W Series Esports: Garcia rounds out virtual season with 2 victories
In the final round at Silverstone, Marta Garcia sealed two victories to round out the W Series Esports League season, as Sarah Moore claimed home victory in the reverse-grid race and Irina Sidorkova edged Nerea Marti for third in the points standings.
Ten weeks flashed by and here we are, celebrating the first ever W Series Esports League champion after its last round at Silverstone, the home of British motorsport.
With the hope that, in one year time, we will be back to real racing, in real racecars, on real circuits - which, after all, would not rule out a second edition of the fully-virtual championship in the off-season, given its inaugural success.
Beitske Visser was crowned champion one week in advance following her dominant performance at the legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife , leaving Marta Garcia mathematically second in the points standings entering the Silverstone round.
But, with Beitske out of contention for the season finale due to her new committments in the European Le Mans Series, Marta Garcia inherited the role of the leading front-runner, with also many fast charging drivers eager to gain their first victory of the season.
All the eyes were on Irina Sidorkova, as the young Russian was battling Nerea Marti, Caitlin Wood and Tasmin Pepper for third in the standings, despite having to miss one of the three races due to travelling.
In the first qualifying session, Marta Garcia immediately established herself as the new bechmark in Visser's absence: the Spaniard always held the fastest lap in the 10 minutes session, with Caitlin Wood able to secure second place by few thousandths of a second after her second flying lap. Garcia, though, improved in her very last run and set at 1:59.575 which wasn't topped by anyone, gaining her pole position. All the contenders for third place were right up the order: Marti slotted in third, ahead of Pepper and Sidorkova.
Marta Garcia had a good start off the line, but it was an even better getaway for Wood, who went side by side with the Spanish driver into Abbey corner but couldn't get past Garcia. Right behind them, Nerea Marti was quick to seize the opportunity and advanced to second place. But it wasn't long before the classify was turned upside down: at the end of the Wellington Straight, Tasmin Pepper collided with Caitlin Wood - just as Nerea spun at Brooklands. The incidents paved the way to Ayla Agren and Irina Sidorkova, who advanced into podium positions behind Marta Garcia.
Marti charged through the field and started an impressive recovery which brought her quickly up to sixth place. Amidst all the chaos of the first laps, Emma Kimilainen emerged in fourth place, but was soon wiped away by Belen Garcia in yet another contact at Copse.
Meanwhile, Marta Garcia had already gained a five-second advantage on Ayla Agren - the Norwegian racer enjoying a trouble-free race in second. All the action, though, was for the top-five, as Nerea Marti caught up again with Belen Garcia and passed her compatriot at Stowe. Caitlin Wood was also on the move: the Australian completed a great pass at Brooklands on guest starter Hannah Grisham - the only invited guest this week - and then closed in on Belen and Nerea.
With the top-four quite spread out, the former Spanish F4 rivals continued to swap positions in an throughly exciting battle, which nevertheless allowed third-placed Fabienne Wohlwend to open a six-second gap. When Marti could finally break away, she started chasing the lady from Liechtenstein, gaining over a second per lap. Marti reached Wohlwend at the very final lap of the race, but couldn't make a move stick and had to settle for fourth.
Marta Garcia crossed the line and took victory in the first race of the night, 15 seconds ahead of Ayla Agren. Fabienne Wohlwend held on to third, one tenth away from Nerea Marti.
Belen Garcia finished once again in the top-five - confirming her great progresses since the start of the virtual season - and preceded Caitlin Wood, Hannah Grisham, Emma Kimilainen and Naomi Schiff - the Rwandan driver having her race compromised by a slow start. Tasmin Pepper, after the first lap incident, picked up front wing damages and could not do better than 10th.
It was a tough race for Irina Sidorkova, as the Russian dropped back in the opening stages and had to give it her all in the reverse grid race in order to maintain the third place in the standings.
With a sensibly reduced grid, Vicky Piria was P13 in the first race and therefore found herself on reverse grid pole, alongside Sarah Moore, the only Brit on the grid this week.
Piria jumped the start, but was then passed by both Moore and Pepper right after the first metres. Vicky's race went from bad to worse when she was taken out at Brooklands by Emma Kimilainen, who outbreaked herself and spun in yet another hectic first lap.
There was more drama when the yellow car of Marta Garcia was spotted into the wall: the Spaniard dropped all the way down to the tail-end of the field but rejoined, likely with a damaged car. It was a mega opportunity for the other drivers, who battled out for victory without the two championship protagonists: after one lap, Sarah Moore led Tasmin Pepper and Naomi Schiff. Irina Sidorkova, fourth, was busy trying to keep her points rival Nerea Marti at bay, before they both caught up with Schiff.
Pepper closed in on Moore and, when the South African went for the move, they made contact and dropped to P6.
It was also very tight between Sidorkova and Schiff - the pair coming incredibly close to a crash at Copse. But the battle remained clean and they could switch back several times - providing some of the best action of the night. Sidorkova got ahead at Stowe, but Schiff fought back at Abbey.
