Jens Marquardt

DON’T CARE ABOUT CONVENTIONS!

Historically, motor racing has been a male-dominated sport. Few women have successfully prevailed against male opposition at the wheel of a race car. However, the signs are that this trend is being reversed in 2019. More and more talented women are being given the opportunity to prove themselves at the highest level. One of the figureheads of this generation is BMW Motorsport Junior, Beitske Visser.

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Since its very beginnings, motorsport has been dominated by men. They are the ones who dare to ‘ride the cannonball’ and who are intoxicated by speed and fierce battles out on the track. They are the ones who strive for victories, titles, and glory.

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“Don’t care about conventions!”

However, there have always been women challenging this male supremacy who have tasted success at the steering wheel. Michèle Mouton and Jutta Kleinschmidt on the rally scene, Sabine Schmitz and Claudia Hürtgen at the wheel of BMW cars in GT racing, and Danica Patrick in single-seater racing, all determinedly pursued their passion for motor racing, paving the way for a new generation of confident and talented female racing drivers. Mouton heads this movement as president of the ‘FIA Women in Motorsport Commission’ which was set up in 2009. She said “There are already many women working very successfully in our sport. However, we must also invest in the future and encourage the young generation to view motorsport as a world of equal opportunity.” The number of women responding to Mouton’s call is increasing consistently. At the end of last year, for example, many young women took part in the Formula E rookie test in Ad Diriyah.

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Beitske Visser
Beitske Visser

Up Close & Personal: Beitske Visser.

One young woman involved in the Formula E tests is BMW Motorsport Junior, Beitske Visser. The Dutch driver has been successfully holding her own against male opposition for many years. Racing is her passion. She does not race to promote herself, nor does she want to market herself as a brand. Her approach is a simple one: “I want to beat everyone I come up against on the racetrack – regardless of whether man or woman.” This relentless ambition is what distinguishes her from some of her colleagues. At the same time, it also makes her one of today’s top female racers. Gender issues have never bothered her, even though she does have to put up with hearing the same thing time and again. “Everyone always asks how it feels, as a woman, to race against men,” said Visser, “but I have never seen it that way. I have been driving against boys since I was five. It is completely normal for me.”

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For many decades, this was far from the norm in motor racing. Even today, despite the many positive developments, it is still something of an exception. With this in mind, the opportunities presented by Formula E are extremely valuable to young female racing drivers. “The way things are developing at the moment is cool. Thanks to series like Formula E, more women are being given the opportunity to show what they are capable of in a Formula car,” said Visser. “It is ultimately all about women spending more time on the track. The more laps you drive, the better you become. In my opinion, it is that simple. I can see nothing but benefits from current developments.” Visser joined BMW Motorsport in 2017 as a single-seater driver and former Red Bull protégé. Since then, she has enjoyed great success, particularly in the BMW M4 GT4. She is now a permanent fixture in Formula E as the test and reserve driver for the BMW i Andretti Motorsport team. Further outings in BMW race cars are also planned for Visser.

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Beitske Visser
Beitske Visser

“My experience in single-seater cars helps me greatly in Formula E,” said Visser. “I know how to drive that kind of car on the limit.” Despite this, the BMW iFE.18 in particular is a new challenge. “The demands placed on me by an electric car like the BMW iFE.18 are quite unique,” says Visser. “Only in qualifying mode do you really push the car to its limits. In the race itself, energy management and efficient driving are hugely important. That is something I must get used to.” Visser’s ambition is reflected in her preparations. Visser has taken full advantage of the fact that BMW Motorsport works closely with Dr. Riccardo Ceccarelli and his team of internationally-renowned experts at Formula Medicine. “I spent an entire week at Formula Medicine to prepare as well as possible, both physically and mentally, for the challenges I will face this season,” she said. “In Formula E, you have to do a lot at the same time in the car – far more than in other cars. That is where the mental training is enormously helpful.”

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Right Now: Formula E.

Beitske Visser uses many means to make it to the top – some of them rather unconventional. This is something she shares with the race series in which she would love to race in the future: Formula E. The world’s first race series for fully-electric, single-seater cars has taken an unconventional approach from the word go. Not many believed in the concept. BMW did – and, as ‘Official Vehicle Partner’, has been involved from the very beginning in the development of Formula E, from an often-ridiculed niche product to the now ‘place to be’ on the motor racing scene. With its modern concepts and races in some of the biggest cities in the world, Formula E is taking racing straight to the people. It presents the very highest level of E-mobility in precisely the environment in which innovations and alternative mobility concepts play the biggest role. Formula E is already a pioneer in many areas – why not for female racing drivers too? Regular rookie tests, in which women are also always involved, are an important step in that direction. There is still no knowing when the first woman will take part in a Formula E race – but it is probably only a matter of time. Beitske Visser as test and reserve driver at BMW i Andretti Motorsport is certainly a good start.

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Beitske Visser