American Chloe Chambers Blazing Trails in W Series with Caitlyn Jenner

·9 min read
Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images
Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images

Chloe Chambers has a lot going on these days.

The 17-year-old senior from Hudson Valley, New York, has finals coming up and will be graduating from high school next month. After that, its on to Arizona State University's online program and the school's business management program.

But this week, Chambers will put the books aside for a few days and take in a little racing in Miami.

Check that.

Chambers won't just be checking in on the action, she'll be in the middle of it—racing in the W Series on the Formula 1 circuit in Miami against some of the world's top female open-wheel racers. She is the lone American on the grid. It's pretty heady stuff, even for a young racer who already owns a Guinness World Record for driving prowess and who's already gone head-to-head with Simon Cowell on America's Got Talent: Extreme.

Photo credit: W Series
Photo credit: W Series

The W series is an open-wheel racing series for women. The three-year-old series began in 2019 (skipped 2020 due to the pandemic) and is back for an ambitious 2022 campaign of 10 races in support of Formula 1. This week, the W Series races twice at Miami Gardens, Florida, ahead of Sunday's F1 Miami Grand Prix.

The cars used in the W Series are identically prepared TatuusAlfa Romeo F3 T-318 race cars. Chambers drives for Jenner Racing, which is owned by Caitlyn Jenner, and her teammate is two-time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick.

"I do realize how big the W Series is, and it definitely is the biggest series I’ve raced in," Chambers told Autoweek during a recent Zoom interview. "I think that makes me more excited, actually. It doesn’t seem to add more pressure to me. I kind of like having a lot of people watching me race. I think that I perform really well under pressure, and so I think just having everyone there, and having all the F1 teams looking on just makes me more excited to go to Miami."

Chambers started racing go-karts when she was 8 years old. She moved through the kart ranks, won a World Karting Association national championship, and last year competed the full season in the Formula 4 United States Championship, where she finished 26th in the points.

"I’m not from necessarily a racing family," Chambers said. "My dad did some autocross and track days. He was never a professional racer. He was just into cars. He watched Formula 1 and everything. I watched it with him. I would go to some of his track day events with my mom.

"I just fell in love with the sport from watching it with my dad and watching my dad, too. I saw some younger kids getting in some go-karts one day, and I was 7 at the time, and I asked my mom, ‘I want to drive like dad.’ But I was only 7, and I couldn't drive an actual car. My parents did some research and found a go-kart track near my house. I started racing go-karts when I was 8 years old. And I guess from there, it became something more than just a hobby, and now I’m here. It seems to have worked out."

Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images
Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images

This past winter, Chambers survived rigorous preseason tests and evaluations for prospective W Series drivers at Inde Motorsports Ranch in Arizona and at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain. The goal was to secure one of openings in the 18-driver field. Chambers made the cut, along with series rookies Tereza Babickova, 18, from the Czech Republic; Bianca Bustamante, 17, of the Phillippines; Emely De Heus, 19, of the Netherlands; and 16-year-old Juju Noda of Japan. The rest of the field consists of the top finishers from last year's points standings.

"I didn’t necessarily surprise myself," Chambers said of the W Series tryouts. "I was just going in there with no expectations. I wasn’t expecting to be the quickest. And I wasn’t expecting myself to just automatically be up to speed. I was just going in to learn, and I guess that’s what I did. It seemed to have gone really well.

"I think that I drove the best that could have. And then just I think with some more time in the car and especially here in Miami when nobody knows the track and it’s more even, I have a better chance at doing well because it’s the first time for everybody at this track."

This season, and as Miami, she'll be driving for team owner Caitlyn Jenner and Jenner Racing. When her high school classmates heard that, well, you can probably guess the rest.

"I went out to California to meet her," Chambers said. "Jamie (Chadwick) came along, as well. I got to meet both of them. I think Caitlyn is really cool. She just really likes racing and cars and everything. She has so much experience in the sports world that she can share with me. She genuinely has a passion for cars. A lot of people don’t know that, especially people my age. She’s a big pop celebrity."

That's what got her friends' attention, for sure.

