HAVING BEEN LAUNCHED in the lead-up to last October’s Bathurst 1000, the La Femme Academy of Motorsport is gearing up for its maiden race meeting at Mount Panorama, during Easter’s Bathurst Motor Festival.

Through courses to be run in Melbourne, the Academy aims to aid the participation and development of females in Australian motorsport; both on-track as drivers and off-track in roles such as mechanics and team managers.

Spearheaded by experienced campaigner Kosi Kalaitzidis, the program broke cover at Bathurst last year, announcing an entry in this year’s Aussie Racing Car Super Series with Lauren Gray behind the wheel.

“It will be a nice homecoming for the La Femme Academy of Motorsport,” Gray said of the second round of the 2012 Aussie Racing Car season.

“It was very exciting that we launched it at Bathurst during the week of the 1000 last year. To be able to go back and hit the track at Bathurst, we’re definitely looking forward to it.

“Hopefully we can put a good result on the board.”

Since the La Femme initiative was launched, the team has attracted plenty of interest. Gray debuted in the Aussie Racing Car field at Adelaide’s Clipsal 500 in March, and the team has been blown away by the online support they’ve received.

“The reaction to the program’s been enormous. It’s been fantastic to see,” Gray said.

“I couldn’t tell you how many emails we’ve been getting from people who are interested in the program or joining the team. We could almost employ someone fulltime at the moment just to answer all of that correspondence at the moment!”

Having spent the bulk of her career in Production Cars, Gray had a mixed Aussie Racing Car debut on the streets of Adelaide and sits 33rd in the standings. The series features scaled down cars, built around a control chassis and are powered by 1.2 litre, 125BHP motorcycle engines. They present a unique challenge to drivers.

“It’s been different. I can’t really compare it to anything else I’ve driven before,” Gray said.

“The best explanation I can give is that it’s like a big go-kart, but having said that, I think I was about seven when I last sat in a real go-kart!

“But it’s been fun. Once we can put the package together and get the car handling the way we want it and the engine performing the way we want it, I think it’s going to be extremely enjoyable.”

Putting on frenetic racing, the diminutive cars have built a big fanbase since the Aussie Racing Car Series was launched in 2001.Among the massive fields, the series attracts drivers from all walks of life, and Gray is one of two females in the 2012 field, alongside Ruth Bowler.

“To be able to race in a category where they have 40-odd cars, it shows that obviously the category has a lot to offer. And the fans enjoy what they’re seeing,” Gray said.

The 2012 Bathurst Motor Festival will be Gray’s fourth outing at Mount Panorama. The previous three have come in Production Cars at the Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour – most recently finishing fourth in class in a Toyota Corolla with father Michael and New Zealander Tony Head in 2010. She can’t wait to get back onto the famous circuit.

“It was a great result that year with our own team and our own car,” Gray said of the 2010 Bathurst 12 Hour.

“In the Aussie Racing Car, this is going to be completely different. I don’t really know what to expect, but I’m really looking forward to it.

“To be honest, I wouldn’t care what I went to Mount Panorama in, as long as I get to cut a few laps! It’s always great to race there.”

Aussie Racing Cars will be joined at the Bathurst Motor Festival by the Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship, HQ Holdens, Production Sportscars, Group N Historic Touring Cars and Regularity events for the NSW Road Racing Club and the Porsche Club NSW.

With three big days of on-track action, spectator entry to the April 6-8 Event at Mount Panorama will be via a ‘bank note’ donation to official Event charity Legacy.