All eyes were on Marta Garcia and Belen Garcia as the two Spaniards shared the spoils in round seven of the W Series Esports League.
Round seven saw the grid line up at Japans iconic Suzuka circuit and it was all about Spain. Two wins for Marta Garcia and one for Belen, her first of the season saw the gap close on championship leader Beitske Visser.
It was business as usual as Visser beat Marta Garcia to pole position by two tenths of a second but come race time M. Garcia made the better start and had taken the lead by turn one. Behind, Ira Sidorkova saw a chance to jump Visser but got too close and damaged her front wing and then ran wide, dropping down the order. Caitlin Wood was doing what she does best and keeping her head down and out of trouble in third. There was a great battle for fourth between Nerea Marti and Ayla Agren with Marti taking fourth with a great a move up the inside of Agren at the hairpin. With five minutes remaining the top two crossed the line with hardly anything between them but M. Garcia held her nerve at turn one. An incredible overtake around the outside at 130R saw Visser briefly regain the lead but Marta took it back first with an equally great move up the inside at the same corner on the next lap. A great exit out of the final chicane saw Visser put the pressure on Marta Garcia and it was neck and neck come the chequered flag, but Marta won it by nine one-hundredths of a second.
Race One Result
Belen Garcia started the reverse-grid race from pole, and despite clean getaways for her and second place Bruna Tomaselli there were a number of incidents behind. Mistakes from Miki Koyama and Vicky Piria had a knock on effect to several drivers, championship leader Visser being one and the Dutch driver was relegated to the rear of the field. Tasmin Pepper and newcomer Gabriela Jilkova made the most of the carnage with Jilkova passing Pepper and Tomaselli for P2. The bad luck continued for Tomaselli as a string of driver passed the Brazilian with Agren moving into the final podium position with another great overtake at 130R on Pepper as the race entered it’s closing stages. Belen Garcia was clear at the front and on her way to her maiden victory in the W Series.
Race Two Result
Visser once again qualified in P1, one tenth of a second ahead of Marta Garcia in qualifying. Visser made a solid start keeping Marta Garcia at bay, however a spin from Sidorkova saw the young Russian driver at the back of the pack with Gabriela Jilkova. A great battle between Pepper and Marti saw Pepper eventually take P3 while Marta Garcia, not to be left out, overtook Visser around the outside at 130R to gain the lead and survived a failed attempted a pass by Visser at the final chicane damaged Visser front wing and gave Marta Garcia some breathing space and allowed Pepper to overtake and take second place. Front wing damage continued to ruin Vissers race as Marti overtook her with two minutes remaining. A five-second post-race penalty dropped Pepper to fourth.
Race Three Result
On her two race wins in round seven, Martia Garcia said; “In race one I started second but had a good start to take the lead. Beitske [Visser] had similar pace and overtook me on the third lap, but I managed to stay with her and, on the last lap, overtake her at the chicane before defending well to win the race. In race three I stared second again and Beitske got a good start to retain the lead. But I was as fast as her with a similar rhythm so I could overtake. She tried to overtake me but I stayed in front and then she pressed a bit hard and lost some time which meant I won the race.
In the reverse-grid race I was calm, just like I have been for the past few weeks. I don’t go too crazy on the first few laps because there are always crashes. My pace was good so I just took it step-by-step. I was fighting with Abbie [Eaton] for fifth and then overtook Tasmin [Pepper] on the last lap.
Suzuka is a technical track which I didn’t know before I started training. I spent time with Sirio who are helping me improve on the sim and that made me competitive. I hope to continue that improvement in the next round at Mount Panorama, Bathurst. It’s another circuit I don’t know but I’ve heard it’s really tough and technical with lots of barriers, so you need to be careful.
Getting up to second place in the W Series Esports League is fantastic, but going one better and catching Beitske at the top is going to be really hard as she always performs well. There are three rounds left so it’s not impossible and I will do my very best.”
Belen Garcia had this to say on her maiden race win at Suzuka; “I didn’t have a good first race, crashing and finishing last, but that gave me pole position for the reverse-grid race. I got a decent start, kept Bruna [Tomaselli] behind me and had very consistent pace during the race. That let me build a good gap over the first few laps and, although Gabriela [Jilkova] was catching me at the end, I managed to keep her behind to win.
My qualifying was bad again for the third race and the first lap was a challenge because the start was messy and I had to avoid crashes. But I survived and managed to fight to the front with some good pace again. I overtook Miki [Koyama] for seventh and then Jess [Hawkins] made a mistake which gave me sixth place.
I have improved a lot on the sim and I am so grateful to W Series for this opportunity. Qualifying is one of my weakest points and I’m working really hard to improve that for the final three rounds. That starts at Mount Panorama, Bathurst, next week which I’m really looking forward to. I’ve watched lots of races there, it’s an exciting circuit and I think I will like it but it will be a tough challenge in a Formula car.”
Round Eight is at Mount Panorama Circuit, Bathurst, Australia, next Thursday, 30 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.