W Series: Alice Powell returns to victory at Zandvoort and re-claims championship lead
Back on the top step of the podium: Alice Powell passes Emma Kimilainen to win the W Series sixth round in Zandvoort, re-claiming the lead in the championship ahead of the final two races.
The 2021 W Series season had seemingly found a new title contender after Emma Kimiläinen won in spectacular fashion the fifth round of the championship in a very wet Spa Francorchamps and, six days later, put the #7 Ecurie W's Tatuus on pole position at Zandvoort, overcoming a technical issue that had relegated her to the pitlane for most of the practice session. The new paddock popstar was looking very confident for another victory on Saturday at Zandvoort, but she had to battle Alice Powell and Jamie Chadwick in the 30 minute+1 lap Dutch GP, which ultimately saw Alice Powell coming out on top with an outstanding performance. The race started with a 30-minute delay after a disrupted F1 qualifying, and saw drama even before the green lights, as Bruna Tomaselli spun on the formation lap and had to take the start from the back of the grid. Kimiläinen also clipped the gravel as she warmed up her tyres – proving the challenging nature of an unforgiving racetrack, nonetheless praised by drivers and fans. At lights out, Kimiläinen was fast off the line and led comfortably after Turn 1, with Jamie Chadwick really close to Alice Powell for second. The first lap was a clean one from the whole field; Abbi Pulling – who had qualified the PUMA car in fifth place – lost out to both Jessica Hawkins and Abbie Eaton, while Belén Garcia moved into eighth place. The battle between Hawkins and Eaton allowed fourth-placed Nerea Marti to open a small gap and the Spaniard seemed initially able to get closer to the leading trio. On the second lap, Belén Garcia would complete one of the few overtaking moves of the race and passed Abbi Pulling at Turn 1. Having started from 17th place following a mistake in qualifying, Sabré Cook had another great start and advanced to P15: the American has likely been one of the biggest movers of the series in each round. Jamie Chadwick set the fastest lap on lap 3 and closed in on Alice Powell – the latter responding the following lap. Their battle initially allowed Kimiläinen to run with a safe margin, but the top-three bunched up once again after a few laps. Meanwhile, home hero Beitske Visser struggled to make up positions and was stuck in the midfield. The Dutchwoman – who has received the medical clearance to race just on Thursday after the huge shunt in Spa Francorchamps, had her engine replaced on Saturday morning following issues during qualifying. Marta Garcia got temporarily ahead of Visser and tried to attack Italian Vicky Piria: the yellow PUMA car lightly clipped Piria's left rear tyre at the tricky Turn 3, but luckily there was no puncture. A few laps later, Marta Garcia dropped all the way down the order. Ten minutes into the race, Powell attacked and passed Emma Kimiläinen for the lead, as the Finnish driver seemed to have lost straight line speed after Turn 8. Powell was through at Turn 10, and Chadwick followed soon after, as the leading trio went by on the main straight. Strangely, Kimiläinen lost pace all of a sudden, and ended up in the clutches of Nerea Marti, while Powell and Chadwick disappeared into distance. Marti was faster than Kimilänen but struggled to find a clear passing opportunity. As the Finn tried to hold on to third, Jessica Hawkins joined this group of cars, once Abbie Eaton started to defend from Belén Garcia, who was looking menacing in the battle for sixth. With 6 minutes left on the clock, Powell held a gap of over three seconds to Chadwick, with Kimiläinen further 8 seconds behind. With the positions settled throughout the field, the closest battle continued to be Eaton, Garcia and Pulling, who was back on the Scuderia W's tail. Belén Garcia had more pace but couldn't find a way around Eaton; the Spaniard launched an attack, but then came under threat from Pulling. In a very tightly fought final lap, Pulling made a move stick at the exit of Turn 3, after Garcia had locked up her front left. Alice Powell took a controlled victory and re-claimed the top of the championship standings, despite equalling Chadwick's points tally thanks to one more race win. "I'm so happy with that victory." – said Powell. "It was a good move to get past Emma [Kimiläinen] – I was quite pleased with that one." "It will be a hard fight with Jamie and Emma for the rest of the year and the gaps between the field are closing at every race, so you can't rule out more people joining the battle at the front." – concluded the race winner. Alice Powell led Jamie Chadwick across the line by 2.8 seconds, taking her third win of the season. "I'm not sure what happened to Emma, but I managed to get past her. I couldn't close up to Alice, so there was no opportunity to overtake her for the lead. It's another solid result and good points for me in the title race, but I would have liked the win." – commented Chadwick. Emma Kimiläinen managed to hold on to third place and, despite a disappointing end to her day, she is very happy about stepping on the podium. With 75 points and still 50 on offer, she remains mathematically in the title fight. Nerea Marti continued to impress and secured another fourth place after a solid run in Zandvoort. She preceded Racing X's Jessica Hawkins, who topped her personal best result in W Series with her first Top-5 in the all-female series. Abbie Eaton was fast all weekend – having also finished the practice session for the first time in the Top-3 – and was sixth at the chequered flag. Eaton kept behind Abbi Pulling and Belén Garcia, both showing good pace and racecraft in the battles. Pulling returned to W Series after making her debut earlier this season at her home race at Silverstone, and managed to finish one position higher. The P8 finish grants Belén Garcia the eighth place in the points standings, ahead of compatriot Marta Garcia – the latter finishing last after a challenging weekend. Sarah Moore was once again steadily in the points and finished ninth, ahead of Miki Koyama. The Japanese driver preceded by less than a second Sirin Racing's teammate Vicky Piria, who marginally missed out on points. Beitske Visser couldn't do better than 12th, with Irina Sidorkova also having a difficult round outside the points after her racing return. Sabré Cook gained three positions to finish P14, ahead of Ayla Agren and Bunker Racing's teammate Fabienne Wohlwend. After her qualifying accident, Wohlwend couldn't score points but remains fifth in the standings, now 2 points clear of Sarah Moore. Bruna Tomaselli and Marta Garcia rounded out the field. With six races now in the books, W Series completed its European campaign and will return to the track on October 22-23 at Circuit of the Americas, Austin – the first of the North American rounds that will close the series' sophomore season.