Simona is competing in a team run by Beth Paretta, who has previously worked as a competition director at FCA. The team will talent spot some of the most skilled women around the world to take on roles as mechanics, engineers, communication personnel, and more. As an added bonus, Paretta’s team will join in a technical partnership with Team Penske, arguably the most dominant team in the IndyCar series.
If Simona is to win the race in May, she’d be the first woman—and the first driver in a woman-led team—to win the Indy 500 in its 105-year history.
Katherine Legge and Christina Nielsen Team Up for the Rolex 24
Katherine Legge and Christina Nielsen are two of the most exciting endurance racers ever to get behind the wheel of a sports car. They’ve teamed up in the past to tackle some of the biggest events in the world, and now they’re doing it again for IMSA’s Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. And yes, the ’24’ in that name means these badass women are going to be sharing their Porsche 911 GT3 for a full day.
And while it’s still unconfirmed, there are rumors that Katherine and Christina will run the rest of the IMSA endurance season. That’s a pretty big deal. It’s easy to sign some women for a single event, but it can still be rare to see those same women actually have a shot at competing for the full championship.
Katherine has competed in tons of different championships in different kinds of cars: IndyCar, Formula E, the Jaguar i-Pace electric series, Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters touring cars, NASCAR, and more. Christina is the first woman to ever win a championship in the IMSA series when she won back-to-back class championships in 2016 and 2017.
You can follow Katherine and Christina at the Rolex 24 on January 30, 2021 on NBC.
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Super stoked to announce that I will be running part time for @VenturiniMotor this season! Splitting time between the No. 25 @Mobil1 Camry and No. 15 Toyota Camry #TeamToyota #FlyTheV @ToyotaRacing pic.twitter.com/Tz7WmMrXzB
— Gracie Trotter (@gracietrotter11) January 13, 2021
Hailie Deegan and Gracie Trotter Take On the NASCAR Feeder Series
Anyone familiar with NASCAR will know the name Hailie Deegan. She’s been one of the most exciting young drivers to appear in on the stock car racing ladder, winning ARCA Rookie of the Year in 2020 and took home third place overall in the championship. ARCA is the first rung on the ladder up to the NASCAR Cup Series, and her skill there has seen Hailie moving up one more step, to the NASCAR Truck Series, in 2021. It’s only a matter of time before we see her in the very top level of the sport.
And she’s not the only woman moving up the stock car ranks. Gracie Trotter, who became the first woman to win an ARCA West race in 2020, has accepted a part-time position with Venturini Motorsport in the ARCA East series and a few other races in the ARCA Menards Series. She’ll have 10 races in which to prove her mettle.
(It’s worth noting that there are several different divisions of ARCA racing. ARCA’s main schedule is composed of 20 races. Some of those races are included in the regional East or West championships. The regional series often involve six to eight races and have their own champion separate from the overall ARCA Menards Series. Basically, they’re three separate championships that have a similar name and occasionally share a race track.)
— W Series (@WSeriesRacing) January 19, 2021
The All-Woman W Series Will Kick Off Its Second Season
As a way to combat the very male-dominated nature of motorsport, the open-wheel W Series kicked off in 2019 as a way for women to compete on equal terms with women, and the champion of the series will take home the funds to help her progress up to the next step of the racing ladder on her way to Formula One, which is considered the pinnacle of international racing.
The series took a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but now 18 drivers have been announced to compete in this year’s eight-race championship. And, for the first time, this series will take to North America for a race, serving as a teaser ahead of the Formula One race in Austin, Texas. If you haven’t tuned into any of the races so far, this is a great time to do so.
Related: This Girl Has Drive: Inspiring Woman Aurora Straus, Teen SportsCar Racer with Harvard On Her Radar
🌟 Deliberations underway for the @fiawim Girls on Track – Rising Stars drivers after five-day training and assessment at the world-famous Ferrari Driver Academy @insideFDA 🏎 … The announcement will take place LIVE on 22 January at 16:30 CET. More 👇https://t.co/Tna1ITk3h5
— FIA (@fia) January 15, 2021
FIA Girls on Track Will Pave the Future
Michèle Mouton is the only woman who has ever won an FIA championship race by taking four victories in the World Rally Championship. The FIA is the sanctioning body that governs tons of high-level, international motorsport series like Formula One and Formula E—and Mouton heads up the FIA Women in Motorsport commission.
Her latest initiative is called Girls on Track – Rising Stars. In this series, young girls from the ages of 12-14 are challenged to a series of different races and tests of skill while also providing a comprehensive STEM education. They ultimately compete in a mini-championship where one girl will be signed on by the Ferrari Driver Academy, who will sponsor her endeavors to move through the ranks of motorsport.
🎥 How much fun does this look?
— Alistair Durden (@alidurdenBBC) January 18, 2021
And That’s Not All
There are countless other women in motorsport kicking ass and taking names this year. There’s Jamie Chadwick, 2019 W Series champion, who’s taking on the Extreme E electric racing series. That series, in and of itself, requires that each team field one man and one woman racer, which is frankly unheard of in motorsport. Laura Wontrop Klauser, who previously oversaw the Cadillac DPi prototype program in the IMSA series, has had a job position created especially for her at General Motors: Sports Car Racing Program Manager. And there are doubtless going to be countless other women doing great things in racing as 2021 carries on.
It’s going to be a great year for women.