24 hours of Le Mans, a sports car endurance race, is the world’s oldest active race in the sport. But since its creation in 1923, there have been only 23 all-female teams. At the Le Mans Prototype 2, there haven’t been any all-female teams in it’s 18-year history until now.
An all-female team competed in an LMP2 car, which is the fastest car used in track racing, for the first time in the competition’s history during the big event in September 2020. Amanda Mille and her father Richard, a Swiss luxury watchmaker, had the idea to assemble the all-woman team that had a chance to reach the podium.
“If you have a goal, it may take a bit of time,” Mille said in an interview with the Financial Times. “But when we at Richard Mille do something we do it the right way. I really do believe we have everything to end up on the podium.”
At the event there were two all-female teams, but only the Mille’s team competed at the LMP2 level. There was a time when all-female teams at Le Mans were more common. In 1935, 12 years after the competition was founded, four all-female teams lined up to start. Since then Le Mans saw a decline in women at the event.
In 2009, the Women in Motorsport commission was created to encourage more participation for women. Michèle Mouton is the president of WMC and led an all-female team in 1975.
“We at the commission have been working for many years to get teams and manufacturers involved, to have ladies in a top team,” Mouton said in an interview with The New York Times. “This was like a dream, I would say.”
The second all-female team- Manuela Gostner of Italy, Rahel Frey of Switzerland and Michelle Gatting of Denmark- will compete in the LM GTE Am class. The three women participated in Le Mans last year and finished at 39th overall. According to the New York Times, they were the first all-women team to place since 1977.
Mille’s team consisted of Tatiana Calderon, Sophia Floersch and Beitske Visser. Katherine Legge was originally set to compete with them, but broke multiple bones and injuries during a trial run in July.
“Since all these ladies have been driving, no one has really believed that they could do something,” Mille said in an interview with the New York Times. “They have told me stories about engineers in other teams saying to them, ‘Don’t tell me what I should do because you’re just a girl.’ That’s where we still are in 2020. That’s a bit scary.”
Mille’s all-woman team of racers finished with a top 10 standing, placing ninth out of 24 cars.
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