W Series: Emma Kimiläinen pips Alice Powell to Zandvoort pole position
Amidst timing drama, Emma Kimiläinen snatched pole position by thousandths of a second from Alice Powell on her final attempt. Having led the session until the final red flag, Jamie Chadwick will start from third.
Her specialty are comebacks and she might have started yet another one for the title chase. Emma Kimiläinen had to miss half a season in 2019 due to an injury but, as soon as she stepped back in the Tatuus T318 F3 car, she was immediately right up there, battling for victories. In 2020, Kimiläinen was sidelined once the W Series season got cancelled, and the 32-year-old Finn - who's also the most experienced racer on the grid - had a more difficult start as she would have expected. Emma was back on the podium in Austria, but struggled to fight for the win until the turning point of Spa Francorchamps: under the pouring rain, the Scandinavian was in a class of her own and took a masterful victory from fourth on the grid. The start of her Dutch GP weekend wasn't the easiest, as she had to sit out most of the practice session for a technical issue on her Ecurie W's car. "The rear left tracking stud broke, got only 5 laps in, but good it happened now and not in qualifying or the race" - she wrote on her social media after the only 30-minute session ahead of qualifying. Despite the mechanical failure, she still finished seventh. Qualifying started with a five minute delay after the F1 FP2 and, once the cars hit the track, it was again home hero Beitske Visser to record the first lapped time of the session. Championship leader Jamie Chadwick had finished on top in practice and was back in first place a few minutes into the second session of the day, followed by Irina Sidorkova and a very competitive Miki Koyama. Unfortunately, though, the red flag halted the action after 6 minutes, when Fabienne Wohlwend's Bunker Racing hit the wall at the exit of the banked Turn 3. Wohlwend was following Agren, when her car jumped over the kerb and impacted the barrier at speed. Fabienne was luckily unharmed. The session restarted once the #5 car was cleared and, after 10 minutes, Chadwick led Kimiläinen, Powell, Pulling and Marta Garcia - who had ended the practice session in the gravel. Irina Sidorkova spun in the grass at turn 9, but avoided the gravel and could continue. The Russian, though, is under investigation for having rejoined in an unsafe manner, as she narrowly missed the incoming Scuderia W's car of Sarah Moore. Abbi Pulling - making her return to W Series after an impressive debut at Silverstone, moved into third place - only to be demoted a few seconds later by Beitske Visser and Abbie Eaton. The latter finished for the first time a session in the top-3 in practice and looked very fast around the Zandvoort circuit throughout the whole day. Mid-way through the session, drivers pitted for a new set of tyres: Sabré Cook went out first with the fresher rubber, but couldn't capitalize due to the heavy traffic. Meanwhile, Jamie Chadwick was the first to go under the 1min35 mark, before the Veloce Racing driver and Emma Kimiläinen - the two best placed drivers and separated by 1 tenth of a second - pitted for new tyres with 10 minutes left on the clock. After a purple sector 1, Kimiläinen found traffic and Chadwick couldn't improve either - but it was Alice Powell to set the new benchmark of the session with 6 minutes to go. The second red flag of the session - and the seventh of the day at Zandvoort - was waved again when Sabré Cook spun at Turn 11 and got stuck in the gravel trap. It was an unfortunate development for Cook, who had shown good pace and was looking more comfortable in the Bunker Racing car. The American will have to start from 17th on the grid tomorrow, alongside her teammate Wohlwend on the 9th row of the grid. With still five minutes left for the battle for pole position, it was very much a battle of three: Chadwick set fastest sectors, then topped by Powell in sector 1 and Kimiläinen in sector 2 - before the timing system went blank, leaving everyone with no idea of who had claimed pole position for minutes after the chequered flag. And it would be Emma Kimiläinen to ultimately start ahead of everyone in tomorrow's race, with another stunning performance for the Flying Finn, who now aims at keeping momentum. She is the first pole sitter this year other than Powell or Chadwick. “After that pole position, I am feeling confused!" - said Kimiläinen after the strange finish. "It was a tight fight from the beginning to the end. My engineer didn’t say anything to me for the entire final lap and then, right at the end, he said: ‘you’ve finished P3. No, wait, you are P1! Emma, you are on pole!" "I was relieved as I felt like I had driven a good lap, pushing so hard. Unfortunately, I made a little mistake in sector three, so I felt on edge as to whether I had achieved pole. I was just waiting and hoping that I might get it." - continued the Finn. “The car felt amazing, and the team did an incredible job today. I am thrilled since I hardly participated in practice, only completing a few laps due to a technical issue. I am feeling confident and happy about tomorrow. I love this track and it’s going to be awesome. While Spa was exceptional, I equally enjoy Zandvoort and, after last week’s win, I feel like I have gained great momentum.” Alice Powell was second by 0.074 seconds, while Jamie Chadwick will line up alongside Nerea Marti on the second row. The young Spanish driver is again targeting a podium, after finishing third for the first time at Hungaroring. Another stunning performance by 18-year old Abbi Pulling brought the PUMA reserve driver to fifth position, ahead of compatriots Jessica Hawkins, Abbie Eaton and Sarah Moore. Belén Garcia improved massively from free practice and was ninth, with Miki Koyama once again in the top-ten after a positive practice. The Japanese driver precedes her Sirin Racing's teammate Vicky Piria, the Italian having a solid day always around the top ten. It was a disappointing qualifying for home hero Beitske Visser, who finished down to P12 after a promising practice session. Marta Garcia will start in 13th place, alongside Veloce Racing's Bruna Tomaselli. Irina Sidorkova, making her return after testing negative earlier this week, made good improvements and was 15th. The sixth round of the W Series season will go green on Saturday at 16:30 CEST.