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FREC cars’ front suspension modified in effort to support female drivers

by Roger Gascoigne

Photo: Dutch Photo Agency

Formula Regional Europe teams will need to fit revised front lower wishbones to their cars this season in a move aimed at helping women racing in the championship.

The mandatory update kit for the Tatuus T-318 has been introduced to facilitate the handling and to reduce the physical effort required to steer the car, according to championship organisers.

Former FREC racer Belen Garcia welcomed the move. “The FRegional is a very difficult car to drive. When I raced, it became really difficult to manage. Now it’s a bit different,” she told Formula Scout.

Doriane Pin drove a Tatuus T-318 in several tests at Cremona last year on behalf of the chassis manufacturer and the FIA to evaluate various potential changes to the suspension and steering.

Formula Scout understands that FREC teams were informed of the move at the 2023 season finale last October. With each kit being priced at €2,000, the teams were initially reluctant to adopt the new suspension elements before the introduction of the second-generation FRegional car which is currently under development.

Initial fears that the changes might increase laptimes also appear unjustified based on testing. Van Amersfoort Racing’s CEO Rob Niessink told Formula Scout that “as long as there is no impact on performance, then we welcome measures to increase accessibility for female drivers”.

FREC is keen to lead the way in supporting women on the junior single-seater ladder, having amended its regulations to permit an extra entry for teams running one of the top three drivers in the 2023 standings from the all-female, Formula 4-spec F1 Academy series.

“This agreement represents a continuation and consistency in the attention we’ve always given to female drivers,” the ACI and Alpine, which promote FREC, told Formula Scout.

“[It] not only enriches the starting grid, but also highlights the importance and focus that our championship places on supporting young girls who have chosen to pursue a career in motorsport.”

FREC so far has three women on its 2024 grid. Pin forms part of an all-female Iron Dames pairing alongside F1 Academy champion and W Series race-winner Marta Garcia, and ART Grand Prix’s F1 Academy runner-up Lena Buhler returns to FREC with the team having previously spent just over a season with R-ace GP before lack of funding forced her off the grid.

Speaking before Pin’s entry was announced, the ACI and Alpine expressed confidence that F1 Academy graduates “will demonstrate their talents and determination in the upcoming competitions”, despite 2024’s “highly competitive” grid.

“It’s not a new thing to have women participating in the races. Since 2021, we’ve had eight female drivers who have donned the racing suit and helmet in our series.”

Ironically, the growing prominence of F1 Academy has led to Maya Weug stepping back down to F4 to race there rather than in FREC after showing strong promise with KIC Motorsport last season. “It’s a real shame to see Maya leave, as she is an exceptional driver who has already demonstrated her competitiveness and skills,” the championship organisers added.