Formula One racing might not always be dominated by men.

A new all-female motor-racing series, supported by former Formula One driver David Coulthard, is set to start next year and will give women the experience and qualifications for a potential stint at the highest level of the sport.

Drivers will not have to pay to race in the W Series and as many as 20 women will compete for a share of the US$1.5 million prize fund. All cars will be mechanically identical which will result in close and exciting races, according to the organisers.

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The last female driver to start a race in Formula One, considered the pinnacle of motorsport, was Italy’s Lella Lombardi in the 1970s. Developing a young driver usually involves investment running to millions, discouraging many to pursue the sport seriously.

News of the woman-only series drew a mixed response. British racing driver Pippa Mann called it a “sad day for motorsport” in a Twitter post, saying the project was a form of segregation.

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For his part, Coulthard said it will create opportunities as female racing drivers tend to reach a “glass ceiling” at lower levels of motorsport as a result of a lack of funding rather than a lack of talent.

In June, Saudi Arabia’s Aseel Al-Hamad drove a demonstration lap in a Formula One car over the French Grand Prix weekend to encourage women to take part in motorsport. Saudi Arabia ended its status as the last country on earth to prohibit women from taking to the wheel when it lifted the ban this year.

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