Defending champion Jamie Chadwick (Veloce Racing, GBR) will start the final two races of the 2021 W Series season from the front row of the grid at the Circuit of the Americas.
It was a frenetic qualifying session in Texas with the drivers' best time determining the starting grid for the seventh race of the season – at 17.35 (local time, CDT, -6 BST) on Saturday – and their second-best time determining the starting grid for the final race of the season, which begins at 11.05 tomorrow (Sunday 24 October).
A session-best lap time of 2:05.663 by Abbi Pulling (PUMA W Series Team, GBR) saw her pip Jamie by seven one-hundredths of a second to earn the first pole position of her W Series career in just her third race weekend with the series. Jamie's second-best time of 2:05.713 puts her on pole position for race two when she will again be joined on the front row by Abbi, the youngest driver on the grid this weekend.
Sarah Moore (Scuderia W, GBR) will start both races from the second row and will be joined there in race one by team-mate Belen Garcia (Scuderia W, ESP). Belen – who currently holds the eighth and final automatic qualifying spot in the championship standings for the 2022 W Series season – will start the second race of the weekend from sixth on the grid. Title contender Emma Kimiläinen (Ecurie W, FIN), Marta Garcia (PUMA W Series Team, ESP) and Beitske Visser (M. Forbes Motorsport, NED) will all start both races in the top seven.
Jamie is level on 109 points with Alice Powell (Racing X, GBR) at the top of the championship standings ahead of this weekend's season-ending double-header at COTA. Alice leads her compatriot by virtue of having one more race victory than Jamie this season (three wins to two), and the former will start the final two races of the season from 10th and ninth on the grid respectively.
Jamie topped both practice sessions and continued where she left off on Friday by setting the pace in qualifying after the first round of flying laps. Sarah Moore (Scuderia W, ESP) beat Jamie's time by three tenths of a second, before Abbi – who was runner-up to Jamie in both sessions on Friday – took top spot by two tenths with eight of the 30 minutes gone.
Technical issues curtailed Alice's running on Friday, but the championship leader appeared to have shaken those off by beating title rival Jamie's time to go third fastest with two thirds of qualifying remaining. Jamie overtook Alice three minutes later, when leader Abbi came into the pits with some loose bodywork at the front of her car. That could be repaired, but the same could not be said of the rear suspension damage which forced Miki Koyama (Sirin Racing, JPN) out of qualifying at the halfway stage.
As the drivers reemerged on fresh tyres for the second half of the session, Belen Garcia (Scuderia W, ESP) went second quickest with nine minutes to go and improved again on her next flying lap to take top spot by three tenths. Abbi regained the lead by three one-thousandths of a second a minute later when an error by Caitlin Wood (W Series Academy Team, AUS) forced Jamie – down in 12th at that stage – to abort her flying lap. Jamie recovered on her next flying lap with less than five minutes left on the clock to go quickest. But Abbi had the final say moments later, leapfrogging Jamie by seventh one-hundredths of a second to secure her maiden pole position.
Jamie Chadwick, 23, UK, Veloce Racing, said:
"I really struggled on the first set of tyres, so I felt like I had to pull it out of the bag at the end. I didn't quite have enough to beat Abbi [Pulling], but I have pole for race two tomorrow which is the main thing. It's brutal out there so it is really hard to predict where to go with the set-up of the car. I don't think we made the best call for the first set of tyres, but then we did with the second set. For the championship, being ahead of Alice [Powell] is the main thing. I will take today as the first step and then focus on tomorrow."
Abbi Pulling, 18, UK, PUMA W Series Team, said:
"I got out of the car and thought I was going to throw up which is just the adrenaline! It's the first pole position of my career and what a place to do it at. It's awesome. As I said yesterday, I tend to go into race weekends with high expectations, but this weekend I've tried not to think about it and keep everything at the back of my mind, and that's a good way for me to deal with things. I've focused on the key points, like braking references, and keeping it super simple has seemed to work. I'm feeling confident about the race this afternoon, especially after that performance. I know I'm good at maintaining a tyre for a long stint as I've done it throughout my British Formula 4 season, and the two W Series races I've done so far this year have given me good experience too. I may not be as experienced as some of the people around me, but I've got a good idea of what I need to do."
Provisional qualifying results from the final round of the 2021 W Series season are below. For full W Series results and session timings from the Circuit of the Americas visit https://wseries.com/w-hub/w-series-austin-weekend-schedule/.
W Series' on-track schedule for this weekend continues today (Saturday 23 October) with the seventh race of the season which starts at 17.35. The second race of the weekend – and the final race of the year – begins at 11.05 tomorrow (Sunday 24 October). Both races will be 30 minutes plus one lap.
British fans can watch the seventh round of the 2021 W Series season live from the Circuit of the Americas on More4 from 23.05 BST on Saturday 23 October. The eighth and final round of the season will be on Channel 4 from 16.30 BST on Sunday 24 October. The action can also be seen across W Series' digital and social channels, as well as being broadcast in more than 175 territories with a full list available at https://wseries.com/where-to-watch/.