The world of professional motorsports is far from being equally represented, with very few competition licences issued to women drivers each year, but this hasn’t stopped Beitske Visser, the first female graduate of BMW Motorsport’s Junior Programme, from driving change.

Visser decided to become a professional racing driver somewhere around the age of three. “My father used to race a bit in Holland, and my parents actually had a BMW dealership,” the 25-year-old motorsport star explains. “One day, when I was just a toddler, my family brought me to a 24-hour go-kart race. I spotted a baby kart, and I decided I had to have one. I came back to my mother and father literally shaking. In the end, I got one for my fifth birthday.”

Fast-forward to 2017, and Visser is the first woman driver to join the BMW Motorsport Junior Programme, going on to become a test driver in Formula E, the all-electric racing series that BMW i Andretti Motorsport has competed in since 2018. Not only does the series spur BMW to test and improve sustainable technology, but it also inspires more female racers to compete. “On the one hand, racing in an electric car is different because there’s a lot more to bear in mind when you’re driving,” she says. “In the end, though, you’re still just trying to go as fast as possible and get the same rush.”


After three years as a BMW Motorsport Junior, Visser became one of the world’s leading female single-seater racers, finishing runner-up in the 2019 W Series, the world’s first single-seater series for women only. Today she is also a test driver for BMW, the first woman ever to hold this position, feeding back vital reports on performance and suggestions for improvements to the brand’s engineering and development teams.

“It’s an essential role,” she affirms – not to mention one that’s also traditionally been dominated by men. “It’s a key part of what allows drivers to trust that a BMW car will always be as safe, efficient and fast as possible – not to mention a joy to drive.” It’s little surprise to see that encouraging more girls to get behind the wheel is a passion of hers.

“It’s funny because when I first started karting, I was always surrounded by boys,” she says. “There were only ever a couple of other girls, but I never really felt weird about it at that age. It was only when I started competing internationally at about 13 years old and winning races on a European level that I began to see a difference. Everybody was like, ‘I don’t want to be beaten by a girl… I’m going to smash her off the track.’ I had moments when I got really angry, but I never thought about quitting. I just thought, ‘I’ll show you!’” And she did – going on to win the European Championship KZ in Varennes in 2010. 

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The experience has taught Visser about not only dedication to her sport, but also the power of defying expectations, and the importance of fighting to boost gender equality. “What I would say to other young girls trying to break into racing is, ‘Make sure you’re quick, and if you’re always quick, eventually you’re going to get the respect you deserve. Just keep your head up, and believe in yourself.’”

BMW is one of the official partners for British Vogue’s Forces for Change initiative, and has supported Visser in her quest both on and off the track. “When you’ve got a brand like that behind you, it makes you have faith in your skills,” she says. “This is my fourth year with them, and hopefully there’s many more to come.”

When asked about the future of motor racing, Visser says,“It’s going to continue to evolve, definitely. Twenty years ago, nobody expected cars to look the way they do right now. We’re going to have more electric race championships, for sure.” Beyond improved sustainability and performance, she’s hopeful about achieving gender parity, too. “There’s a long way to go, but we’re already making progress. The other day, I introduced a local race, and I realised I had never seen so many girls competing before... When I first started karting, I hardly ever saw girls in the paddock. Change is coming.”


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