Canadian Megan Gilkes, the youngest driver on the W Series grid took her maiden pole position for today’s non championship points race in Assen. Gilkes set a fastest time of 1:36.211s and speaking following the session she said:
I’m so happy. I couldn’t possibly imagine a better day.
“I made a very good start and led the pack cleanly into the first corner. Then I just put my head down and went for it.
“After the second Safety Car restart I knew I’d have to put up the biggest defence I’d ever done – and it really was. First, Jess put me under huge pressure – she was ducking left and right in my mirrors all the time – but then I saw that suddenly it was Alice behind me and I thought ‘Oh my goodness, could I have a more experienced driver pushing like crazy to get past me?’.
“But, again, I kept my head down and battled on. As we crossed the finish line, initially I didn’t think I’d won because it really couldn’t have been closer. I hear the gap was just 0.003sec – about half a metre. I’ll never forget today – I had an absolute blast out there – and of course I’m absolutely thrilled to have won.
“This win has boosted my confidence no end. After yesterday’s race I felt I hadn’t driven as well as I could have done, but after today’s race I’m now really looking forward to Brands Hatch.
“Last but not least, I’ve never tasted champagne before – I’m not legal in Canada [Megan is 18] but I’m in Holland so it’s OK. I only had a tiny sip, and it wasn’t what I’d expected, but when you win you have to taste it, don’t you?!
Britain’s Alice Powell who finished Saturday’s race on the podium in second place will start the race from second place having set a time of 1:36.325s and speaking following qualifying she said:
I got a fantastic launch off the start-line. It was the best start I’ve ever done I think, but actually most of my starts have been OK this season.
“So I made up about half a dozen places by the time I’d got through Turn One, and after that I managed to pick them off one by one. Towards the end I’d worked my way up to Jess, who was busy trying to get past Megan for the lead, and I think that helped me slip past her. Then I attacked Megan just as hard as I could, and I so nearly got past her on the final drag to the finish line. I celebrated just in case I’d won but then I was told I was second. But that’s OK – I had great fun out there.
“We have plenty of data now and I’ll be looking at it all really closely going into Brands Hatch. Overall this weekend – both yesterday and today – has given me great confidence going into the final race of the W Series season.
Sabre Cook will start the race from third place and speaking following the qualifying session the American commented by saying:
I had a great start then, a few laps in, my engine shut off. But the problem seemed to resolve itself and I was then able to reduce the gap and get close to Sarah [Bovy] (BEL) after the Safety Car restart and defend Emma’s attack in the last few laps.
“I’m getting more confident with every race, particularly in high-speed corners. Finishing well at Brands Hatch is going to be important, but as long as I focus on doing a good job I’ll be happy.
Championship leader Jamie Chadwick starts the race from eighth place. Speaking following the session, W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir commented by saying:
I defy anyone who is a fan of motor racing to have watched this morning’s reverse-grid W Series race and not to have loved every minute of it.
“It was an absolutely fantastic spectacle – for those lucky enough to have been here at Assen and for those watching the live stream at home. After half an hour of wheel-to-wheel racing all the way down the field, just three-thousandths of a second separated first from second, and just seven-tenths of a second covered the first five.
“We all know why Megan was on the pole – the grid was formed in reverse order of the current championship positions – but she kept her head while all about her were losing theirs, and she was the only driver on the front three rows of the grid not to slip back into the clutches of the quicker drivers coming through from the grid slots behind. As the youngest driver in W Series, at just 18, she deserves enormous credit for that, especially as she came under tremendous pressure from first Jess and then Alice in the final laps.
W Series race director Dave Ryan commented on the session saying:
I’ve watched a lot of motor races in my time, but that really was one of the most entertaining I’ve ever seen.
“It had everything – ultra-close running, wheel-to-wheel battling, brave overtaking, desperate defending, and an utterly delighted first-time winner.
“Megan did a truly superb job, making a perfect start from pole position, never losing her lead throughout the next 18 laps, and finally finishing half a metre ahead of a hard-charging Alice, who had carved her way from 17th at the lights to second at the flag.
“Third, having driven the fastest lap, was Sabre, while fourth was Emma, repeating the strong race pace we saw from her yesterday in storming from P15 to P5. And fifth, just seven-tenths behind the winner, was Jess, who had forced her way to second and had been all over Megan in the final laps until she herself was passed by Alice.
“But it was that kind of race – fast, furious and brilliantly exciting.
“Finally, I’d like to thank DTM for working so collaboratively with us to make an extra W Series race possible this weekend.