all-female 24 Hours of Le Mans team paves the way for women in motorsport | News
Michelle Gatting of the Iron Dames team became the first woman in history to win the Ferrari Challenge Championship last year. It is now preparing to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 2022.
Last update: 05/10/22 4:32 p.m.
Michelle Gatting is eager to increase female participation at all levels of motorsport as she prepares to compete with an all-female crew in the 2022 24 Hours of Le Mans race next month.
Gatting will be joined by Rahel Frey and Sarah Bovy to represent the Iron Dames in what will mark the team’s fourth consecutive appearance at the event.
The Iron Dames were founded by current FIA Women In Motorsport Commission Chair Deborah Mayer, who Gatting has honored for her commitment to building inclusivity in a male-dominated sport.
“The project is kind of a unique project, I’m very honored to be a part of it,” Gatting told Sky Sports.
“Deborah is an amazing person, she has a huge passion for racing, for cars, she’s ready to help us young women and girls, and she’s given us absolutely amazing opportunities and what she does is simply incredible.
“She has such a passion, so many incredible goals that she wants to achieve with this project, with girls and women in general.
“This project has been going on for four years now and knowing Deborah it will continue for a while. I hope one day Deborah can say she is the reason there will be a woman in Formula 1.”
The team’s black and pink Ferrari has placed in the top 10 in its class in each of the past 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 next to her hotel during a a family visit to the south of France.
She now hopes to encourage other young girls to follow suit with a view to not only continuing 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 first like to attract more women to this sport and it basically starts with a kart.
“Then from a go-kart we move into either Formula cars or GT cars and we want women and girls to be part of all categories.
“It ranges from karts and motorcycles to rallies, endurance racing and formula cars. We want women to be part of all categories of motor racing.”
The W Series, an all-female single-seater racing championship, has emerged as another welcome opportunity for women in motorsport since its inaugural season in 2019.
Briton Jamie Chadwick won the Championship twice in 2019 and 2021 either side of the 2020 season being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I fully support the W series, I was almost even getting into it myself,” Gatting said. “This is a huge opportunity for female drivers.
“It’s exactly a good way to promote the women. At the end of the day, I think we should compete at the same level as the men and that’s why we chose the championship that we chose because we are not a lot of women and right now the best drivers are the men we have to try to beat.
“I really support the W series and I think it’s going in a direction where we have a female Formula 1 driver.
“The W series can be a reason for that, but hopefully the projects we have here can be a reason for that as well.”
A look back at the most dramatic moments of the first two races of the 2022 W Series in Miami.
Gatting called for new attitudes towards female racers in motorsport, offering reassurances about improved safety measures which she said have eased the element of perceived risk.
“It’s a very masculine sport, there’s no doubt about it,” Gatting continued. “Of course you have to have the courage because there is a risk in doing a sport like that.
“We’re running at very, very high speeds, but honestly there’s a risk in doing everything in my opinion.
“We’re really trying to encourage more girls to take the plunge and try a go-kart. At the end of the day, most people who get into the go-kart really like the feel, the feel, and the speed.
“I think it’s a bit scary when you think of speed because when you think of speed you think of risk, but we just have to change that mindset a bit. Cars and everything today are very safe. There is a risk in doing anything.”