Almost two years since the 2019 W Series season ended at Brands Hatch; the all-female racing series returned to the UK for testing last week. With varied weather conditions and rookie drivers learning how to drive these cars for the first time, there was a lot for everyone to learn.
Like everything in the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic affected W Series hugely. After cancelling the 2020 season, the announcement in December 2020 that the women would return to the grid this year excited everyone. The series was then given another blow when it became clear that their pre-season testing in Valencia could not go ahead during the final week in April due to COVID restrictions in Spain. Therefore, the decision was made to move the testing to Wales, meaning it could be completed with plenty of time before the season begins in Austria on the 26th of June.
During the 5-day test, 4,723 laps were completed by the drivers, an incredible 15,918 kilometres in distance. The drivers battled through sun, wind and rain throughout the week, something they were pleased to experience. With clear conditions during the first two days, the drivers were able to learn a lot much more quickly than they could have expected. Racing Director Dave Ryan discussed how keen all the drivers were to get started, having had little track time since August 2019. The drivers, therefore, pushed themselves exceptionally hard to prepare themselves for the season. This became particularly helpful as the weather deteriorated towards the end of the week, and they had new wet weather data to collect.
Jamie Chadwick, the 2019 W Series champion, expressed how pleased she was with these varied conditions. She stated that “it’s really good to get wet testing if [they] can” because it is “so different to the dry conditions”. This is a sentiment that was shared throughout the paddock, with drivers desperate to be back in the cars and learning as much as possible. With the weather so poor in the UK, they were able to gain a lot from that experience under wet conditions, although the stormy weather became too dangerous during Day 4 of testing, meaning it had to be called off. This did not hinder the drivers too much, though. They were back out on Day 5, learning all they could about their F3 spec cars ahead of their busy calendar of races over the summer.
The Anglesey circuit is short but undulating, making it a useful stage for these tests. The 3.4km circuit boasts fast sections, as well as hairpin bends and mid-range corners, meaning a lot can be learned about how to best prepare and use the cars for hugely varied circuits they will compete at around the world.
Looking to Austria:
With testing complete, there is so much to look forward ahead of the start of the season in June. Dave Ryan’s sentiment that “all the drivers will travel to Austria feeling confident” is reciprocated by many throughout the paddock. Emma Kimiläinen, a 2019 race winner, made it clear that she feels “like she could race tomorrow”, going on to say it “shows how good the preparation has been”. Every driver went on to share their excitement on social media, with many thanking the series for providing such incredible facilities and engineers. It is good to see how hard everyone is working to make the series as successful as possible. The W Series team, as well as motorsport fans around the world, are counting down the days until the competition begins at the Red Bull Ring in a month’s time.