W Series is heading to Austin, Texas, USA, this weekend and, after a seven-week break, the drivers could not be more excited at the prospect of a season-ending double-header and racing on the same day as Formula 1’s United States Grand Prix.
Of the 18 women on the grid this weekend, only the two US-based drivers have previously been to the 3.426-mile (5.513 kilometres) Circuit of the Americas. Sabré Cook (Bunker Racing, USA) has raced there three times, while Ayla Agren (M. Forbes Motorsport, NOR) – who lives 150 miles east of Austin in Houston, Texas – has driven on the circuit but not raced there.
Austin is a vibrant city that lives up to its billing as the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’. W Series will add its own splash of colour this weekend when the drivers will wear pink PUMA boots and gloves, and the liveries of their racing cars will receive a pink update as part of a programme of initiatives in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There is nothing conventional about the city where ‘Keep Austin Weird’ is emblazoned on souvenirs, and a trip across the Atlantic will feel a little strange for W Series. Almost three years since the international single-seater motor racing championship for female drivers was born, these will be the first W Series races to be staged outside of Europe.
Since the start of the Formula 1 World Championship, the 59 Grands Prix in the United States have been hosted by 10 different circuits – the most of any country that F1 has visited. COTA is a relatively new track and this year’s will be just its ninth Grand Prix, but it has already become an iconic event on the F1 calendar, with the steep run – an 11 per cent gradient – up to the first corner often resulting in plenty of wheel-to-wheel racing and getting the vocal crowd out of their seats.
Storylines to follow:
· After six rounds this season, Alice Powell (Racing X, GBR) and Jamie Chadwick (Veloce Racing, GBR) are level on 109 points at the top of the W Series championship standings, with Alice one place higher than the defending champion by virtue of having one more race victory than Jamie this season (three wins to two).
· Emma Kimiläinen (Ecurie W, FIN) is the other driver still in with a chance of winning the title and the $500,000 and 15 FIA Super Licence points that come with it. The Finn is 34 points behind Alice and Jamie with a maximum 50 points available from the two races at COTA.
· With the top eight drivers at the end of the season guaranteed a W Series drive in 2022, the competition is sure to be fierce throughout the field. All 18 drivers on the grid will have the chance to secure their seat for next year, as just 22 points separate the eighth and last-placed drivers in the standings.
· Among those looking to force their way into the top eight is Jessica Hawkins (Racing X, GBR), fresh from her big screen appearance as a stunt driver in the new James Bond film, No Time to Die, which was released earlier this month. Jessica scored the best result of her W Series career (fifth) at the previous race at Zandvoort, Netherlands, on 4 September.
· There will be plenty of support for Sabré, W Series’ sole American driver, for whom the site of her home race will always hold fond memories. The 27-year-old from Colorado won the 2018 Renault Infiniti Engineering Academy competition at COTA and, on the same weekend, raced in the SCCA Formula 4 U.S. Championship there. Ayla is also familiar to US audiences. The 28-year-old was born in Norway but has lived in Houston, Texas, for several years, racing on the Road to Indy programme, driving the IndyCar safety car and working as a spotter at numerous events, including the Indy 500.
· Abbi Pulling (PUMA W Series Team, GBR) will occupy the second PUMA seat alongside Marta Garcia (PUMA W Series Team, ESP) at COTA. The 18-year-old impressed on her second W Series appearance of the season at Zandvoort where she finished seventh, one place higher than her result on debut at Silverstone in July.
W Series’ schedule for this weekend starts on Friday, October 22 with two 30-minute practice sessions at 10:20 (local time, CDT) and 4:25. Saturday, October 23 will begin with qualifying from 11:10 to 11:40. The drivers’ best time will determine the starting grid for race one – which is at 5:25 on the same day – and their second-best time will determine the starting grid for race two, which begins at 11:05 on Sunday, October 24. Both races will be 30 minutes plus one lap.
The action can 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/.