W Series, the international women’s motor racing championship, has ended its season early after a proposed investment deal collapsed last month.
The series announced yesterday (October 10) that it had canceled the remaining three races on its 2022 calendar, including this month’s race at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, and the season-ending doubleheader scheduled for the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.
The confirmation comes after The Telegraph reported last month the last three races were at risk of being pulled due to W Series owing “significant sums” to creditors amid funding issues that have been compounded by the financial crisis and devaluation of the pound.
The report said the series’ funding issues were also exacerbated when a multi-million-pound deal with a US investor collapsed after contracts were signed.
In a statement, W Series said that as the required funding was not received from the unnamed investor, “the decision has been made to focus on the longer-term fundraising process to enable the longevity and financial health of W Series into 2023 and beyond and enable cost-cutting by canceling the remaining races in Austin and Mexico City.”
It added that Britain’s Jamie Chadwick had been announced champion for the third time after dominating the series with five wins in seven races. She remains the only champion after victories in 2019 and 2021.
The 24-year-old is expected to receive all of the $500,000 prize money for winning the title, out of the pot of $1.5 million available to drivers in the top positions.
The series’ accounts, filed on September 5, showed liabilities of over £7.5 million ($8.2 million) for the period to December 31, 2021. According to the accounts, the numbers are “in line with expectations given the business is in the start-up phase.”
Launched in 2018 by former lawyer and corporate finance banker Catherine Bond Muir, W Series’ 2022 season was to be the longest-ever after two races were added to its calendar in March.
It originally announced eight races all running as support races for the prestigious Formula 1 (F1) series but confirmed two doubleheader events at both the Miami Grad Prix and Mexican Grand Prix, bringing the schedule to 10 races.
The inaugural 2019 season had six races, all in Europe, with eight last year when W Series linked up with F1. The 2020 season was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Addressing the cancellation, Bond Muir, also the series’ chief executive, said she was confident the series would be back for the 2023 season, adding: “As a startup in only our third season of racing, we are always working hard to ensure regularity of funding as we continue to grow our business, but due to recent unforeseen circumstances outside of W Series’ control, we had not been in receipt of contracted funds due to us.
“Therefore, we have been forced to make the unfortunate decision not to complete our scheduled calendar this season.
“It is well-documented that women’s sports receive far less funding than its male counterparts, and W Series is no exception.
“We are incredibly thankful for the help and support we have received in recent weeks following the news of the financial difficulties we’ve been facing, which has accelerated our fundraising process and given us great optimism as we look to 2023 and beyond.
“While we aren’t in a position to make a formal announcement yet, there are many positive conversations ongoing, and all parties share our passion for and belief in our mission to provide our incredible field of women drivers a platform to showcase their talents and to race in front of enthusiastic fans all around the world.”
In April, the series signed a three-year rights deal with pay-television broadcaster Sky. The deal, covering the UK, added to Sky’s deals in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and represents the championship’s largest media rights deal so far.
In July, the series secured a record domestic audience for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone across Sky Sports and free-to-air broadcaster Channel 4. Average viewership hit 713,000 for the race as Chadwick won her sixth consecutive race.
International sports heavyweight ESPN also holds rights in the US to this season’s championship.
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