Beitske Visser is determined to do whatever she can to shake up the W Series season – even if that means grueling cycle rides in the sauna. F1 Feeder Series spoke to Visser as she prepares for the heat of Singapore.
By Rachel Steinberg
Cycling in a sauna is the sort of regime one might expect more from rival Emma Kimilainen. After all, Finland boasts one sauna for every 1.59 people. But it’s Dutchwoman Visser who is prepared to take the heat she knows is required to make a dent in Jamie Chadwick’s near-perfect third season, marred only by Alice Powell’s well-earned round five victory in Budapest.
“I think the whole year the top five, six has always been very close, and now it’s sort of mixed up a bit,” said Visser, who heads into round six tied with second-placed Powell on 68 points, still 75 behind the defending double-champion. Not mathematically impossible, but certainly an uphill battle. “I think it’s good, but I think it’s still very close,” she said. “I’ll try to change [Chadwick’s dominance] for the second half of the season. She had a very good first half, but hopefully I can start now and hopefully be in the fight for the second half of the season.”
Asian debut for W Series
W Series will make its Asian debut in a month’s time, with practice starting on September 30 in Singapore rather than originally-scheduled Japan due to “unforeseeable operational challenges.” Visser was initially disappointed to hear about the switch, but that quickly dissipated when she thought about what the replacement venue had to offer and the unique challenges it will present.
“Singapore is going to be very hot, very humid. I spent a lot of time training in Madrid, at MSI (Motor & Sport Institute), and they have a lot of specific machines and stuff for racing, and yeah, we do cycle a lot there in the sauna to prepare for hot races, and also last year I was racing in LMP2, which is a closed cockpit, so it gets very hot in there.
“[Singapore] is a street track, so that’s always exciting. I think it’s quite a difficult one, it’s quite long, so we just have to learn it quickly. I don’t know what time our race will be, but if like F1 it’s at night that’s also super cool. We drove a street track at Miami which was cool, and in 2019 we drove at Norisring as well, and I’ve driven a few times at Monaco.
“I always love street tracks. It makes it tricky, usually the asphalt is different in a lot of corners so you’ve got to adapt quickly, and make the best compromises to have a good grip everywhere.”
More inclusive with mixed teams
Last season Visser split W Series duties with endurance racing as part of Richard Mille Racing’s all-female team for the WEC LMP2 campaign alongside Sophia Floersch and Tatiana Calderon. The team has gone in a different, mixed-gender direction this season, with brand and partnerships manager Amanda Mille justifying the decision by saying: “Our initial aim was to call attention to the lack of opportunities for women.
“It was important for us to start with an all-female team to make our intentions known, compel people to think and challenge reputations. We have had two great years with three women who have proven themselves in an LMP2 prototype in ELMS and then WEC.
“However, all the female drivers say they want more inclusivity by finding their place in mixed teams. Their dream comes true when men want to drive alongside them in the same team, and this is now our case with a trio promising a fulfilling season both from a human and sporting perspective.”
Visser insists being part of the all-female setup felt nothing like a gimmick. “It was definitely genuine,” she said. “We had the whole team supporting us, helping us, and they’re very professional so I think we showed as a team and with the other drivers as well that we were definitely capable of being up there, so for me it was definitely a success.”
By age five, Visser, who grew up only occasionally seeing another girl on the track, was already telling people she wanted to race in F1, though the now-27-year-old reckons it took nearly another decade–and a few European and international karting wins–to realise that a career in motorsport could be a genuine possibility.
“It hasn’t been easy,” said the Dronten native, to witness the more extreme behaviour so-called fans of compatriot Max Verstappen have increasingly become known for, including burning merchandise for W Series supporter Lewis Hamilton, who paid a visit to W Series HQ at Hungaroring.
“I think it’s amazing to always have so many Dutch fans at the races, but obviously they need to be there for the races and not for other things. It is difficult to see those kinds of things, and hopefully things will change and they will start to at least respect everyone.”
Preparing for the future
For now, it’s back to sweating on the bike. Visser could even take it a bit easier on herself now that she’s no longer simultaneously required to prepare her body for the vastly different demands of endurance racing, but that’s not her style, nor the message she’d want to send her five-year-old self.
“I still train the same,” she added. “You never know what happens in the future. You need to be prepared to jump at any time so I need to be prepared for endurance as well. “Racing is what I always wanted to do. So any time I can put my helmet on and go on the track I’ll have a smile on my face.”
Header photo credit: W Series
Make a one-time donation
Make a monthly donation
Make a yearly donation
Choose an amount
Or enter a custom amount
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly