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W Series Esports League: Round 2, preview

One week has already gone by since the opening event of the W Series Esports League and the all-female virtual championship moves to COTA for its second round. Here's our preview.

Photo credits: W Series / iRacing

W Series Esports League makes its return to the virtual race track tonight, as the fully-female championship tackles the Circuit of The Americas for its second round.

One week ago, it was the first ever championship event for the field of 20 race drivers – with some of them entering their very first virtual race.

Before the Monza round, it would have been absolutely impossible to predict the series competitive level: while there can sometimes be minor correlation with real-life experience of track and machine and simracing success, by following the many esport events held during the weeks of motorsport-lockdown, it becomes clear that spending many hours on the simulator and learning the specific tricks of the used software will play a major role in simracing.

With the benefit of hindsight, the double-race winning performance by Beitske Visser was probably the safest bet for the season opener, as the Dutch racer had been racing in several championships on the iRacing platform and her Twitch streams consistently proved that she had always taken her simracing very seriously. But, except the 2019 W Series runner up, all the rest of the field was pretty much a question mark.

After the first three races, Russian Irina Sidorkova has emerged as a serious title contender and currently sits only three points adrift of Visser, having scored a second, a third, a fourth place and a fastest lap. Furthermore, Sidorkova showed great overtaking skills and was able to navigate quickly towards the top of the classify during the challenging reverse grid race that costed some of points to Visser.

Just as Sidorkova, the second W Series rookie to massively impress was Spanish Nerea Martí.

18 year-old Nerea claimed her first podium and was a solid front-runner in the two “traditional” races, while she struggled a bit more to recover from the back of the field in race 2, having encountered the competition of other fast drivers such as Wood and Pepper. Martí confirmed her pace in the third race though, as she convincingly led the pack for the first half of the competition.

Caitlin Wood was another welcome surprise of the Monza round: the Australian claimed both pole positions and showed excellent single-lap performance, but could not capitalize during races and made some mistakes in the wheel-to-wheel battles.

The super-consistent Gosia Rdest also secured her first podium and looks like another strong contender on the long-run: the Polish driver – and avid streamer – has embraced the simracing world as a further opportunity to prove that she belongs to the W Series grid.

This week's homegirl is Sabré Cook – the only driver to have raced on the Austin racetrack in real life. Cook, who entered the final round of the 2018 F4 US championship in the F1 Grand Prix weekend collecting a top-15 result, still doesn't look perfectly comfortable with esports in these first stages of the championship but will hopefully progress as the season advances.

Scandinavian-born Ayla Ågren, who has spent most of her racing career in the United States, showed promising speed in Monza and will look to step up her game in Austin.

Ph credits: iRacing

The Circuit of the Americas, located in Austin, Texas, is the current home of the US F1 Grand Prix and it would have hosted one round of the 2020 W Series season.

Designed by famous F1-starchitect Herman Tilke and opened in 2012, the Austin circuit is probably one of the best new-generation layouts, featuring a great combination of fast sections, challenging fast-flowing corners, a long straight and elevation changes.

“An anti-clockwise circuit of 20 turns, characterised by its very steep uphill start-finish straight leading to a hairpin [Turn One], followed shortly by a very challenging sequence formed by Turns Three, Four, Five and Six, COTA is popular with all drivers and will be a stern test of ours.” - commented W Series Racing Director Dave Ryan.

Following the fast opening section – reminescent of Silverstone and Suzuka's esses – a long straight leads towards a clear passing opportunity: maximizing the slipstream effect, the heavy braking of Turn 12 will certainly provide great racing action. A slower sector follows, with Turn 13 and 16 allowing different lines and approaches. After the very long and triple-apex right-hander, the final corners can prove crucial in putting together the perfect lap, with track limits also a hot topic, especially for Turn 19.

As Ryan said, “it’s a more taxing drive than Monza”, and it might result in slightly bigger gaps on the grid compared to the opening round.

Will we witness again to a Beitske Visser show? Will the young newcomers endure pressure?Can Emma Kimilainen repeat her race-winning performance and remain in the title fight despite her lack of simracing experience? Can Caitlin Wood translate qualifying speed into a dominant race drive?

We can only wait to find out.

The second round of the W Series Esports League will be broadcasted on the series official channels (Youtube, Twitch, Facebook) on Thursday 18th June, starting at 7pm BST (20:00 CET). UK-based viewers can also follow the three races acress BBC BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button and on the BBC Sport website.

Ph credits: W Series / iRacing


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