Belén García overcomes health and engine issues to claim first podium in W Series
"It's been a little rough for two weeks and I haven't arrived in my best conditions, so the result tastes even better to me” - Circuit Paul Ricard is becoming a bit of a lucky charm for Belén Garcia, who fought back health issues and an engine problem in qualifying to score her first ever podium in W Series.
“I am very happy to have achieved the podium. I have been close several times, but this was finally it." – commented an ecstatic Belén García after the fifth round of the 2022 W Series championship, contested at Circuit Paul Ricard, South of France.
"This weekend has been difficult for me. It's been a little rough for two weeks and I haven't arrived in my best conditions, so the result tastes even better to me”.
García just had her strongest weekend to date in the all-female series and, after finishing several times close to the podium, the Spaniard was finally second after a flawless performance, on a track that has become one of the lucky charms for Belén. It was in fact also the venue of one of her strongest runs in Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine in her 2021 part time campaign.
At her second season in W Series – and only her third year in single seater racing – the Catalan is quickly moving up the ranks and is proving to belong to the higher spheres of the championship. Already at her debut in 2021, she had marginally missed out on a podium – eventually finishing fourth at Red Bull Ring – and she has now completed the task after a remarkable weekend which wasn't an easy ride by any means.
García headed into the French GP weekend coming off two difficult weeks health-wise; despite not having not fully recovered, Belén had a positive Friday practice, which put her in fifth place and among the drivers that could have battled for pole position later in the afternoon.
Unfortunately, an engine issue meant that García found herself on the back foot, especially after putting on the new tyres in the final minutes of the session. The technical gremlins prevented her from starting higher than fifth - a result that frustrated Belén, who knew she had the speed to start higher up.
Her team investigated the issue and ultimately changed a fuel pump ahead of Saturday's race. Belén lined up on the third row of the grid and promised to herself that, like every time, she would give it all. And she did not disappoint.
With a great start, she took evasive action when Marta García and Abbie Eaton made contact just ahead of her and fired into fourth place – then passed her Quantfury teammate Nerea Martí just before the Safety Car was deployed for the starting accident.
A second Safety Car – for the stranded car of Chloe Chambers, hit by Emely De Heus – neutralized the action for most of the first part of the race, but once the green flag was waved again, Belén García was ready to fight.
A duel between Chadwick and Visser gave Belén the chance to close in on the leading due and, with a brilliant pass on the pole sitter, she took second at the Nord chicane. She would settle in second for the remainder of the race and, despite setting a couple of fastest laps, she couldn't catch Chadwick in the lead.
Her extraordinary performance, though, allows Belén García to gain 18 points and three positions in the drivers' standings, as she now moves up to fourth place – just seven points behind Visser and nine points behind Pulling in second.
"On Friday I started well, with good feelings, although I couldn't complete a good lap", she explained. "But in qualifying I had engine problems, which made me feel sad and I lost a lot of time on my good lap."
"Luckily, it was fixed for the race, and I was able to make a good start and get into third in the first corner", she continued. "Then, I did what I had to do after the two safety cars and thanks to that I was able to finish second. I had a good pace and for a large part of the race I set the fastest lap, so everything went right”, she summed up.
Now at the halfway point of the season, W Series is set to make a trip to Hungaroring this coming week, where Belén scored points last year and will aim to build on the momentum.