Race Day Videos
Victory for Beitske Visser in Zolder
Dutch driver Beitske Visser, 24, took victory today after an exhilarating second W Series race at Zolder, Belgium.
In a contest that was action-packed from the get-go, from P2 on the grid Beitske stole an immediate lead, which she retained for the duration of the race; she also set the fastest lap (1min 29.639sec).
However, her impressive win was not without challenge, as pole-sitter Jamie Chadwick (GBR) was never far behind throughout a race that lasted 30 minutes plus one lap (as all W Series races do) yet was never able to catch the flying Dutchwoman.
Jamie, who leads the W Series points standings, secured second place, just ahead of Alice Powell (GBR), who had been second at Hockenheim two weeks ago, a race that Jamie had won. In a gripping Brit-versus-Brit showdown, the pair went head-to-head in the closing minutes of the race, leaving fans and spectators on the edge of their seats, ultimately finishing just 0.633sec apart.
Suspense was the order of the day all the way down the field, various battles raging all across the punishing Zolder circuit, notorious for its meagre run-off areas leaving little room for error. Seconds after the race had started, a Safety Car was deployed after plumes of smoke had billowed out of the back of Belgian driver Sarah Bovy’s car, ending her W Series race debut before it had even started. It was a disappointing outcome for the reserve driver who had been granted the opportunity to run in her home race only the day before.
Almost immediately after the Safety Car had returned to the pit-lane, a similar disappointment beset fellow reserve driver Vivien Keszthelyi (HUN), who was involved in a three-car collision following a too-bold move by Esmee Hawkey (GBR), who attempted to overtake Polish driver Gosia Rdest. The shunt forced all three drivers to retire, triggering a second Safety Car deployment. Vivien had been given the opportunity to race just hours before, after Finnish driver Emma Kimilainen had been forced to pull out owing to illness. Esmee will be subject to a five-place grid penalty for the next W Series race, in Misano, Italy, on June 8th, as a result of having caused a collision.
Farther down the field, Marta Garcia (ESP), who had finished third at Hockenheim two weeks ago, and Sarah Moore (GBR) fought out an obdurate battle for P4. Marta ended up just ahead, and Sarah therefore scored her second fifth-place finish in as many races. Meanwhile, also for the second race in a row, Japanese driver Miki Koyama mounted an impressive charge through the field, this time from P13 on the grid to P8 at flag-fall (she had battled from P17 to P7 at Hockenheim two weeks ago). Tasmin Pepper, from South Africa, finished sixth, and Fabienne Wohlwend, from Liechtenstein, was seventh.
The next W Series race will be run on the fast and challenging Italian circuit of Misano, where all W Series’ drivers will be aiming to repeat their successes of the first two races, and/or build on lessons learned.
The second of three 2019 W Series venues that have hosted F1 races, Zolder has always been somewhat overshadowed by the majestic Spa-Francorchamps. However, Belgium’s second-best known venue has always been popular with fans and drivers and has a history that stretches back over five decades.
Located in a wooded area close to the historic city of Hasselt, Zolder opened in 1963. From its early days it attracted F2 and F3 action, with many of the F1 stars of the day competing in the former. It first hosted the Belgian GP in 1973, when famously the track surface broke up and Jackie Stewart survived to won.
Victory to tragedy
Zolder became the race’s permanent home through the late seventies and early eighties, with Niki Lauda, Mario Andretti and Jody Scheckter among those to log victories, while sadly in 1982 Gilles Villeneuve lost his life in a crash in qualifying in 1982. The rebuilt and shortened Spa then came back in favour, and Zolder hosted 10th and final Grand Prix in 1984.
Despite losing F1 the track has continued to thrive as one of the two main homes of Belgian motorsport, with 24-hour race and a historic festival among the calendar highlights. The track has also hosted FIA F3000 (in 1988) and Champ Car (in 2007), as well as FIA GT events.
This year DTM returns to Zolder for the first time since 2012. Apart from some corner re-profiling the layout is essentially the same as when it first opened, with the hilly surroundings providing spectators with good views.