With controversy at its launch and praise at the season finale, the all-female single-seater racing championship W Series wrapped its first season last year in August. It is expanding its calendar both in volume and to new territories (as long as motorsport activities can return to normal end of May) and has added Super Licence points as part of its reward system.
On the two-wheeled racing side, for off-road categories, women’s championships have been around for years as stepping stones for women to go up to top competitions, according to FIM Women in Motorcycling Commission Director Nita Korhonen. Riders like Laia Sanz have been able to shine both in women-only championships (13x Women’s World Trial Champion and 5x Women’s Enduro World Champion) and mixed-gender competitions (finishing Dakar 10 out of 10 times and the last 7 outings in top 20). For motorcycle road racing, similar to four-wheeled racing, there has always been a debate around whether the route to more female riders is to create a separate women-only championship. From our perspective, as discussed in our recap of the first season of W Series, a separate championship can exist as long as the intention and actual effect is not to stop women from going into mixed-gender top-level competitions. Good racing helps the riders/drivers build their skills to go up the ladder. Having a good promotion of said good racing gives more visibility of women competing, and has long term benefits for women in motorsport.
A new all-female motorcycle road racing championship, Women’s European Cup, is introduced this year and will run in conjunction with ELF Campionato Italiano Velocita (CIV). The championship is organized by EMG Eventi and Motoxracing. Bikes entered for competition must comply with CIV’s Supersport 300 regulation. Official partners of Women’s European Cup include Federazione Motociclistica Italiana (FMI, or IMF for its English abbreviation), CIV, and FIM Europe.
On the original Women’s European Cup calendar, the first round was slated to take place on April 25 and 26 at Misano International Circuit “Marco Simoncelli”. At the moment, the suspension of all IMF motorcycle sports related to COVID-19 has been extended to April 27 and will impact this round. No new date has been announced.
For its first season, as a supporting event for CIV, all races are run in Italy. However, despite its current venue and being called ‘European’ Cup, the series is indeed open to young women around the world, with the ambition to expand outside of Italy.
Motoxracing is responsible for the hospitality, village, and racing service of the championship. Previously, Motoxracing has been organizing the Yamaha R1 Trophy as part of CIV. At the same time, they have also been competing in World Superbike in World Supersport 300 (WorldSSP300) European Cup as a Yamaha squad. This season, the team is debuting in World Supersport (WorldSSP) European Cup running Yamaha YZF-R6 machines. Motoxracing has also been promoting women in motorsport in collaboration with Italian Champion Letizia Marchetti, they established the LETYXRACING School, a Women Summer Camp as well as a Women Winter Camp to help women craft their skills in motorcycle racing. We interviewed Motoxracing’s manager Sandro Carusi to hear about the genesis of this championship and what he expects from the first season. We did the interview back in February, there have now been updates regarding the entry list and we have noted those below.
Paddock Sorority (PS): How did the idea come about to put on Women’s European Cup, running it as a women-only championship rather than a mix gender category as part of CIV?
Sandro Carusi (SC): Our idea was born together with Letizia Marchetti with whom I collaborated in 2019 to manage a women’s team that has participated in a single-brand trophy in Italy. Having seen so much interest around the girls, I came up with the idea of creating this championship. As soon as I presented the project to the FIM, it was immediately approved and hence the inclusion of the championship in the CIV.
PS: What was the consideration in making it a Supersport 300 championship with all manufacturers welcome? Was it ever a consideration to run it as Moto3 spec or single-maker series?
SC: I thought at first to make it a Yamaha single-maker series because we are a Yamaha team. But given the limited interest of this in Italy, then I thought it would be appropriate to open the opportunity to other brands as well. We will follow the rules of the WSSP300 to restrict the performance of all the bikes.
PS: How did all the sponsors and partners come aboard, especially CIV for running the races in conjunction with their calendar?
SC: To bring the championship into the CIV calendar, I replaced the previous Yamaha R1 Cup Trophy which I organized from 2016 to 2019. All the sponsors who were involved in that Trophy immediately expressed interests in this new project.
PS: In promoting the championship, how does the team make sure that the female riders are aware they also have the option to compete in mixed-gender championships in CIV?
SC: The girls have no guarantee of participating in the CIV in the future. But if they prove they can compete with the male riders, they will certainly not go unnoticed. Just like Letizia Marchetti did in her career. It is no coincidence that you’ve noticed this Championship.
PS: Is there an age limit on the participants?
There is no particular age limit, but at the moment the registered riders are very young.
SC: When planning the season, what is the size of the grid you expect? How many manufacturers/teams do you anticipate?
We currently have 16 registered riders. Our goal, together with the FIM, is to reach 20 riders. We will organize pre-season tests to evaluate their level of performance and help them prepare for the races. As for manufacturers, I foresee the presence of teams with Yamaha and Kawasaki bikes. There might also be teams with Honda and KTM bikes.
PS: The championship welcomes female riders from around the world, how many non-Italian riders do you expect? How many non-European?
SC: The FIM has decided to own the Championship. We opened the registrations to girls from around the world with the intention is to grow this championship and to bring the races all over Europe. My goal is to have at least 50% of riders from outside of Italy and at least 2/3 non-European riders. This is why I structured my team to host foreign riders. Currently, we can offer all the services necessary for their stay on and off the track. We use part of our budget to help these girls because they have to travel for all the races. The riders are paying for their own flights and other expenses during their stay, but using the services we arranged for them will save about 50% for them on the cost related to food and lodging.
* In the entry list announced, 17 riders from Europe and USA are in the line-up, with the youngest being the 14-year-old American rider Britanni Belladonna.
PS: What is the structure of the team working for you and Max?
SC: The structure of my team is the same as our teams in WSSP300 and WSSP. Our staff is made up of about 40 people committed to doing the best possible. Max is our coordinator of the secretariat and he follows the organizational part while I manage my three teams (WSSP300 + SSP600 + Women’s cup).
PS: Since announcing the championship, has your team encountered any pushbacks from either the media or potential stakeholders/sponsors? What are some of the negative things the team had to overcome?
SC: On the contrary, after presenting the Championship I had appreciation from the FIM, from the IMF, and from new Partners. The main problem remains the funding for the riders who would like to participate but do not have enough money. In this regard, I am working to help them. But it is not easy. Considering that a €20,000 budget is needed for the entire 5-weekend championship, we have offered to leverage our sponsorship funding to pay for the last two rounds. This way as long as they riders can find €12,000 of funding, they can participate.
Besides the Women’s European Cup, in Dorna’s ‘Road to MotoGP’ talent promotion program, there is 17-year-old Belgian rider Amelie Triffet competing in the inaugural Northern Talent Cup. The first test originally scheduled for April 4/5 has been postponed.
In this difficult time, we do hope our world will come out of the pandemic situation soon. When Women’s European Cup actually goes ahead together with CIV, we hope it can have a successful first season and grow to be the stepping stone for young female riders around the world going up into the World Championships. The original calendar of Women’s European Cup is as the following. As mentioned above, the first round has been delayed with no new dates announced:
We would like to thank Pietro Ardemagni from EPaddock.it for referring Women’s European Cup to us. We hope Pietro, everyone at EPaddock.it and their loved ones can stay strong and stay healthy.