Lyn St. James has historically endorsed anything that empowers women in motorsports, but the racing pioneer does not generally support the concept of an all-female open-wheel formula.
That was the gist of her initial response to the creation of the W Series when asked about the all-female racing series that was announced on Wednesday in Europe.
"I'm still mulling that over, a little bit," St. James said in response to a question from Autoweek's Matt Weaver on Friday at Talladega Superspeedway. "First of all, any opportunity that comes up to put women in race cars, you have to take a hard look at it, off the top. I'm for any opportunities that put women in race cars.
"Do we need a women's only series? No. I don't think there is a need for that."
W Series intends to launch in May and will enter female drivers selected on the basis of talent without a need for funding in identically prepared Formula 3 cars. The series will offer a prize fund of $1.5 million with the overall champion collecting $500,000.
However, several prominent women across motorsports have decried the league for segregating women from the men they intend to race against. Indy 500 veteran Pippa Mann has called it the Handmaid’s Racing Series.
St. James broke barriers by becoming the first woman to win the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award back in 1992. She has also made starts in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 12 Hours of Sebring and set many land-speed and closed-course speeding records during a career that spanned multiple disciplines.
She also launched the Women in Motorsports Scholarship program in the 1990s to further the careers of drivers, making her an expert on the topic.
"Before I can take a really hard response, and make a statement that puts me on record, I want to know more about the funding source," St. James said. "Because I've read the press releases and I know they're saying this will come at no cost to the drivers with a $1.5 million purse and half a million to the champion.
"I want to know more about the funding source and what their mission statement for the funding is."
The league’s CEO is British sports layer and corporate financier Catherine Bond Muir, who has stated a desire to create a spotlight for women to showcase their talents without a need to provide funding for top-tier equipment.
But St. James says she would rather the league invite an equal number of men and women and see where those drivers rank against each other.
"Do we need an all-women's series? I don't think so. Not at all. I don't support that it's necessary," St. James said. "But I support anything that gives women a chance to get in a car and race. And hey, if you want to start a new series, that's great. But put half men and half women in it and give some of the guys a shot that wouldn't get one otherwise."
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