Unstoppable Visser in the W Series Esports 4th round
Beitske Visser completed an almost perfect round in the W Series Esports League fourth round at Interlagos, claiming two victories, two pole positions and three fastest laps.
After the thrilling round at Brands Hatch last week, W Series Esports League headed to Brazil for its fourth event of the virtual season on the famous Interlagos circuit, home of the Brazilian Grand Prix. A short yet challenging track, Interlagos provided great racing throughout the midfield, as championship leader Beitske Visser delivered her best performance so far - one week after her mistake in the closing stages of race 3 at Brands Hatch.
The Dutch racer immediately showed her dominant pace on the Brazilian racetrack since the first qualifying session, where she was fastest by three tenths over an ever-improving Marta Garcia. Caitlin Wood could not replicate her single-lap speed that had allowed the Australian to clinch three pole positions in the opening rounds and was only third in Interlagos, lining up alongside Nerea Marti.
Naomi Schiff, subbing in for W Series champion Jamie Chadwick - who is still testing in Italy for the upcoming start of the Formula Regional European Championship season - was 20th and last due to an internet connection problem which denied the Rwandan driver the chance to set a flying lap.
Visser had a good start off the line, but was beaten by Marta Garcia, who sprinted into the lead at turn one. Sidorkova, sixth on the starting grid, gained several positions before being pushed into the wall at turn two following a contact with Alice Powell and Caitlin Wood. The young Russian dropped all the way down to 18th and never seemed able to recover after her incident.
The first laps were monopolized by the exciting battle for the lead, as Beitske Visser and Marta Garcia went side by side in various occasions and the Spaniard had to defend hard from the attacks of the championship leader. Their fight allowed both Wood and Marti to join the leading duo but, just as Visser tried a move on Garcia, Marti went too deep into turn 8 and spun into the grass. The incident caught Alice Powell off-guard, who had to take evasive action and dropped to 15th.
The Visser-Garcia fight went on for more laps, as the drivers kept running inches from each other. Behind them, Gosia Rdest emerged in fourth place after the hectic first laps, just ahead of Ayla Agren, Jessica Hawkins and Belen Garcia who made good progresses through the grid.
On the third lap, Beitske Visser got things moving and completed a stunning pass on Garcia at Curva do Sol: Visser went into the lead but Garcia tried to respond back, before ultimately desisting, leaving Beitske in clear air.
Nerea Marti, who dropped to eighth after her mistake, started a comeback which was halted by a visit into the pitlane, probably caused by a penalty for track limits.
With Wood safely in third place, Gosia Rdest came under pressure from Ayla Agren: the Scandinavian driver completed a spectacular move under braking and with locked-wheels at S do Senna that gave her fourth place. Rdest, who had started the championship with a podium in Monza, lost momentum and dropped into the clutches of Jessica Hawkins. The Brit made a first attempt at Turn 1, but positions were restored.
Just outside the top-10, another great battle came alive: Nerea Marti and Sarah Moore broke away from Sabré Cook, with Moore finally able to defend 12th place.
After the first 15 minutes race, Beitske Visser crossed the line to take her sixth victory in the W Series Esports League. Marta Garcia was second and continued her very positive results' streak which has elevated her to a consistent podium-finisher. The Spaniard preceded Caitlin Wood by over three seconds.
Ayla Agren, just outside the podium positions, claimed her best result this season so far, while Gosia Rdest was back into the top-5, edging Jessica Hawkins and Belen Garcia.
"I really enjoyed Interlagos." - said Agren. "I’ve never been there in real life so getting used to the track took a long time and I did lots of practice races to know where the offs are and where people rejoin the track. Having that knowledge really paid off."
Wohlwend, Pepper and Kimilainen rounded out the top ten, as the Finnish race winner was protagonist of a solid comeback.
The always-spectacular reverse grid race started with Naomi Schiff lining up on pole position, alongside Vicky Piria.
Schiff had a great sprint off the line despite showing some lag on the grid, but unfortunately spun out on the kerb of Turn 2, paving the way for Irina Sidorkova: the Russian driver, started from the second row following her difficult first race, quickly jumped her opponents and gained the top of the classify just like in the previous round of Brands Hatch, with Vicky Piria and Abbie Eaton behind.
Home hero Bruna Tomaselli had a great first part of the race and advanced up until third place, when the Brazilian attacked fellow W Series rookie Abbie Eaton and completed an impressive double pass on Vicky Piria as well.
Alice Powell, started from the 10th grid slot, got caught again in the reverse-grid race chaos and spun, further compromising her Brazilian round. On the other hand, Beitske Visser navigated safely the field and, after the first laps, was already up to eighth place - two positions ahead of her race 1 rival Marta Garcia.
Just as in the previous race, the midfield featured plenty of action and close fights: Fabienne Wohlwend dived on the inside of Gosia Rdest at Turn 11, making contact with the Polish racer. As the driver of the #5 car spun, she was collected by Ayla Agren. In the accident, Wohlwend's car flipped and she dropped the back, effectively terminating her race.
In the latter stages, Sarah Moore, Emma Kimilainen, Caitlin Wood and Alice Powell found themselves battling for tenth place. Kimilainen initially got the position, but then went deep into S do Senna and dropped behind this crowded train.
