Words and Images by Steve Hindle
Brits Jamie Chadwick and Alice Powell thrilled a packed Brands Hatch and live Channel 4 audience on Sunday as the W-Series delivered a stunning finale to its debut season. Here are ten of our favourite shots from the weekend: –
Lining-up together on the front row, pole-sitter Chadwick only had to stay ahead of Beitske Visser, starting in P5, to claim the title. Powell, on the other hand, wasn’t going to settle for anything less than a win to finish-off her season in style.
Chadwick led off the line but an early gap soon disappeared as Powell and former star of Formula Palmer Audi, Emma Kimiläinen found the pace to fill the #55 car’s mirrors.
Whilst Chadwick was driving to secure the title, Powell and Kimiläinen were racing to win. Both had better pace through Clark Curve and both seized the opportunity to force and keep Chadwick wide at Paddock Hill, and again at Druids, finally demoting the leader down to third by the time the trio arrived on the Cooper Straight.
Kimiläinen is, perhaps, the most naturally gifted of all the W-Series competitors. She won at Assen and was second at Brands Hatch. Her car control and placement remind many of fellow Finn, Mika Häkkinen, but above all, it’s her speed and fluency that must surely now propel her talent forward.
With Powell and Kimiläinen pushing on towards the line, Chadwick suddenly found herself vulnerable to the rapidly closing Beitske Visser. Visser was the only driver able to overhaul Chadwick in the standings and it was clear that if she could find a way past the Brit, then she’d take the fight all the way to the flag.
Though still only 24, Beitske Visser is an ‘old hand’ in the racing game, but unlike Chadwick, she’s never really enjoyed success until now. I saw her race here a year ago in GT4 European Series, where to her credit, she and her teammate managed a 6th place finish in Race 2, but mostly, her pace was only ever ‘average’. And again this weekend, she failed to shine . . until in a moment of sheer nerve and brilliance, she seized on a Chadwick error at Westfield and threw her car down the inside, two wheels on the grass through Dingle Dell to make the move and deny Chadwick a podium finish.
Elsewhere, there was huge disappointment for local hero Esmee Hawkey. Having delivered a sensational qualifying lap to line-up in P3 on the grid, she first crept forward before the lights went out at the start, and then stalled, sending her backwards, and then back further after serving a drive-through penalty.
The loss of a meaningful points score means that she now has to requalify for the 2020 series if she wants to return, but nevertheless, as she now prepares for the remainder of her Porsche Carrera Cup GB campaign, I hope she takes heart from that remarkable lap around one of the most challenging circuits in Europe that finally showed what this young racer might be capable of.
It was also a difficult weekend for young Japanese star, Miki Koyama. Having started the season with so much promise, she had hoped to bounce back from a forgettable weekend last time out at Assen, but all the effort she put-in to secure P7 in qualifying was thrown away when she started out of her grid spot for the race, resulting in a drive-through penalty which saw her demoted down to last.
Ever the fighter, Koyama set-about recovering lost positions but a spin at Sheene and then an awkward attempt at returning to the track brought-out the safety car. Koyama was able to finally rejoin the pack but she would remain last, two laps down but no doubt more determined than ever to make amends next year.
And finally the fans! W-Series is all about building a competitive future for women in motorsport. Girls, it’s time to rethink racing and start your engines . .