V8 Supercars has stepped up its efforts to have a female driver competing at the top level of V8 Supercar competition with an offer to help fund a future full-time championship drive.
In its bid to increase female participation, attract more women followers, and remove the gender barrier from motor sport, V8 Supercars will provide funding for a team to run a female who it believes has the potential to pit her skills against male drivers on equal terms.
V8 Supercars chief executive officer James Warburton disclosed that sponsorship, believed to be around Aus $1million, had already been secured and could be made available as soon as next year.
“I think it makes it easier in these financial times to have arrangements in place for backing, so it is a real incentive for the teams,” Warburton told Fairfax Media in an article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.
“It’s not something we normally get involved in, but it’s something we feel is right in terms of the growth pathways for participation in the sport.
“I’ve made an open declaration to all the teams and manufacturers, and everyone’s aware that it’s there. I’ve had numerous conversations and at this particular point in time, there’s nothing in play, there’s no individual selected, there’s nothing along those lines. It just sits there as a possibility.”
While there have been occasional female entrants in the annual two-driver endurance races, no female driver has contested a whole season in the in the modern era of V8 Supercar racing, something Warburton is committed to changing; but only if a female driver can earn the drive on merit.
“The teams are aware of that and if the right opportunity presents itself and the right driver emerges, it’s something we’ve put in place. But I don’t think we should be putting undue pressure on young [female] drivers.
“They’re going to have to do their time and like any other driver, be judged on merit to partner with a team and be a full-time [championship] driver.”
The funding initiative comes after V8 Supercars helped broker a two-year deal for Renee Gracie and Swiss IndyCar and Formula E driver Simona de Silvestro to compete in a wildcard entry at the 2015 Bathurst 1000, the first all-female driver pairing since 1998.
De Silvestro, who impressed at Bathurst last year, has previously stated an interest in competing full-time in the Series, while Gracie, the first female to contest a full season of the Dunlop Series since Leanne Tander in 2001, is likely to be another potential full-time main game aspirant.
Several teams are believed to have expressed an interest, but V8 Supercars has stressed that the driver would have to earn her place on merit, otherwise the funding will be withheld until 2018 or 2019.