From The Grand Tour and Ginetta Junior Championship to W Series for Yorkshire pioneers Sarah Moore and Abbie Eaton

The W Series can only open up more opportunities for women racing drivers, not limit them.

Driver Sarah Moore of Harrogate during W Series testing at Lausitzring on April 16, 2019 in Hoyerswerda, Germany (Picture: Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

That is the view of Yorkshire racers, Abbie Eaton and Sarah Moore, who were both set to line up on the grid for the eight-race series this year before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

The W Series was launched at the end of 2018, as an all-female single-seater racing championship, with drivers competing in Formula 3-specified cars.

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Moore, 26, from Harrogate was among the first to compete, finishing eighth in the drivers’ standings in 2019.

W Series racing driver Abbie Eaton practices on her racing simulator during isolation at her home on May 20, 2020 in Northampton, United Kingdom. (Picture: Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Eaton, meanwhile, admitted she had her reservations about competing and declined to take part in the inaugural year.

The 28-year-old from Hull felt the investment in the series could have been better spent elsewhere, but now sees the value in the competition, believing it can provide a springboard for women drivers to compete at the highest level. The series faced criticism when it was launched, with those skeptical of its introduction claiming it would only segregate female drivers.

However, Yorkshire’s contingent on the circuit are in agreement that it is a positive for women’s motorsport.

“I disagreed with it when it was first launched,” said Eaton.

W Series racing driver Abbie Eaton. (Picture: Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

“My initial thoughts were that with the money being spent on a female-only championship, they should take that money and invest it in two female touring car drivers, two female rally drivers and two female single-seater drivers.

“In an ideal world, that would be the perfect way to do it but ultimately that is not self-sustaining. For the W Series to be a success, it needs to go on for years and years and the only way for that to happen is a female-only Championship. I sat and watched the first year and it soon became apparent that it was being done properly and that money was being spent where it needed to be spent.”

Eaton applied to be on the roster at the end of the 2019 season, but Moore has been on the grid for the W Series from the first green light.

The 26-year-old did not have any female role models to look up to in the sport as she grew up and hopes that having a dedicated championship for women drivers will encourage more girls to get behind the wheel.

Sarah Moore of Great Britain drives in the Tatuus F3 during a free practice of the W-Series at Norisring on July 05, 2019 in Nuremberg, Germany. (Picture: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

“From my point of view, it gives the younger generation of girls motorsport as an option and someone who they can look up to within motorsport,” said Moore.

“When I was younger, there weren’t any females in the sport for me to look up to that I remember myself.

“The W Series has actually created that for the younger generation and for the girls who are in it, it is nice from a PR point of view to get a bigger following.”

Carving out a career in motorsport not only requires years of hard work and talent, but financial backing too. Eaton believes the W Series has helped to remove part of the financial obstacle. In the United Kingdom, the W Series is broadcast by Channel 4 and backed by the likes of David Coulthard, an ex-Formula 1 driver and multiple Grand Prix winner.

Sarah Moore during a training session prior to the first race of the W Series at Hockenheimring on May 03, 2019 in Hockenheim, Germany. (Picture: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

“I think the W Series provides a massive springboard and platform to learn from. It raises the profile of some of the girls as well, and to be shown on Channel 4 is amazing,” added Eaton.

Eaton has won Production Touring Car Championship and Mazda MX-5 Supercup titles and first started go-kart racing aged 10. She has also got television experience on her CV, coaching rapper Professor Green to victory on the ITV reality show Drive, which aired in 2016.

The East Yorkshire-born driver was also a regular on the hit Amazon Prime show, The Grand Tour, as the programme’s test driver for two seasons. Eaton was given lap times to beat after being asked to audition but did not know which drivers she was up against with the competitors tested one at a time.

She said: “I wasn’t racing at the time, it was all or nothing so I was either going to be fast or be in the trees. I put it all on the table and ended up being quick and getting the job.”

Moore has been racing since she was four-years-old and made history when she became the first woman to win a TOCA-sanctioned race, on her way to winning the Ginetta Junior Championship title in 2009.

“It was special back then. When I was growing up, all through my go-karting years I never found myself as being a stand-out,” admitted Moore, who also won the Britcar Endurance title in 2018.

Driver Sarah Moore, UK prepares during W Series testing at Lausitzring (Picture: Getty Images))

“Then I moved into racing cars and after a year or so something clicked. To go on and win a race in the Ginetta Junior Championship and then win the championship, it is one of the highlights of my racing career.”

Both Moore and Eaton have spent their year competing in an e-sport series after the W Series was forced to cancel its plans for 2020. Ten events were held with three races on each virtual circuit as drivers competed on simulators from home. The Yorkshire duo made use of the races, getting to grips with new tracks and learning the different habits of the other drivers.

The 2021 W Series is set to hold races worldwide, with two events already pencilled in for Texas and Mexico City, supporting Formula 1 Grand Prix races at the same circuits.

The top 12 drivers at the close of the series automatically qualify for a grid place the following year, something which Moore and Eaton are targeting.

“It was a lot more physical compared to what I was used to from previous years racing,” said Moore of her first year in the W Series.

“It took its toll throughout the year, physically, it was a big learning curve but a good learning curve.”

Eaton added: “I haven’t got the luxury to be doing 20 test days like the other drivers, a test day in a single seater can range from £6,000 to £12,000, just for one day.

“So I am going to be learning on the job effectively, trying to learn fast and get stuck in.”

Both drivers are also Driving Ambassadors for Racing Pride which is a LGBTQ+ charity aiming to promote inclusivity across motorsport. Eaton and Moore are openly LGBTQ+ and hope their work with Racing Pride can help others who may feel anxious about coming out.

“It is nicer for the younger generation to have someone to talk to,” said Moore.

“Even if it is just to understand the LGBT community, maybe they want to come out to their friends or parents but they are finding it hard or don’t know where to start.”

Eaton echoed Moore’s sentiments, adding: “Having that little bit of a profile that I have – I have been out since I was 17 – if I can live as who I am and be visible to people, it might inspire others to be more comfortable with themselves and do the same.”

The W Series explained...

The W Series is an all-female single-seater racing championship which was first launched in the autumn of 2018.

The series’ first season was in 2019 and featured 20 drivers who contested six races, staged across Europe.

The series features 18 drivers, with two reserve racers, with each competitor driving a Formula 3-specified car.

The 2019 series was won by Briton Jamie Chadwick and was free to enter with a prize pot of $1.5m, with the winner taking home $500,000 while the remaining $1m was split between the other drivers.

In the United Kingdom, the competition is broadcast on Channel 4.

The 2020 series was due to feature eight races but was cancelled due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Instead, drivers were involved in an e-sport series, with simulators set up in their homes for 10 events which were staged throughout June, July and August.

Each event had three races, with the final race being held on a virtual Silverstone track on Thursday night.

Dutch racer Beitske Visser topped the e-sport standings following Thursday’s races, to take home the W Series Esports League title.

The competition has gained worldwide appeal with drivers hailing from the likes of Japan, South Africa, Australia, Great Britain, Brazil and many other nations.

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