W Series Esports League: Round 8, preview
Suzuka featured the most intense simracing action to date. Tonight W Series Esports League heads to the mighty Mount Panorama Circuit for its eighth round of the virtual season: will it be a Marta Garcia vs Beitske Visser matter again?
Mount Panorama, Nürburgring Nordschleife, Silverstone: three of the most iconic motor racing venues in the world will host the final three races of the inaugural W Series Esports League, the first 100% female simracing championship.
2019 runner-up Beitske Visser kicked-off the season in Monza barely one and a half month ago in dominant fashion, as the Dutch driver showcased her deeper knowledge of the iRacing platform. Now, seven races into the championship, Marta Garcia has progressively emerged as the most serious title challenger, after the Spaniard was able to improve under the mentorship of esports consultants Sirio Academy. One victory after the other, Marta now sits 51 points behind the championship leader, with 63 points on the table for each remaining round.
With another double victory on the technical Suzuka circuit, Marta Garcia has again denied Visser of a round victory, as newcomer Belen Garcia claimed her first win in the series in the reverse-grid race. The ridiculously exciting on-track battles of race 1 and race 3 on the Japanese racetrack took the title rivalry to a whole new level: single-lap speed, racecraft, overtaking skills and now pressure management - Beitske Visser and Marta Garcia are carrying the weight of a cancelled 2020 W Series season by transforming a contingency plan into another racing classic.
”I am very satisfied with this second place overall after Suzuka. Overall, my best weekend to date in the Series and all thanks to the support work of Sirio eSports and my coach, Dani Ortengo." - said Garcia. "I have absolute respect for Beistke, what a race we have starred in in Japan. It won't be easy to catch her, but nothing is impossible!”
Russian teenager Irina Sidorkova has endured a very rough week at Suzuka, collecting few points and many accidents. Ira, a natural talent on the sim, will certainly look forward to bounce back on the super-tricky Bathurst circuit, but also other competitors such as home-girl Caitlin Wood will pursue breakout performances to crown their season with a race win.
The only Aussie on the grid is among the few W Series racers to have real-life knowledge of the mighty Mount Panorama Circuit and, with her impressive qualifying skills, Caitlin could well become the dark-horse in tonight's competition.
Wood battles Nerea Marti and Tasmin Pepper in the championship standings, as the three drivers are only separated by 7 points. Nerea, among the fastest drivers on pure pace, still has to find a clean race where to shine, while Tasmin - who clinched victory in Spa's second race - is, just as in real life, a very consistent driver and always around the top-5. Only a penalty denied the South African of a second place finish in Suzuka and we wouldn't be surprised to see her back on the podium in Bathurst, where earlier this year her brother Jordan stood on the top step of the rostrum for his real-life victory in the prestigious 12 Hours race.
The big breakout performance at Suzuka came for Belen Garcia, winner of the reverse-grid race after a flawless drive from pole position. Belen is now equal on points with Alice Powell, as the Brit missed a couple of races in the past weeks, and just ahead of Jessica Hawkins - another driver showing notable progresses week in and week out.
But don't count Fabienne Wohlwend out either: Liechtenstein's most successful racing driver ever was at the Mount Panorama venue in 2018, even though just in a spectator role.
"Australia is my home away from home - I studied English there in my winter break in 2016-2017 and in 2018 I went back to visit my family and friends and I even went to watch the Bathurst 12 Hours race" - she wrote on her Instagram.
“A brilliant mountainside switchback 6.2 km long, Mount Panorama is an old-school circuit made up of public roads that are temporarily closed twice a year for the famous Bathurst 1000 and Bathurst 12 Hours races." - explained W Series racing director Dave Ryan.
“Its elevation variation is remarkable, its highest peak 571 feet [174m] above its lowest point, and some of the grades are seriously steep: one-in-six in places."
At the end of the short start-finish straight, the first 90° left-hander called "Hell Corner" takes onto the long uphill Mountain Straight, which - as its name suggests - leads to the mountain section. Turn 2, "Quarry", is a difficult right-hander surrounded by concrete walls and no runoff spaces, like most of the twisty part that follows. From "The Cutting" up to "Skyline", the cars will go uphill through very fast corners and short straights and, after the astonishingly beautiful view up the mountain, will start a steep descent with a series of corners called "The Esses".
No mistake is allowed on this legendary Australian racetrack and, after Turn 18, the drivers will dive downhill on the long Conrod Straight towards The Chase, a left-right-left chicane which is also a clear overtaking spot. Another passing opportunity is represented by Murray's Corner, the final 90° left hander that brings back to the finish straight.
The eighth round of the W Series Esports League will be broadcasted on the series official channels (Youtube, Twitch, Facebook) on Thursday 30th July, starting at 7pm BST (20:00 CET). UK-based viewers can also follow the three races acress BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button and on the BBC Sport website.