Two British women dominating the world of racing took time out ahead of their first W Series race outside of Europe to visit RAF Valley and see first-hand how women in the Royal Air Force operate and fly fast jets.
Alice Powell, 28, became the first woman to win a Formula Renault championship in 2010 and Jamie Chadwick, 24, was crowned the inaugural W Series champion in 2019.
Already familiar with the feeling of driving super-fast, Alice and Jamie were given the opportunity to fly in Hawk T2 aircraft and feel the intense power of g-force. After the experience, Jamie said:
"It almost felt unreal, like I was playing a video game the whole time.
"I constantly had to remind myself that it was the real thing."
W Series is an all-female single-seater racing championship set up by its CEO, Catherine Bond Muir, in 2018.
It provides equal opportunities for women and eliminates any financial barriers that have previously prevented female drivers from progressing to the very top of motorsport.
Drivers are selected purely on their ability and the racing cars are mechanically identical to those of their male counterparts.
The same can be said for pilots in the Royal Air Force.
Group Captain Andy Turk, Station Commander of RAF Valley – where the next generation of fighter pilots and helicopter crews are trained – can see the similarity between what he is trying to achieve with the skilled pilots and engineers under his command and the drivers and mechanics at W Series. He said:
"We have a meritocracy and this is one of the things that Catherine's trying to break down in Formula One, where you need sponsorship to get an advance.
"We don't have sponsorship, you get through on your merits and you progress and that's one of the best things about mobility within the Armed Forces is we take you as who you are and we want to... make the most of you, to fulfil your opportunity, your potential."
Jamie and Alice were given the chance to take the undeniable skills they have on the ground up into the sky in Hawk T2 aircraft.
Plus, they were able to meet female pilots at RAF Valley and compare notes on what it is like to work in high-pressure and physically demanding environments.
Fast jet pilot Flight Lieutenant Luci Conder first met the W Series racing drivers in April and is excited to see them perform and represent Britain at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on 23 October 2021.
She is keen to encourage women to go for careers that historically might have been dominated by men, like pilots, engineers, mechanics, racing car drivers and so on. She said:
"There are so many people involved in just getting airborne for one hour and I actually especially love to see women in the engineering roles align.
"It always brings a smile to my face when I walk past other women who are helping me get airborne and I think it goes both ways as well.
"We all just love to see more women... the more the better."
Alice enjoyed the experience at RAF Valley but discovered that when she was given control of the aircraft, things did not go as smoothly as her stomach would have liked, saying:
"I've really enjoyed it, apart from being sick.
"I think it was my own flying that made me feel sick.
"Everyone else's flying was perfect apart from my own."
Did that experience affect Alice's performance? Wing Commander Jamie Buckle, Officer Commanding IV Squadron gave his expert opinion, saying:
"They're level pegging in their driving championship at the moment but if it was flying, Jamie Chadwick was the star... pilot today.
"She seems to be a natural."
Gp Capt Andy Turk was equally as impressed by the W Series racing drivers' performance in the sky and thinks they learned a lot from their experience at RAF Valley, saying:
"When they get into a fight on the track out in the US, we are in for an amazing spectacle and I wish them both the very best of luck in this final race."
The W Series finale will take place at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas between 22 and 24 October 2021.
Cover image and Video: W Series racing drivers Alice Powell and Jamie Chadwick visit RAF Valley (Picture: Royal Air Force).