W Series racing puts the eSports spotlight on women

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      With traditional motor racing on hold, but doing booming business in the online world of eSports, it was only a matter of time before the W Series made a digital pivot.

      The all-female Formula 3-level series made its debut in 2019, and Jamie Chadwick was eventually crowned season champion. This season stalled before it got off the starting line, with the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down all large gatherings.

      But, clearly paying attention to the massive iRacing ratings enjoyed by NASCAR and Formula One this spring, the W Series will have drivers taking to digital tracks from their homes.

      While a start date has yet to be set, the online series will feature the 18 women who qualified for this season.

      Among the competitors will be Chadwick, 2019 runner-up Beitske Visser, and Sabré Cook (who pretty much has one of the greatest names ever). Working with Logitech, Beyond Entertainment, and iRacing, the W Series will put its drivers in digital versions of Tatuus Formula Renault 2.0 race cars, each modelled to replicate both the look and performance of the real thing.

      The real-life action in the 2020 season was supposed to start in St. Petersburg, Russia. The simulated circuit will include races from Italy’s Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Belgium’s Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, and Japan’s Suzuka International Racing Course.

      Points will be awarded at every race, and up to three races will be run at each of the 10 simulated locations.

      Announcing the series on its website, the W Series explained the new initiative as follows: “The W Series Esports League aims to inaugurate, publicize, promote and empower a shared commitment to raising female sim racing visibility in order to encourage more women and girls everywhere to take up eracing, thereby opening up a new world of equality and diversity in what has previously been seen as a predominantly male-dominated activity.”

      In that same announcement, Chadwick called the W Series eSports season the next best thing to getting back on the track in real life.

      “Nothing beats the sheer thrill of driving a real race car flat-out on a real racetrack, and I don’t mind admitting I’m missing that enormously,” she said. “But I’ve been massively impressed by the work that W Series, Logitech, Beyond Entertainment and iRacing have done together over the past few weeks, and the result, the W Series Esports League, is seriously impressive.

      “Moreover, when I saw the list of circuits, I literally gasped: it’s a truly mouth-watering schedule. So you can be well sure I’ll be practising hard from now until the first W Series Esports League race. It won’t be easy to continue my winning form—I respect all the W Series drivers and I know how keen they’ll all be to do well – but I’ll definitely be giving it my best shot. Bring it on!”