Formula 1 racing driver Susie Wolff and The Motor Sports Association (MSA) have joined forces to launch an initiative to support women in the male dominated world of motor sport.
The Dare To Be Different initiative aims to increase female participation on the race rack, in addition to all other aspects of the sport.
There are currently an estimated 1,500 female MSA licence holders in the UK, representing only 5% of those competing in the sport.
The organisation aims to create an online community and bring together young girls aged eight to 14 with motorsport’s most inspiring women.
Susie Wolff said: “Our main aim with Dare To Be Different is to Drive Female Talent. This is an ambitious and long-term project that will build an online community of women from all over the world.
“It will connect them through a shared passion and empower them to become the next wave of role models, whilst also providing access to some of the most successful female names in the sport.”
“Our UK events for young girls will boost awareness and demonstrate the varied and exciting areas of the sport – showing that they too can dare to be different.
“I’m proud to launch today and must thank my team and our ambassadors for their invaluable contribution and dedication to the project.”
Since it launch last month Dare To Be Different has held several events including one which saw 100 schoolgirls in Surrey undergo karting, media, engineering, fitness and nutrition training.
Daytona Sandown Park provided the girls with Honda-powered 160cc Cadet and 200cc Junior karts for the girls to earn their racing spurs and compete in a tyre-changing pit-stop challenge.
Williams provided an F1 show car for technical tours and photo opportunities and Sky F1 presenter Natalie Pinkham taught the girls interview etiquette.
Ambassadors from STEMNET (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network) where also present to assist with an educational hovercraft-building exercise.
Discussing the day Wolff said: “It’s fair to say that many of them were very nervous about the karting challenge and scared that they would not be able to do it because it was completely different to anything they had tried before, so it was fantastic to see them return to the pits with huge smiles on their faces and asking when they could go out again! The whole concept of Dare To Be Different is about pushing these girls out of their comfort zones and encouraging them to try something new.
“Ultimately, we want to see more girls coming into motor sport at grass-roots level, and karting is just one aspect of that. The breadth of potential careers within motor sport is immense, and to reflect that, beyond the karting we also offered the girls journalism and media presentation skills, hovercraft-building, fitness workshops and nutrition advice. Today is just the start of the Dare To Be Different journey – there’s so much more still to come.”
The MSA’s CEO Rob Jones, said: “What we’ve seen here today is really exciting. It’s a tremendous activity, and all credit to Susie for her hard work in bringing it to the attention of the media and wider industry. You only need to look at the reactions on the faces of the girls and their teachers to see how much they benefitted from it.
“Motor sport is one of the very few sports in which women can compete at the same time and on equal terms as men – it offers a level playing field for everyone, and each event entails a phenomenal behind-the-scenes effort. By the same token, behind every driver are hundreds if not thousands of people working in different but equally essential areas of the sport.”
He added: “It was fantastic to have the Williams F1 car here; the leadership demonstrated by Claire Williams is the perfect illustration of what women in motor sport can achieve, and I must thank the team for the support they have shown to this programme.
“We hope that some of these girls will ultimately come to work in motor sport, be that as competitors or in some other professional capacity. That is the underlying aim of this campaign – to market and raise the profile of the career opportunities available within the sport – and what we saw today was a fantastic start.”