Duel in the Dutch Dunes


A Formula 1 Grand Prix was last held at Zandvoort in 1985, but when the world’s premier motor racing series returns to the Dutch seaside resort this weekend after 36 years away, W Series will be there too for what is certain to be an historic event.

A lot has happened since Niki Lauda’s victory, but the circuit 30 kilometres from Amsterdam – which was opened in 1948 and has hosted 30 FIA Formula 1 World Championship races – remains nestled in the sand dunes bordering the North Sea. While considerable work has been done on the track officially known as the CM.com Circuit Zandvoort, it is now 4.259 kilometres (2.646 miles) in length, which is just 0.007 kilometres (0.002 miles) shorter than it was when Lauda won for McLaren.

Should she receive medical clearance to race following her involvement in a six-car accident during qualifying which ruled her out of W Series’ race at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps last weekend, it promises to be an unforgettable weekend for Beitske Visser (M. Forbes Motorsport, NED). W Series’ Dutch driver, like her compatriot Max Verstappen – the Red Bull driver who is currently second in the F1 World Championship standings – will be cheered on by an orange army of home fans.

The 26-year-old has mixed memories of Zandvoort as it was the circuit where she won her first race in the ADAC Formel Masters series in 2012 despite breaking her back the day before the race. Beitske’s team-mate, Ayla Agren (M. Forbes Motorsport, NOR), will also undergo a medical assessment having missed the last round in Belgium through injuries sustained in the same qualifying incident.

Beitske would love to complete another memorable comeback by standing on the top step of the podium at her home race, where the top three drivers will get their hands on the first-ever trophies to be made exclusively from recycled materials for an F1 weekend. To mark their title race, Heineken® – who announced a new multi-year partnership with W Series last week – has collaborated with Dutch design studio Piet Boon to create the sustainable trophies. The green glass bowl is created from recycled Heineken® glass bottles, the plastic plinth is formed from recycled Heineken® plastic crates and the presentation box is made from waste plywood. The podium finishers will have their race position engraved onto their trophies using sand as a nod to Zandvoort’s beachside location.

Very few of W Series’ drivers know Zandvoort, but Abbi Pulling (PUMA W Series Team, GBR) – the 18-year-old reserve driver who will step into the second PUMA W Series Team car this weekend – does as she raced there in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge in 2019. Fabienne Wohlwend (Bunker Racing, LIE) raced there in the Audi TT Sport Cup in 2017, while Sarah Moore (Scuderia W, GBR) has competed on the old track and Emma Kimiläinen (Ecurie W, FIN) has tested at the circuit.

Emma claimed the second victory of her W Series career in Belgium last Saturday to move third in the championship standings on 60 points, 31 behind leader Jamie Chadwick (Veloce Racing, GBR). The defending champion is seven points clear of compatriot Alice Powell (Racing X, GBR) at the head of the field with three rounds remaining this season.

Abbi’s second appearance of the season – she made her W Series debut at the third round of 2021 at Silverstone in July – means Caitlin Wood is the first reserve driver this weekend. Irina Sidorkova missed the last round in Belgium where she tested positive for COVID-19, but the 18-year-old will return to the starting grid at Zandvoort having tested negative.

W Series’ schedule for this weekend starts on Friday 3 September with a 30-minute practice session from 12.55 (local time, CEST). The 30-minute qualifying session will be held later that day from 16.30. The race – which lasts for 30 minutes plus one lap – will start at 16.30 on Saturday 4 September.

British fans can watch the sixth round of the 2021 W Series season live from Circuit Zandvoort on Channel 4 from 15.00 BST on Saturday 4 September. The action can also be seen across W Series’ digital and social channels, as well as being broadcast in more than 175 territories with a full list available here.

Dave Ryan (Racing Director, W Series) said:
“We are all excited to be supporting the Dutch Grand Prix as it returns to the Formula 1 calendar after a 36-year absence. Zandvoort has been remodelled since Niki Lauda’s win in 1985, but the flowing circuit remains spectacular and is a real throwback with sharp changes in elevation and camber which will test the drivers and produce some good racing.

“The incident during qualifying at Spa tested us to the limit, but the team did an amazing job working through the night to get the cars ready to race and we arrive in the Netherlands in good spirits.

“It’s great to have Abbi Pulling back with us this weekend. She did well when we gave her an opportunity at Silverstone earlier in the season – qualifying eighth and finishing in the same position – so I’m expecting another solid showing from her at Zandvoort, particularly as she’s one of the few drivers with previous experience of the circuit.”

Beitske Visser, 26, Netherlands, M. Forbes Motorsport, said:
“After what happened at Spa last weekend, it would be perfect to be back in the car at Zandvoort. I was sore after getting back from hospital, but so relieved not to be badly injured and I’m feeling better now. After coming through such a serious crash, you just want to get back in the car as soon as possible. I don’t foresee any problems. I crashed hard at Zandvoort in 2012 when I broke my back and came back the next day to win the race, so I’m hoping that’s a good omen!

“I was already determined to have a good weekend and perform well at my home race, but what happened in Belgium has made me even more determined. Sharing the stage with Max Verstappen will be as thrilling as driving the track, and I know the orange army of fans will give me plenty of support as the W Series drivers pile into the first corner, Tarzan, at full throttle. I want to give them lots to shout about.”

Abbi Pulling, 18, UK, PUMA W Series Team, said:
“It’s great to be back with W Series this weekend. My British F4 season has been a bit frustrating and I’ve had some bad luck, so I’m desperate for a good result at Zandvoort and will be trying my hardest.

“I raced on the old Zandvoort circuit in 2019 in the Ginetta cars and loved it. It’s such a fun and unusual circuit, unlike any other that I’ve driven, and it’s one of my favourites as it suits my driving style. The high-cambered corners let you carry lots of speed through them and there are some blind braking zones too. I’ll need to hit the ground running and get used to the F3 car again so that I can feel comfortable in practice. That will allow me to give it my all in qualifying which will be important here because it’s hard to overtake in the race. Despite that, I think we’ll see some really close and exciting racing because the track is awesome.

“This weekend will be just as special as my debut at Silverstone which was an incredible experience. I finished in the top 10 but there was more in it for me. I feel more confident at Zandvoort, so I want to build on that result and enjoy the weekend.”