The all-female W-Series may be gaining the plaudits, but the macho world of 10,000bhp drag racing appears to be streaking ahead when it comes to women in motor sport.
Visitors to Santa Pod, the home of British drag racing, for the FIA Championship last month saw a thrilling battle between the top three – all of them women – in the highest Top Fuel category.
Finnish veteran Anita Mäkelä was bidding to secure her fourth FIA championship in the sport’s premier class, pursued by young rivals Maja Udtian (Norway) and Jndia Erbacher (Switzerland). Sweden’s Susanne Callin – once the world’s first 300mph teenager – was making her second start after 14 years out of the Top Fuel cockpit while she was bringing up her family.
Udtian reset her own European record at 3.806sec to qualify on pole over the 1000-foot course (reduced from the classic quarter-mile for safety reasons). Erbacher was second at 3.880sec with Mäkelä only third (3.903sec).
Mäkelä scythed through the eliminations, however, with a trio of 3sec passes, beating Britain’s (male) Liam Jones in the final to seal both race victory and the FIA title.
Mäkelä’s semi-final time of 3.821sec was her new career best.
Udtian’s 315.52mph run was the event’s highest speed.
Drag racing has a rich history of women champions. In 1977 Shirley Muldowney won the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Championship in America for the first time. She repeated the feat in 1980 and 1982. And last year the Top Fuel champions on two continents were female: Kelly Bettes in Australia and Anita Mäkelä in Europe. Brittany Force also won in America in 2017.
Santa Pod’s Caroline Holden commented: “Women drivers have been excelling at all levels of drag racing for decades, and we are delighted to see other forms of racing at last beginning to catch on.”
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