Hot Take: All-Women Racing Series

Episode Transcript

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to another episode of if I'm honest, so sometimes I meet people who don't know anything about racing, and that's totally fine. But they'll they'll say to me, you know, this might be a silly question. But do you race against men and women or just women or just men? And I immediately tell them that it's not a silly question, because most sports are separated into men's sports and women's sports men's leagues, women's leagues. And, you know, this makes sense, there are biological differences between men and women. But racing and motorsports in general can be coed, because success and you know, winning is not based solely on brute strength, right? It's not based on running as fast as possible. It's not based on hitting a ball as hard as possible, where there will be some differences between what men can do and what women can do, generally speaking, and racing, for those who are unfamiliar is much more of an endurance sport, most professional races last at least an hour and a half. And then you have longer endurance races that are at least six hours, but can be 24 hours, NASCAR cup races are three to four hours, the XFINITY races are two to three hours. So yeah, it's not brute strength, it's much more endurance, and it gets really, really hot in the car in a NASCAR stock car, they've measured that it can get up to 150 degrees inside the cockpit in the summer. So it's this endurance event. It's all about heat management, it's about reaction times. It's about peripheral vision, it's about being able to see what's going on and get these micro clues that you can then act on, it's you know that that X factor of making a move or going for a pass or seeing a space that's available that you know, the average person might not find. So there are a lot of different things that go into being a successful racer, it's about hitting your marks perfectly. It's about consistency. And it's about maneuvering a machine and using every tool you have on your body, on your mind on your equipment to maximize that car. And so what's really cool about that is that it means that men and women can compete together at the highest levels. Now as a bit of a sidebar. So there have been discussions about you know, what are the differences between men and women? How does this affect people in the car, and there was one specific area that people are looking into with with heat management and Dr. David Ferguson, who's out of Michigan State University, he researches physiological differences in men and women in competition. And when I was speaking with him a few years ago, apparently, there was a study that looked at kind of internal core body temperatures of men and women, to see if there was a difference in how men and women you know, get hot, stay hot, whatever it might be, because the hotter you get, the more it impacts your physical and mental ability to perform at the highest level. And this study apparently looked at, you know, over looked at men and women over a 15 minute interval, and it found that women's core temperature rose more quickly than men's core temperature. However, you know, Dr. Ferguson looked into this more, you know, there's no race really no professional race, that's only 15 minutes. Additionally, Dr. Ferguson said that these drivers weren't really controlled in terms of how they were dressed, and they weren't professional racers, it was a specific event. So there were a lot of issues with using the study to claim that women were not as good as heat management as men. So Dr. Ferguson looked at data that he collected from racers over actual race distances. And if I'm understanding this correctly, he found that there was really no real difference in terms of the prolonged heat that men and women get it maybe fluctuated a little bit with a woman's menstrual period and her menstrual cycle. But overall, there were no dramatic differences, indicating that men and women can manage their heat, just as well as each other. And it's always good to see that research coming out. So all of this is to say that racing to me is super cool, because you know, it's one of the few sports that can fairly be co Ed from the grassroots level to the professional levels, and it gives women an equal chance of competing against the men. And all of this leads me into the theme of this week's Hot take episode, which is about all women racing series. I'm bringing this up now because on June 15 2023, it was announced that the most prominent all woman racing series, the W series had gone into administration, which essentially means it's no longer existing. I'll get into more of that later. But for so quick background, you know, I have only ever raised against at least a mix of men and women but mostly men. You know, for the longest time there were not enough women in any specific type of racing specialty that they could make a women's series. And in 2018, October of 2018, it was announced that the W series was coming into formation. So I have to assume the W and W series stands for women but I don't know that for a fact. But the W series was an all women, you know, 20 racer, free to enter which that is key series that they had two 30 minute practice sessions, a 30 minute qualifying session, a 30 minute sprint race. They had $1.5 million allocated for prize money every year to be distributed among the racers, each race are making at least $7,500 which I learned, you know, they were the support races for Formula One for a handful of races. They were you know, on track before them, they were able to get that exposure. They raced in 2019 2021 they skipped the pandemic year and then in 2022. The series was very publicly backed and supported by David Coulthard, who was a winning f1 driver. And the famous engineer Adrian Newey and the CEO is Catherine Catherine Bond Muir, who she did not have a racing background, but she, you know, took the helm and led the series and brought in a bunch of funding and you know, people like Caitlyn Jenner became team owners. So there was a lot of notoriety around this series. And if I'm honest, I felt a very certain type of way about it. And so did a lot of people. You know, the the announcement of the W series had very mixed reactions. You know, there were supporters like Jamie Chadwick, who ended up winning the championship for them every three for three seasons. She was in favor of it. Tatiana Calderon, who's run a handful of