Jamie Chadwick keeps winning streak alive, Belén Garcia scores maiden podium at le Castellet
Jamie Chadwick wins again - this time overcoming a grid penalty and with a great pass for the lead. The French round at Circuit Paul Ricard delivered a spectacular race with battles throughout the field and two teammates on the podium: with stunning performances, Belén Garcia and Nerea Marti were second and third.
After possibly one of the most spectacular qualifying sessions in W Series, the fifth race of the 2022 season was looking to be a closely fought race at the top, with several drivers having proved in practice and qualifying to have enough speed to challenge series dominator Jamie Chadwick. And the French round at Circuit Paul Ricard delivered great racing.
Race winner and 2019 runner-up Beitske Visser had scored her maiden pole position in the series after a post-race 2-place grid penalty for Chadwick, as the British driver was found guilty of having crossed the white line at pit exit.
Chadwick had found a superb lap with 90 seconds left on the clock, but Visser, Marta García and Nerea Martí had been alternating on top of the timing screens throughout the 30 minute session.
Alongside 27 year-old Beitske Visser on the front row there was young star Nerea Martí, while Chadwick shared the second row with the first of the CortDAO cars, Marta García.
Under sunny skies in the South of France, lights went out for the first ever W Series race on French soil: Jamie Chadwick had a blistering start and fired into second place – also helped by a slow getaway for Nerea Martí. After a great launch from sixth, Abbie Eaton banged wheels with Marta García and the Briton was launched in the air, then landing with terminal front suspension damage. The stricken Scuderia W car on the main straight would bring out the Safety Car at the end of Lap 1.
But action was far from over, as Jamie Chadwick was hunting down Beitske Visser and passed the Sirin Racing driver at Turn 3, with a brilliant move around the outside that gained Chadwick the lead of the race. Belén García had meanwhile cleared her Quantfury teammate and was in Visser's gearbox, when the Safety Car neutralized the race.
The first lap was also very positive for Alice Powell – who after a difficult qualifying was starting from P11 and was able to charge back into sixth, just behind Fabienne Wohlwend; the driver from Liechtenstein had also gained two places and was looking strong in the top five. On the other hand, it was a nightmare of a start for Emma Kimiläinen, who stalled and ended at the tail end of the field.
The race resumed with 22 minutes left on the clock and Jamie Chadwick managed the perfect restart, immediately opening an over 1 second gap to Visser – the latter having to defend hard from the fast charging Belén García and Nerea Martí. Unfortunately, the green flag was not out for long, as Emely De Heus misjudged a gap and went for the move at Turn 3 on Chloe Chambers, but ended up hitting the American, breaking her rear suspension.
The damaged Jenner Racing car of Chambers brought out the second Safety Car - with all the first half of the race effectively being run behind the pace car.
De Heus would later receive a 10 second stop and go penalty for the accident, but could continue.
Meanwhile, Emma Kimilainen was trying to recover positions and, in avoiding the incident, she moved into 14th place, ahead of her Puma teammate Tereza Babickova.
The race came alive with 14 minutes to go: this time, Beitske Visser reacted quickly and attempted a move on Chadwick at Turn 1 – but the 2-time champion fought back and re-claimed first place at the following corner. This battle, though, brought Belén García and Nerea Martí in the mix as well: Belén completed a stunning pass at the chicane on the Mistral straight over Visser and advanced to second; Marti also tried to sneak ahead, but the Dutchwoman defended hard.
Taking advantage of a small mistake by Visser the following lap at Turn 11, Nerea Marti was finally up into third place and started to break away.
An equally brilliant battle was going on just behind them: Alice Powell found a way past Fabienne Wohlwend, as the latter was then caught by her teammate Marta Garcia and Abbi Pulling.
Wohlwend defended superbly throughout the race and fought back when García briefly got the position at the final corner; Pulling was ready to pick up the pieces – but so was Sarah Moore, who overtook Pulling with an opportunistic move on the Mistral straight coming into Signes, making it a four-car battle for sixth.
The action was non-stop and Marta García – showing a slightly better pace – was ultimately able to pass Wohlwend on the penultimate lap.
Ahead, Chadwick had checked out and opened an over 2 second gap to Belén García.
The fastest lap also traded hands, from Belén to Jamie, in the final minutes.
After a highly spectacular race, Jamie Chadwick took another outstanding victory – the fifth out of five races in 2022 and her seventh consecutive in W Series - overcoming the 2-place grid penalty.
"I enjoyed that one and it makes up for yesterday", Chadwick commented. "Getting pole position and having that taken away, I felt like I needed to make amends today. I'm really happy. Beitske [Visser] kept me honest initially and I moved back after the safety car, so I'm happy that I got my head down after that and it feels great to get another win."
Belén García was the protagonist of a brilliant performance and scored her first podium in the series. With her second place at Le Castellet – a circuit where she has performed well in the past in other series – Belén now moves into fourth place in the drivers' standings.
"It's not been easy the last few weeks, I haven't been feeling very well so this feels like glory" – Belén said. "I'm so happy. I really enjoyed the race, I got a great start and could fight hard, so everything went well."
For the first time this year, two drivers of the same team shared the podium, as Nerea Martí conquered her third Top-3 in W Series.
"I'm happy but obviously I wanted more" – 20 year-old Nerea stated before the podium. "I made a mistake at the start and after in the safety car periods I didn't fix everything, but I'm happy to score good points for the championship and we’ll go again in the next race." Martí now looks forward to Hungaroring, where she had her first podium last year. The always consistent Beitske Visser was fourth and remains third in the championship despite missing out on a podium. She preceded Alice Powell – a brilliant fifth from 11th on the grid - and CortDAO teammates Marta García and Fabienne Wohlwend. Sarah Moore held off Abbi Pulling in the final lap and was eighth, continuing her 5 out of five streak of races in the points. Jessica Hawkins rounded out the top 10, adding one more point to her tally. Bruna Tomaselli was all weekend just outside the point-scoring positions and just about missed out on points after she had to avoid the accident at the start by going off track. Emma Kimiläinen had a good recovery drive and finished P12, in an overall disappointing weekend for the Finnish star. She overtook Juju Noda in the closing stages, but couldn't make it back into the points. W Series Academy's Juju Noda was all weekend the strongest of the rookies and finished P13 with a promising race pace; she preceded Tereza Babickova and Bianca Bustamante, while De Heus rounded out the classified drivers' field after serving the penalty. Now W Series will have a short trip to Budapest for next week's Hungarian round; many drivers will know the tricky Hungaroring circuit from last year, so we can expect again more drivers aiming for the top positions. Chadwick now leads the standings having scored all the 125 points available so far; Pulling (55) has a 2 points margin on Visser in second, while Belén Garcia and Nerea Marti are climbing the standings.