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Race car driver Jamie Chadwick has dreams of making Formula One circuit, helping to break gender barriers

PHOTO: Race winner Jamie Chadwick of Great Britain and Jenner Racing (55) celebrates on the podium during the W Series Round 4 race at Circuit Paul Ricard July 23, 2022 in Le Castellet, France. Race winner Jamie Chadwick of Great Britain and Jenner Racing (55) celebrates on the podium during the W Series Round 4 race at Circuit Paul Ricard July 23, 2022 in Le Castellet, France. — Clive Rose/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — As women continue to break barriers in the motorsport industry, one woman hopes to become a Formula One driver.

In the sport’s nearly 75-year history, only two women have qualified for Formula One, and only one driver, Lella Lombardi, scored points during a race in 1975.

Now in 2024, some say the industry is changing as more women are competing alongside men on the tracks. Jamie Chadwick, 25, a seasoned Andretti Global driver, is currently in her sophomore year in the sport. She has been making strides in the Indy NXT circuit, showcasing her skills and determination. However, her sights are set on a bigger challenge: racing in Formula One.

“My ultimate goal is obviously Formula One,” Chadwick told ABC News. “It is one of the hardest sports in the world, in my opinion. So I’m under no illusions as to what it takes to get to that point. But I strongly believe if I can get good results in Indy next, ultimately I want to go to potentially IndyCar next, which is the step just above Indy NXT.”

Chadwick is a three-time W Series champion. Before it ended in 2023, the W Series was a fully funded, all-female driver league. After the end of the W series, she joined Indy NXT, where women compete alongside men.

Chadwick also spoke to ABC News about her love of the sport and how she got started.

“Before I got into racing, I was described as quite a big tomboy. And having an older brother, I was very competitive with him. Everything he would do, I would want to do. As soon as he started racing, it was quite a big decision, or obvious decision, for me to kind of follow into it. And from there, yeah, I just fell in love with the sport.”

According to IndyCar, Chadwick finished 12th in last year’s drivers’ standings and was the fourth best-placed rookie. Chadwick told ABC News that if she wins every race this year and next, there’s no reason she couldn’t be in Formula One. Chadwick would become the first woman in decades to race in Formula One, which saw its inaugural season in 1950. But Chadwick says the historic feat isn’t necessarily a good thing.

“The accolades don’t mean a huge amount,” Chadwick said. “I don’t care so much for being the first woman to do anything. I don’t see that as being necessarily a compliment. I see it as a negative thing because really, there is no reason why I should be the first woman to do all these things.”

Although motorsports is one of the few sports that allows both genders to compete, less than 10% of all participants are female, according to the non-profit organization More Than Equal. The organization cited that the physical demand of the sport, lack of opportunities to train, minimal female sponsorships, and expenses remain as potential barriers for young women wanting to race.

The CEO of More Than Equal, Ali Donnelly, told ABC News, “We found in our research that girls really struggle to pick up the funding required, whether it’s from sponsors or investors, because that path hasn’t been laid. Jamie Chadwick, for example, for a sponsor, (or) a backer, it’s really a risk to take on a girl.”

“Cars are designed to cater to the needs of the average male driver,” Chadwick said. “So actually, as a smaller person, it’s been a challenge to get strong enough to be fit enough to actually just drive the cars.”

According to Chadwick, the cost of breaking into the sport alone can dissuade female participants. “I think the sport definitely isn’t the most accessible. It’s an expensive sport to get into. It costs money. I don’t think that’s going to change overnight.”

To combat the challenges young girls will face entering the sport, Chadwick launched ‘The Jamie Chadwick Series’ with Daytona Motorsport to help future drivers overcome some of these barriers. “There’s a lot of initiatives going on, but there isn’t really anything tackling absolute grassroots level,” Chadwick said. Most drivers enter the sport through karting and progress from there if they receive funding.

With this program, Chadwick will introduce participants to karting and mentor them throughout the year, and the winner will receive financial support to advance to the next level of their career, according to the Daytona.uk site.

“In my opinion, there is no reason why it’s so male dominated,” Chadwick said. “It shouldn’t be. It can be a sport that is really open to all.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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