It was debut wins for Marta Garcia and Tasmin Pepper as the W Series Esports League arrived at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium for round five of the championship.
Marti Garcia and Tasmin Pepper took impressive first wins as the W Series Esports League arrived in a virtual Spa for round five. Despite not clocking up a race win this time around, soild performaces over the three race round means championship leader Beitske Visser still has a healthy lead at the top of the table.
Marta Garcia secured her first, and long overdue W Series Esports League pole position by beating Visser by two tenths of a second in a very close qualifying. Come race one, it was Garcia who got a great start but was caught by Visser and Sidorkova on the Kemmel Straight. It was side-by-sid racing as the top three approached Les Combes but Garcia held her nerve and retained her lead. Nerea Marti tried to get in on the action as the top four were separated by less than two seconds. As the race entered it’s closing stages Marti passed Sidorkova for third, however, it was short lived as the Spaniard ran wide at Turn 11, which Sidorkova pounced back on. This was also short lived as the Sidorkova made contact with Abbie Eaton and dropped down the order. Visser continued to put the pressure on Garcia and the two locked wheels brifley giving Visser a chance to take the lead. With Visser closer than ever as the final laps got underway, Garcia held on to take the win.
Race One Result
Thanks to a crash at the beginning of race one, Tasmin Pepper started the reverse-grid race from pole position and the South African had the perfect start. Pressure from Jessica Hawkins, Nerea Marti and Alice Powell, kept Pepper on her toes. Race one contenders Garcia and Sidorkova very swiftly made their way into the top 10 as they took advantage of battles up and down the field. Championship leader Visser chances of a race win were dashed when she was caught up in an opening-lap incident. Pepper steadily built her lead as the order chopped and changed behind her. Marti, Powell and Hawkins were locked in battle as poduim places were still up for grabs. Powell overtook Marti for second at the Bus Stop Chicane but Tasmin was more than three seconds up the road, out of reach and on her way to her first race win.
Race Two Result
Marta Garcia pipped Visser to pole position again by the smallest of margins. It was a clean getaway for the frontrunners though Garcia and Visser, and Sidorkova and Pepper, where wheel to wheel along the Kemmel Straigh. Spins for Ayla Agren and Alice Powell at the Bus Stop Chicane helped promote Sarah Moore to fifth and Nerea Marti to sixth. The top six didn’t change as the race played out, however the battle for seventh took center stage in the the second half of the race. Abbie Eaton finally passed Naomi Schiff with seven minutes left on the clock, only for Schiff to take the position back a minute later. As they squabbled, Belen Garcia waited in the wings and, with five minutes to go, pulled off a cracking move and overtook both of them along the Kemmel Straight. Both Belen Garcia and Eaton did however gain a place after the race when Marti was handed a 10-second penalty.
Race Three Result
On her double race win Marta Garcia said; “I’ve been training for a few days and really dedicated time to learning Spa, so I worked hard and that’s why I was really fast. In race one I started on pole, kept myself first at the start and stayed there. Beitske [Visser] was getting closer to me at the end and even at the last corner on the last lap she tried to overtake me, but I managed to finish first so I’m very happy. In race three I started on pole again, had a really good start and just drove away. I had really good pace and built a gap to Beitske so I could win the race. I’ve been having really bad reverse-grid races so now I’m staying calmer, seeing what happens on the first lap and then trying to overtake step-by-step. That’s how I managed to get up to fifth [from last on the grid] and luckily I wasn’t caught up in any crashes.
I’m really looking forward to the next round at Watkins Glen. I don’t know the track and it takes time, at least 10 laps, to know a new track. But to have great pace I’ll need to train for two or three days and put some good work in. It’s not impossible for me to win the W Series Esports League, but it will be really difficult. Beitske has a big lead and she is always doing good races so it will be very tough to beat her, but finishing in the top two will certainly be possible if I do a good job.”
Tasmin Pepper had this to say on her maiden race win; “I had a crash in race one so I had a long pitstop to fix my car but that put me first on the grid for race two. I got a great start and then just tried to maintain the gap to Alice [Powell] in second. The gap was never less than two seconds and you have to be within seven tenths of a second to get a slipstream so I was just trying to maintain that. I was probably a bit too cautious but I didn’t want to make any mistakes and out-brake myself or spin. Spa is really tough and it happened a lot in practice where I tried a bit too hard on the brakes or got on the power a bit too early, so I just kept a steady pace, enough to keep the gap and take the win. It’s nerve-wracking when you’re in front and you’re trying not to make mistakes, but I’m pleased I got first and some good points, especially as I didn’t score in the first race.
“In race three I got off the line behind Ira [Sidorkova] and the gap to her stayed consistent, but I had Sarah [Moore] on my tail so I was making sure she never got within seven tenths of a second. The girls at the front are really fast and they’re putting in the time on the sim. I can’t practise as much as I’d like to so fourth is a solid result and now I’ve just got to catch the three at the front.
“Finishing in the top three in the championship would be ideal but catching Beitske is unrealistic at the moment. She’s very consistent, winning often and in the races she’s not winning she’s still in the top five. It’s about staying out of trouble, making sure you score in every round and you never know where you’ll end up in the championship. Watkins Glen is next and it’s a circuit I’ve never driven. You can learn the basics of a track quickly but to learn the finer points and get really fast it takes a couple of days on the sim, so I’ll try my best to do that.”
Round six will take place at a virtual Watkins Glen International, New York, USA, next Thursday, 16 July at 7pm BST. All three races can be viewed on BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and W Series’ Twitch, YouTube and Facebook channels.