W Series: Beitske Visser edges Marta Garcia in Le Castellet practice
After a very promising practice session with several drivers showing speed to aim for pole position at le Castellet, Beitske Visser led Marta Garcia by the tiny margin of six thousandths of a second ahead of today's W Series qualifying.
The fifth round of the all-female championship W Series was off to a promising start, with plenty of drivers alternating at the top of the leaderboard and seemingly able to fight for pole position later today. At the end of a closely-fought session, it was Beitske Visser to end up topping the timing screen, edging Marta Garcia by only six thousandths of a second. For W Series' first visit to France - the race was also on the 2021 schedule, but a calendar chance for F1 meant that the W Series' trip to Le Castellet had to be postponed by one year - the mission for most of the grid will certainly trying to break Jamie Chadwick's winning streak. The two-time champion has in fact won all races this season, in dominant fashion. But At a very hot Paul Ricard, though, many drivers challenged the Briton in practice; Chadwick set the early pace, but CortDAO and Quantfury teammates soon proved they will be tough contenders this weekend. A circuit that is very often used but most of European junior championships - as well as for testing - there are not many drivers with racing experience at Le Castellet on the W Series field, interestingly. Jamie Chadwick has raced here in 2020, in her Formula Regional European Championship campaign, where she finished all three races within the top 10. Among the drivers with most experience of the 5.842 km layout are Beitske Visser - who raced in a variety of championships both in single-seaters and sportscars - and Belén Garcia, who had one of her strongest races in FRECA last year at Paul Ricard. Showing good pace from the get go were Marta Garcia and Fabienne Wohlwend; they were in fact able to make the most out of a testing day completed with the community-owned CortDAO team in April at the same venue. The two pink Tatuus tried some slipstream running in the early minutes and were able to set competitive lap times, at one point leading the way. Ten minutes into the session, it was the Quantfury duo to dominate the classification, before a brief appearance by American rookie Chloe Chambers in P1. Times continued to drop and Beitske Visser - who is having a very solid season - emerged on top. Chadwick, meanwhile, was improving her sectors but could not top Visser's lap times and settled just outside the top three. Abbi Pulling - currently second in the standings - struggled a bit in the early minutes of the session, but later closed in on the top five. Similarly, her mentor and fellow Alpine F1 Team associated driver Alice Powell only set representative lap times in the second part of the session, but never challenged the leading contenders. Pulling and Chambers had some off track moments, before most of the field returned to the pit lane with 10 minutes left on the clock for some setup adjustments. In the final five minutes it would be an exciting duel between Marta Garcia and Beitske Visser, who traded first place by thousandths of a second until the chequered flag: the Dutchwoman ended the session in P1, followed by Marta Garcia and her compatriot Nerea Marti, who also briefly led the field. Chadwick was fourth fastest and preceded Belén Garcia - as the latter could not improve on her final attempt due to traffic in the third sector despite a record sector 1. Pulling and Powell were sixth and seventh, ahead of Wolhwend and Kimilainen. Despite a spin on her final attempt, Abbie Eaton retained P10. With 11 cars within the one second gap, Sarah Moore was just outside the top ten and preceded Bruna Tomaselli - who also had an off-track excursion in the closing stages - Jessica Hawkins and Juju Noda, as the young Japanese driver was the fastest of the rookies and showed good speed throughout the session. With some testing experience at Paul Ricard, Emely De Heus was also a promising P15, one tenth clear of Tereza Babickova. Further down the field were Bianca Bustamante - who spun in the first minutes at the chicane but quickly rejoined the track - and Chloe Chambers. While the weather forecasts should remain unchanged throughout the weekend, the heat should hopefully ease this evening, as W Series drivers will hit the track for qualifying at 19:25 local time.