By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will have five drivers, more than any other nation, competing in an 18-woman field named on Thursday for the first edition of the all-female W Series.
Jamie Chadwick, Esmee Hawkey, Jessica Hawkins, Sarah Moore and Alice Powell all secured seats for the six-round championship that is due to start at Germany’s Hockenheim circuit on May 3.
The overall winner will collect $500,000, with prize money down to 18th place. The final race will be at Britain’s Brands Hatch in August.
The 18 women, plus four reserves, were selected from a shortlist of 28 who were put through their paces in qualifiers at the Circuito de Almeria in southern Spain after earlier trials in Austria.
Thirteen nationalities will be represented in total, driving Tatuus F-318 Formula Three cars in the first all-female single-seater motorsport series.
“This has been a more difficult selection process than we ever could have dreamt of in terms of how close it has been across the field,” commented W Series advisory board chairman and former F1 racer David Coulthard.
“The rate of learning has been really impressive to see, and that’s absolutely what we need to see in those who have relatively little experience in single-seaters, but have got natural speed.”
More than 100 applicants from around the world had sought to join the new series whose ultimate aim is to help women develop the skills to move up the motorsport ladder and compete in Formula One for the first time since 1976.
Chadwick, 20, in 2015 became the first female driver to win a British GT championship and last year became the first woman to win a round of the British Formula Three series.
Powell, 26, is the first woman to have won a Formula Renault championship and also scored points in GP3, now renamed as Formula Three.
Of the others, Italian Vicky Piria, 25, has also raced in GP3 as has Dutch driver Beitske Visser, 24, who was a member of the Red Bull Junior Team in 2013.
Pre-season testing takes place at Germany’s Lausitzring from April 14-16.
Finalists: Jamie Chadwick (Britain), Sabre Cook (U.S.), Marta Garcia (Spain), Megan Gilkes (Canada), Esmee Hawkey (Britain), Jessica Hawkins (Britain), Shea Holbrook (U.S.),Emma Kimilainen (Finland), Miki Koyama (Japan), Sarah Moore (Britain), Tasmin Pepper (South Africa), Vicky Piria (Italy), Alice Powell (Britain), Gosia Rdest (Poland), Naomi Schiff, (Belgium), Beitske Visser (Netherlands), Fabienne Wohlwend (Liechtenstein), Caitlin Wood (Australia)
Reserves: Sarah Bovy (Belgium), Vivien Keszthelyi (Hungary), Stephane Kox (Netherlands), Francesca Linossi (Italy)
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Sudipto Ganguly)