Marti always watched closely behind and, when the Spaniard decided to attack Irina, she allowed Schiff some breathing space. All these battles for second played in favor of Sarah Moore, who could open up a gap of over three seconds.
Marta Garcia made up several places up until P7 but, after she had moved ahead of Caitlin Wood with six minutes left on the clock, she then struggled to catch up with Ayla Agren in sixth.
In the very closing minutes, the fight between Sidorkova and Marti heated up and Schiff found the pace to hunt down Moore for the victory. When the gap was under a second, though, Schiff spun at Village and dropped to fifth in the final lap, allowing Sarah Moore to claim a home victory. With her confident lights-to-flag performance, Moore became the eighth winner in the W Series Esports League season.
Sidorkova edged Marti across the line and could leave the race event with sufficient points to seal third in the standings. Pepper finished P4, just in front of Schiff after her unlucky last lap incident.
"Winning the reverse-grid race at Silverstone was a really nice way to finish off the W Series Esports League season." - said Sarah Moore.
"Race one didn’t go to plan for me, so I thought I’d give it up to get towards the front of the grid for the start of race two. I started second behind Vicky [Piria] and I knew that all I needed to do was get past her in the first few corners and then the guys behind me would start fighting. I managed to do that and then I had Tasmin [Pepper] on my tail for quite a while, but she unfortunately hit the back of me and spun around, giving me a nice gap."
"Tasmin had good pace in practice so I don’t think I would have been able to keep up if she had passed me – rather than battling I think I would have given her the place and come home happy with second place. The nerves started to get the better of me towards the end when Naomi [Schiff] started to catch me, but she made a mistake on the last lap so it was a nice win."
Having reached her goal in a thrilling finale, Irina Sidorkova could catch her plane - but the grid was back to 13 entrants as Miki Koyama joined the third and final race of the night.
After an unlucky second heat, Marta Garcia was back up on top in the second qualifying, as she took provisional pole from Wood, Pepper and Marti. Tasmin advanced to the front row after her second flying lap, edging Wood and Marti. Fresh race-winner Sarah Moore slotted into sixth and started alongside Naomi Schiff.
When the lights went out, Marta Garcia fired into the lead while Wood passed Pepper into Abbey corner. Schiff had another rough start and dropped down to eighth.
It was a cleaner first lap compared to the previous races, but the pack remained very close together. Nerea Marti completed a stunning move around the outside at Stowe on Pepper to advance into third place, but the South African was not ready to give up her position: the two went side by side at Brooklands, with Pepper moving back ahead at Copse.
With Marta Garcia enjoying another dominant race up front, the whole round was defined by the close competition between Nerea Marti, Tasmin Pepper and Sarah Moore, who once again showed great pace on home soil and was able to join the battle for third.
After several laps of intense action, Tasmin Pepper hit the back of Marti's car at Copse, sending the 18-year old Valencian into the barriers. Nerea, with front wing damage, was down to ninth and out of contention for a podium position.
Sarah Moore passed Pepper around the outside at Club, but Tasmin switched back at Luffield. After the final 20-minutes of the season, Marta Garcia claimed the third Silverstone race, almost eight seconds clear of Caitlin Wood.
"Winning two races in the final round at Silverstone was a very good way to finish the W Series Esports League." - commented the championship runner-up.
"I got pole position in both qualifying sessions, so I started first and had good pace in those races which allowed me to make a really good gap and take the wins.
Tasmin Pepper was third and secured another podium, while Sarah Moore disappeared from the classify in the closing seconds - likely due to a disconnect. Schiff was thus promoted to P4, in yet another solid race.
Hannah Grisham, fifth at the chequered flag, clinched her best result in the series and preceded Fabienne Wohlwend, Ayla Agren, Belen Garcia, Nerea Marti and Emma Kimilainen.
The inaugural W Series Esports League ends with Beitske Visser on 439 points on the board, followed by Marta Garcia at 423. Sidorkova (331) held on to third place, with fellow new-entry Nerea Marti scoring 317 points. Tasmin Pepper edged Caitlin Wood by two points (305 to 303), while Ayla Agren outscored Belen Garcia in the final round, finishing seventh in the standings. With their last week's remarkable performances, both Sarah Moore and Naomi Schiff finished in the top-ten.
The W Series drivers, after their 2020 virtual season, will now likely focus on their testing programmes, eyeing a return to the racetracks in 2021.
"I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to do now that the W Series Esports League season has finished." - said Garcia. "I will try to go on holiday here in Spain and try to do some on-track testing to get me ready for next year. I’m really looking forward to getting back on-track and to next year with W Series."
"I think it’s going to be great racing with F1 in Austin, Texas, USA and Mexico City, Mexico in 2021. That is an amazing possibility for us and being there alongside the F1 drivers will be mega."