IndyCar driver Pippa Mann believes a new women-only single-seater championship will “segregate” female racers, describing the move as a “sad day for motorsport.”

The dubbed ‘W Series’ will launch in 2019 in a bid to help females reach Formula 1. It has received backing from a number of high-profile F1 figures including 13-time grand prix winner David Coulthard, who said the championship is a required step to prevent women “reaching a glass ceiling” in motorsport.

W Series has received a mixed response from female drivers, including Mann, who competes in the IndyCar Series and became the first British woman to race at the Indy500 in 2011.

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“What a sad day for motorsport,” Mann tweeted. “Those with funding to help female racers are choosing to segregate them as opposed to supporting them.

"I am deeply disappointed to see such a historic step backwards take place in my lifetime.

“For the record, I stand with those who feel forced into this as their only opportunity to race,” she added.

“I stand against those who are forcing the above mentioned racers into this position as their only solution to find the funding to race.”

Charlie Martin, who is aiming to be the first transgender competitor to take part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, echoed Mann's view. 

“This series is founded on segregation, and while it may create opportunities for some female drivers, it sends a clear message that segregation is acceptable," Martin explained in a statement provided to Crash.net.

"We no longer discriminate in sport based on race, so it is particularly jarring that we feel it is acceptable to do so based on gender in 2018.

"As racers, we want to compete against the best drivers – regardless of age, race, sexual orientation or gender – and prove we are the best at what we do.”

‘I want to compete with the best of our sport’

Participation is free and the series includes a prize fund of $1.5million, with the winner of the championship awarded $500,000 to help further progress up the racing ladder.

But Sophia Floersch, a multiple Ginetta Junior race-winner who now competes as the only female participant in the European Formula 3 Championship, disagrees with the solution offered by the new series.

“I agree with the arguments - but it totally disagree with the solution. Women need long term support and trustful partners,” she explained.

“I want to compete with the best of our sport. Please compare it with economics: Do we need separate Women Management / Advisory Boards? No. Wrong way.”

But a number of female drivers have backed the move. 

Tatiana Calderon is currently the highest placed female driver on the single-seater ladder, with the Colombian contesting the F1-supporting GP3 Series, in which she has scored regular points in 2018.

“Having raced for more than a decade in karting, Formula 3, GP3 and World Series among others, but having been a very small minority in getting that far in motorsport, I know how difficult it is for female drivers to get opportunities to progress their careers,” she said.

“Hopefully this series help provide those opportunities to some young rising female talent and eventually allow the best to prove that we can compete at the same level as men.”

Jamie Chadwick, who made history in August by becoming the first female driver to win a British Formula 3 race, believes a women-only championship can only be a positive move.

“W Series is giving female drivers another platform to go racing,” she said.

“It’s no secret that motorsport is an incredibly tough industry often dictated by financial factors.

“As a funded championship, W Series not only offers a fantastic opportunity for top female talent to race but will also encourage many more to enter the sport.”

Formula Renault champion Alice Powell, added: “Climbing the motorsport ‘ladder’ has always been difficult for all drivers, but perhaps even more so for women.

“W Series, which will offer free-of-charge racing with prize money for a select number of women starting next year, is therefore a really positive development.

“It’s also an important means to an end: a stepping stone for female drivers on their journeys from the lower formulae to more senior single-seater series, taking the skills they’ve learned in W Series on the way.”

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