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Celebrating International Women Drivers Day

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The 24th of June, 2018 is a significant date for women. This was the day when Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women being allowed to drive legally, and part of a plan to boost the country’s economy. It’s a date for all women and those who believe in human rights to celebrate.

Female motorsport racer


The Women to Drive Movement was a campaign by Saudi women for the right to drive motor vehicles on public roads. Before June 2018, women in Saudi Arabia were totally banned from driving any type of vehicle and if caught were punished, detained, or arrested. But campaigners and activists experienced even worse treatment to the extent of being tortured. Since June 2018, at least 70,000 drivers licenses were issued to women over a ten-month period, and driving schools for women opened up.

How the day was born

In 2021, Women’s World Car of the Year, which consists of 55 female motoring journalists from 40 countries, nominated June 24 to be International Women Driver’s Day. It aims to draw attention to the importance of women in the automotive world.

International Women Drivers’ Day is a call for reflection on how women have been perceived in society, as car owners, road users, auto mechanics, or in motorsport. Many organisations have recognised this need and set up their own initiatives:

  1. The FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) Women in Motorsport Commission was set up in 2009 by talented female racing driver, Michèle Mouton. She believes that “…we must also invest in the future and encourage the young generation to view motorsport as a world of equal opportunity.”
  2. The FIA Girls On Track, Rising Stars programme is a partnership between Scuderia Ferrari and its Ferrari Driver Academy.  The aim is to identify young female talent from around the world and help them reach a professional career in motorsport.
  3. Dare to be Different is a non-profit organisation founded by former racing driver, Susie Wolff in 2016. Their mission is to increase female participation in all aspects of the motorsport industry and has touched the lives of thousands of girls and young women through its inspirational school and racetrack events. In 2020, they were united with FIA Girls on Track to create an even greater impact to women involved in motorsport.
  4. Iron Dames is led by driver and Ferrari ambassador, Deborah Mayer. Its aim is to provide support and inspire women in motorsport. It competes in top-level international motorsport competitions, including the European Le Mans Series, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Michelin Le Mans Cup, the Ferrari Challenge, the GT World Challenge Europe, the Italian Formula 4 Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship.
  5. To celebrate International Women Drivers’ Day, Porsche Brunei draws attention to the importance of women in the automotive world. The aim is to highlight the significance of car and road safety for women drivers, and empower women to have an active and equal opportunity in the automotive industry.

Women in motorsports – smashing conventions

Amidst the preconceptions and outdated stereotypes, many women have driven through the inequalities that surround them and made a career for themselves in the sport that they love. The following names are only a handful:

  1. Louise Smith – The 'First Lady of Racing', she was one of the pioneers of NASCAR and the first woman inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999. Famous for her flair, boldness, breath-taking speed, and fearless crashes, she won 38 races in four divisions between 1947 and 1956.
  2. Maria Teresa de Filippis was the first woman ever to compete in Formula One and raced in five Grand Prix in 1958 and 1959.
  3. Lella Lombardi – Maria Grazia Lombardi was among the first women to force their way into the F1 scene in 1974 and competed in seventeen Formula One World Championship Grand Prix. She is the only female driver to score points in F1 so far.
  4. Janet Guthrie made history by becoming the first woman racer to qualify and compete in both the Indy 500 and Daytona 500 in 1977. 
  5. Desiree Wilson – Born in South Africa, she won the British Aurora F1 Series race at Brands Hatch in 1980 to cement her place in history as the only victory for a woman in a Formula One race. As a result of this achievement, she has a grandstand at Brands Hatch named after her.
  6. Michele Mouton – One of the greatest female drivers ever, a genuine motorsports legend, and arguably the bravest, most skilful, and most successful woman in motorsport – a “superwoman” according to the late triple World F1 champion, Niki Lauda. She won four World Championship Rallies and finished runner-up in the world championship in 1982 behind Walter Rohrl. The documentary Queen of Speed was made in her honour, chronicling her battle to rise to the top of the male-dominated world of rallying in the 70s and 80s.
  7. Jutta Kleinschmidt – In 2001 she won the car category in one of the world’s toughest motor races, the Dakar Rally alongside co-driver Andreas Schulz.
  8. Sarah Fisher holds the record as a female driver with nine starts in the Indianapolis 500, made a total of 81 appearances in IndyCar, and won the ‘Most Popular Driver’ award three times running between 2001 and 2003. She is also the only woman to own an IndyCar Series team, the youngest team owner in IndyCar Series, and the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race as a team owner.
  9. Danica Patrick – In 2008, she became the first and only woman so far to win an IndyCar race at the Indy Japan 300.
  10. Susie Wolff – During her professional driving career, she beat the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Paul di Resta, Mika Hakkinen, and Ralf Schumacher at various points before retiring in 2015. She is CEO of a Formula E team and founded the Dare To Be Different initiative that encourages women to pursue a career in motorsport.
  11. Jamie Chadwick – In 2015 she won the 2015 British GT Championship in her first year, making her the youngest driver and first ever female to win the title. She’s made appearances in Extreme E and has won one podium finish to date.
  12. Tatiana Calderon – This year in 2022, she became the first female driver to land at least a part-time deal in the IndyCar series for nine years.
  13. Molly Taylor – In 2016 she became the first female Australian Rally Champion. In 2021, she won three races in the Extreme E Championship along with teammate Johan Kristoffersson and were crowned champions for the season.
  14. Doriane Pin – in 2019, Doriane claimed the French karting championship title and was selected for the first edition of the FIA Girls On Track Rising Stars programme.
  15. Beitske Visser is a BMW Motorsport Junior. She joined BMW Motorsport in 2017 as a single-seater driver and former Red Bull protégé. She is now a permanent fixture in Formula E as the test and reserve driver for the BMW i Andretti Motorsport team. 

There are many other women who have and are still making names for themselves across the world, such as Lyn St. James, Christina Nielsen, and many more.

When it comes to cars, if women were ever more interested in the style, colour and aesthetics of a car than its performance, those days are gone. Women are breaking down outdated stereotypes with full force and there’s no stopping them.


Women across the world have had to contend with inequalities, judgement, and preconceived ideas in a male-dominated world. The lifting of the ban on the 24th of June to allow women to drive legally in Saudi Arabia was more about boosting the country’s economy than the rights of women. However, it’s a small step in the name of freedom for women and we must indeed recognise their challenges and celebrate their victories.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational, educational, or entertainment purposes only. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of the content.


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