W Series might have been a little quiet on the action front over the past few months since the Brands Hatch finale, but behind the scenes we’ve been pushing ourselves to the limit to make the coming season bigger and better. Turns out our drivers have too…
One way to stay sharp over the winter is to… carry on racing. Jamie Chadwick happily confesses to have been “super boring” in the months after the W Series finale at Brands Hatch, racing in the Asian Formula 3 championship which runs from December to February. A penalty for jumping the start cost her victory in the Yas Marina round but she’s been super-competitive throughout. While back in the UK she has more work to do with the Williams Formula 1 team, having extended her deal as development driver – she’ll be a key part of the simulator work driving technical performance during the season.
2019 W Series runner-up Beitske Visser barely took a break over winter and her racing season has already begun. A string of punctures consigned her and co-drivers Robbie Dalgleish and Stevan McAleer to 22nd place in the four-hour IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge at Daytona after challenging for a podium spot early on. Her BMW links also netted her a last-minute call-up to drive an M4 in the annual Dubai 24 Hours – although Beitske got less seat time than she’d hoped for because torrential rain flooded the track and stopped the race just seven hours in…
Barely had the curtain closed on W Series last August than Alice Powell was racing again – and she credits the exposure she gained through W Series with securing a seat with leading team Meyer Shank Racing in the prestigious IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. It was a steep learning curve – the Virginia Raceway IMSA round was her first endurance race since 2015 – but Alice and co-driver Katherine Legge qualified their Acura NSX fifth in class; a tyre failure while Legge was at the wheel sent the car into the barrier during the race, though. And that wasn’t the end of Alice’s off-season travels: she’s competed in India’s X1 Racing league as well as visiting Saudi Arabia to appear in the Jaguar iPace e-Trophy, the Formula E support series.
Although Norisring race winner Marta Garcia has had to face university exams for the first time this winter, she’s found the perfect getaway: her relationship with Austrian company AVL Racing is a great excuse to head for the mountains, where she can combine the tricky experience of driving in the snow with intensive sessions on the simulator. Before the W Series season starts she’s planning to get some seat time in one of the new Dallara F3 cars which will compete in the Euroformula Open.
Racing drivers are athletes so it’s little surprise when they describe one of their winter activities as “training hard”. But Emma Kimilainen is one of the most entrepreneurial characters in W Series so she hasn’t just been spending the off-season in the gym. Besides hosting a show on Radio Suomi Pop, she’s been a keynote speaker at corporate events – and pursuing an online qualification in International Sports Management with the United States Sports Academy.
While she admits to having taken “some” holiday time over the winter, like many of the W Series frontrunners Fabienne Wohlwend has been putting in the hours to sharpen up physically and mentally for the forthcoming season. As a Liechtenstein native, though, she has the advantage of living in one of Europe’s winter sports capitals: between the rounds of gym sessions, simulator work and sponsor meetings she’s found plenty of time for skiing.
Back home in Japan, Miki Koyama has been testing the new Dome F111/3 car which will be used in a new Formula 3-level series, the Formula Regional Japanese Championship. That’s a very high-profile task since the new championship is seen as a key step in making racing more affordable, and Miki’s standout performances in W Series made her a natural fit.
Although planning a wedding can generally expand to fill every waking hour, Sarah Moore hasn’t let it affect her preparations for the 2020 W Series season. She’s successfully rehabilitated a back problem while working on her fitness, and she also enjoyed a starring role on stage at the Autosport International Show alongside Alice Powell, Abbie Eaton and W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir.
Following in the wheeltracks of legends including three-time Formula 1 world champion Alain Prost, Vicky Piria competed in a round of the Andros Trophy electric ice-racing series at the Alpine ski resort of Isola 2000. She’s a familiar face on TV in Italy and filmed two new shows alongside her regular work with Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa Romeo as a race driving instructor. All this and Vicky still managed to find time to move house…
Escaping the European winter by heading home to her native South Africa for January, Tasmin has been keeping herself race-sharp with regular karting when her work schedule permits. She’s also been busy in her home simulator, trying to iron out areas she struggled in last year – as well as familiarising herself with the new tracks W Series will visit this season.
