Emma Kimilainen claims first W-Series victory in Assen
Emma Kimilainen claimed her first W-Series victory in Assen after forcing Alice Powell to error on the 11th lap of an intense Dutch round.
The forecasted rain in Assen did arrive in the hours prior to the fifth and penultimate round of the W-Series inaugural championship, but when the cars went onto the grid, the legendary racetrack had already dried out.
Emma Kimilainen had a slow getaway from the pole, with Alice Powell managing to take the lead of the race at turn one. Jamie Chadwick had the best of the starts from 3rd, but could not find enough space to jump her rivals ahead. In the midfield, Tasmin Pepper spun and was collected by Miki Koyama, bringing out the Safety Car.
Koyama retired with front suspension damage, while Pepper came back into the pits to retire her car one lap later. It is the first DNF for Pepper, who had completed every race in the points so far.
Fan favourite Beitske Visser had a slow start as well, losing one position to Caitlin Wood.
The race resumed at lap 3, with Alice Powell keeping the lead from Kimilainen and Chadwick. Behind them, Wood was slower than Visser and Rdest, as the top three started to open a small gap.
Shea Holbrook damaged her front wing and visibly slowed down on the main straight of the fourth lap, dropping from the 14th place.
Fabienne Wohlwend gained on Gosia Rdest, until the driver from Lichtenstein attacked Rdest at the last chicane but ran wide and damaged her front wing over the kerb.
With a bold and important move for the championship, Visser passed Wood for 4th on lap 5 at turn 9. She then had to close a 3 seconds gap on third-placed Jamie Chadwick, with the leading duo slightly running away from the Brit.
Wohlwend was called in by race direction and had to pit for a new front wing. With her race effectively compromised and now out of title contention, she rejoined at the back of the field.
Sabré Cook received a drive through penalty for being out of position on the starting grid.
Kimilainen quickly closed in on Alice Powell and started putting pressure on the British racer.
At the same time, the fight for third heated up, with Visser catching Chadwick. The championship leader started to look in her mirrors, as the Dutchwoman got bigger and bigger.
In the fight for eight, Piria, Garcia and Moore ran within one second to each other but could not attemp a move.
On the tenth lap, Kimilainen signed a fast lap and gained six further tenths on the race leader. With the Finnish driver now closer than ever, Alice Powell ran a bit wide at turn one on lap 11, allowing Kimilainen to go through.
As soon as the lead changed, Emma Kimilainen imposed her ruthless pace and opened a 3.5 seconds gap on Powell, while the tense battle for third between Chadwick and Visser continued until the penultimate lap, when Visser locked up at turn 5 and gave up her podium chances.
The recovering Cook passed Gilkes for P13 after her drive through.
Fastest lap after fastest lap, Kimilainen took her maiden victory in Assen, showing commanding pace all weekend. She now sits sixth in the standings, overtaking the unlucky Miki Koyama, despite the Dutch round effectively being her second race in the series after the comeback from her injury sustained at the opening round at Hockenheim.
Alice Powell took a liberating second place, after a series of ill-fated weekends.
Jamie Chadwick finished an arduous-third place and confirmed to be the only driver to have finished every race on the rostrum this season.
Beitske Visser was 4th and successfully kept her title chances alive, while Wood had by far her best result this season with an impressive 5th place.
Gosia Rdest gained more valuable championship points as she finished P6, ahead of Jessica Hawkins who finally scored her first points this season.
Vicky Piria preceded Marta Garcia and Sarah Moore to take 8th after the engine issue in qualifying that relegated the Italian driver to 12th on the grid.
As announced by W-Series, Assen will host a second non-championship race on Sunday morning (scheduled at 09:00 local time), which will feature a complete grid inversion.
The title fight will thus go down to the championship finale on the historic British track of Brands Hatch in three weeks time. Chadwick now leads Visser by 13 points, as Garcia and Wohlwend are now matemathically out of contention.
Ph credits: W-Series media