W Series: Beitske Visser edges Powell to Singapore win
Beitske Visser held off the pressure from Alice Powell – her main contender for the runner-up spot – to claim her second W Series victory, 1233 days after her first win.
A rare mistake from Jamie Chadwick ends in her first ever DNF in the series.
1233 days. So many have passed by since Beitske Visser's last win in W Series, as the all-female championship contested its second ever race at Zolder, Belgium. In what was almost her home race, Visser took a dominant win and established herself as Jamie Chadwick's main rival for the inaugural season of the series. After putting on a fight with Chadwick throughout the year, Visser was runner up and, when 2020 hit, she joined the all-female Richard Mille Racing Team in ELMS, making her sportscars debut in LMP2 machinery. A proper simracing pro, Visser was dominant in the W Series Esports League as well. When the series returned to the track in 2021, though, she struggled to find her rhythm and had a disappointing campaign – which ended with eighth in the standings. Her second half of the season, though, already showed signs of recovery and Visser ended the year with two top-five finishes at COTA. 2022 was the year of redemption and 27-year-old Frysian was back to her standards, as she scored two podiums and kept scoring points with unmatched consistency. Finally, at one of the most anticipated races of the year, Beitske Visser returned to the top step of the podium with a flawless race in Singapore, where she held off the pressure of Alice Powell to take victory by 3 tenths of a second. Championship dominator Jamie Chadwick had broken her streak of victories at Budapest, sixth round of the season, before W Series went on its longest summer break. Alice Powell became the only other driver to win a race in 2022 – but the two-time champion, with a 75 point gap, was looking strong to wrap up the championship fight at Singapore. And indeed her weekend was off to a great start, as Chadwick topped free practice – in a session twice halted by red flags on the extremely tricky Singapore Marina Bay street circuit. The drivers, though, had little track time before going straight into qualifying on Saturday – in an even more challenging session contested under the pouring rain. Marta García took her second pole position in W Series with an outstanding performance in the rain, beating Visser and Powell. As conditions quickly worsened, Chadwick wasn't able to set a faster time as she got stuck behind a slower car in sector 3, ending eighth on the starting grid for Sunday's race.
While weather forecasts predicted mixed weather for Sunday, the race was a fully dry one and Marta García – who had really found her pace in the wet – couldn't defend her top spot at the start of the race: with a great getaway, Beitske Visser took the lead into Turn 1 and never gave up the position again. Jamie Chadwick was also on a mission and gained two places at the start, passing Sarah Moore and Abbi Pulling - the latter having a bit too much wheelspin at lights out. From fourth, Belén García was also in the mix and tried to attack Alice Powell for third – but soon had to defend from Jessica Hawkins. The Aston Martin F1 Team Development Driver, on the other hand, saw Chadwick's car getting bigger in her mirrors. Juju Noda had a blistering start and moved from P17 to P14 – but the 16-year-old Japanese rookie attempted an overly-optimistic lunge on Chloe Chambers and made contact with the American. With suspension damage, Noda then had no control and hit the Quantfury car of Nerea Martí – who was starting from the back due to an unlucky qualifying. Noda was forced to retire, while Marti and Chambers continued. The Spaniard, though, likely suffered damage as she struggled throughout the race.
Noda was handed a 2-place grid drop for the next event. Alice Powell was the fastest on track and started to put pressure on Marta García. The pole-sitter defended well, but was ultimately overtaken on lap 4, as Powell made a great move stick under the grandstand of Turn 18. Marta García briefly defended from her compatriot Belén García, before she could open a small gap and keep third place. Alice Powell then hunted down Beitske Visser, who was managing her gap while Powell and Garcia fought behind her. On lap 7, Alice attempted a similar move on the race leader, but Visser closed the door. There were some position changes also in the midfield, as Fabienne Wohlwend – who was very fast in practice but unlucky in qualifying and had to start from ninth – made a small mistake at Turn 7 and lost a position. Another driver haunted by misfortune was Emma Kimilainen: the fast Finn had a brake failure in practice and could not complete more than three laps; then another issue prevented her from going out early in qualifying before the rain was too heavy. From 12th on the grid, Kimilainen overtook Abbie Eaton and climbed to tenth.
There was big drama on lap 11, when Jamie Chadwick went for a move on Jessica Hawkins at Turn 7 but went deep and hit the barriers. It was Chadwick's first ever DNF in her W Series career – but her position in the championship allowed for a risky move and the Briton will have another match ball at COTA. The accident brought out the Safety Car, but the track was clear in time for a final lap of action: Beitske Visser was once again under immense pressure from Alice Powell, but the Dutchwoman held on and crossed the finish line to secure her first win of the season. "It is such a relief to get the win and I've been waiting for it for a long time" – said Visser after the race. "I think it's been coming for the last few races as we've always been there."
"I got a good start and in the first few laps I was very strong. Alice was a bit quicker after that, but I managed to hold her off and at the end I was strong again."
"I had to defend from her once, but after that I knew at which points I had to push to make sure she couldn't try a move and then it was fine. I was a bit worried about the start of the race as they changed my clutch a bit from yesterday for the biting point and it was a bit of a guess, but thankfully we guessed right!" Powell – who was tied on points with Visser at the eve of the Singapore round – preceded Marta García.
Belén García had another very strong weekend and, after her first podium of the season in France, was fourth in one of her most solid results. Behind her Jessica Hawkins completed the top-five for Bristol Street Motors. Abbi Pulling and Sarah Moore were sixth and seventh respectively after a sprint to the flag: both continued their perfect point-scoring streak and are the only drivers, together with Visser, to have completed every race in the top-10 in 2022. Fabienne Wohlwend was eighth and preceded Emma Kimilainen and Abbie Eaton to round out the top ten. Chloe Chambers had a very positive race and kept eleventh place from her starting position, finishing as the best rookie in a very demanding racetrack despite the little practice and qualifying track time. Nerea Martí's race was hampered by the contact in the opening stages and the fast Spaniard couldn't do better than P12. Having dropped down the order at the start of the race, Emely De Heus made up good positions and finished P13, with an overall solid performance for the Sirin Racing driver. Bruna Tomaselli had shown some promising pace in free practice in the dry, but the Brazilian couldn't convert it into a point scoring result and was P14. Bianca Bustamante was on the doorsteps of the top ten in practice and the Filipino driver had a clean race to finish P15, having passed Ayla Agren on the final lap. The Norwegian rounded out the field on her return to W Series after almost a year. She is in fact replacing the injured Tereza Babickova. The next round of the 2022 W Series championship is scheduled for 22 October at Circuit of the Americas, USA, as Jamie Chadwick will have another chance to seal her third consecutive W Series title.