When Carmen Jorda suggested that female racing drivers shouldn’t even bother chasing their dreams of reaching the Formula One grid, the reaction on social media was akin to that of a comment made by Alex Jones. The vast majority of the comments were largely derogatory toward Jorda, with no thought given to the topic of women in motorsport – a key issue in todays world of sport, the world over. Something of which warrants serious discussion is instead being cast aside primarily due to the attention being drawn by the aura of a polarizing individual. Remind you of anyone?
As per my previous article, I touched on the story of rising Japanese sensation, Juju Noda. She certainly has the capabilities to fulfil her aspirations of becoming a Formula One driver purely based on merit. Something most drivers all over the world, irrespective of gender, wealth (sort of) or ethnicity may never achieve. Her ascension in awareness has been based purely off the results she has put in. The same can be said of the likes of French rally legend, Michele Mouton. In the 1982 season of the World Rally Championship, she took three rally wins en route to securing second place in the overall standings for that season. Or perhaps even Lella Lombardi? The Italian legend would contest in Formula One from 1974 until 1976. Although never in the best machinery (in fact, surely in some of the worst), she holds the distinction of being the only woman to have scored points in Formula One to date.
And then there is the aforementioned Carmen Jorda. A member of the FIA Women in Motorsport committee and former member of the Lotus F1 Team, she is almost certainly the most polarizing figure in motorsport. For those whom may not know of Jorda’s tenure in motorsport; or more specifically, in Formula One, you could be forgiven for thinking that the criticism could be the result of a sexist tirade brought upon by trolls and blue-collared slobs who still live in the pre-war era. But, having watched her motorsport activity for the past six years, the criticism is more than warranted.
After meandering in the lower-ranks of Spanish formula racing for a few years, she embarked on a season of racing in the United States. The Indy Lights series bared little fruit for the Spaniard as she stammered through the season, with results which would hardly suggest she was ready to join the more competitive European series’ such as GP3. Lo and behold, Jorda would sign with Ocean Racing Technology to race in the 2012 GP3 season. Jorda found herself at the back of the grid in almost every session throughout the year, with the most notable case being at the British round where she failed to qualify for the event – a rare instance in this level of motorsport. After two more years in the category, she would leave the series with a best race result of 17th. Going into 2015, it seemed as though we had seen the last of this debacle. In February 2015, it was announced that Jorda had signed with the Lotus F1 Team as a development driver.
To say that this was an unpopular signing was an understatement. Michele Mouton, the head of the FIA’s Women and Motor Sport Commission had described her as little more than a marketing gimmick. Many people had accused the Lotus outfit of signing Jorda based on looks and finances as opposed to driving talent. As well as being scalded by other racing drivers around the world, particular criticism came from former Lotus test driver, Marco Sorensen; after Sorensen had claimed that Jorda has been as much as twelve seconds off his pace in the racing simulator. Jorda laughed it off, claiming to be have actually been more or less within a second of Romain Grosjean. I’m sure she was.
After being dumped by the Lotus outfit (now known as Renault), her next venture in motorsport came about in December 2017, when she was appointed to the FIA’s Women in Motorsport commission. Accomplished British racing driver Pippa Mann commented that "it is extremely disappointing to learn that a racer with no notable results in any of the categories in which she has competed, and who believes and is quoted as saying that she does not believe we as female racers can compete, has been appointed to the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission”. A couple months later, Jorda commented that women should aim for Formula E rather than Formula One as it is less physically taxing on the driver. To have a spokesperson for women in motorsport to make such a comment undermine the capabilities of female racing drivers across the world is an affront to the sport and prompts the question of what value Jorda brings to the sport even when she is no longer behind the wheel of a car?
I’m fairly certain I will cop backlash, as a result of this article. But, I could not care less. We must be honest with ourselves – do we want women to succeed in motorsport? Any proper motorsport fan would say ‘yes’. There are certainly some capable female racing drivers out there, but much like their male counterparts, the drivers without the funds ultimately draw the short straw. If we are to make a concerted effort in a bid to entice women to compete in motorsport, it needs to be demonstrated that they can compete against men on merit. Therefore, levitating someone such as Jorda, we end up chasing our tails whilst trolls on social media continue to ridicule the concept of women in motorsport.