Fancy driving a Formula 1 car at a track day? Now you can with the TDF-1, a track-only car based on ex-Marussia and Sauber machinery, re-engineered by the British specialist company TDF with a bespoke 600bhp engine, all of which has been developed with input from none other than… Jessica Hawkins. The TDF-1 was unveiled in late January. So while Jessica may not have raced since August, she’s certainly had her hands full with high-performance machinery… Oh and not forgetting her role as one of the stunt drivers on the next James Bond movie, ‘No Time to Die’.
Back in late 2018, Sabre Cook was studying mechanical engineering at the Colorado School of Mines when she won the US leg of the Infiniti Engineering Academy – a global search for engineering talent which comes with the award of a six-month work placement with Infiniti and the Renault F1 team. Sabre successfully juggled that with her commitments to racing in W Series and, after the Brands Hatch finale, she successfully concluded her placement, working in Renault F1’s composite design department and helping the team’s factory-based race strategists during the Brazil and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix. She then moved back to the US where she’s taken up boxing, as well as working on her Mazda MX-3 spec race car.
It’s been a busy winter for US-based Norwegian Ayla Agren thanks in part to her work with the fast-growing American racewear brand HRX – the order books have been filling up ahead of the new season. Her year of racing has already started, albeit in an unusual way: she worked as a ‘spotter’ for the LMP2 class-winning DragonSpeed team at the Daytona 24 Hours, in effect being an eye in the sky for the race strategists.
Having swapped up her role as the test driver on Amazon Prime series ‘The Grand Tour’ for a return to racing, new W Series entrant Abbie Eaton has been busy focusing on the season ahead. Her former co-star Jeremy Clarkson might have a famous penchant for late-night steak dinners but that sort of thing has definitely been off the menu for Abbie – she’s spent her winter mountain biking, bouldering, running and skiing to build fitness, and kidnapping her mum’s dogs for walks and other adventures. But it’s not all been about the great outdoors: this is Abbie’s first seasons of single-seater racing so she’s put plenty of hours in on the simulator to get a feel for the cars and circuits she’ll be experiencing in the coming months.
New to W Series but already a race winner in Formula 4, Belen has been focusing on her engineering studies over the winter and is desperate for the racing season to get under way. Although she’s been scratching her competitive itch with one of her other great passions in life – pole vaulting – she’s also been devoting time to the latest addition to the family: a golden retriever puppy named Thiago.
One of the highlights of last year’s Spanish F4 season was Nerea Marti’s rivalry with Belen Garcia and Irina Sidorkova, and that’s very likely to continue as all three join W Series. 18-year-old Nerea enjoys close ties with the Spanish arm of the Praga karting brand and has been combining her academic studies with intensive work on Praga’s simulator – as well as lots of kart racing. She’s also given over several weekends to an intensive mental and physical performance training programme at a new facility in Valencia, Spain.
As a member of the SMP Racing programme, Irina Sidorkova has had a rigorously programmed schedule over the past few months: the SMP coaches insist on a five-day-a-week gym schedule, plus Irina needed to catch up on academic work she missed while abroad racing last autumn. As if that’s not onerous enough, she’s faced a veritable forest of paperwork to sort out the necessary visas for the many W Series destinations this season. But it’s not been all work: Irina has been stock car racing as well as karting to stay race-sharp.
Would it surprise you to learn that, being Brazilian, Bruna Tomaselli has been playing plenty of football during the southern hemisphere’s summer? Bruna was disappointed not to make the cut for the inaugural season of W Series last year so she’s determined to make the most of this opportunity: she’s been in the simulator every day as well as hitting the gym and racing karts.
Watch this space to find out more about how we’re preparing for an exciting season ahead.