We can’t say we weren’t warned. Asked ahead of the first W Series Esports League round on 11 June who was the driver to watch over the next 10 weeks, Alice Powell replied: “Definitely Beitske Visser. She’s so quick on the simulator.”
Alice would be proved right and then some. The Briton stood atop the podium and looked down on third-placed Beitske at the final race of W Series’ inaugural on-track season at Brands Hatch last August. Just under 12 months later, Beitske stands head and shoulders above the rest in the virtual racing world. The Dutch driver, 25, clinched the W Series Esports League title on Thursday with one round to spare having won 11 of 27 races and topped qualifying 12 times out of 18.
“It feels really good to win the W Series Esports League,” said Beitske. “From the start of the League season I’ve been very strong so I’m happy that I could win it with one round to spare. I didn’t realise until someone told me afterwards that I’d not only won the League but also 11 races out of the 27 we’ve had so far! Racing drivers want to win everything so it means a lot to me.”
Drivers used to racing by the seat of their pants on-track have spoken in recent months of looking for the sim-racing ‘knack’, the ability to judge circuit, car and circumstance by sight alone, having spent years tuning their bodies to real racing’s physical assault. But Beitske took to simulators like a duck to water during tests for various series and teams as a 16-year-old junior, honed her skills during W Series practice sessions in 2019, and whiled away lockdown hours at her home in the small Dutch city of Sneek by developing them further still.
“Last year at race weekends we were supplied with simulators to practise the track that we were at,” explained Alice. “It was always Beitske that people were watching.” W Series reigning on-track champion, Jamie Chadwick, added: “We’ve all said before that Beitske is so good on the simulators, as well as being incredibly committed. So her success doesn’t shock me and she deserves it after all the hard work that she’s been putting in.”
“Beitske’s victory in the W Series Esports League comes as no surprise,” said W Series Racing Director Dave Ryan. “She may have been the runner-up in W Series’ inaugural on-track season in 2019, but she was by far and away the strongest performer on the simulators that we provided for the drivers to practise on at each of our test events and race weekends. To have reproduced that form in a competitive environment, against formidable opposition and on many circuits that she has never raced at before, is a testament to Beitske’s immense talent, resolve and dedication.”
Beitske set the tone in Round One at Monza where she won two of the three races and said afterwards: “I’ve always been quite good on simulators.” Typically understated, but she never looked back. Two more wins at the Circuit of the Americas took her League tally to three figures after just two rounds.
Victory in the opening race at Brands Hatch made it five wins out of seven, before a chink appeared in the final race of Round Three when she spun into the barriers while pursuing Irina Sidorkova. Beitske still limped home in fourth to continue her run of bettering her score at every round – a run which she extended to four by scoring a W Series Esports League record 60 points at Interlagos the following week, a round she described as “pretty much perfect”.
But, as the season reached the halfway stage at Spa, a new challenge emerged. Marta Garcia beat Beitske in the two qualifying sessions and converted both pole positions into victories after resisting all that the League leader could throw at her. It was the start of a remarkable run of six victories in 10 races for the Spaniard, who outscored Beitske by 33 points from rounds five to seven, during which time she came out on top in several tight battles between the pair.
Beitske failed to spook her rival with a last-lap lunge in race one at Spa and hit the wall while trying to overtake Marta in the final race of Round Six at Watkins Glen. She lost a drag race to the chequered flag by nine one-hundredths of a second in race one of Round Seven at Suzuka, where she then dropped back in the final race after hitting the rear of Marta’s car and damaging her own.
Marta was now up to second in the W Series Esports League, 51 points behind Beitske with three rounds remaining, and rated her chances of overhauling that deficit as “really hard but not impossible.” The 19-year-old won race one of Round Eight at Bathurst to set pulses racing, but Beitske won race three to end a run of one victory in 11 races and Marta’s title aspirations to boot.
Beitske took a comfortable 57-point lead to the Nürburgring Nordschleife for the penultimate round and the longest of victory laps, describing the infamous German circuit as “the round I’ve been most looking forward to” given her on-track experience there. It paid dividends as she won two of the three races to outscore Marta by 11 points and take an unassailable 68-point lead with one round remaining.
“I knew the points standings before the round so I knew I had a chance to win and I’m very happy that I managed to do it,” said Beitske. “I’ve been putting a lot of practice in and I’m feeling quite comfortable on the sim now. Every track that we went to my goal was to win and at most tracks I managed to do that.”