PARIS (AP) Motor sport's governing body has given a lukewarm response to Bernie Ecclestone's suggestion that Formula One teams should launch a championship series for female drivers.
''The idea of an all-women competition is not something we would dismiss without proper debate and research,'' former rally driver Michele Mouton, president of the FIA's commission for women in motorsport, said on Thursday in a statement to The Associated Press.
''But from my own experience as a competitor, I truly believe women want to compete on an equal level with their male counterparts. They have proved through the decades that it is possible, even if only a few.''
In comments reported in British media, Ecclestone said ''a showcase'' championship for women ''would attract a lot of attention and publicity and probably a lot of sponsors.''
In her statement to the AP, Mouton noted: ''Motor sport is just one of three sports, including sailing and horse-riding, where men and women compete alongside one another with the same rules and classifications. This level playing field provides a real indicator of performance and pushes athletes to be the best in the world, regardless of gender.''
''We have to continue promoting the fact that motor sport is open to all, with the same prospects and potential to succeed.''
The statement was more tempered than an earlier email Mouton sent this week to the AP, when asked for an interview about Ecclestone's idea.
In that, she wrote: ''Maybe when he sees the F1 audience decreasing he thinks about solutions and about women only for the show!''
''I am annoyed and very disappointed!'' she wrote.