Defending champion Jamie Chadwick (Veloce Racing, GBR) made the perfect start to the final round of the 2021 W Series season by topping both of Friday's practice sessions at the Circuit of the Americas.
The 23-year-old Briton was a quarter of a second clear of the field in the first session, and two tenths quicker than the rest in the afternoon when she improved her best time from the morning by the thick end of a second with a 2:05.673.
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), but the former was only 10th and fifth quickest respectively on Friday.
Abbi Pulling (PUMA W Series Team, GBR) continued the impressive start to her W Series career by finishing runner-up to Jamie in both sessions on just her third W Series race weekend. Beitske Visser (M. Forbes Motorsport, NED) completed the top three in both the morning and the afternoon on a scorching day in Texas.
A 2:06.429 lap saw Jamie lead the opening session when only Abbi and Beitske got within half a second of that time. Sarah Moore (Scuderia W, GBR) and Jessica Hawkins (Racing X, GBR) were fourth and fifth respectively in the morning, and they were followed by Jamie's team-mate Bruna Tomaselli (Veloce Racing, BRA). Fabienne Wohlwend (Bunker Racing, LIE) led the field after 10 minutes of session one, but finished seventh after spinning in the first sector, something which also happened to title contender Emma Kimiläinen (Ecurie W, FIN) and home favourite Sabré Cook (Bunker Racing, USA).
Nerea Martí (W Series Academy Team, ESP), Marta Garcia (PUMA W Series Team, ESP) and Alice completed the top 10, with the championship leader completing fewer laps than any driver (nine).
Jessica set the early pace in the afternoon, but Jamie resumed her place at the head of the field after less than 10 of the 30 minutes had elapsed. Beitske briefly held top spot before Jamie regained the advantage by beating her best time from earlier in the day with eight minutes remaining. Three minutes later, a spin by Abbie Eaton (Ecurie W, GBR) at Turn One brought the red flags out and the session to a premature conclusion.
Belen Garcia (Scuderia W, ESP) finished fourth and her team-mate Sarah was sixth behind Alice. Marta was seventh and the last driver to get within a second of Jamie’s benchmark, as Sabré, Jessica and Bruna completed the top 10 in the afternoon.
Jamie Chadwick, 23, UK, Veloce Racing, said:
"It's been a positive day. We didn't get as many laps in as we'd have liked to in that last session with the red flag, but to have the two practice sessions today has made me a lot more comfortable at the circuit so I'm looking forward to coming back tomorrow. The track itself is cool. It's really hard and especially hard to learn in such a short space of time. I think it's quite demanding of every part of the car and to get a perfect lap out of it is really difficult, so we're just focusing on trying to put everything together and hopefully we can do that in qualifying. There's still a lot we can work on but we're going to take what we’ve learnt from today into tomorrow in full attack, and hopefully we can continue this run of form."
Abbi Pulling, 18, UK, PUMA W Series Team, said:
"It's been a really strong day. I have high expectations of myself a lot of the time, so I've tried to go into this weekend with no expectations other than to improve on my last result [seventh at Zandvoort]. So far, so good and hopefully we can carry this momentum into qualifying. I think the track is awesome, it's almost like a rollercoaster. It's comparable to Silverstone with that quick first sector and lots of stop and go corners, so it's really important to get your exits right. It's a complicated track with a lot to remember but I think that's what makes it so good. Going into tomorrow I'll review my references and see if there's any time to be gained, but at this point it's only minor things so I just need to keep doing what I'm doing."
Alice Powell, 28, UK, Racing X, said:
"In the first practice session we had rear locking similar to what we had in Austria, but that wasn't the biggest problem as the engine overheated and I was struggling for straight-line speed. In session two I was a bit hampered by the red flag, but I wasn't the only one and I struggled with rear locking again. So it has been a difficult day, but tomorrow is a new day. The track is bumpy but I love the first sector. The middle sector is short and just straights, and the last sector is good too. It is probably the bumpiest circuit I have been on and that adds to the challenge for everyone."
Practice 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 tomorrow (Saturday 23 October) with qualifying from 11.10 to 11.40 (local time, CDT, -6 BST). The drivers' best time will determine the starting grid for race one – which is at 17.25 on the same day – and their second-best time will determine the starting grid for race two, which begins at 11.05 on 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/.