It was a satisfying run to sixth place overall in the second round of W Series at Zolder in Belgium at the weekend for Tasmin Pepper who now moves to seventh overall in the series but still has eyes on catching the leaders.
In a contest that was action-packed from the get-go, from P2 on the grid Beitske Visser 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 8h, 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.
“Sixth today!” a delighted Tasmin confirmed. “I am really happy with our progress this weekend – every time I get in the car it’s getting better and better. “Zolder is probably one of the top tracks on my list in Europe so far, I had a great weekend and enjoyed every second of it!
“I had decent pace and qualifying went well to put me in a fighting seventh on the grid and I made up a position early on. “From there it was tight — I was never much more than a few tenths behind Sarah while, I also had to keep Fabienne at bay, but this old school track made it very difficult to pass on, so I was unable to make any more positions up in the race.
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.
Beitske Visser (NLD), P1 said: “I made pretty much a perfect start – I was in the lead by Turn One. Then the Safety Car came out and I had to manage the restart.
“Well, I think I managed a really good restart actually, and straight away I was able to build up a small gap to Jamie, who was in second place. But, soon after, I had to manage another restart after the Safety Car came out again, which I knew I’d have to manage differently otherwise Jamie would have known what I was going to do.
“But again it went well and I immediately built up a gap again. I continued to add to that gap slowly, lap by lap, until I could see Jamie and Alice in my mirrors, fighting each other.
“At that point I realised I was going to be able to bring it home.”
Position No. Driver Nationality Laps Best Time
1 55 Jamie Chadwick British 11 1:28.681
2 95 Beitske Visser Dutch 11 1:28.797
3 27 Alice Powell British 12 1:29.122
4 19 Marta Garcia Spanish 12 1:29.131
5 26 Sarah Moore British 12 1:29.455
6 5 Fabienne Wohlwend Liechtenstein 11 1:29.498
7 31 Tasmin Pepper South African 12 1:29.540
8 2 Esmee Hawkey British 11 1:29.657
9 11 Vicky Piria Italian 12 1:29.828
10 3 Gosia Rdest Polish 12 1:29.850
11 20 Caitlin Wood Australian 12 1:30.089
12 99 Naomi Schiff German 12 1:30.157
13 85 Miki Koyama Japanese 12 1:30.207
14 21 Jessica Hawkins British 12 1:30.216
15 67 Shea Holbrook American 12 1:30.259
16 49 Megan Gilkes Canadian 12 1:30.385
17 77 R Vivien Keszthelyi Hungary 12 1:30.691
18 37 Sabré Cook American 12 1:31.46
19 58 R Sarah Bovy Belgian 13 1:31.463