W Series, a new international single-seater championship for women, is to launch next year with the aim of helping females in their push to Formula 1, according to motorsport.com.
The new category, which will use identical Tatuus F3-spec cars, has backing from former F1 race winner David Coulthard and a prize pot totalling $1.5 million.
The winner of the category will earn $500,000 to help fund her next step up the racing ladder to F1.
The six-round series will launch in May 2019 and features 30-minute races throughout Europe, with one round to be held in the UK. Future expansion in Australia, Asia and the Americas is expected longer term.
Females hoping to compete in W Series will not have to bring any sponsorship but they will have prove their ability in an intensive selection process to ensure that the grid is full of the best talent possible.
The judges will include Coulthard, former F1 team manager Dave Ryan who is the series’ racing director and F1 technical designer Adrian Newey, who is an advisory board member.
Speaking about the reasons for helping create an all-female category, Coulthard said: “We at W Series firmly believe that female and male racing drivers can compete with one another on equal terms given the same opportunity.
“At the moment, however, women racing drivers tend to reach a ‘glass ceiling’ at around the GP3/Formula 3 level on their learning curve, often as a result of a lack of funding rather than a lack of talent.
“That’s why an all-new all-female single-seater motor racing series is required – W Series – to establish a competitive and constructive motorsport habitat in which our drivers will be able to equip themselves with the necessary skill-set eventually to move on up to existing high-level mainstream racing series and compete with the best male drivers on equal terms.”