REPEAT VICTORIES FOR VISSER AND KIMILAINEN IN W SERIES ESPORTS LEAGUE AT COTA
The second meeting of the W Series eSports League produced a carbon copy of the winning results from the opening rounds at Monza, as Beitske Visser and Emma Kimilainen once again shared victories between at the Circuits of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Qualifying showed that Visser was still the one to beat over a single lap as she took pole for the first race of the evening by more than four tenths of a second, with Caitlin Wood reprising her front row effort from the opening round at Monza. Marta Garcia was superb once again with the 3rd fastest time alongside Nerea Marti, while Tasmin Pepper and an excellent lap from Alice Powell made up the third row behind them.
Marta Garcia judged the start perfectly and launched herself from the second row into the lead, shooting the gap between Visser and Wood to lead the field into Turn 1 for the first time with Marti following her through into 2nd place, while just outside the top ten several cars got together mid-pack including Pepper. The two Spaniards at the front led the field through the opening corners with Visser giving chase and attempting to catch and pass Marti for 2nd place, but was unable to get through before the end of the opening lap, as Wood watched on in 4th place ahead of Powell in P5. Visser tried again heading down the back straight and managed to slip by Marti under braking for the Turn 12 hairpin at the end of the straight, immediately setting off up the road to catch leader Garcia.
A little further back, the impressive young Russian Irina Sidorkova had managed to recover quickly from a poor qualifying session and had jumped up from 19th on the grid into the top 10 and was beginning to mount a challenge on Gosia Rdest into the first corner when she was surprised by a dive up the inside by Sarah Moore, the Brit stealing the final top 10 spot away before charging onto the tail of Rdest respectively and passing her a few corners later to move into 9th. Back at the front, Visser had caught Garcia and just as she had done for 2nd place, the Dutch driver hooked into the tow and passed the Spaniard heading into Turn 12, quickly establishing a one-second lead.
Just behind them, Marti was coming under pressure for the final podium spot as she had Wood, Powell and Jessica Hawkins for company and all three were right on her tail. Powell made a move for 4th on Wood on the back straight in her bid to take her first eSports League podium, but with only five minutes to go and the Circuit of the Americas track being such a long lap, particularly in the Formula Renault 2.0 cars the series made use of, she was running out of time. But at the head of the field, Visser was showing unrivalled pace, extending her lead out to over five seconds in a handful of laps and driving home to collect the first win of the evening and her third win from four races. Marta Garcia drove drama free to 2nd place, while Powell did end up clinching her first podium of the series with 3rd place, remaining ahead of Wood in 4th and Marti in 5th, who appeared to drop back in the final couple of laps and off the rostrum. Jessica Hawkins also scored a personal best with 6th place, followed by Emma Kimilainen, Sidorkova, Belen Garcia and Naomi Schiff.
The inversion of the Race 1 result left Vicky Piria claiming reverse grid pole position with Bruna Tomaselli of Brazil lining up alongside her, while an all-British second row of Moore and Abbie Eaton looked set to give them a challenge. Once again the front row pair held their positions through the first corner despite an initial challenge from Ayla Agren in 3rd, while less than ideal starts for Moore and Eaton dropped them down to 4th and 7th respectively as Rdest and Wohlwend aimed to make up places early. Piria soon found herself under attack from all side as heading into Turn 11, she was first passed by Tomaselli on approach before Agren, Moore and Rdest all arrived at the braking zone together. Piria and Agren banged wheels but survived, Moore stood on the brakes to avoid any collisions and Rdest couldn’t slow down enough to stop her tagging Agren, sending the Norweigan into a spin and into the path of Piria, undoing her great start to the opening lap and sending Eaton the long way round as a result. Rdest also ended up spinning and rejoined outside the top 10.
Tomaselli now lead with Eaton incredibly managing to move into 2nd place, but both would be the victim of a small nudge from Kimilainen which caused them to tumble down the order. Belen Garcia was now taking up 2nd place, but a huge melee began to kick off for 3rd place downwards, with Moore attempting to dive past Naomi Schiff at the final corner and succeeding, before Schiff ended up fighting with Marti, Moore, and Sidorkova as through it all 3rd had now gone to Jessica Hawkins. Schiff couldn’t seem to catch a break, as she tagged Cook into a spin at Turn 13, allowing Beitske Visser to continue climbing from the back of the grid and through the top 10.
Kimilainen now had a lead over eight-second by this stage with Hawkins moving up to 2nd place after Belen Garcia was forced to head to the pits. This left a battle for 3rd between Sidorkova and Powell which the Russian appeared to have under control as she pressed on to catch Hawkins. It didn’t take long for the two cars to end up nose to tail and eventually, a dive inside at Turn 15 was enough to take 2nd, although her task of catching Kimilainen for the lead appeared to be a little too much. Powell then took her turn to apply the pressure to Hawkins for 3rd, lining her up down the back straight and completing the move at Turn 12.
Sidorkova pushed on and began to eat into Kimilainen’s lead, getting the gap down to just under 4.5 seconds at the start of the penultimate lap and then less than 3 seconds as they began the final tour, but despite the Russian’s stronger pace, she wasn’t able to overhaul the leader in the end. Kimilainen took her second reverse grid win in as many race meetings, with Sidorkova only 1.5 seconds behind her at the flag with Powell a further couple of seconds back in 3rd place. Hawkins carried on improving with 4th ahead of Naomi Schiff, who survived the early fracas to claim a top-five ahead of championship leader Visser who did well to climb up to 6th place. Wohlwend, Moore, Cook and Wood completed the top 10 finishers.
The final race of the evening’s qualifying session saw Visser clinch pole once again, clear by more than three tenths on pole position. Tamsin Pepper had set a blistering lap to go second quickest, and for the third time, the top two starters remained in place throughout the opening corners. Wood attempted a move on Marti at Turn 12 for 3rd place, but then found herself attacked by Sidorkova for 4th, which didn’t end up sticking as the Russian ran wide. Pepper then got on the power a little too quickly exiting the last turn and ended up half spinning, dropping down to 6th place.
Visser didn’t take long to extend a lead of over three seconds in just a couple of laps, leaving the trio of Marti, Wood and Sidorkova to scrap for 2nd place – at least that was until Marti found herself in a spin at Turn 13, dropping to 5th as Pepper also capitalised after her earlier spin. The Russian tried to catch back up to Wood and eventually, the gap ended up stabilising at a second between the two cars. Most of the top 10 were fairly spread out as the race progressed, but the main battle ended up being fought for 7th down to 9th place between Schiff, Tomaselli and Eaton, with Schuff eventually making a break and leaving the two drivers behind her to battle. That was until Eaton lost the rear of her car just after the exit of Turn 11, leaving Tomaselli to remain unchallenged in 9th.
Once again, Visser was unmatched and unchallenged at the front of the pack and she reeled off the last couple of laps to win the final race of the evening, claiming the fastest lap by just over an entire second ahead of 2nd place finisher Wood, while Sidorkova took another podium finish in 3rd from Pepper and Marti. Marta Garcia took the flag in 6th, Naomi Schiff came next in 7th, and the remaining top 10 places were taken by Powell, Tomaselli and Hawkins.