“If you want to win, hire a Finn“
It was another new winner for the penultimate W Series race, at Assen, Netherlands, leaving the championship wide open going into the final race at Brands Hatch in three weeks’ time.
Pole-sitter Emma Kimilainen (FIN) took the top step of the podium, securing her first W Series win. The Finnish driver had a challenging start to the season after a collision at Hockenheim, which forced her to miss the next two races, but today she projected herself from 11th place to sixth place in the series standings.
Alice Powell (UK) made a welcome return to the podium, finishing second after stealing the lead from Emma at the start. The British driver, who has had to deal with luckless DNFs in the past two races, fought hard to retain her lead but a small error on her part in Turn One enabled Emma to take it from her with a neat outbraking manoeuvre at Turn Two. Nonetheless, Alice’s second place pushes her up to fourth place in the championship and leaves her just 11 points behind Marta Garcia (ESP) in third place. Marta, who won the last race at Norisring, Germany, finished ninth today, meaning that she is no longer able to win the championship.
The battle for third and fourth places was fought out by championship leader Jamie Chadwick (UK) and local hero Beitske Visser (NLD). Jamie started from P3 and held her position for the duration of the race, not only thereby securing a place on the podium but also retaining her championship lead, further increasing her chances of clinching the US$500,000 top prize.
Despite starting the race from P4, Beitske went on the attack from the get-go, trying all she knew to wrest third place from Jamie. But Jamie defended well and Beitske had to settle for fourth.
Even so, despite not taking her place on the podium today, Beitske will go into the final race in second place, just 13 points behind Jamie.
Farther down the field, Caitlin Wood (AUS) finished fifth, her best result of the year, followed by Gosia Rdesk (POL), sixth, also her best showing so far. Equally crucial to her effort to finish inside the all-important top 12 this year was Jess Hawkins’ (UK) seventh place, who until today had not scored a single championship point. But, after strong performances in FP1 and FP2 yesterday, she qualified in P11. She then drove a hard race to climb to seventh, a result that netted her a crucial six points.
It was a frustrating race for Miki Koyama (JPN) and Tasmin Pepper (RSA), who were both forced to retire early after a red flag incident within the first seconds of the race. Equally frustrated will be Fabienne Wohlwend (LEI), who was forced into the pits after suffering front wing damage early in the race, the result of an incident that cost her seven places in the race and forces her down to fifth place in the championship. Until today, she had had an outside chance of winning the championship, an enthralling battle that will now be fought out solely between Jamie and Beitske in the final showdown in on Sunday August 11th at Brands Hatch, UK.
Catherine Bond Muir, W Series CEO said:
“Despite the weather forecasters having promised heavy rain for this afternoon, it stayed away and instead we saw a flat-out sprint on bone-dry asphalt that resulted in a brilliant win for Emma, who converted pole position into race victory, posting fastest lap en route.
“Alice, who led early on, also drove very well, recording her third podium finish of the year and thereby giving herself a fair shot of pinching third place in the championship from Marta, who finished only ninth today. But Marta has been one of the stars of the season so far and she’ll have other ideas about that.
“As regards who’ll finally be crowned W Series champion, we’re all delighted that our inaugural championship will go down to the wire at Brands Hatch next month. The two championship protagonists, Jamie and Beitske, have both driven superbly throughout the series so far, and it’s therefore only right and proper that it should be they who’ll take each other on in the season finale.
“Whoever prevails, history will be made, and the world will be watching.”
Dave Ryan, W Series Racing Director said:
“Despite my long experience in motorsport, Assen is a circuit I’d never been to before this weekend, but what a great circuit it is: fast, flowing, technical, physical, an old-school racetrack where skill and courage are rewarded, just as they should be.
“What we saw from Emma this afternoon was indeed skill and courage. She drove superbly – winning from pole and taking fastest lap as she did so – but, more than that, she’s shown great fortitude in coming back from injury to demonstrate to us all just how good she is. Underlining the strength in depth throughout the W Series field, today she became the fourth winner in five races, joining Jamie, Beitske and Marta in so doing.
“Alice was second today, after another good race following some tough luck recently, and I’m sure she’ll be gunning to become W Series’ fifth winner of the season at Brands Hatch on August 11th. But that day will be all about who becomes the first ever W Series champion. Jamie holds the points lead at the moment, but Beitske will be very determined to wrest it from her. Time will tell.”
Emma Kimilainen (FIN), P1
“As we say in Finland, if you want to win, hire a Fin.
“It was a really great weekend. From the first free practice session I knew I had the speed to win and, after a bad start, I was soon looking for a good moment to take back the lead from Alice.
“After the first race of the season, at Hockenheim, I was hugely disappointed to find out that I had been injured and I didn’t know how long it would be until I could race again. But at the same time, with the help of the best ever healthcare specialists, Hintsa Performance and my own doctor, I was able to come back stronger.
“Ultimately, I’m so glad and so pleased to be back racing – and winning.”
Alice Powell (GBR), P2
“I got a really good start and managed to get ahead of Emma at Turn One. Then we had a Safety Car, but I got a good restart afterwards.
“Then, when I ran wide at Turn One, Emma got past me and I tried hard for a couple of laps to regain the lead but Emma just had great pace today. From then on it was just a case of managing the gap between the two white cars behind me, Jamie and Beitske
“Ultimately, it was good to put a few more points on the board and great to finish a race again – which I hadn’t done since Zolder.
“Looking ahead to Brands Hatch, it’s a tricky circuit with no room for error but I’ll be doing my best to get my first win on the board.”
Jamie Chadwick (GBR), P3
“I didn’t make life easy for myself today, championship-wise.
“I was up with Emma and Alice at the beginning of the race, chasing them as hard as I could, but I made a couple of mistakes after the Safety Car, which then allowed Beitske to close the gap by quite a lot. She pressed me pretty hard but it was just a case of managing my pace against hers for the remainder of the race, and I was able to stay ahead of her that way.
“She was a lot quicker than me on certain parts of the circuit, and I was a lot quicker than her on others. Our set-ups were quite different.
“Ultimately, for the championship, it’s a good result.”
Full race results and championship standings can be found here.
Full details of Sunday’s reverse-grid to follow.