W Series: Jamie Chadwick takes pole position after red-flagged qualifying in Spa
Updated: Aug 28, 2021
Championship leader Jamie Chadwick secured her third pole position of the W Series season after a dominant performance in mixed-weather at Spa - in a red-flagged session following a shocking 6-car accident.
Jamie Chadwick took her third pole position of the season in W Series after a shocking qualifying in Spa Francorchamps, red-flagged in the opening minutes for a horrible accident at Radillon that involved Sarah Moore, Ayla Agren, Abbie Eaton, Beitske Visser, Belen Garcia and Fabienne Wohlwend.
Chadwick had topped the free practice session - also contested in mixed-weather conditions - edging Fabienne Wohlwend and Sarah Moore.
With the rain threat at the beginning of qualifying, everyone went out on slicks in order to set their fast lap just before the showers could hit the Spa Francorchamps circuit.
Sarah Moore (Scuderia W) was the first driver to start her timed lap, when she reached the top of the hill at Radillon to find no grip. The rain had started and Moore crashed heavily into the outside barriers, then bouncing back on the tarmac run-off. All the following drivers experienced the same lack of grip and, soon, a 6-car pile up brought out the red flag.
Abbie Eaton, Ayla Agren, Belén Garcia, Beitske Visser and Fabienne Wohlwend were the six drivers involved in the horrifying accident. All of them made it out of their cars under their own power; Visser and Agren were later transferred to the local hospital for further evaluations according to a W Series update.
A lengthy red flag followed, with the quick intervention of the medical team.
The qualifying resumed with 25 minutes left and as the rain had eased once again.
Emma Kimilainen was the first to venture out and took the top of the leaderboard, before Jamie Chadwick set the bar higher ahead of Alice Powell and Marta Garcia.
Kimilainen reported more rain at Eau Rouge and pitted with a flat spot after a big lock-up at Les Combes. Few drivers were in fact able to improve their sector times and Bruna Tomaselli went off in the gravel at Stavelot - proving that more rain was falling.
There was no red flag, as Tomaselli managed to get out of the gravel trap and made it back to the pit lane - just as the conditions suddenly changed again and Chadwick set a new fastest lap, 2.5 seconds faster than her previous benchmark.
In the final stages, Chadwick was in a league of her own and kept improving sector after sector. Alice Powell, her closest rival in the title fight, was the only driver able to challenge the pace setter and found enough speed to slot in second place, less than one tenth behind.
But, as the time clocked down, Powell found herself stuck in traffic and, despite gaining in the first sector due to the slipstreaming effect, she was held up in the remaining sections.
The Brit found a way past Sabré Cook - who was also setting her best sectors and was aiming for the top-ten - but she couldn't improve and had to settle for second.
Chadwick, meanwhile, had found another five tenths and finished with an impressive 7 tenths of a second margin over her closest pursuer.
Nere Marti was third, with the top three in the championship standings claiming the top-3 positions for tomorrow's Belgian GP. Nerea, though, will have to serve a 4-grid drop for failing to slow down after the chequered flag in Hungary.
Reserve driver Caitlin Wood, at her second race after making her return at Hungaroring, was an outstanding fourth and will thus line up in P3 on the second row.
Emma Kimilainen couldn't do better than fifth and preceded Marta Garcia, Jessica Hawkins, Vicky Piria and Miki Koyama.
Bruna Tomaselli rounded out the top-ten, but will receive a two-place grid drop after an infraction at the end of the practice session when she missed the entry of the support series pitlane.
Sabré Cook had her best qualifying of the season and will thus inherit the tenth grid slot. Gosia Rdest - who has stepped in the W Series Academy car this morning after a Covid positive test for the unlucky Irina Sidorkova, will start P11.
The Spa Francorchamps circuit is certainly a stunning and legendary venue where you can feel and breathe the history of motorsport, but has also witnessed cruel crashes. We hope that everyone involved in today's accident will be promptly released without injuries.
The fifth round of the 2021 W Series championship is set to get underway on Saturday 28th August, at 16:30 CEST.