Written by Ashlie Church, Edited by William Stephens
The W Series season opener is only a few weeks away in Miami, USA and this year brings new interest not just in the form of fans, but also in new teams entering the series. One such team which caused a slight murmur within those paying attention was Jenner Racing. Helmed by Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, the team will have reigning champion Jamie Chadwick and the young American Chloe Chambers racing for them. For anyone unaware, Caitlyn Jenner is a member of the Kardashian clan, previously married to Kris Kardashian, and together they parented Kylie and Kendall Jenner, now powerful media personalities. But Caitlyn Jenner has a fairly illustrious career prior to joining the media empire as an Olympic decathlete in the 1970s.
Despite appearances, Jenner’s recent move into motorsport is not entirely as shocking as it seemed to be when the announcement was made back in February of this year. Having been a fan for years, Jenner partook in various series and cups in the late 1980’s including the IMSA Camel GTO, winning a few races and achieving more than a few podiums. However, Jenner herself acknowledged that racing was not her strong suit compared to her previous endeavours. Nonetheless, Jenner is still interested in partaking in motorsport in some way with Jenner Racing entering the 2022 season of W Series.
On the other hand, many were slightly confused by the entrance of Jenner to W Series, not because of her background or the fact that a celebrity had formed a team; W Series teams has a diverse background in terms of ownership and branding. It was down to a few factors, firstly being Jenner’s attitudes towards female sports; she is a fierce proponent of ‘protecting female sport’ and argues against having trans women compete in female categories, made ironic by Jenner’s recent transition in 2015 having previously competed as male. Female/male racing can be a divisive issue depending on who you ask, but most are happy to race together, so much so that when W Series announced it was criticised by some women in motorsport as they didn’t like the idea of segregating women further. Nonetheless, W Series is now proudly LGBTQ+ inclusive, hence making it odd for the two to work together. The other irony of Jenner joining the series was the fatal car crash she was involved in, in 2015.
The tepid welcome of Jenner to W Series was further dampened by the news that the ever-popular Jamie Chadwick would be returning to the series for another year. After failing to secure the funding to move into F3, Chadwick had no option but to return to the series she has won twice in. This seems to be a developing issue with W Series, with Chadwick as the guinea pig. Once drivers win, where do they go? With W series competing roughly at the level of F4, it seems logical to move up to F3. However, with Chadwick, the two-time champion who also has many other wins and podiums in a variety of other series and competitions, still unable to make the step up, a sort of impasse is reached for drivers. It also opens the question of ‘is this a gender issue?’ And ‘does being female make finding sponsors more difficult?’ Or is this impossible to prove given the much smaller number of female drivers in competitive categories? And this is a cycle which just keeps going. Of course there are other series to race in, but if a driver’s aim is F1, then the pathway is looking fairly grim for female drivers at the moment.