Lilou Wadoux: the female 'UFO' driver who's come out of nowhere

Le Mans News

Lilou Wadoux was plucked from obscurity to race — impressively — at Le Mans. Could she become the next great female racing hero?

French's driver Lilou Wadoux of Oreca Gibson WEC, reacts in the pits during the 90th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race, in Le Mans, north-western France, on June 12, 2022. (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP) (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images)

Wadoux has emerged from relative obscurity to already impress in WEC


Le Mans rookie Lilou Wadoux and team-mate Charles Milesi should have been on course for an impressive top-six finish in the LMP2 category at Le Mans last weekend if it wasn’t for one small mistake.

But the error didn’t come from 21-year-old Le Mans rookie Wadoux, in her first season of professional racing, nor from Milesi, current LMP2 champion who is only competing in his second full season of WEC and also aged 21.

Instead, it was the somewhat more experienced seven-time WRC champion Sébastien Ogier, 38, who was caught speeding in the pitlane, incurring a stop-and-go-penalty for the Richard Mille team.

Even so, finishing ninth out of 28 cars in the LMP2 category at La Sarthe, billed as the most competitive class in motor sport right now, is a satisfying result for a line-up of such little endurance experience – particularly Wadoux, partnering a pair with eight world championships between them.


Wadoux has joined Charles Milesi and Sébastien Ogier at Richard Mille


As the Amiens native says “I don’t care if I’m a boy or a woman. I’m racing for one goal which is to perform.”

The youngest Frenchwoman ever to compete at Le Mans has been brought into the Richard Mille fold as part of its mission to become a gateway for women in racing and help, in project leader Amanda Mille’s words, “see women on the top of the podium”.

“I have to say Lilou is special,” Philippe Sinault, Alpine-Signatech team manager

The aim is idealistic, but has yielded results already – the team, which made its debut in 2020 with Sophia Floersch, Beitske Visser and Tatiana Calderon finished ninth in its first Le Mans in 2020.

Floersch is now racing full-time in the European Le Mans Series with Algarve Pro Racing, Calderon is competing in IndyCar with AJ Foyt and whilst Visser is giving W Series another shot.

All these drivers had a lot more racing experience than Wadoux coming into their first Le Mans – making her debut top-10 all the more impressive.

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The young racer is described by her team as a “UFO” who came out of nowhere to catch the eye of Alpine in one of its national series.

“Last year she did the Alpine Elf Europa Cup and won one race at the end of the championship, so Alpine proposed for her to do an evaluation test in Bahrain,” says Signatech CEO Guiseppe Bizzoca.

“She did very well in the test, and we know that we have a lot of capacity and possibility to improve Lilou was during the next season. We are proud of her and we trust in her.”

Not that she appears particularly bothered, as Alpine-Signatech team manager Philippe Sinault explains.

“Even though she’s the youngest and has least experience, I have to say Lilou is special,” he says. “She brings serenity because she’s so clearly so focused on the target, and is not afraid of making a mistake, talks well with her engineer.”

French's driver Lilou Wadoux leaves after a relay of her Oreca Gibson WEC, during the 90th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race, in Le Mans, north-western France, on June 12, 2022. - Lilou WADOUX (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP) (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images)

Wadoux has adjusted well to world championship competition


Ogier chips in to support Sinault, with no faint praise from a rally legend.

“I’m impressed with how she behaves aged 21,” he says. “If I remember myself, I was not even racing at all at this age! She doesn’t care about anything else around her, she just focuses. Lilou has a kind of confidence in her – she doesn’t think too much and just does what she has to do.”

Cutting a small, slight figure belies a clear steeliness about Wadoux, who already clearly senses what she needs to do to earn a permanent place in the paddock, and restore the team’s faith in her.

As keen as she is to let her driving do the talking, young Wadoux can still make her point in interviews too.

“Yes, it’s different to be a woman in racing, but we’re ready to go against the boys,” she says.

“I don’t care if I’m a boy or a woman, I’m racing for one goal which is to perform.

“A lot of girls perform in the non-racing world. So I think it’s not a problem for you to be a woman or to be a man – when the crash helmet’s on the driver it’s about driving, not the gender.”

Amanda Mille feels similarly, but felt moved to take action in what she feels is still an environment biased towards male drivers, by creating a team which could provide a platform.

“It’s what Richard Mille been doing since the start, treating women the same as men,” she says.

“The issue is that there are some really good female drivers out there, but people don’t they don’t want to put too much money behind them, and they don’t want to give them the right tools to fight at the same level.

MILLE Amanda with WADOUX Lilou (fra), Richard Mille Racing Team, Oreca 07 - Gibson, portrait during the 2022 24 Hours of Le Mans, 3rd round of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship, on the Circuit de la Sarthe, from June 11 to 12, 2022 in Le Mans, France - Photo Germain Hazard / DPPI

Amanda Mille on the grid with Wadoux

Germain Hazard / DPPI

“It was about finding a place for female drivers to have their own place in motor sport.

“After some decisions and knowing a bit about the different disciplines around us, we recognised that endurance is one of them where ladies can show that they can end up on the podium.”

In Wadoux, Mille and co appear to have found the driver to go with the team.

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“Lilou is probably one of the first key drivers that really is looking forward to a career in endurance and not having other goals elsewhere,” Mille says.

“In her we have found a little diamond. It’s important to have a driver next to her [like Milesi or Ogier] who can show that altogether we can do so many amazing things.

“I think also by having a mixed team [instead of the all-female team like last season], you can change the image of it being a male-dominated sport, and open doors to women.

“This is not just marketing, we’re not looking at having equality in the internal teams or just having any female driver – for me it has to be the right one.

“We need to find a way to bring more role models for young girls into racing, to believe in motor sport and want to do it.

“There is a lot of work to do – it’s not only a question of money it is way more than that, but we’re on the right way.”

There’s a long road ahead for Wadoux if she’s to make a career centred around Le Mans, a race she remembers watching as a child.

French driver Lilou Wadoux (Oreca Gibson Wec N°1) reacts in her pit after a relay during the 90th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race, in Le Mans, north-western France, on June 12, 2022. (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP) (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images)

The team sees a serious future for Wadoux in endurance racing


However, if she listens of the advice of Ogier, she should be on the right track with Richard Mille.

“I think she’s doing a pretty good job,” he says. “I’m sure she can have a good career here if she gets the real opportunity, because we all need a bit of time.

“Of course it cannot come from one day to another – with very little experience in racing, but from my point of view she’s doing very well.”