SIDORKOVA TAKES FIRST W SERIES ESPORTS WINS AT BRANDS HATCH AS VISSER SURVIVES MIXED FORTUNES


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Irina Sidorkova became the third different winner in three race meetings in the W Series eSports League, as the Russian picked up two wins on the night at the third round of the season at the Brands Hatch GP circuit.

Pole position in qualifying went to Caitlin Wood, who once again proved her single lap pace to take top time by almost two tenths of a second from points leader Beitske Visser, while the rest of the top ten times where separated by less than half a second, with Alice Powell 3rd fastest alongside Sidorkova followed by Sarah More, Nerea Marti, Gosia Rdest, Jessica Hawkins and Ayla Agren.

Wood got away cleanly at the start of Race 1 and initially led the pack through Paddock Hill Bend for the first time with Visser to her outside and Powell just behind. But by the time the cars climbed the hill to Druids, Visser was in front and leading the way leaving Wood to defend from Powell, who in turn was defending from Garcia, while just behind them Sidorkova was seeing her Race 1 aspirations take a downward turn when she hit the inside barrier approaching Druids and fell to the back of the field as she required a trip to the pits. Wood’s race also hit a stumbling block when she dipped a wheel onto the grass entering Sheene Corner and spun out across the gravel, dropping the Australian down to 14th.

Unlike other races in which she’d gone on to win, Visser couldn’t really escape Powell in 2nd place, as the Brit managed to keep the Dutch driver within touching distance and the gap remained at just over a second over the next couple of laps, but all in all Visser did managed to slowly edge away. With Marta Garcia holding station in 3rd place, the closest on-track battle became the scrap for 4th between Marti and Moore and further back there were ongoing scraps for 9th between the recovering Wood and Belen Garcia, and for 11th between Vicky Piria and Abbie Eaton, which came to an end when a mistake from Eaton dropped her down to 14th place. Moore, meanwhile, was remaining on Marti’s gearbox and as the race approached its closing stages, opportunities to pass were running out fast.

Visser, meanwhile, drove in her typical fashion, managing to extend a lead of over four seconds in the end and claiming her fifth win from seven races to further increase her advantage in the points. Powell did a superb job on her home circuit to collect runner up spot ahead of Marta Garcia in 3rd, while Marti did manage to keep Moore at bay in the end to remain in 4th place, with Sarah’s fellow Brit Jessica Hawkins also using local knowledge to claim 6th ahead of Fabienne Wohlwend, Wood, Tasmin Pepper and Belen Garcia.

Japan’s Miki Koyama was able to claim reverse grid pole for the second race, but critically she would have Sidorkova lining up on the front row giving the Russian a prime opportunity to score a large haul of points and beat the likes of Visser in the process, with Beitske starting from the back of the field respectively. As many would have expected, Sidorkova beat Koyama off the line and led her into the first corner ahead of Agren and Piria, who made wheel to wheel contact exiting Druids but just got away with it. However, Rdest and Schiff who were directly behind the pair weren’t so lucky, as they tangled in the same place sending both cars spinning down the order. Further incidents exiting Graham Hill Bend would then catch out a handful of cars including the aforementioned Piria and Agren, Belen Garcia and Tomaselli.

All of this helped Visser climb up to 10th place before the end of the opening lap, which became 9th before its conclusion with a pass around the outside of Clearways on Powell. Marti then lost the car heading into Clark Curve to gift Visser another place, followed by Agren fast towing back to the pits to finally put Beitske up to 7th place, chasing down a developing three-car scrap for 4th place between Hawkins, Pepper and Eaton. Visser was quickly on their tale to make the trio a quartet, picking off Eaton for 6th shortly after joining the group. Ahead of them, Sidorkova was quickly settling into a lead of just over four seconds at this early stage, with Koyama doing an excellent job to maintain 2nd place ahead of Sabre Cook in 3rd, the two cars swapping places a few minutes later.

