Dutch driver Beitske Visser, took victory in the second W Series race at Zolder.
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 (1:29.639).
However, her impressive win was not without challenge, as pole-sitter Jamie Chadwick 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 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 the drivers will be aiming to repeat their successes of the first two races, and/or build on lessons learned.
"I thought that was a really great motor race," said Dave Ryan, W Series Racing Director. "After an incident-filled start, involving two Safety Cars, Beitske totally nailed it - in fact she's been ‘on it' since we arrived here.
"Equally impressive, Jamie's and Alice's battle for second place was not only extremely entertaining but was also an object lesson, proving that it really is possible to race single-seaters wheel-to-wheel, hard but fair."
"I made pretty much a perfect start, I was in the lead by Turn 1," said Visser. "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."
"Beitske did a really great job when she overtook me at the start," admitted Chadwick (GBR), but, after that, I was quite happy in P2 in the early stages.
"Then, after the first few laps, and especially after the second Safety Car restart, I thought I might have a chance to challenge her - but then she began to extend the gap bit by bit and I couldn't quite keep up with her.
"So I settled into P2, but then I made a mistake at a chicane, which I'm kicking myself for, to be honest. It caused me to lose a bit of ground - and Alice got past me.
"But I was still following her closely so I said to myself, ‘If I finish third, I'm going to be annoyed', so I decided to do whatever I could to repass, and in the end I managed to go around the outside of her.
"It was a good, clean fight."
"I was running quite well in third, feeling pretty comfortable, when I saw Jamie jump the chicane ahead of me," said Powell. "As soon as she went over the kerbs I saw a tell-tale plume of dust, so I knew there was going to be dirt on her tyres. I capitalised on that opportunity, pushed as hard as I could, caught her, and managed to get close enough to go around the outside of her at Turn 12.
"We then had a big drag race up to the last chicane, where I managed to slot through ahead of her, but, unfortunately, shortly after that, I locked up under braking for about the fourth time in the race, allowing her to regain second place.
"But it was a really good wheel-to-wheel battle and, although I think we may have touched a couple of times, I'd say it was hard but fair."