"A lot of my friends are like, ‘Oh, yeah, you met Caitlyn Jenner!’ They were just amazed,"Chamber said. "That’s the Kardashian family and the Jenner family. I think obviously it’s cool and everything, but to me she’s not just a pop culture celebrity. Shes the owner of the team. She really likes race cars, She's an Olympian. She has so much knowledge she can share with me, and I can probably use all of that for the rest of my career."

Looking Down the Road

Chambers added the W Series and this week's experience is just another step along a journey that she hopes will end way down the road.

I think my goal for the whole entire year is just to learn a lot, try to take in as much as I can, and develop my driving as much as I can, and also develop my personality off track, media skills and everything," Chambers said. "I think in Miami it will be exciting to see who is where in the field. I’ve never raced against a lot of these drivers, so I don’t know their driving style. That’s something I have to learn as well, and obviously the track and everything.

"This will be my second time in the car. There’s some learning to do there, as well. I can’t really say that I have specific expectations placement-wise. I’m just looking to learn a lot."

At Miami, Chambers and the women of the W Series will get to put on their show in front of not only F1 fans, but also many of the F1 drivers who may pop out to see some of the action. And that's the crowd that Chambers hopes to be part of one day.

"My ultimate goal since pretty much before I started racing was to be in Formula 1 and be on a team that gives me the ability to win," she said. "I don’t just want to go into Formula 1 and not get results from it. I want to go into Formula 1 and be competitive and be with whatever the best team that I can be on.

"I would love to race the Indy 500, as it’s a big event in the U.S.

"And I’ve started to get into sports car and endurance racing, through my sponsor Monoflo, in a Porsche GT4 Club Sport. So far, I’ve enjoyed that a lot. That’s just kind of helping me get some experience in sports cars and hopefully that can get me one day to the Daytona 24 or to the Le Mans 24—those really iconic sports car endurance races."

World Record Holder

Chambers has already had some success beyond her years. In 2020, when she was still just 16, she set a Guinness World Record for "Fastest Vehicle Slalom."

To break the record, Chambers had to drive around 50 cones spaced 15.05 meters (49.3 feet) apart in less than 48.11 seconds. She did just that, pulling off a 47.45-second run behind the wheel of a 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder.

The stunt was showcased on America's Got Talent: Extreme, where Chambers took on, and beat, host Simon Cowell in a similar slalom challenge.

"I do see myself as a trailblazer when I think about it," she said. "But when I’m at the race track and I’m on track, I just think of myself as a driver, and I’m trying to do just the best that I can for myself.

"Obviously, the whole empowerment and confidence that I give to other people kind of goes along with it."

Where to Watch W Series at Miami

W Series' schedule for this weekend starts on Friday, May 6 with a 30-minute practice session at 6:55 p.m. EDT.

Saturday, May 7 will begin with qualifying from 9:10-09:40 a.m. The drivers' best time will determine the starting grid for race one, which is at 2:25 pm on the same day, and their second-best time will determine the starting grid for race two, which begins at 10:20 a.m. on Sunday, May 8.

Both races are 30 minutes, plus one lap.

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHERE TO FIND THE W SERIES ONLINE OR ON TV

2022 W Series Drivers, Teams

Click2Drive Bristol Street Motors Racing W Series Team: Alice Powell (UK, 29) and Jessica Hawkins (UK, 27)
CortDAO Racing W Series Team: Fabienne Wohlwend (LIE, 24) and Marta Garcia (ESP, 21)
Jenner Racing: Jamie Chadwick (UK, 23) and Chloe Chambers (USA, 17)
Puma W Series Team: Emma Kimiläinen (FIN, 32) and Tereza Babickova (CZE, 19)
Quantfury Racing W Series Team: Nerea Martí (ESP, 20) and Belén García (ESP, 22)
Racing X: Abbi Pulling (UK, 19) and Bruna Tomaselli (BRA, 24)
Scuderia W: Sarah Moore (UK, 28) and Abbie Eaton (UK, 30)
Sirin Racing W Series Team: Beitske Visser (NED, 27) and Emely De Heus (NED, 19)
W Series Academy: Bianca Bustamante (PHI, 17) and Juju Noda (JPN, 16)
Reserve driver: Ayla Agren (28, NOR)