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W Series considering changed testing approach in future

by Ida Wood

Photo: LAT Images

W Series’ chief executive officer Catherine Bond Muir says the championship, which is currently in limbo after stopping its 2022 season, is considering revamping its approach to testing.

The Formula Regional series’ first test in March 2019 featured 28 drivers and was used as a shootout to determine the 18-driver grid for the inaugural season. In April a three-day test was then held at the Lausitzring and laptimes were not publicised.

Post-season it held a selection test for 2020 at Almerica, with 14 prospective drivers for the next season (including ex-IndyCar driver Katherine Legge and Formula 2’s Tatiana Calderon) taking part.

The 2020 pre-season test was set to take place over three days at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit, but the season got cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic, and W Series planned a five-day test there for April the next year.

That also got called off, meaning there was a gap of 20 months between the second selection test in 2019 and the next on-track action for W Series; a behind-closed-doors trip to’ Anglesey in Wales in late May 2021 where all laptimes were withheld.

Focus on testing then switched to getting W Series racers opportunities in the Dallara F3 2019 car, then the series made the odd move of starting 2022 pre-season testing with a visit to the private Inde Motorsports Ranch test track in the USA. None of the 14 drivers invited were set to race in W Series at the time, and the test used Formula 4 cars.

A second test using its standard vehicles was then announced, and took place at Barcelona this March. Although not publicised as a shootout test in advance, it was used to determine the full 2022 grid.

Once again held behind closed doors and under even stricter secrecy than ever before, there was some confusion at the circuit due to the resistance to share information. The drivers joining the series were announced two-and-a-half weeks after their three days in the FRegional car.

“I think it’s just trying to figure out a way that we can increase track time,” Bond Muir said as W Series’ future started to look uncertain due to cashflow issues.

“It could be testing, we’re trying to think about whether we can get some sort of more permanent facility somewhere, set up an academy there in a particular country that we can take drivers to more. So I think that’s crucial for our development.

“That is just plans that we’re starting to work on, so there won’t be any announcement on that in the next few months because that’s very much in its nascent stage. But it’s unquestionably an issue that we have to address.”

Following the final two rounds being cancelled, it is unclear if a post-season or driver selection test will be taking place later this year.