IndyCar races was supportive of it. And there were people who were quite against it, Pippa Mann came out and was really unhappy and considered a step backwards. Sofia Florsch, who races in European sports cars was adamantly against it. And if I'm honest, I didn't think it was a good idea initially, and I didn't support it, you know, I've always I've always loved the racing is coed. And if we can all race together, I think we should always together. And you know, on an emotional level, I love the fact that when I win a race, I am the best racecar driver on that day, right? I'm not the best female, I'm not the best of the rest, right? Just against the very best in any given series, if you win, you're just the best racer. And there are so few areas in competitive sports, where women and men can be measured equally like that. So on an emotional ego level, I find that super, super cool. And so I've always, I've always wanted to be able to race against the guys, I also really believe you know, and historically, we have proven this in any number of ways. But separate is never equal. And when I was reading about some of the articles that were coming out about the W series back in 2018, you know, there was a lot of discussion about segregation. And that was a word that was used in a lot of write ups, that you know, you can't have separate but equal, so there's that part of it as well. The other thing that that made me kind of against it was that, you know, the established racing series, the established disciplines of motorsports will likely always be the most prestigious. And so if we're going to be the best racers, and if we're going to be able to be in those competitive, you know, established racing series, we need to be able to compete against those racers. So those are some of the big the big things that my gut reaction was against the W series when it first came out. And while I still hold on to some of those sentiments, over time, and after talking with people and reading more, I have had a change of heart about some of the aspects. And I do realize that there are some benefits, like for example, the fact that it was a free full season ride in a series that supported Formula One is incredible. That's that's almost unheard of in racing. And the fact that all of these drivers actively got paid, I think the prize money for the winner of the championship was $500,000 P2 got $250,000. And it trickled down to I believe p 17. Through p 20. Got 7500. So, drivers were making money and again, racing is really pay to play. So the fact that women were getting paid to race was huge. You know, it was great exposure for drivers. You know, Jamie Chadwick is now racing in Indy NXT, which is the IndyCar feeder series. And there are others who are doing sports cars, others who have signed on to Formula One development teams, or academies, so they definitely got exposure. And I cannot take credit for this thought someone else pointed out to me, but it really did something major for optics. And what what this person meant by that was that by having an all women racing series, we're showing that a large number of women are all competing, which essentially normalizes seeing women in racing, and it will make more girls more likely to at least want to explore what racing could be to tune in to watch, right? If she can see it, she can be it. And the fact that it normalizes this huge number of women racing is probably a pretty positive and powerful thing. And I will be honest, I did not think about it in that capacity. And so my hot take in general is that I'd rather have racing remain co ed, and I'd rather support women to be in these established series with the men who are racing in it. But there definitely were some benefits to having this all women's series. Now with the benefits, you know, it also, I think, put a lot of pressure on the series. And there were other people who were involved and other, you know, prominent motorsports commentators, who said that the W series has to work out, there was a lot of money getting thrown into it, there was a lot of public support from industry officials. And, you know, it would be a really bad look, if it wasn't able to succeed if people couldn't make the economics work out. And unfortunately, that's exactly what happened on June 15, it was announced that it was in administration. Now, I had to look up what quote unquote, in administration means, because that is not a term that I had heard. And it is a UK based series. So maybe that's part of it. But basically, in in administration means that the company or organization is being taken over to sort out, you know, what's next, when it's not working, it can't operate its normal day to day under the same leadership. And so the administrator or someone appointed by the courts, tries to either salvage the company or shield it from creditors as it figures out how to best pay back whatever is due, or they liquidate assets, or whatever it is, but essentially, the organization will cease to exist as it previously had. And so the day to day operations have to change a little bit, they can still operate. But you know, they are not racing in 2023. And I would have to assume that they're not going to race again, which again, I think is a big disappointment because it, it shows that even though there's so much talent in the women racers, and even though there was a huge uptick in who was watching and the excitement for more diverse audiences, it just wasn't sustainable. And as for why it went into administration, and why the 2022 season was cut short by three races, you know, like so many times in racing money ran out. And I'll be honest, if I'm honest, as it were, I'm not sure why there wasn't more economic support, it was a huge opportunity, there was a huge opportunity for sponsorship. You know, I'm always baffled by why there's not more business incentive to help women in racing because it opens up a whole new demographic for which you can market to and opens it up to so much different type of marketing and sponsorship activation and all this stuff that would tap into the large consumer market that is women. You know, the content generation would be great and diversified. And I just I don't quite know, it's disappointing. For lack of a better word, carrying on our last episode topic of disappointment, it is disappointment. And as it was made public that the W series is going into administration, there were also reports that Lewis Hamilton was the only active