W Series: Chadwick and Wohlwend set the pace in wet FP at Spa
In typical wet conditions at Spa, W Series returned to the track for the 30-minute practice session – topped by Jamie Chadwick who edged Fabienne Wohlwend and Sarah Moore on her final attempt.
Four rounds are in the books and with four to go, the single-seater championship for women only W Series returned to the track after the summer break, having last raced at Hungaroring four weeks ago. So far, it's been a duel between compatriots Jamie Chadwick and Alice Powell: the two Brits are separated by one point only, having shared victories in the previous rounds. Defending champion Jamie Chadwick (Veloce Racing) moved back ahead of Powell in the points standings following a dominant Hungarian GP victory – but everything is still to play for in the second half of the season. W Series' first trip to Spa Francorchamps certainly represents one of the most anticipated weekends of the year for drivers and fans alike, eager to get back up to speed on one of the most historic European racetracks. Among the 18 drivers, eight of them had already raced at the iconic venue, while others were really looking forward to tackling for the first time corners like Eau Rouge, Radillon, Pouhon, Stavelot and Blanchimont. Among them was 18-year old Irina Sidorkova (W Series Academy team), but unfortunately the young Russian tested positive for Covid19 on Friday morning and is thus self-isolating. She confirmed via her social media she has no symptoms. Appointed reserve driver Gosia Rdest will be stepping in and replace Sidorkova for this weekend's round. Rdest had already competed in the two opening rounds at Red Bull Ring subbing in for Tasmin Pepper at PUMA W Series team, and has scored 2 points. The only 30-minute session at Spa Francorchamps opened with - as often is the case in the Ardennes – a rain shower just before the W Series Tatuus T-318 cars hit the track. Every driver was quickly out on track in order to maximize the running on the very changeable conditions. Emma Kimilainen and Sarah Moore were the early pace-setters before lap times started to drop. After 10 minutes, Kimilainen led the pack, ahead of Alice Powell, Jessica Hawkins and Sarah Moore. Jamie Chadwick was momentarily on top of the timing screens, but her lap was deleted for track limits and she opted to return to the pits and assess the track conditions, as well as saving her first set of tyres. Fabienne Wohlwend had a very positive practice session and was about to climb the standings when she also opted to pit. Visser – among the drivers with prior knowledge of the track – improved and slotted into the top-five, as well as Sabré Cook. The American has endured a tough first half of the season and has struggled particularly in qualifying. In the first session in Spa, Cook was steadily in the top three in the final 15 minutes, often climbing to P1 while the track conditions quickly improved. Similarly, Sarah Moore and Jessica Hawkins traded first place in the final minutes, with Bunker Racing's Fabienne Wohlwend having a fast lap cancelled for track limits at Turn 4 after briefly leading the session with five minutes to go. After the rain had shortly reappeared – with drivers like Emma Kimilainen spinning at Les Fagnes and Vicky Piria going wide at La Source when the conditions had worsened – the track improved again in the final two minutes: Jamie Chadwick moved into ninth place after her first timed lap, only to grab the top of the timesheets as she took the chequered flag. "To be honest it's such changeable conditions!" – said Chadwick after the session. "The main thing is [having a] good feeling for qualifying. It's mad how quickly the conditions change around here". Wohlwend had set a few purple sectors but struggled with traffic and was second by 0.111 seconds. The leading duo preceded the always solid Sarah Moore, Jessica Hawkins and Emma Kimilainen in the top-five. Sabré Cook was a very encouraging P6, ahead of podium finisher Nerea Martí and fellow Valencian Marta García in eighth place. Belén García and Abbie Eaton rounded out the top-10, just ahead of Beitske Visser – who slipped down the order in the very final minutes due to the changeable conditions – Bruna Tomaselli and Caitlin Wood. Vicky Piria was P14, after spending most of the session within the top-10 – as well as Gosia Rdest, who could not improve on her final attempts after running higher up in the order throughout the session. A technical issue relegated Alice Powell to P18, as the Racing X driver spent the final minutes in the pits. Bruna Tomaselli and Gosia Rdest appear to be under investigation – likely for not respecting the procedure of coming back to the support series pitlane after the chequered flag. The qualifying session will come up next at 16:30 CEST.