Pippa Mann: The W Series is ‘a sad day for motorsport’

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This week marked the announcement of the W Series – a free-to-enter series exclusively for female drivers.

The series will provide 18 to 20 identically prepared Tatuus T-318 Formula 3 cars with a prize fund reported at $1.5 million. Their intention is to provide a showcase by bringing female racers together in one series where they will be the focus of the race.

The series boasts contributions by Formula 1 racer David Coulthard, car designer Adrian Newey and team manager Dave Ryan among others.

Not everyone is happy.

“What a sad day for motorsport,” Mann wrote in a tweet the day of the announcement. “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 life time.”

It is an opinion she has held for more than a year, when the series was first conceived. Mann described it then as “The Handmaid’s Series”.

And wrote: “Just as the twisted society of Gilead in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is desperate to sell itself as a real solution to the problems of that imagined 21st century, the ring masters of this travesty are desperate to sell themselves as the solution needed to the sponsorship struggles faced by so many female drivers.”

With no physical barriers to racing, the difference between success and failure comes down to funding – according to Mann.

For Mann, diverting funding into a series in which females will not race against the best male counterpoints dilutes finite resources available.

According to the W Series, the success of women in racing also comes down to having a large enough pool of female drivers to allow excellence to rise to the top.

The W Series has announced a six-race schedule in 2019 to run in conjunction with the DTM Series.

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Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.