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Driving for a Change: Some of the Iconic Women of the Motorsports Industry

As women’s history month comes to an end, there have been many women in motorsports history that have paved the way for women now. Although, there is still room for improvement in the industry, these women have chipped off a piece of the barrier and have allowed us to push through.

Maria Teresa de Filippis

Courtesy of Popperfoto/Getty Images

The first woman to break into the world of Formula 1 racing was Maria Teresa de Filippis. De Filippis was an Italian racing driver and participated in five World Championship Grands Prix. On May 18 of 1958, she was given the opportunity to participate in the Monaco Grand Prix. De Filippis became a part of history when she raced alongside future world champions Mike Hawthorn, Jack Brabham and Graham Hill during the first race of their F1 career.

Lella Lombardi

Lella Lombardi was one of two female drivers to score points in Formula 1 for the World Champion Drivers standing. Lombardi had some experience in karting and in 1968 she raced in Formula 3. In 1975, when she raced in the Spanish Grand Prix, she scored half a championship point for the March Team, this is because the race only lasted 23 laps due to a major tragedy. She also finished seventh in the German Grand Prix in Nürburgring. When she retired in 1988, she founded her own racing team, Lombardi Autosport, the following year. 

Lyn St. James

Courtesy of Lyn St. James, and the Women’s Sports Foundation

Lyn St. James is a former IndyCar driver and one of the first of nine women to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. She also became the first woman to win the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award in 1992. She held the record for oldest recipient of the Rookie of the Year award until Jimmie Johnson broke that record in 2022. Aside from being the first woman to win the award, she also became the first woman to reach over 200 mph on the racetrack. She was the president of the Women’s Sports Foundation from 1990-1993. In 1994, she was inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame and is one of two women to be in there for racing.

Susie Wolff

Current F1 Academy managing director Susie Wolff was involved in the motorsport world long before becoming the managing director. She had previous experience in Formula 3 in 2005 when she competed for Alan Docking Racing. Wolff became the first woman after 22 years to participate in Formula 1 at the 2014 British Grand Prix as she was a development driver for the Williams F1 team. In 2015, her role at Williams became greater when she leveled up to test driver.  Her previous managing experience includes being the Team Principal for Venturi Racing in Formula E. 

Jamie Chadwick

Courtesy of Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

One of the most influential women in motorsports of this generation, Chadwick has paved the way for future girls and women in the motorsport industry so far. Chadwick competed in the previous all female racing series known as the W series. During her time in the W series, she became the inaugural champion in 2019 and defended her title in 2021 and 2022. She also acquired a seat for the Williams Driver Academy as a junior development driver. After the disbandment of the W series, Chadwick moved on to the Indy NXT series. In December of 2022, Andretti Autosport signed Chadwick to be one of their drivers and in October of 2023 she signed with them again for the 2024 Indy NXT season. 

The world of motorsports has been redefined by these women and will continue to be redefined by many more to come.

Edited by: Kendall Merriett

Social Media Content Created by: Callista Carreiro

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