What is the thinking behind changing the RMRT from all female to co-ed?
We set up the Richard Mille Racing Team three years ago. At the start, our aim was very much to emphasise the lack of opportunities for women drivers. It was essential to start with a 100% Ladies team to make a point and to force people to ask questions. If we’d had a mixed team right from the start, even if the results were good, people would have attributed all the success to the men. We simply wouldn’t have challenged anyone’s thinking.
Seeing three women – Beitske Visser, Sophia Flörsch and Tatiana Calderón – in an LMP2 and in WEC meant we struck a chord. People started the conversation and asked questions. It’s also true, though, that when you talk to women drivers, they all say they want to find their place on the track in a mixed team – that’s the goal, no limitations. The dream comes true when men want to drive next to them, in the same team. And that is where we stand today. By the end of last season, our three women drivers wanted to be in single seaters. The WEC calendar had taken a lot of their time, so they were looking to move on with their own personal projects.
How did you set about replacing such a good team?
We carried out a number of trials to find young women drivers. Obviously, the situation is not – yet! – such that there is a huge pool to choose from. We’re hopefully getting there slowly. A lot of them don’t have the background to drive the LMP2. You need a lot of skill to control these powerful and tricky cars. However, during the trials one young French woman stood out – Lilou Wadoux. She is a bit of a ‘UFO’ as we say in French – a rough cut diamond, from a completely atypical background. She started driving because her ex-boyfriend was a racing driver. She got her hands on the steering wheel and thought it was indeed very cool.
Where did you meet her?
At the 24 hours of Le Mans last year. She was driving a Porsche round the circuit before the start of the race. It was her first time driving the car and yet there she was, setting the pace and leading the field. You could immediately see how impressive she was. To start with, she’s only 20! On top of this, her background is very different from what you’d expect. Formula 1 isn’t the be-all, end-all for her. She just loves cars. She sees endurance as a means of furthering her career aims.
Is it a risk taking someone so atypical?
Of course! But that’s the point. It’s what the RMRT is all about – breaking taboos, challenging ideas. It’s really important for us to give Lilou the chance to go as far as possible. For this she needs the right framework. In endurance, there are always 3 drivers. You really need seasoned drivers to provide the sort of support and back-up Lilou needs. The funny thing is that since the end of last year’s season, some really good male drivers came knocking at the door. We’re not talking beginners. These are real têtes d’affiche, the big names. Guys who simply wouldn’t risk their reputations or careers just for political reasons. The fact that they wanted to be part of the Team was true evidence that the Ladies had made their mark on the circuit.
Who exactly came knocking?
Charles Milesi was the first. He won the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year. He’s very young and promising. Then came Sébastien Ogier, a multiple rally champion and partner of the brand since 2016. He wouldn’t have come if he didn’t see the potential of working with Lilou. Sébastien is very humble because he knows this is a new adventure for him – and he’ll have to prove himself in this new challenge!
What kind of dynamics are there in mixed team?
Everyone, the drivers, but also the male engineers and technicians, have very much taken Lilou under their wing. We went with Lilou to do the first trials in Spain. She needed practice, and immediately set about doing her groundwork. All the team’s members gave her maximum support and everyone came out of the experience convinced of her massive potential.
Is the Racing team ‘militant’ in any way?
I’m not sure that’s the right word. Our point of departure has always been to show that if you give women drivers the tools they need, they’ll perform on the track. They can go every bit as far – and as fast! as the men. The mixed team is simply a natural evolution of the project, the next phase. Motor racing is a discipline where women have their place, every bit as much as men, especially in endurance. It’s one of the rare sports which are totally unisex, absolutely egalitarian. Basically, there’s motor racing and show-jumping – two disciplines where there is no physical difference, especially in the modern world, where technology also plays a role.
So there’s no physical difference at all?
Obviously, everyone has to train in a different way and to adapt their own unique physical attributes. Not all men are made in the same physical mould. It’s very much about gearing your physical capabilities to the challenge at hand. Women know there are things they’ll have to strengthen – their neck muscles, for example – but after all, not all men are the same either! Each person, each human being is different. You adapt and train accordingly. In any sport there are always things, physically and mentally, that each competitor has to work on. What we’re looking for in the end is efficiency – and success. That’s the greatest form of activism there is!
Are we talking about a ‘post-diversity’ world?
Definitely, yes. Having three female drivers was absolutely essential to get the Racing Team noticed. It opened eyes and made people talk. Now, however, women want to be judged and to win as good drivers, like men. We needed to go through this ‘activist’ phase so that drivers are no longer considered a gendered category. In a way, ‘activism’ is a false question, especially in motor racing. You’re above all a sportsperson. Why should gender stop you doing things, especially in an egalitarian sport? Our drivers want to be recognised for what they are – great drivers! Winners, not symbols, are ultimately the ones who end up on the podium. So, bring on the next season!