Hawkins held on to her 4th place for a while until she was duped by a move from Pepper to take the place, quickly followed by Visser a couple of corners later to push Jessica down to 6th and potentially into the clutches of Eaton behind her. Not wishing to waste any time and knowing that every point counted, Visser was straight onto Pepper’s tail and exiting Graham Hill Bend she seized her chance and attempted to pass at Surtees, and despite initially running wide on corner exit, Beitske had the inside line for Hawthorns and made the move for 4th place. Now she was just over a second behind Koyama for 3rd and keen to get on the podium, and she took the place less than a lap later. Even though catching Cook for 2nd place looked like a tall order, that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to push as hard as she could to make it happen.

Incredibly, Visser’s pace was strong enough to catch and pass Cook in quick succession, expertly reeling in the American and passing her at Surtees, but by this point, the gap to the lead compared to the small amount of race time left was just insurmountable at this point. So, in a perfect lights to flag victory, Irina Sidorkova drove brilliantly to claim her first W Series eSports League race win at a canter, beating Visser in the end by just over 10 seconds. With Visser and Cook completing the podium and Pepper maintaining 4th, Jessica Hawkins managed to maintain her place within the top 5 with 5th place, while Abbie Eaton scored one of her best results to date with 6th ahead of Wood, Marti, Emma Kimilainen and Rdest.

Visser was quick to reassert her place at the head of the field with the fastest time in the second qualifying session to set the grid for Race 3, earning pole position ahead of Marta Garcia, Sidorkova, Race 1 pole sitter Wood and Marti.

Too much wheelspin off the line caused Visser to be slow away from pole, allowing Marta Garcia to jump into the lead from the outside of the front row, while Wood also looked to take 3rd from Sidorkova after she was held up attempting to get around the slow starting Visser, but had to hang back. The top three cars immediately found a gap to the other drivers as Visser and Sidorkova began to immediately apply the pressure to leader Garcia and stayed close as they began Lap 2. Visser took a look on the outside at Paddock Hill bend to no avail, and with Sidorkova staying on their tail it was clear that all three of them were hungry for the win.

After a couple more laps of pressure, Visser began to line up Garcia for another attempt at the lead with Sidorkova also trying to put herself into the mix. The three cars practically entered Paddock Hill Bend side by side, but incredibly it was Sidorkova making the move on Visser, stealing away 2nd place and forcing the Dutch driver to fight back. The pair battled back and forth over the rest of the lap before Visser attacked again at Paddock, performing a neat switchback into Druids to regain the position, but both drivers knew the harder they battled, the quicker that Garcia was escaping up the road.

Now back into 2nd, Visser once again set off to catch Garcia, who was driving superbly to maintain the lead from the start. But a mistake with just under six minutes to go allowed Sidorkova to steal 2nd back from Visser, with the pair now beginning to reel Garcia back towards them. Determined to retake the place and indeed go on to win another race, Visser pushed as hard as she dared as she watched Sidorkova set up a dive inside of Garcia at Paddock Hill Bend, with the Russian taking the lead and Visser following her through seconds later. Visser tried again to pass Sidorkova once more with a look at Druids to no avail and then a small peek at Surtees which the Russian once again defended.

However, Visser’s race was able to unravel spectacularly when she dropped a wheel on the kerb exiting Stirlings Bend, spearing into the inside barrier and tearing off her entire front nose section of the car as a result. Rather than pit immediately, Beistke elected to carry on to the end of the race despite the damage and the massive reduction in aerodynamic grip, only initially dropping to 4th behind Wood. As for Sidorkova, she once again ticked off the final laps and took the flag to pick up her second win of the evening and of the series, followed home by an excellent race-long effort from Marta Garcia to clinch 2nd place. Wood managed to inherit 3rd in the end to round off the podium, while Visser did manage to maintain 4th place until the finish to ensure she didn’t lose too many points. Pepper completed the top 5, followed by Moore, Wohlwend, Hawkins, Powell and Piria.

Scott Woodwiss