It was wheel-to-wheel action with drama up and down the grid as the W Series Esport League arrived at a virtual Brands Hatch…
With championship leader Beitske Visser taking pole and a comfortable race victory, you’d be fooled into thinking it was business as usual at the Kent track. However, a stunning victory in the reverse grid race and race three saw 16-year old Russian Irina Sidorkova really shake things up.
It was qualifying specialist Caitlin Wood who took P1 with moments to spare. Championship leader Visser was two tenths of a second behind in P2. Alice Powell made up P3. As in previous rounds, it was a poor start from Wood allowing Visser to take the lead at Paddock Hill on lap one. Moments later, Sidorkova spun at Druids and dropped down the grid. The young Russian found it hard to regain her pace and had to settled with the back of the pack. It was an intense battle between Wood and Visser, the former starting to build from the earlier poor start, but Wood dipped a wheel onto the grass as she finished her lap sending her down to 14th and promoting a delighted Powell to second. By the way, all this was happening as the field completed lap one! As the race settled down into its stride the top three remained Visser, Marta Garcia and Powell. Powell continued to press but Dutch driver Visser showed why she leads the championship by looking cool and calm out front. Further down the back we witnessed a thrilling battle between Abbie Eaton and Vicky Piria for P11, the two drivers wheel-to-wheel as the race entered its closing stages. However, back out front it was Visser who took the lead with Powell and Marta Garcia taking to the podium too.
Race Once Result
The reverse grid race saw Miki Koyama on the front row with Sidorkova in P2. Sidorkova got a great start to take the lead right off the bat. A big incident moments later at Graham Hill Bend left the running order all over the place. Those starting at the back of the pack made up places as cars were scattered everywhere, allowing those at the rear of the field to gain a few places. Visser began ruthlessly picking drivers off and she battled from the back row. Reverse grid specialist Emma Kimilainen couldn’t repeat her earlier victories from past rounds as she got bogged down in the midfield. A mistake from Koyama dropped the Japanese driver down to P6 and then to P7 and Eaton passed in the melee, too. Sidorkova was comfortable out in front as the race entered its closing stages. A late charge from Visser saw the Dutch driver take second from Sabre Cook but it was all about Sidorkova who notched up her first win in what was a very comfortable drive.
Race Two Result
It seemed business as usual as Visser took pole position in qualifying for race three from Marta Gracia in P3 and the on-form Sidorkova in P3. It was, however, a poor start from Visser and Garcia took the lead through Paddock Hill. With Sidorkova in third, the top three were pulling out all the stops and racing hard, a clear sign of what was to come. With12 minutes remaining, Sidorkova passed Visser after the two had exchanged overtakes over four corners in some of the most thrilling sim racing I have seen. Visser kept pushing hard and regained second place on the next lap as she made a move stick on Sidorkova at Druids. We weren’t done yet as Sidorkova overtook Visser again as the race entered its closing stages. Moments later, the pair went past Marta on the exit of Paddock Hill. Visser was pushing hard and pressuring Sidorkova but it was Visser who blinked first as she lost the rear of her car approaching Clearways and spun hitting the barriers and losing her front wing. She managed to hold on to fourth, but this left the door open for Sidorkova to take her second straight victory. The Russian is definitely one to watch.
Race Three Result
On her two race wins Sidorkova said; “The reverse-grid race was quite easy because I only had to have a good start and I did, so after the first corner I was in first and could just go. The third race was harder because I had some overtakes. In the first few laps I didn’t want to overtake Beitske [Visser] or Marta [Garcia] because I just wanted to put in some good laps, but after that we had a great battle. I was delighted to win two W Series Esports League races – it’s great to be competing with the other W Series drivers and even better to be winning already!”
The championship now looks like this after three rounds;
Round four is at Autódromo José Carlos Pace, Interlagos, Brazil on the 2nd July at 7pm BST. You can watch all three races on BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and W Series’ Twitch, YouTube and Facebook channels.