W Series Esports League: Round 3, preview
W Series is back at Brands Hatch: from last year's season finale to the 2020 virtual championship, here's our preview of the third round of the W Series Esports League.
The ladies of the W Series will make their online return on Thursday 25th for the third round of the virtual all-female championship, after the season opener at Monza and last week's event at the Circuit of the Americas.
Two rounds in, eight to go: the Flying Dutchwoman Beitske Visser seems unstoppable after 4 wins out of 6 races, with Russian teenager Irina Sidorkova being the closest rival 14 points behind. Despite two very different tracks, results were amazingly similar: Visser showed she still has an edge over her competition, Emma Kimilainen won again the reverse-grid race and young rookies Sidorkova and Marti were once more best of the rest.
But it was interesting to note a few drivers making significant improvements: Alice Powell was probably the one making the most progresses, as the Brit claimed her first podium and an extra point for fastest lap in the first race. Powell is now third in the points standings, only one point clear of Marti and two points ahead of Caitlin Wood.
The Australian, second in Austin's last race, finally capitalized on her stellar qualifying pace and will likely be a consistent front-runner in the first half of the championship:
"I’m enjoying it and happy that I’m up at the front so far. I just need to stay out of trouble in the races and I managed that" - she said of her second championship event. "I’d like to think I could win a race at Brands Hatch. Qualifying well helps you stay out of the carnage and the goal is to beat Beitske."
Marta Garcia was also spotted on the podium positions for the first time, as the Spanish W Series race winner had a very strong race 1 at COTA.
“I had a good first race, achieving my first podium after completing several very consistent laps in the lead, which shows us that we are going in the right direction." - said Marta after last week's competition. "As in most championships, consistency is vital. There's still a lot
ahead and we are grouped in just 6 points from third to seventh place, so we have to put our heads down and practice with Brands Hatch in sight.”
Fellow compatriot Nerea Marti has been one of the most impressive drivers since the beginning of the virtual season and the 18-year old from Valencia is looking forward to carry momentum into the third round. Even though she probably left too many points on the table at COTA due to contacts in the second and third heats, we will likely see Nerea on the top step of the podium somewhere into the season.
If Gosia Rdest was not as fast as in Monza, Tasmin Pepper emerged as another potential front-runner. The South African - who turned 30 this week - showed speed in both qualifying and races and could further climb the standings with another strong performance at Brands Hatch.
It was Alice Powell to take the win after a spectacular 2019 W Series season finale on the iconic British racetrack. Emma Kimilainen was also among the protagonists of the real-life race: the Finnish driver, now moving her very first steps in the realm of simracing, has managed to win two races so far - one of them starting from 13th on the grid - and despite her lack of iRacing experience, she might genuinely become a regular point-scorer.
"Two different sports but the mental game is the same and so is the actual racing." - explained Emma via her social media feeds. "How to place your car, when to overtake, how to defend etc. That's why I think it's great that W Series created an esports league for us this year when the COVID19 forced to cancel the original race calendar."
"My talent in driving is based on bum feeling, muscle memory, 3D perception and analysis skills. And there's less use for those things in sim racing. In real life racing I know exactly what I'm doing and I can feel where the limit is. In sim racing I'm way out of my comfort zone."
"But that's exactly why it's good for me. It's a possibility to learn new things. It's a possibility to challenge myself. People in general and especially I, don't usually like to do things they're not good at, but that's what makes you mentally stronger."
Obviously, last year's Brands Hatch finale was also the race that crowned Jamie Chadwick. The British star will again miss this week's Esports event, as she's still currently in Italy testing for the upcoming Formula 3 Regional European Championship.
The home of the British F1 Grand Prix between 1964 and 1986 - it hosted the race in the even-numbered seasons - Brands Hatch is one of the most famous racetracks in the world and a real challenge to drivers.
Its short lap will likely provide closer racing and gaps compared to Circuit of the Americas last week. But its world-renowned and demanding corners and elevation changes will surely put the drivers to test.
After a slightly bent and uphill main straight, the cars will enter the historic Paddock Hill bend, a steep and cambered downhill fast right-hander. Druids follows, the slowest corner of the British track and another crucial overtaking opportunity where precision is key.
After Graham Hill and Surtees corners - as Brands Hatch's turns are mostly named after motorsport heroes - the Grand Prix track enters its faster section, which requires a good dose of courage for his old-style run-off areas.
Even if its fear-factor will be inevitably taken away, the virtual Brands Hatch will certainly provide more exciting action, as W Series drivers will try to stop Beitke Visser's relentless winning streak.
The third round of the W Series Esports League will be broadcasted on the series official channels (Youtube, Twitch, Facebook) on Thursday 25th 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.