The carnage continued when Tomaselli was tagged by Abbie Eaton and spun out from the leading positions. As the classify settled, Sidorkova led Nerea Marti, Abbie Eaton, Tasmin Pepper and Beitske Visser.
The remainder of the race was all about the Dutch driver and her unstoppable charge: taking advantage of a battle between Pepper and Eaton, Visser went past both with a commanding move at Junção and soon targeted Nerea Marti for second.
With only Sidorkova ahead, the flying Ducthwoman had over nine seconds to close in order to replicate her wheel-to-wheel action with the Russian teenager. Visser was again quickest and recorded the fastest lap of the race, but could not catch up with Sidorkova this time, who took her third victory after a flawless drive.
"I’m really sad about the first race because I had some contact with Alice [Powell] early on and hit the wall which put me down the order and out of the points." - explained Ira. "That meant the task was the same as at Brands Hatch last week for the reverse-grid race – to have a good start, take first place and maintain good pace, all of which I did."
The final podium position went to Tasmin Pepper after a heated fight with Nerea Marti in the final laps. The two drivers swapped positions over and over again, before Marti went wide into Turn 4 and the South African racer could finally claim her first podium in the W Series.
Marta Garcia was fifth, ahead of Abbie Eaton, Caitlin Wood and Ayla Agren, while Sarah Moore and Gosia Rdest completed the top-10.
Naomi Schiff crossed the line in 15th place after a last lap spin at Junção when she was running solidly in eighth place and battling with Gosia Rdest.
The third and final heat at the Autodromo Carlos Pace saw again Visser's supremacy in qualifying, while behind her it was close between Marta Garcia and Irina Sidorkova: the Spanish lady was topped by Sidorkova in the final minutes, but was able to re-claim the first row in a last second attempt.
To make up for her previous starts' hesitations, Beitske made the perfect start in the third race and immediately openend a gap on the rest of the field, as Irina Sidorkova also had a great getaway and attacked Garcia for second place. The two main rivals for runner-up spot in the standings went wheel-to-wheel but Garcia held on.
Sabré Cook, who had a good qualifying and was looking to progress further, dropped behind the whole pack, just as Alice Powell had the same fate from sixth on the grid.
Just like the previous heat, the midfield showed the most interesting battles: a huge eight-way fight resulted in an inevitable crash between Emma Kimilainen, Fabienne Wohlwend and Abbie Eaton at Descida do Lago, which gave Belen Garcia and Jessica Hawkins some breathing space. Garcia had probably the best race of her virtual season and managed to pull a great pass on Hawkins at S do Senna for eighth.
A few corners later, Jess switched back taking the outside line at Turn 4, but had to surrender to the Spaniard one lap later after a very similar move. Their fight was interrupted by Alice Powell joining the action and stripping Hawkins of ninth place.
With five minutes left on the clock, Visser led Garcia by over two seconds, while Sidorkova, steadily in third, could not find the pace to close in on Garcia. Tasmin Pepper followed in fourth, again showing speed and avoiding the carnage to aim for the big points.
Never under pressure and after a near-perfect round, Beitske Visser took the chequered flag to win again, claiming her third fastest lap of the day and 60 points out of the 63 available tonight.
"This was pretty much the perfect round for me." - said Visser. "In the final race I got pole position again and managed to do a good start for once. In the early laps I was really pushing and overheated the tyres a bit, but they were coming back at the end so I could make the gap a bit bigger. Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps hosts the next round – a track that everyone knows and likes. With the long straights it’s going to be cool, but there will be lots of slipstreaming and fighting so it won’t be easy to keep up my winning form but I’ll be trying hard."
In the last handful of laps, Nerea Marti passed Ayla Agren and moved up to P6, after another close fight that ended in an overtaking around the outside of Turn 4. Belen Garcia was eighth from 18th on the grid, ahead of Alice Powell and Naomi Schiff. Vicky Piria and Jessica Hawkins took home the final points-paying positions, while Miki Koyama was the only driver not to finish the race.
As the W Series Esports League now heads to Spa-Francorchamps - one the most loved racetrack by fans and drivers alike - Beitske Visser is now 52 points clear of Irina Sidorkova (161). Marta Garcia, after the last extremely convincing rounds, is now third in the standings (129) having overtaken Caitlin Wood (123) and appears increasingly like the next potential race winner.
Garcia, summing up her weekend, said: "I qualified second for race one, had a good start and took first place. Then I had some good fighting with Beitske [Visser] for the first three laps before she passed me. She was really fast so second was a good result."
"In the previous reverse-grid races I’ve been trying to really go for it at the start, but I realised I couldn’t do that because there are a lot of crashes. For this race I stayed calm and let the early laps play out. After that I managed to do good work and finish fifth so I’m happy with that because reverse-grid races have been a struggle for me. I qualified second again for the third race, got a good start and managed to hold my position. Beitske was really fast again so I couldn’t get her."
Will Visser's relentless pace continue into the fifth round next week, as the championship approaches its mid-point? We'll find out on Thursday 9th July at 19:00 BST [20:00 CET].
In Beitske's words:
"This was pretty much the perfect round for me."