Formula One driver to visit the W series paddock when it was, you know, at the same track on the same weekend, you know, just a few 100 yards over or however far over. But he was one of the only ones who vocalized support. So I can't help but just feel like not enough people care about getting more diversity into racing helping women get into racing, which again, is mind boggling, but I just don't feel like enough people care. And my hot take on all women racing series is that there probably are a lot more benefits and I originally gave him credit for but until we see a more active systemic push to help and to make sure that the funding stays there. It's gonna be a little tough. And I would be remiss if I didn't shout out the the people who are already really active supporters and really pushing for women in racing specifically, you know, I I've been racing cars since I was 13. And so that was the early 2000s. And I you know, I met Lyn St. James when I was at age and she has been pushing tirelessly to help provide opportunities and find opportunities and coach and mentor young girls and women to becoming racers. You know, one of her partners at the women in motorsports North America, Cindy Sisson is doing a ton to help promote women and show up share the history of women in motorsports. You know, Beth Peretta, who owns an IndyCar team and she has a lot of women employees on the Engineering and Mechanics side, shift up now which is an organization that grants funds and sponsorship to women racers so that they can keep doing what they love to do. You know, these people and more are doing such incredible work. And it's all in the name of helping more women, you know, get to go racing and to show that we can do it too. So now that we're on a more optimistic track, another positive that I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes at the end of 2022, it was announced that Formula One was creating its own all women's series called F1 Academy. So maybe part of the reason that the W series did not, you know, survive was partially because there was another, you know, industry sanctioned series that was being developed. You know, I don't know how it's gonna work out, I think it's a little too early to tell they have had some races, but f1 Academy, again, it's, it's sanctioned by Formula One. But one major difference from the W series is that this is not free to enter. f1 is subsidizing $165,000 ish per car, and then the driver is responsible for bringing the other $165,000. And if the team requires more of a budget to operate, then they have to supplement the last bit. So it is a little different, it is pay to play and not just a free ride. And it's basically at the F4 level. So it's a little bit below the W series in terms of the Formula One ladder system. And the teams are five teams with experience in F2 and F3, I think each team has two to three drivers. So you have a 15 Racer series that sanctioned by Formula One, so maybe there will be enough heft behind it, that it can continue going and it can be created into being a valid stepping stone. I'm not necessarily holding my breath for it. But I do hope that I'm wrong, I hope that it becomes super legitimate and respected as a series and can help more women get into, you know, the F3 F2 and maybe potentially f1. So I will stay optimistic. And I hope that they prove me wrong in being a little concerned about it. But we'll see. And at the end of the day, it is one series that is focused on one type of racing and Formula cars, I think it'll be interesting to see if it is successful. And if it can be replicated and used in other series as well like stock cars like sports cars, like us Formula cars, anything like that. And before we wrap up, I do want to acknowledge that the lacking support for women athletes is not exclusive to racing. Obviously, you know, women's sports in general and sponsorship dollars and media given to women's sports is lacking. As of 2021, women's sports received five to 7% of sports media coverage, it varied on which medium it was on TV had a little bit more, but online streaming had a lot less than men's, you know, women's sports have received roughly only 1% of sports sponsorship dollars. Now, I do think that we are seeing a bit of a systemic shift here, you know, you are seeing more big funded corporations who are coming out and pledging dollar amounts to women's sports coverage and to sponsorship Ally Financial is a big one that came out and they're trying to get to a 50/50 equal spend between men's sports and women's sports. And they're working with ESPN to show more women's sports in prime streaming coverage. You know, I think Google is also doing something with that. And so working with the you know, media distributors and the series and the sponsors to get more women's sports into channel where people can actually watch it because I believe 84% of fans polled for certain study wanted to see more women's sports, right? If she can see it, she can be and women are super competitive. And it's super fun to watch the sports. So anyway, I do think we are seeing a change. I do hope and stay optimistic that we will continue to see this shift over the coming years. So to wrap up with my overall hot take on all women racing series. Overall, I'm still not a big fan, I would much rather see these financial resources and you know, hands on racing support given to women who have proven themselves in the lower levels of whether it's stock cars, sports cars, Formula cars, whatever, I would rather support the women in the established series and not try to recreate the wheel. A lot of people try to recreate the wheel and it hasn't worked so far. So yeah, I would rather rather focus on supporting the talent that we have and helping to normalize having more women in these established racing series that have historically been dominated by men. But if an all women series can be a ladder system and be a respected step within trying to get to the highest levels of motorsports, then I'm all in if they can do it properly, and if they can, you know, help facilitate more women getting to the higher ranks. Let's go for it. So that is our show. Thank you for letting me be honest with you. About a very personal and emotional and touchy and frustrating subject. If you liked this episode, please share it with someone who might enjoy it. Please leave a review on wherever you listen to your podcast or, you know, leave a rating and I look forward to seeing you next week.