‘The support left me speechless’: how Sarah Moore returned to W Series grid

The British W Series driver Sarah Moore had been looking forward to going racing again this year. Instead she found herself confronted by one of the disheartening, blunt realities of the pandemic. Her income gone and unable to afford a new helmet, Moore was forced to look to the kindness of strangers to ensure she can climb behind the wheel again this season. Their reaction left her speechless with gratitude.

“It takes a lot to make me cry but it’s fair to say I have been quite emotional over the last couple of days,” she says. After enduring a tough year in 2020 when she swapped a racing car for a delivery van and had to postpone her wedding twice, the 27-year-old from Harrogate is now on a high for 2021.

Moore will compete in the all-female W Series this season, the championship’s second after the 2020 calendar had to be abandoned. To do so, however, she required a new helmet and was unable to do her job as a self-employed coach and race-driving instructor – her income in 2020 had all but disappeared.

“When Covid hit as I was self-employed that really took its toll. We all thought and hoped it would be just a few months and we would get through, but then the reality of it struck and I had to look at how I was going to survive in the long term.”

Moore took the advice of a friend and, although reluctant, set up a GoFundMe page on Tuesday last week. Two days later it had reached her target of £3,000. It had been an extraordinary and unexpected step to have to take but one that has ensured her future.

“I was hoping for some help, but the support I have received has left me speechless. The motorsport community is so supportive and I can’t thank everyone who became involved enough for all they did in my hour of need. It is as if a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

Racing has been Moore’s life. She began karting when she was four and went on to win the Ginetta Junior Championship in 2009, after which the British Racing Drivers’ Club awarded her their rising star award. In 2018 she became the first woman to win the Britcar Endurance Championship. She is a proven talent but, like so many others and especially women in racing, has struggled to find the backing to further her career. Covid was almost a knockout blow.

Moore admits it has been tough on her mentally. “It is hard to put into words what this meant to me as racing is such an important part of my life. So not being able to do it was difficult.”

Unable to continue with the day job, she did what she could during the lockdowns. “Racing drivers still have bills to pay so I’ve been out doing deliveries for Sainsbury’s. I’m classed as a key worker which gives me a sense of pride.”

But the income did not meet the cost of a new helmet. Her situation is indicative of how hard it is for competitors who are not well backed by investors or family to go racing at all. The role the W Series now plays is crucial in ensuring drivers such as Moore can continue their careers. The championship pays all of its 20 drivers’ costs, no financial backing is required and it gives them a platform to showcase and develop their skills in a single-make F3 car.

The intention is to help promote a female driver into Formula One. This year, buoyed by the success of its inaugural season in 2019, the championship will be held as support races at eight F1 meetings, beginning on Saturday 26 June, with the race alongside qualifying for the French F1 Grand Prix at Paul Ricard.

The exposure the series will receive by being part of F1 weekends is immense and after 2019 its impact was already clear. The title winner, Jamie Chadwick, was taken on by the Williams F1 team as a development driver; Liechtenstein’s Fabienne Wohlwend has become a household name in her home country with backing to race full-time; while the hugely talented Marta García, whose career had stalled owing to lack of funding, has seen her profile rocket in Spain.

The W Series chief executive, Catherine Bond Muir, believes Moore also epitomises how the championship can make a difference. “Sarah is an example of why we set up W Series,” she said. “We are providing a platform for drivers to come to us with talent, and talent alone, in order to race. We are striving to eliminate the financial barriers which prevent more women from reaching the upper echelons of motorsport.

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“Our partnership with Formula One is a gamechanger and we hope the platform it provides will mean that fewer drivers face funding difficulties like Sarah’s in the future.”

With her new lid on the way, Moore feels optimistic for that future on her biggest stage yet. “W Series has made sure that I will be racing in 2021,” she said. “The series has given me such hope as I know I can go out and do what I love doing without a financial black cloud looming over me. I have never been so excited for a race season to start.”