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David Coulthard: 'Eyes of the world will be on W Series launch'

Eighteen drivers will compete in the inaugural six-race championship.

David Coulthard says the eyes of the world will be on Germany on Saturday for the maiden race of the inaugural women-only motor racing championship.

Eighteen drivers have been selected from a pool of more than 100 to contest a £1.15million prize pot over six rounds of historic racing.

The W Series champion will pocket in excess of £350,000. The championship's founders want to break down gender barriers in a sport dominated by men, and provide female competitors with a platform to showcase their skills and inspire others to follow their example.

Remarkably, it has been more than four decades since a woman, the Italian Lella Lombardi, last took part in a Formula One race.

The championship, however, has been criticised, too. Some fear it will only segregate female drivers, while last week, the outspoken Red Bull F1 chief Dr Helmut Marko said: "Wheel-to-wheel fighting at 300 kilometres per hour means you must have some brutality. I don't know if that is in the female nature."

But Coulthard, a 13-time grand prix winner and chairman on the W Series advisory board, told Press Association Sport: "I understand in life that there will be people who like tea, and people who like coffee, and you will not convince them either way.

"I am not saying women shouldn't race with men. We are simply creating an opportunity. So, for all of those who have spoken up and said that it is wrong, fine, take another route.

"We would love for that to be successful, too, but we are putting our money where our mouth is, and providing a segue to the next step.

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"The cars are physically challenging, they are fast, and the world will be watching this weekend.

"I fail to see what part of that isn't good, so the argument against it just doesn't stack up for me."

Following a successful grand prix career, Coulthard turned to broadcasting, and he will be in the commentary booth this weekend for Channel 4 – the championship dealt a major boost after agreeing a deal with the terrestrial channel to show every race live.

The Scot's involvement follows personal tragedy, too – his sister Lynsay Jackson, a talented junior racer, died in 2014, aged just 35.

"A reason I wanted to get involved with the W Series was in memory of my sister," added Coulthard.

"It was acknowledged in our family that Lynsay was probably more naturally-talented than I was.

"At the time, I was 17 and my career was kicking off. But because she was six years younger, and although she had won a few races, the family got excited about my potential and her opportunities petered out."

The W Series competitors will use identical machinery in races lasting 30 minutes. Five British drivers will be on the grid – at what is forecast to be a rain-hit Hockenheim.

They include Jamie Chadwick, 20, the first woman to win a British Formula Three race, and Alice Powell, a promising junior until she ran out of money.

Powell, 26, was unblocking toilets before the W Series came calling.

"There is a real sense among the women that they are creating an historic movement," said Coulthard.

"Whether it is from this group, or a group several years down the line, there is potential to have a woman in Formula One.

"Their talent will tell us if they are good enough, and if they are not then like many others before them, they will not make it. But now, at least, there is a platform for that to be determined."

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