Roland’s View: The Significance of Chloe Chambers’ Toyota FR race win

Chambers is congratulated by second-placed Kaleb Ngatoa after her NZ victory

Last weekend Chloe Chambers, an 18-year-old driver from the USA, won Race 2 of the final event (held at Taupo) of the 2023 Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship – the series we’ve all known as TRS for many years.

I believe that’s the first race win for a female driver in an FIA single-seater Regional Championship. It’s also mighty impressive in my book.

And before anyone starts harping on about the race being a reverse grid one, let’s put that to bed. She finished eighth in Race 1, no mean feat in itself considering the quality of the field, and that gave her pole for Race 2. Only the top eight are reversed. She then held off Kaleb Ngatoa (a proven race winner himself) to take the win. A commentator present there said, “She owned that race”.

She’s also proven herself to be a race finisher throughout the Championship. Overall, a pretty impressive performance for an 18-year-old with minimal previous track experience in New Zealand a long way from home.

And this brings me to my main point. For the last few years we’ve been told by some people in the industry that it’s essential to have a female only single-seater category to bring on women in the Sport. I simply don’t subscribe to that theory.

Back in the day, I witnessed women such as Michele Mouton, Ellen Lohr and Cathy Muller who could cut it with the best of them in the World Rally Championship, the DTM and Formula 3 respectively. I don’t recall any of them ever asking for a gender based ‘leg up’. More recently, Danica Patrick has shown the way in IndyCar for women as a race winner.

For me, motorsport is like equestrian sport – a place where both genders can compete on equal terms. The reason why there aren’t more high-level women in racing, especially at a professional level, is a numbers game.

If more women were to progress out of karting (where, in Australia, there is a specific initiative to raise female participation which is working well) into the next levels of the sport, then more would emerge as overall contenders.

If the big dollar numbers that have been spent on the W Series (with no discernible effect so far) had been invested in young female drivers competing in series across the globe such as the New Zealand one, then it would probably have been more effective.

Now, given the probable demise of the W Series, it would be great to see both the FIA and F1 collectively coming out with a specific plan to assist young women financially through to competing at a professional level.

In my opinion, the proposed F1 backed female series is not the way forward and doesn’t raise the bar. Only by placing women in the same races as men will the wheat be sorted from the chaff.

Chloe showed in New Zealand over the last month or so that she could handle the physicality of these Formula Regional cars. A couple of years ago, when Shane van Gisbergen and others turned up at Hampton Downs for the New Zealand Grand Prix, they all talked about just how physical these cars were. And whilst the cars have benefitted from the fitment of a slower, lighter steering rack, by all accounts they are still hard work to drive fast.

Here at home in Australia, we’ve got several young female talents who are very competitive and who should be nurtured where needed. I believe the standout at the moment is Courtney Prince and I hope she’s given the opportunity and time to learn and to compete in Carrera Cup this year and beyond.

The FIA Girls on Track initiative is a great way to encourage more interest from girls in the motorsports industry, but Motorsport Australia needs to be looking to supporting female drivers financially where needed. Nothing will attract increased female participation at all levels of the sport more than seeing female drivers emerge at a high level.

So, Bravo Chloe for proving that a female can be truly competitive at a high level without needing any special treatment. It would be great to see her given the opportunity to compete in F3 with a top team and given the chance to develop.

Read Last Week’s Roland’s View: Gen Supercars’ dirty washing in public must stop.

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