W Series: Chadwick seals second title with crushing win in COTA finale

Jamie Chadwick completed her W Series title defence by dominating the final race at Circuit of the Americas, converting pole position into victory while her title rival Alice Powell was stuck in the midfield.

Chadwick got a near-perfect launch from pole to see off any challenge from Abbi Pulling on the front row. Pulling slotted into second place, while Beitske Visser jumped Sarah Moore for third, Emma Kimilainen went from sixth to fourth, and Powell overtook Jess Hawkins to take seventh.

Visser had to take a defensive line into the first corner to see off Kimilainen, who was just too far back to make it three places gained at the start. But Kimilainen kept up the offensive through the opening lap and within a few corners had taken third place from Visser.

By the end of the first lap Chadwick had already pulled out a second in hand over Pulling, who was struggling to get clear of Kimilainen. The Finn lapped within a few tenths of Pulling in the early laps, but Pulling eventually settled into the groove and started to inch clear instead.

As Chadwick kept opening up her lead at the front, Powell was running in seventh behind Belen Garcia and unable to find any way past the Scuderia W car. To deny Chadwick the title Powell needed to outscore her by 10 points, but by lap 7 there were already 12 seconds separating the two of them on track.

 

After running three tenths behind Garcia, Powell saw an opportunity to take sixth place at the start of lap 9 but braked too late into Turn 1 and let Garcia back through. She tried the same inside move at the start of the following lap, but was too far back to pull alongside Garcia.

Powell eventually got the move done on lap 12 by taking an aggressive entry to Turn 1 and squeezing Garcia to the edge of the track. But by this point there were only five minutes left on the clock, and Chadwick was almost five seconds ahead of Pulling and the rest of the field up front.

Chadwick eventually crossed the line with that five second gap to take the title. Pulling claimed her first W Series podium in second, which left her with enough points to earn eighth in the standings and a guaranteed place in the 2022 championship. Kimilainen finished third, where she also ended in the standings.

Moore recovered after dropping back at the start to take fourth place ahead of Visser and Powell, and Belen Garcia finished seventh. Sabré Cook had been running in eighth place and was on course for her first points of the season, until she came together with Jess Hawkins with six minutes to go. That allowed Nerea Marti, Ayla Agren and Caitlin Wood through to take the final three points positions.

Chadwick, Powell and Kimilainen end the season as the top three in the standings. Marti was fourth in her rookie season, and Moore, Fabienne Wohlwend, Pulling and Visser have secured places on next year’s grid by completing the top eight in the championship.

W Series Qualifying: Kimiläinen beats championship rivals to pole

Qualifying at Zandvoort was an important session for the drivers as overtaking here could be hard. The crowd was already electric on a Friday, with Beitske Visser was looking to impress after a P5 in practice.

After a short 5 minute delay due to red flags earlier on in the day, the session got underway, and it was noticeable that with different power and tyre compounds, the majority of the drivers took wider lines through the banked in comparison to Formula 3 and Formula 1 in order to hold onto the speed through the corners.

Fabienne Wohlwend crashed out of qualifying early in the session at the exit of turn 3 after going wide from the banked corner. She got out of the car and was OK but will be starting from the back of the grid tomorrow.

Back on track when the red flag was lifted and there was a switch up in run plans with nearly 24 minutes left on the clock. Visser and Sarah Moore came out on fresh tyres, while others stuck to their used tyres which did not need as long to warm up.

Jamie Chadwick had provisional pole for the first 10 minutes and was improving all the time. Jess Hawkins and Alice Powell were improving behind her though. Hawkins couldn’t quite match Chadwick in the end, but Powell went faster and took provisional pole.

Irina Sidorkova went off at turn 9 but was able to make it back onto the track. However, she joined by going straight across the racing line and is under investigation. The off hurt her run plan and she qualified P15, looking to move up the order during the race tomorrow.

Emma Kimiläinen had to sit out most of practice so was looking to improve massively and put in some fantastic laps to be provisional P2 at the halfway mark. Chadwick then improved and went fastest with home favourite Visser managing a P3. At the halfway point every driver was still improving lap times and so much movement happening meant the timing graphics couldn’t keep up.

In the last 9 minutes it was set to be all change in the order as the lap times kept tumbling down. Powell put in a stunning lap to get provisional pole which couldn’t be matched by Chadwick who lost out in the final sector to go P2. Kimiläinen was in P3 and Nerea Marti put in her personal best lap to be in P4. With 5 minutes 45 seconds to go the red flag came out again as Sabré Cook spun and beached the car at the chicane. She was then out of qualifying, finishing P17 in a day to forget for the Bunker team.

Once the track was cleared the session was back underway with a shootout for pole position. Chadwick went fastest in the first two sectors but again lost the speed in the last sector and couldn’t improve on her time. Kimiläinen was the only driver improving in the first laps out, but all drivers were improving again on the second laps. Issues with the timings meant there was confusion at the end of the session as to who had actually taken pole.

