By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Alice Powell has been unblocking drains and painting walls for her builder father over the winter months, but it will be emotion rather than emulsion on Sunday when she tests an electric Formula E car for the first time.
The 27-year-old Briton, a race winner and third overall in the inaugural all-female W series last year, will drive for the Envision Virgin Racing team at the rookie test that follows Saturday’s race in Marrakesh.
“It’s totally different to anything I’ve ever driven before,” she told Reuters after experiencing the team’s simulator this week.
Powell was the first woman to win a Formula Renault (PA:) championship in 2010 and two years later became the first female to score a point in the GP3 junior series, two rungs below Formula One.
She also won the Asian Formula Renault championship but then the brakes came on. Without money to progress further, she had to stop.
The sweet smell of success was replaced by something altogether more pungent as she helped her father out with his daily work.
“W series kick-started my career again and put my name back out there, which certainly helped in getting the drives that I have,” she said.
“I still can’t quite believe that I’ll have driven a Formula E car. If you’d told me at the end of 2018 that I’d be doing these things now, I wouldn’t have believed you at all.”
For W Series organizers, who aim to help women to climb the male-dominated motorsport ladder with fully funded race seats, Powell epitomizes their mission.
“Who knows where her career could have gone if money wasn’t a barrier?,” says series founder Catherine Bond Muir. “She stopped racing for five years and we were the people who allowed her to race again.”
Powell is already competing as a full-time driver in the single-make Jaguar I-Pace etrophy, a Formula E support series, and will also return for the second season of the W Series.
Last year, after W Series had finished, she also made her IMSA GT sportscar debut in the United States. Electric racing has grown on her, however.
“I have to totally admit I didn’t really start watching Formula E properly until last year or the year before. I kind of dipped in and out, but there was nowhere really to watch it,” she said.
“Now it’s becoming a bit more accessible and I’m loving the racing. Loving watching the races, actually being there on race weekends. In Mexico, the atmosphere there was absolutely incredible. It was just insane.
“They are doing a great job with the whole series and it is something I would obviously love to race and take part in.”
Powell also plans to continue helping out her father when possible, paying him back for all the weekends he and her grandfather gave up to take her karting.
“I’m not going to stop that,” she said.
“Plumbing’s all right actually, I quite like that. I’ve rodded some drains and unblocked things. You get used to that smell.”