Racing all the time

by Beitske Visser

To celebrate the two-year anniversary of W Series launching on 10 October, we are catching up with the leading drivers from our inaugural on-track season last year in a new series of blogs. Our second instalment comes courtesy of 2019 runner-up and 2020 W Series Esports League winner Beitske Visser.

My family and I are healthy and well, and that remains the most important thing. The area around where I live in Sneek, a small city in Northern Holland, is gradually emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic as case numbers are low and decreasing all the time.

Being placed in lockdown earlier this year wasn’t easy, particularly for an impatient racing driver like me! I want to be racing all the time, so when the whole world – and your whole world – changes suddenly, it is tough to accept. 

Beitske Visser competing in the W Series Esports League
(Photo by Getty Images)

Looking back, the W Series Esports League was even more vital than I appreciated at the time. It is not quite the same as on-track racing, but it kept me busy, sharp and fit. It gave me focus, a goal and winning it was a bonus. The reaction during the 10-round season was fantastic. I got messages from existing and new fans of motorsport and W Series who really enjoyed following it. 

The W Series Esports League turned what might have been a dreary and frustrating summer into a fun and exciting one. However, I am delighted to be back in a real racing car on a regular basis thanks to my links with BMW and Richard Mille, for whom I have been racing in the European Le Mans Series since August. Despite spending so much time on the simulator and so little time on track this year, making that return was easy. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, so I was back in the rhythm after a couple of laps back behind a proper steering wheel – it just feels natural. 

Competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the end of September was amazing. That race is on the bucket list of almost every racing driver in the world, so to have that opportunity with Richard Mille in the LMP2 class is one of the highlights of my career. My team-mates – Tatiana Calderón and Sophia Flörsch – and I split the driving equally, doing four triple stints each for a total of eight hours in the car. The LMP2 car is very fast with lots of downforce so it was physically demanding, but I felt good in the car and all that training I did during lockdown definitely paid off. 

Mental fatigue is a bigger issue than the physical side because you are concentrating so hard. I was awake for 38 hours straight before, during and after the race, but it is impossible to sleep because you have so much adrenaline coursing through your body – you always want to know what’s going on and you’re desperate to get back in the car. As soon as the race was over I was destroyed, but I couldn’t completely shut down because I had to drive home the next day – a journey of around 500 miles. Thankfully I wasn’t alone in the car!

CIRCUIT DE LA SARTHE, FRANCE – SEPTEMBER 17: #50 Richard Mille Racing Team Oreca 07 – Gibson: Tatiana Calderon / Sophia Floersch / Beitske Visser during the 24 Hours of Le Mans at Circuit de la Sarthe on September 17, 2020 in Circuit de la Sarthe, France. (Photo by JEP / LAT Images)

We finished ninth in class and 13th overall at Le Mans. You always want to do better but we were three rookies and they have never put three rookies in the same car at Le Mans before. We had a lot to get to grips with and the Covid situation made that even harder. Normally you would be there for about two weeks doing some testing, but this year it was condensed into three days and that hurt our preparation. We did our best and I think we can be very happy with what we achieved. Nobody made any mistakes – our driving was clean and the team nailed the strategy and pit-stops. The day after the race I kept saying that I just wanted to do it all over again! Hopefully I’ll get another shot and I’ll be aiming higher if I do.  

We were one of two all-female teams at Le Mans this year and that makes me hugely proud. It was horrible not having fans there, but we received so many positive messages. The support we got was crazy and there was no negativity towards us at the racetrack, in the media or on social media. That is so heart-warming and a testament to the way W Series is helping change perceptions. At the beginning of our inaugural on-track season in 2019 there was a lot of scepticism, but during the season people began to realise what we are trying to do and that we are pretty good! Now we have more respect and it is spurring me on. The more you drive, the better you get, and W Series has helped improve me on and off the track. I work better with my engineers, I have a deeper understanding of car set-up, and I know how to handle the spotlight and the pressure. 

I am not sure what the rest of 2020 has in store, but this year has taught me that I can’t be sitting around so you can bet that it will involve going fast on four wheels!

Read more from the W Series drivers in our latest blogs, accessible via the W Series news section of our website.