Once the timings had updated, impressive speed in sectors 1 and 2 meant that Kimiläinen took a great pole to continue her momentum from her victory last time out in Spa. Powell narrowly beat Chadwick to P2 because Chadwick was struggling to gain time in that final sector. This is the first time this season that someone other than Chadwick or Powell have qualified on pole.

There are six Brits in the top eight with great results for Abbi Pulling in P5, Hawkins in P6, Abbie Eaton in P7 and Moore in P8. Beitske Visser only managed P12 at her home race, but with the crowd behind her she will be looking to put some moves on the other drivers to make her way to the top.

Race starts at 16:30 local time (15:30 BST) tomorrow on Channel 4.

W Series Austria: Chadwick dominates at the Red Bull Ring

Reigning W Series champion Jamie Chadwick kickstarted her title defence with a dominant win from pole position in the second Red Bull Ring round.

Chadwick got a dream start from pole as Beitske Visser stalled off the line from second position. She was then given another advantage as her Veloce teammate Bruna Tomaselli and Academy’s Irina Sidorkova tussled for second, allowing Chadwick to arrive at Turn 1 with a healthy lead already.

Sidorkova came out on top in the battle with Tomaselli and pulled clear of the Brazilian over the opening lap. That left Tomaselli under pressure from Emma Kimilainen, who had jumped up from sixth on the grid to join the podium fight.

 

Kimilainen passed Tomaselli for second on lap 2 and stuck close to the back of Sidorkova. As Chadwick pulled clear of the pair, Kimilainen kept her car consistently within a second of Sidorkova and tried to find a way past the Russian.

But despite the pressure from Kimilainen throughout the race, Sidorkova managed to close off any opportunity and finish second behind Chadwick for her first W Series podium. Kimilainen ran out of laps to make a move happen, but finished half a second behind Sidorkova in third.

As the podium trio bolted down the road, Tomaselli led a tight battle for fourth place. The Veloce driver soon had a train behind her with Sarah Moore, Nerea Marti and Abbie Eaton. Moore in particular had great pace, and had already got herself up to fifth from eighth on the grid.

 

Moore initially got past Tomaselli on lap 7, but was repassed and had to fend off Marti on the following lap. Moore then regrouped in the closing laps to try around the outside of Tomaselli at Turn 3 on lap 18, before finally making a move stick at Turn 4 on lap 22.

Moore and Tomaselli finished fourth and fifth, with Eaton getting ahead of Marti for sixth and her first W Series points. Alice Powell finished a disappointed eighth between Marti and Belen Garcia, after saying on the radio that she had no straight line speed.

Sabré Cook had held the final point in tenth for much of the race after recovering from a spin in qualifying that put her at the back of the grid. But her Bunker Racing teammate Fabienne Wohlwend grabbed the position in the closing laps to round out the top ten.

Chadwick’s win moves her to the top of the standings by three points from Moore, with Round 1 winner Powell another point behind in third. W Series returns in two weeks’ time at Silverstone, in support of the British Grand Prix.

Listen: PitCast interview with Sabré Cook

In the latest special episode of the PitCast, we caught up with Indy Pro 2000 and W Series driver Sabré Cook.

Fresh off the back of the second round of the Indy Pro 2000 season at Mid-Ohio, we spoke to Sabré about her Road to Indy journey, her W Series goals and involvement in their esports league, and her work with the Renault F1 team and Infiniti Engineering Academy last year.

Sabré is currently competing part-time in the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 championship with Team Benik and was due to race in the second season of the W Series before its cancellation earlier in the year.

You can listen to the latest episode of the PitCast below, and also here on YouTube. Catch up on all our past episodes here.

 

W Series: Exclusive interview with Sabré Cook

Earlier in the year, Sabré Cook spoke to us for International Women’s Day as she prepared for both the upcoming W Series evaluations and her Infiniti Engineering Academy placement with the Renault Sport F1 Team. Since then she has taken three points finishes across the season, as well as third place at the non-championship round at Assen.

With W Series now over for 2019, we caught up with Sabré to hear her reflections on the inaugural championship and her plans for the future.

Sabré Cook on the podium at Assen (W Series Media)

James Matthews: First of all, congratulations on taking your third points finish of the season at Brands Hatch. How would you rate your season overall, and what has been your personal highlight?

SabrĂ© Cook: Thank you! Overall the season has been a great experience and I’ve learned an immense amount. I definitely made mistakes along the way but I’m a better driver now because I learned from them. The highlights would probably be my 7th place and third-fastest lap at Norisring, and my reverse grid podium at Assen.

JM: Your P12 in the championship has guaranteed you a place on the 2020 W Series grid. Have you decided yet to return next year, and if so what will be your goals for your sophomore season?

