Wesley Branton | May 18, 2019 @ 1:48 pm
Beitske Visser earned her first W Series win in the second round of the championship at Zolder. She beat out polesitter Jamie Chadwick, as more early drama took out multiple drivers.
There was plenty of pre-race news surrounding the race. As a birthday gift to Sarah Bovy, she was given permission to qualify for the race, increasing the grid size by one. The series’ other reserve driver, Vivien Keszthelyi, was also called upon less than an hour before qualifying.
She replaced Emma Kimilainen, who was advised by the series medical team to withdraw from the weekend following her big crash with Megan Gilkes in the debut race two weeks ago which triggered an old injury. It’s surely a disappointment for the Finn, who finished P2 in FP1 and P5 in FP2.
When it came time to race, Bovy suffered a mechanical failure from her position at the rear of the grid. She was not able to get her smoking car going again, ending her unique opportunity to participate in her first ever W Series race.
At the front of the grid, Visser beat Chadwick off the line, slotting into the lead of the race into the first corner. But the action was slowed before the completion of the first lap. The safety car was deployed to allow the track marshals to safely remove the stranded car of Bovy.
The safety car returned to the pit lane after just one lap since the marshals were able to quickly push Bovy’s car off the track. But the safety car driver didn’t get a long break, returning to action the following lap following a collision.
Esmee Hawkey attempted to dive down the inside of Gosia Rdest into turn 8, but the two collided. Keszthelyi was also involved in the incident, although the cameras didn’t reveal what happened to her. It’s believed that she was rear-ended by Sabré Cook, who received a drive-through penalty for causing a collision.
By the time the track was clear, there were just 17 minutes remaining in the race time. It was an orderly single-file start, with Visser comfortably retaining her lead over Chadwick. Further back, Miki Koyama made some great overtakes, as we saw her do at Hockenheim in the debut round.
The top 3 drivers began to create a gap to the rest of the field, as Marta Garcia began to feel the pressure from Sarah Moore in the battle for P4. But Zolder is not a circuit known for overtakes, so Moore was not able to mount an attack on the Spaniard. Instead, Tasmin Pepper began to pressure Moore in the closing minutes.
Near the front, the battle for P2 began to heat up when Alice Powell made an overtaking attempt around the outside of Chadwick with less than 3 minutes remaining in the race. The two were wheel-to-wheel through the kink and down the straight, making slight contact with each other. Powell had the better line going into the final chicane and was able to take P2 from Chadwick.
Chadwick fought back around the outside of turn 2 but had to back out so that they didn’t touch again. She stayed behind to Powell around the entire lap, getting right on the gearbox of Powell on the exit of the final corner. She shifted to the outside of turn 1. The two drivers almost made contact again, but Chadwick had the better line into the second corner, allowing her to take back the second step of the podium.
Powell tried to fight back, but the clock ran out before she could so. She had to settle for the bottom step of the podium. But it was Visser who was on the top of the tables, racking up a large gap at the front of the field thanks to the battle between her two challengers.
Although it wasn’t a race win, a P2 finish was enough to keep Chadwick on the top of the championship table with 43 points. With a victory under her belt, Visser jumps into P2 in the championship.
The drivers now have a three-week break before their race in Italy at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. The race will be held on June 8.
Above results table does not include any post-race penalties