Britain’s Jamie Chadwick, 21, has won the first single-seater series for female drivers only — the 2019 W Series championship — with a tense run to fourth place in the series finale at Brands Hatch, while Alice Powell ended the season with her first series win.
Having started from pole position following a scintillating lap in the closing minutes of this morning’s qualifying session, she took the lead at the start of this afternoon’s race ahead of fellow Briton Powell, who had qualified alongside her on the front row.
Chadwick, Powell and Emma Kimilainen circulated at the front for the first 10 minutes, in close formation but in line astern through the twists, turns and undulations of the renowned Kentish racetrack. Then, with a bold and opportunistic maneuver on the championship leader — perhaps figuring that she would not wish to risk her championship by resisting too stoutly — Powell hurled her car inside Chadwick’s on the entry to Paddock Hill, ran wheel to wheel with her into the downhill compression then up the hill to Druids, and made her move stick as the two cars ran around that slowest corner on the circuit.
Kimilainen also took the opportunity to demote Chadwick to third — just ahead of her championship rival Beitske Visser. The battle for the championship was now very much on.
With 10 minutes to go, the safety car was deployed as a result of a spin by Miki Koyama, closing up the field for the final charge to the line. As Powell led the field into Clearways and the safety car peeled into the pit lane with six minutes remaining in the 30-minute race, she cleverly bunched up the field then nailed it onto the straight, establishing a lead over Kimilainen that she would never lose.
Behind the Finn, Chadwick and Visser were now running nose to tail, the flying Dutchwoman determined to wrest third place from her British rival despite the fact that doing so would not be enough to change the championship standings. She managed it, taking the final podium position with just three laps to go. Chadwick finished fourth — the first time this season that she had failed to record a podium finish — but it was not important: she had done enough to be champion, and that was all that mattered.
Fifth was Fabienne Wolhwend, ahead of Vicky Piria and Jess Hawkins. The six points that Hawkins scored were enough to lift her from 14th in the championship to joint 11th with America’s Sabre Cook (USA), who finished ninth today, thereby earning both drivers positions in the all-important top 12 for the season, which guarantees them both participation in the championship again next year.
“To be the inaugural W Series champion is simply unbelievable. It’ll sink in soon I’m sure, but it hasn’t yet,” said Chadwick. “This year has been a whirlwind, and today’s race was more intense than any other racing day I’ve ever had. Even though I finished only fourth, I was just so happy finally to cross the line and secure the championship.
“The whole W Series experience has been incredible. At the beginning of the year I thought it just might be a great season. I suspected that W Series had the potential to be something big, but I never expected it to be this big. Obviously, each race has got bigger and better but coming here to Brands Hatch, my home circuit, well, I’ve simply never experienced anything like it. I’ve never felt attention from the spectators as much as I did today, and that really is a credit to W Series. It’s been an incredible opportunity for all of us, and the things I’ve been able to go on to do alongside W Series have made it by far the best year of my career so far.”
First-time winner Powell said: “The victory champagne tasted very, very good today. I had a tough middle of the season, but to bounce back to be second in Assen and first here at Brands Hatch in front of my home crowd has been incredible – it’s been a truly wonderful day.”
“Going into the race, I knew that the first couple of laps were going to be tricky because today was always going to be about managing the pace and keeping it consistent for the win. So I stayed patient and was pleased when I realized I had a pace advantage over Jamie. I wanted to get past her as soon as possible so I threw one up the inside at Paddock Hill. Jamie did really well to try and fight me around the outside but I managed to muscle it out and take the lead at Druids.
“After that I always felt confident that I could handle Emma. Then, when the Safety Car came out, I made the best restart of my life. I think that might have caught Emma out and thus enabled me to take the win – which is just amazing.
“The crowd has been incredible today and that’s a huge credit to the way W Series has promoted us drivers. There’s been so much attention on all of us this weekend, especially the five Brits. It’s incredible to have so much support around us, and to win in front of my home crowd is fantastic.”