Regardless of your thoughts on the new women-only W Series (the comments section is below, because, good God, we just don’t have room to unpack all of that here) even the staunchest of critics can’t help but nod in approval that two Canadian drivers are part of the 55 contenders vying for a spot on the grid.

Among those 55 contenders aiming for the just 18 seats in next year’s series are Ontarians Megan Gilkes and Taegen Poles, who reside in Richmond Hill and Port Hope, respectively.

Gilkes has been racing since the age of 9 and won the Barbados 2011 Easykart 60-cc half-season championship in 2011 before a heavy accident in the World Finals in Italy left the then-11-year-old with a broken arm and a concussion.

Although largely on the sidelines from 2012 to 2014 after re-locating to Canada, occasional test opportunities meant Gilkes returned to action in the Ottawa Challenge Karting Series in 2015 and graduated from the Skip Barber Racing School at the tutelage of former Formula 1 runner (and Olympic skier) Divina Galica before making her car racing debut in F1200 Canada in 2016. Now 17, Gilkes this year competed in single-seater development series Formula Vee.

Poles, meanwhile, made a strong racing debut in 2006 by finishing 6th overall in the Canadian Rookie Karting Championship, continuing her karting fellowship in the highly-respected Rotax Micro-Max and Mini-Max divisions from 2009 to 2011. In 2014, having stepping up for two seasons in Rotax Junior, Poles won the Mosport International Karting Association Championship in 2014, thereafter becoming a development driver in the Toyo Tires F1600 Series.

Now 20, Poles hopes to transition to a full season in either F1600 or Formula 4, the latter a notable stomping ground for future Formula 1 graduates.

Both Gilkes and Poles have passed a rigorous pre-selection process that included on-track testing, simulator appraisal and fitness trials, among others, all of which were overseen by 13-time Formula 1 Grand Prix winner David Coulthard, F1 design guru Adrian Newey, former McLaren sporting director Dave Ryan and respected F1 journalist Matt Bishop.

The selection process itself for the final 18 drivers meanwhile will be overseen by two-time Le Mans winner and Grand Prix Drivers’ Association chairman Alexander Wurz.

Some of the more high-profile contenders both Gilkes and Poles are competing against include US Formula 4 regulars Sabre Cook and Hanna Zellers; reigning British GT4-class champion Jamie Chadwick; and former Lotus F1 tester Carmen Jorda.

The inaugural single-seater series is set to get underway next May, and aims to give female drivers in motorsport both a promotional platform and a push up the ladder towards motor racing’s higher echelons.

Confirmed as a support series for Germany’s popular DTM series – a former hunting ground of fellow Canadian driver Robert Wickens, just FYI – the provisional calendar sees W Series running at Hockenheim (Germany), Zolder (Belgium), Misano (Italy), Norisring (also Germany) and Assen (The Netherlands) throughout the year ahead of a season finale at Brands Hatch in the UK on August 10 and 11.

Free to enter, the overall winner of the inaugural W Series will walk away with $500,000 in prize money with ‘a total prize fund of US$1.5 million’ up for grabs across the season.

Source: Driving

December 2, 2018