Typical Spa weather meant for tricky conditions as the W Series arrived in Belgium, with Jamie Chadwick looking to extend her lead at the top of the championship table.
The race weekend started in spectacular fashion with a heart in mouth moment during qualifying. A six-car accident at Eu Rouge meant that 16 drivers started the race. Four of the six drivers involved, Sarah Moore, Belen Garcia, Abbie Eaton and Fabienne Wohlwend, were cleared to race. Ayla Agren and Beitske Visser, who bore the brunt of the incident, were not given clearance, though both drivers were ok and will return for the sixth race of the season at Zandvoort, Netherlands, this coming weekend. Russian Irina Sidorkova was also absent having tested positive for COVID in the run up to the weekend.
Drama over and all drivers safe, it was down to the business of racing, and there were a few grid penalties. A four-place grid penalty for Nerea Marti meant the Spaniard started seventh, while Bruna Tomaselli lined up 12th after receiving a two-place grid drop. Bad conditions in the F1 qualifying and a red flag for Lando Norris’ incident meant a delayed start. As the conditions didn’t improve the opening 13 minutes took place behind the safety car. Once the safety came in it was wheel-to-wheel action.
Jamie Chadwick immediately set about setting the standard and quickly notched up a 2.6-second advantage over Alice Powell come the end of lap one. Emma Kimiläinen was just down the road having a great battle with Caitlin Wood who had ran wide at Eau Rouge.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Kimiläinen and Marta Garcia pulled nine seconds clear of Wood and set about hunting down the leading pair as drivers began to find some drier sections of track. As the race entered its closing stages Kimiläinen overtook Powell for second place at Blanchimont before setting the crosshairs on Chadwick who was five seconds up the road.
As Kimiläinen set the fastest lap with five minutes left, the Finn knocked leader Chadwick’s lead down to just one second and come the next lap, she (Kimiläinen) went late on the brakes and passed Chadwick for the lead around the outside.
Come the end of the race, Kimiläinen had a nine second advantage as the flag was waved.
Meanwhile behind, Marta Garcia overtook Powell at Turn 15 with 30 seconds remaining and despite a valiant effort from Powell, Garcia held on to score her first podium finish of the season.
Speaking on her first win of 2021, Kimiläinen said; “This is such an amazing feeling! I had a really good car and I have to thank my engineer, driver coach and mechanic for getting everything spot on today. The Ecurie W team is rocking, and this track is just amazing – it’s great to be here and race in front of this lovely crowd. More wins are what I’m aiming for in the remainder of the season. It hasn’t been the easiest start to the year for me, but anything can happen from here and I’m still aiming for the title, that’s for sure. If you want to win, get the Finn!”
On her first podium finish on 2021, Marta Garcia said; “After such a hard start to the season, it feels great to be back on a W Series podium and I want to thank everyone for their support. I was struggling when I was behind Alice [Powell] because I was faster than her but it’s really tough to overtake in the rain, so I tried to keep the pressure on and managed to finally do a good move at Turn 15. I hope this is the first of a few more podium finishes this season.”
W Series returns to race in Zanvoort on the 3rd/4th September.