At the end of this month, Canadian kart racer Taegen Poles will travel to Austria to be a part of history. The Queens University student has been selected to take part in a shootout for a full season of competition the W Series, the first ever female only race series motivated help to elevate female racers to the top levels of motorsport.
Backed by David Coulthard, multiple Grand Prix winner, and Adrian Newey, the most successful Chief Design Engineer in modern Formula 1 history, sixty drivers will be pushed to their limits in order to qualify for the series, which will fully cover the costs for 18-20 females drivers from around the world. Contenders will compete in a mixture on-track testing, simulator appraisal, technical engineering tests and fitness trials, all judged by industry professionals, to select the W Series class of 2019.
The series will support the DTM championship in 2019 and compete on some of the most prestigious circuits in the world aboard equally prepared Tatuus T-318 Formula 3 cars. For many without the financial support to make it to the level of Formula 3 and beyond, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Along with Poles, fellow Canadian Megan Gilkes has also been selected to take part in the shootout. A former karter, Gilkes has already begun her car racing career, competing in F1200 this past season.
To get some insight from Poles, we caught up with the Automotive Engineering student during the holiday season to chat about the W-Series.
First off, what were your initial impressions when the W Series was first announced?
When the details of the W Series came out, I saw it as an opportunity to help increase female participation in motorsports through the medium of an all-female series. I have always been eager to see more women on track!
I also focused on what the series had to offer; the car, the series and of course the cost.
The Tatuus T-318 Formula 3 car itself looks remarkably powerful, and the aerodynamic and engine package is quite appealing. With the W Series racing in Europe in support of DTM, this is a fantastic opportunity for me to raise my profile. Racing is my passion and having the chance to drive on legendary tracks is incredible. Finally, we all know that budgets are tough, so having a free to enter series, with a prize pool, is also amazing, particularly for a Canadian as going overseas to race is quite costly – especially for someone trying to simultaneously get a university degree in mechanical engineering.
Overall, I was excited to see what the W Series had in store for 2019. As the first series of its kind, the W Series is a fantastic opportunity and left me with a very positive first impression.
Were you quick to prepare an application, or did you need a little time to digest the information and decide if it was right for you?
Really, it was a very simple decision. A great car, aero and engine package, a solid team backing the Series, and the opportunity to race without having to bring sponsorship or other money meant that it was obvious to apply.
The W Series is giving me the opportunity to bring my plan of racing professionally one step closer to reality. I wouldn’t dream of letting an opportunity like this pass me by.
Upon hearing the confirmation of your acceptance to the W Series shootout in Austria, what have you been focusing on in preparation?
Once I found out that I was going to Austria for the selection, I ramped up my regular off-season race preparation while still focusing on my courses and final exams at Queen’s University.
My top priority has been fitness and simulator time as it is just not in my budget to fly south or to Malaysia to get seat time in an open-wheel racer car before the shootout. I have been spending as many hours as I can on a simulator to get more comfortable with a paddle-shifting sequential gearbox. The DD2 and Shifter Kart experience helps, but there’s always more room to learn. Fitness is also going to be crucial, so I’ve been focusing my athletic routine on strength building, especially for my neck, and overall endurance workouts.
Do you feel any intimidation from the competition, given the wide range of age and experience levels you will be up against?
I think it would be ridiculous not to recognize the talent that my competitors bring with them. There are some incredibly distinguished racers who are going to be there when I land in Austria. I am sure that they are all going to be hungry for a chance for a spot in the series. I have never shied away from competing against the best, in fact, I look forward to it.
Ultimately, I cannot change my age or experience, nor can I change my competition. What I do have control over is my level of commitment and effort. I will give it my all, and since it’s a level playing field for the selection process, I am confident that I can do well and hold my own.
Finally, W Series or not, will see still see you in a kart in 2019?
Yes, I am sure I will find my way into a shifter kart with Energy Corse North America in 2019! Working with Darren White and the rest of the team for the past two years has been fantastic, and the Canadian karting community is like a second family; I couldn’t imagine not spending time at Mosport and Goodwood this year. Even if I find myself in Europe for most of the summer, I expect that I will be hopping into a kart whenever possible.