Hockenheim, Germany - W Series, the first women-only motor racing championship, has been rocked by a sex discrimination claim on its opening weekend.
While Britain’s Jamie Chadwick won the inaugural round in Hockenheim on Saturday, Sportsmail learned that two woman mechanics, who were featured in Channel 4’s promotional film of the series, were axed because, as one of them put it, "certain individuals didn’t like female mechanics around".
Joy Pratt, 32, who has worked in motorsport for a decade, was sent an email by Hitech GP, the company who run the cars for W Series, saying that her services were no longer required after she had worked in the garages at the driver selection tests in Almeria, Spain.
Pratt and Laura Jones were both discarded at that stage, seemingly making a mockery of W Series’ stated ambition to develop women mechanics.
Pratt’s dismissal, in particular, has surprised motorsport insiders because her CV suggests she is supremely qualified for the job: a champion Formula Ford mechanic and a technician at Aston Martin. Jones, though less experienced, is also highly rated. Pratt said: "I worked with W Series in one garage in Almeria and everything went well. I was welcomed into the crew and we got on well. Then I was moved to another garage, where the atmosphere was frosty.
"The chief mechanic took a dislike to me. I think I did a pretty excellent job. My cars ran well. I don’t think I was dropped because of the job I did. My face did not fit.
"I think certain guys feel threatened by female engineers. They do not like us around. There is a feeling of, 'You shouldn’t being doing this job'.
"I massively feel as if there is discrimination in motorsport. You can feel as a woman as if you are banging your head against a brick wall.
"W Series say they are about promoting women and it would be nice to think they want to hold on to the girls they have.'
Pratt says she has the support of W Series chief executive Catherine Bond Muir, who was apparently unaware of Hitech’s decision to sack her.
Bond Muir has held out the hope that Pratt will be handed a role in subsequent races, an opportunity she would consider.
A W Series spokesman said: "Sadly, we were unable to continue with the two mechanics concerned, for under-performance reasons. Wherever and whenever we are unsatisfied by a mechanic’s competence, it is our duty to replace him or her."Daily Mail