SC: I will definitely be returning next year. I’ll continue to focus on improving my skills along with applying what I’ve learned this year. A top five result in the championship next year would be a satisfying result for me.

JM: What impact has being part of the W Series had on your career, both in terms of your development as a driver and your presence in the media?

SC: The W Series has given me the opportunity to work consistently on my performance as a driver more than I’ve ever been able to in the past. I feel like I’m making steady progress and it feels great. The media coverage and excitement over the series has certainly helped grow my media presence.

Sabré Cook at Misano (W Series Media)

JM: Catherine Bond-Muir told the media after Brands Hatch that W Series will be expanding to the US for 2021. Is there any US track in particular you’d like to see the series race on?

SC: I cannot confirm that the W Series will be going to the US for 2021, but I’d certainly welcome the addition to the race calendar. There’s so many great tracks in the US but I’d particularly love to see them go to Road America or WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

JM: Having spent most of your career so far racing in America, what were the biggest challenges you found racing in a predominantly European series?

SC: I’ve raced in European races before in karting, so from that I knew the high level of talent and aggression to expect. The challenges mostly came from trying to learn new tracks with limited track time, and getting used to some of the different rules and operating procedures.

JM: You told our Emily Inganni earlier this year that you have been balancing W Series with an engineering placement with the Renault F1 team. Have you been able to draw on the experience gained in that placement to improve your driving skills?

SC: My time at Renault F1 teaches me so much each day on how to be a better engineer. While that doesn’t always directly relate to my driving development it does give me a greater overall perspective as a driver and helps me see the design intent behind engineering decisions. But having access to feedback that [Daniel] Riccardo and [Nico] Hulkenberg give to their engineers on the RS19 each race, does directly show me how the top drivers communicate their feeling of the car.

Sabré Cook preparing for qualifying at Zolder (W Series Media)

JM: From your unique perspective as an engineer and a driver, what have been the most enjoyable and most challenging aspects of driving the W Series Tatuus-Alfa Romeo car?

SC: Driving a turbo engine is always fun and a new experience for me. It was a challenge but also enjoyable to figure out how to drive the oversteer balance of the car confidently. It was challenging from an engineering perspective not to be able to make any major changes to the car’s set up because I’d love to see, learn, and feel for myself what some of the larger changes would do to the balance of the car on each individual track. But I was there to drive, not engineer, and limiting us to a standard set up window is definitely the best layout for the series.

JM: W Series has been praised this year for the level of close racing throughout its field. Which driver have you most enjoyed battling with?

SC: I’ve enjoyed batting with each of the drivers, and really appreciate the opportunity to learn from the more experienced ones.

JM: What are your thoughts on how W Series has developed in its inaugural season?

SC: I think the W Series Team should be extremely proud of how amazing the champion has been in just the first season. I’ve never seen a series be so successful and have such a positive reaction and impact as much as the W Series has. I hope it continues to grow and affect so many people in a positive way.

Sabré Cook at the Norisring (W Series Media)

W Series: Gilkes wins by 0.03 seconds in reverse grid thriller at Assen

Sunday morning’s race ended in a nail-biting final lap showdown which saw reverse grid pole-sitter Megan Gilkes hold off the charging Alice Powell to win by just 0.03s.

The grid was based on a full reversal of the championship points, including all twenty race and reserve drivers. The race, which did not offer points, saw Megan Gilkes and Sarah Bovy start on the front row, while championship contenders Beitske Visser and Jamie Chadwick lined up 19th and 20th.

The race came down to an intense final-lap battle between Gilkes, the youngest driver in the field, and the experienced racer Powell who had overtaken her way through the field from 17th on the grid. Despite Powell’s relentless attempts to take the lead, Gilkes put up a robust defence each and every time, leading to a side-by-side finish, with Gilkes coming out on top by the smallest of margins. Sabre Cook rounded out the podium.

Credit: W Series Media

Gilkes, Bovy, and the American driver Cook, who had a great start to move from 8th to third, held their own out front for the first half of the race. Shea Holbrook, who had started third, struggled for pace and fell down the order, eventually spinning and bringing out the safety car. At the restart, Gilkes came under pressure from Bovy in second, but managed to stay in front.

Alice Powell was among the early movers, jumping from 17th to 9th by the second lap, and refusing to stop there, continuing to climb the order until the very end. Emma Kimilainen also put in a commendable drive, finishing 5th from 15th on the grid and battling for a podium in the process.

Lap 4 saw championship rivals Visser and Chadwick battling over 14th position, with Visser coming out on top, and Chadwick then falling back behind Fabienne Wohlwend. Undeterred, Chadwick was able to battle her way through to finish 8th, while a poor getaway in a safety car restart meant Visser had to settle for 14th.

The race saw two safety car periods, with Gosia Rdest and Shea Holbrook failing to make the finish.

Featured image: W Series Media