All-female Le Mans 24 hours team paving the way for women across motorsport | Motor Sport News
Michelle Gatting of the Iron Dames team became the first female in history to win the Ferrari Challenge championship last year. She is now preparing to compete in June’s 2022 Le Mans 24 Hours event.
Last Updated: 10/05/22 4:32pm
Michelle Gatting is eager to increase female involvement across all levels of motorsport as she gears up to compete with an all-women crew in next month’s 2022 Le Mans 24 Hours race.
Gatting will be accompanied by Rahel Frey and Sarah Bovy in representing the Iron Dames in what will mark the team’s fourth straight appearance at the event.
The Iron Dames were founded by now-FIA Women In Motorsport Commission president Deborah Mayer, who Gatting has paid tribute to for her commitment to enhancing inclusivity across a male-dominated sport.
“The project is kind of a unique project, I’m very honoured to be a part of this,” Gatting told Sky Sports.
“Deborah is an amazing person, she has a huge passion for racing, for cars, she is willing to help us young women and girls out there and she has given us opportunities that are absolutely incredible and what she’s doing is just amazing.
“She has such a passion, so many amazing goals she wants to achieve with this project, with girls and females in general.
“This project has been going on for four years now and knowing Deborah it will continue for a while. Hopefully one day Deborah will be able to say she was the reason that there will be a female in Formula 1.”
The team’s black and pink Ferrari has registered top-10 finishes in its class over each of the last three years.
Gatting, the first woman in history to win the Ferrari Challenge championship, “fell in love” with motor racing at the age of seven when she tried go-karting on the small track beside her hotel on a family visit to the south of France.
She now hopes to encourage other young girls to follow suit in view of not only furthering the pursuit of a first female F1 driver but also increasing diversity across the multiple platforms racing has to offer.
“We want to achieve a lot of things but for sure [a first female F1 driver is the pinnacle],” she said. “With this project, we would like to get more females into the sport first of all and that starts in a go-kart basically.
“Then from a go-kart, we go either into Formula cars or GT cars and we want women and young girls to be a part of all the categories.
“It comes from go-kart to motorcycles to rallying to endurance racing and formula cars. We want females to be part of all the categories that are in motor-racing.”
The W Series, an all-woman single-seater racing championship, has emerged as another welcome opportunity for women in motorsport since its inaugural season in 2019.
Britain’s Jamie Chadwick has claimed the championship on two occasions in 2019 and 2021 either side of the 2020 season’s cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I fully support the W Series, I was almost even getting into it myself,” said Gatting. “It’s a huge opportunity for female drivers.
“This is exactly a good way to promote women. At the end of the day, I think we should be competing on the same level as men and this is why we chose the Championship we’ve chosen because we are not that many females and right now the best drivers out there are the men we have to try and beat.
“I really support the W Series and think it’s going in a direction where we will get a female Formula 1 driver.
“The W Series can be a reason for that but hopefully also the projects we’re having here can be a reason for that.”
A look back at the most dramatic moments from the opening two races of the 2022 W Series in Miami.
Gatting has called on fresh attitudes when it comes to female racers in motorsport, offering reassurance over improved safety measures that she believes have relaxed the perceived element of risk.
“It’s a very male-dominated sport, there’s no doubt about that,” Gatting continued. “For sure you need to have the courage because there is a risk doing a sport like this.
“We’re racing at very very high speeds, but honestly speaking there is a risk with doing everything in my opinion.
“We are really trying to encourage more girls to take the step into just trying a go-kart. At the end of the day most of the people that get into the go-kart really love the feeling and sensation and speed.
“I think it’s a bit scary when you think about the speed because when you think about speed you think about risk, but we just need to change that mindset a bit. The cars and everything today is very safe. There is a risk with doing anything.”