After reigning champion Scott McLaughlin announced a move to IndyCar, 2021 will see a new winner crowned in the championship for the first time since 2018.
The World Endurance Championship (WEC), the premier sportscar category, has made the bold move to ban grid girls from the series for its 2015 season.
The ban, understandably, has divided opinion between traditionalists and progressives.
The traditionalists insist that grid girls are an innocent part of the show; that any ban will hardly create the gender balance that the likes of the WEC hope to achieve and that it’s all part of some wider PC conspiracy.
But, thankfully, it seems the progressives are winning out. And motorsport, it seems, is finally moving with the times and abandoning its male-centric traits.
Women play an increasingly important role in motorsport. In V8 Supercars, for example, there is a female team owner, two up and coming drivers in the Development Series (Renee Gracie and Chelsea Angelo), a handful of mechanics and a number of marketing and public relations managers.
And yet motorsport continues to send the wrong message by portraying women in such a sexist way with the use of grid girls, rather than celebrate the fact that the sport is one of the few in which women can compete on an equal footing with men in the same category.
The grid-girl presence only perpetuates the stereotype that motorsport is a male-dominated arena, and that women serve to provide a spectacle for male enjoyment.
This backward thinking is why motorsport audiences continue to be so skewed towards men and families tend to prefer ball sports and sporting codes that cater to all.
Now any grid-girl ban is unlikely to see a sudden and dramatic increase in female and family attendances. Car-loving blokes are always going to be drawn to motorsport. But long-term, an increased appeal to women and families can only be achieved by doing away with sexist relics.
The AFL, for example, moved away from dancing cheer girls years ago. Part of its wider appeal in terms of crowds and television ratings is its openness to all. Thirty-five per cent of AFL club members are women and families are drawn to AFL games more so than any other code in Australia, judging by their record crowd figures.
The WEC may find that there will be no immediate and tangible effect from the absence of grid girls. But as new sponsors and fans are exposed to the category, there won’t be the stigma attached of a gender-biased presentation.
Women and young families will be more inclined to follow and attend motorsport events in a non-sexualised environment. And for the “traditionalists” who claim they will miss grid girls at motorsport events, they need to ask themselves if they are true motorsport fans.
There’s enough titillation in other areas of society. Motorsport no longer needs it and should try harder to entice crowds to its events and stop appealing to the lowest common denominator.