Caitlyn Jenner signs champion Jamie Chadwick

Jamie Chadwick joins new team on the W Series block Jenner Racing

Castor Chan
6th March 2022
Caitlyn Jenner. Image: Flickr
To most people, the presence of the Kardashian-Jenner clan is centred across red carpets and Instagram feeds, but Caitlyn Jenner is now making her mark on the W Series racetrack. The news came early last month to many motorsports fans’ disbelief, but buzz around the team was drummed up again soon after with the announcement that two-time titleholder Jamie Chadwick was officially signed to the team.

This is not Jenner’s first run on the tarmac - in fact, she raced IMSA GT back in 1986 and even won her class in the 12 Hours of Sebring. She also did a spot of pit reporting and analysis, and claimed victory twice at the Grand Prix of Long Beach in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. Comparing the effects of the sport on her fitness to her Olympic running career (she does seem quite fond of tracks), Jenner cited, "I was a lot more badass runner than I was a driver."

Some would agree with that. One of the biggest reactions to Jenner Racing was disbelief. There is no doubt that Jenner has an extensive connection and understanding of sports, but her reputation behind a wheel is very much marred by an incident 7 years ago. Back in 2015, Jenner was involved in a crash where she rear-ended another car into traffic travelling in the opposite direction. She then kept going into another vehicle, whose driver was mildly injured. However, the driver of the first car she hit, Kim Howe, died from the accident.

The entire situation was met with criticism, especially as Jenner settled with everyone involved and walked away without charges. The district attorney’s office cited a lack of evidence and did not proceed with a case to find Jenner guilty of vehicular manslaughter. Was Jenner released by a DA for the death of an innocent person? Technically no as there was no official case. But many still believe she got off easy and should have been more severely punished.

Coming back to the W Series championship, their first and only confirmed driver so far is Jamie Chadwick for Jenner Racing. A quick search through Instagram and Twitter will reveal comments ranging from disappointment for her association with Jenner’s team to concern over her lack of progress into F3 or F2. Chadwick has long been associated with Veloce, and her departure from the team also raised many questions. In response, Chadwick uploaded a video to her social media explaining her decision and acknowledging everyone’s “frustration that I haven’t been able to progress up into the next step”. 

The Brit has long been touted as the potential first female in Formula 1 since the 1970s. But looking at her attempts to break into the pinnacle of single-seater racing, there is one question begging to be answered: is her career starting to stagnate? Her video concludes that her lack of progress was due to funding. Chadwick has long talked about her hopes to progress further in the junior series to F1, and her link to the Williams F1 team’s as their development driver had snagged the attention of many people. Yet now they worry that she will end up like Sophia Flörsch or Tatiana Calderon, drivers who reached F3 and F2 but failed to actually break into F1. In particular, Calderon was Alfa Romeo Racing’s (then Sauber) development driver for three years. Both have transitioned into endurance racing and raced Le Mans together.

“I think it’s still another opportunity to be racing. To be trying to, you know, raise the budget and the funding to then go to the next step, which I still believe is possible.”

Both the concern over Jenner’s hands-on management - as team principal, not simply team owner - and Chadwick's career has blended into a growing sense of doubt over the new team. Yet one huge positive to the situation is an increased amount of attention from the American audiences. Jenner’s involvement will bring money and awareness from across the pond to a sport and series that has been largely Eurocentric in its history. Last year, the only American W Series driver was Sabré Cook. Chadwick will also garner more support if she chooses to race in the US after this season as well. Only time will tell if Jenner can convert her experience in the pitlane years ago to exhilaration on the podium, and whether Chadwick can continue her dominant run for a third title as W Series’ only ever champion.

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