Catherine Bond Muir, CEO of W Series at the Anglesey Circuit in Wales May 2021.
Across the globe, efforts have been placed on equalizing women’s sports. Formula racing is no exception. Both in the racing paddock and driver’s seat, from Susie Wolff to Claire Williams and Sara Price to Sabré Cook, car racing has become more inclusive than it ever has been before. The recently launched W Series, a female-only free-to-enter racing championship, eliminates the financial barriers that have historically prevented female drivers from progressing up the ranks of motorsports.
Catherine Bond Muir, CEO of the W Series, is changing the perception of what it means to be a female race car driver.
For many formula race circuits, every team has a mechanically different car, giving drivers and teams with the most lucrative backing a vantage point over their competitors. However, the cars in the W Series are mechanically identical, meaning the races and championships are won by the most talented drivers. Also, while some formula championships struggle to garner media attention, the W Series secured broadcast deals in more than 175 markets leading up to the first race of this season occurring this month.
“I did some research,” Bond Muir states. “At the point in time where other sports were starting to burgeon as far as women were concerned … it seemed that the status of what was happening to women in motorsport was actually getting worse. The number of women racing in single-seater series for the previous eight years was actually going down year on year. At that point, the light bulb really went off, as in all good businesses, there needs to be a demand. And clearly, something was going wrong with motorsports. There was a real problem with female diversity and motorsport. So that is where the idea was born.”
Sabré Cook, W Series race car driver, on track at the Anglesey Circuit, May 2021
Bond Muir started her career as a solicitor focusing on sports before pivoting into corporate finance and investment. As a banker, she worked on mergers and acquisitions and IPOs in sports and leisure businesses. At the age of 45, she went on work hiatus to give birth to her first and only child. Two years later, she decided it was time to start working again; however, Bond Muir wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do.
“I had this very strong sense that I didn’t want to be an advisor anymore,” she explains. “There then it left the question, ‘well, what on earth could I do?’ I was looking at a whole variety of different things. It was actually someone else who suggested to me the concept of a female-only women’s motor racing series. I thought it was a great idea to begin with because I was all excited about potentially doing new things. Then I did some research and thought it was a completely rubbish idea because if men and women can race equally with each other, why on earth would W Series be required?”
Bond Muir conducted extensive research and found that the need for the W Series was not only in demand but critical to the livelihood of female race drivers. She didn’t let her lack of motorsports experience deter her from her vision. From the beginning, she brought on David Coulthard, a former Formula One driver and current motorsport commentator.
“He [Coulthard] was pivotal in introducing us to the people who were key in setting up the business to begin with,” Bond Muir smiles. “I understood the structures of the sport, but it has taken a very large village to set up W Series, and I am a small cog in a very big wheel. Most of the other cogs in that wheel know a lot about motorsport.”
It took four years from ideation to execution to launch W Series. Two of those years Bond Muir spent on fundraising. To launch the first season alone would cost $30 million. Coulthard introduced Bond Muir to Sean Wadsworth, who is now the chairman and cornerstone investor.
Wadsworth’s investment procured the future of formula racing for women. This series allows female drivers like Cook to display their talents and secure sponsorship and endorsement deals without having to worry about the financial burden.
HOYERSWERDA, GERMANY – APRIL 16: Driver Sabre Cook of USA poses for a photo during W Series testing … [+]
“I never did a full season in a professional series until W Series actually came along and gave me that opportunity,” Cook states. “It basically started and saved my career all on one because I was struggling just to get the traction that I needed to get the sponsors on board to do more than a couple of races here and there. … It also gave me an environment for the first time where I didn’t have to stress about money.”
In addition to protecting the drivers, Bond Muir also focuses on protecting the data of the drivers, teams and series. In October, W Series announced its new cyber protection and security partnership with Acronis, a global leader in cyber protection. The organization will develop and maintain a secure data management system, improving W Series’ ability to store, analyze and share content with partners.
As Bond Muir continues to expand and transition W Series, she focuses on the following essential steps:
“I think in motorsport, unquestionably, what we have done is we have raised the profile of all of our drivers,” Bond Muir concludes. “We preach equality, but that goes through the whole of our DNA. We don’t ask the drivers for any money to compete in our series. We pay for all of the expenses so that it’s just the fastest drivers, not the richest drivers. … To that extent, that is a unique model in motorsport. And that is helping drive equality in all senses for women.”
I’m an international speaker, author and founder of Ready2Roar. Under my LLC, I develop leadership workshops for corporations and host the Embrace the Pivot & Ummm, No!
I’m an international speaker, author and founder of Ready2Roar. Under my LLC, I develop leadership workshops for corporations and host the Embrace the Pivot & Ummm, No! Podcasts. For the past four years, I’ve studied how individuals pivot in their careers. Additionally, I successfully defended my dissertation making me a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership. My 15-year journey in the Sports and Entertainment industry includes assisting Hollywood agents and former NBA players, helping manage a boxer, involvement with the 2014 NYNJ Super Bowl and the ideation and execution of two major conferences. I have experienced many highs and lows being an entrepreneur. I take all my experiences, learn from them and help others bounce forward and embrace their pivots.