“Don’t listen too much to what other people around you say - do what you like,” says racing driver Beitske Visser. “Having fun is the most important thing because when you enjoy it you’ll automatically drive better.”
Dutch driver Beitske Visser has competed in multiple top-flight racing series. She’s been a part of W Series since its inaugural season in 2019 and is pairing this with a campaign in the FIA World Endurance Championship for Richard Mille Racing Team where she competes for the first-ever all-female crew in LMP2 alongside Tatiana Calderón and Sophia Flörsch.
Now that the highly-anticipated second season of W series has started, after its plans were curtailed in 2020 due to COVID-19, Beitske is excited to be back on track.
“Finally, we can go racing again,” the reigning W Series vice-champion tells Females in Motorsport of the season-opener at the Styrian Grand Prix. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good weekend for me because I left without any points.
“I managed to be third quite quickly with a pretty good gap to the car behind which was expanding significantly. When I saw Marta [Garcia] slowing down, I felt conflicted.”
Beitske started the race from fourth on the grid and was able to move up to third. Then, Marta Garcia had to retire due to a mechanical problem and the safety car was deployed.
“This resulted in me losing my gap to the car behind, but it also meant that my gap to the second car would be closed. I felt that I had a chance to fight for second, but unfortunately I was involved in a collision after the restart.”
Even though her season hasn’t started the way she’d have liked it to, Beitske is optimistic about the upcoming race weekend where W Series will once again race in the support series package for Formula 1.
“Over the coming days we’ll work hard to find a little more speed and I'll try to have a clean race,” she says.
Reflecting on her 2019 season, Beitske is happy that she managed to finish second in her first single-seater season since 2016, but the goal now for 2021 is to win.
“I really wanted to win in 2019, but finishing second was a good start,” she says. “We had a solid season and we'll see what this year brings.
“The aim for every race weekend is to win, but ultimately I’d love to win overall this season. The first race was not a great start as we’re already quite behind, but we still have seven races to go. We’ll see what happens."
Beitske is grateful that she got the chance to race in W Series and acknowledges that its existence is important.
“There are fewer women in motorsports than men,” she says. “In karting there are for example one hundred boys and five girls. One of those boys might go on to race in higher classes but because there are less girls, there are also less of them advancing to the higher levels.
"Hopefully W Series and the FIA's projects will help to get more girls to go karting and move on to the higher levels of motorsport."
Being a support series for F1 in 2021 has definitely led to W Series gaining more attention. The existence of teams this year also shows this and will hopefully make it easier for women to get into the higher levels of motorsport.
What is sad to see, is that women need to keep proving that they’re able to race.
“We have to prove that we’re just as good as men are,” she says. “It's a pity that we always have to demonstrate our ability to race. If we do well, then they often say that it’s just luck.”
However, Beitske feels that she’s already proven she’s capable of competing in the higher levels of motorsport.
“I commanded all the respect in karting so most people respect me at this point in time,” she says.
Talking about karting and Beitske being an inspiration for younger girls, she admits that it's nice that people look up to her.
“It does show that I'm apparently doing quite well,” she says, smiling.
Asking her what advice she would give to younger people that want to drive and get into motorsport, she emphasizes that fun is the most important aspect.
“Don’t listen too much to what other people around you say - do what you like,” she says. “Having fun is the most important thing, because when you enjoy it you’ll automatically drive better.”
This year, Beitske is driving in both W Series and WEC. Her reason is to be in the car as much as she possibly can.
“The more I can drive, the better,” she says. “Ideally I’d like to drive 52 weekends of the year. Unfortunately, that’s not going to work, but I'm happy that I can drive a lot this year.”
Talking about WEC, Beitske is happy to continue with Richard Mille Racing and enjoys having Tatiana Calderón and Sophia Flörsch as team-mates.
“I came in halfway last year as a replacement [for Katherine Legge],” she says. “This year the three of us can build on what we learned last year. The competition is tough, but we’re improving every race.
"It wasn't an easy start because of the new rules that were introduced and us not having the opportunity to test beforehand. The progression we’re making is big regardless and I hope we can continue this.
“We have a good team and a good package and that's the most important thing. Who knows what we can do at the end of the season when we keep improving.”
Despite the switching between disciplines, Beitske relishes the challenge.
“It's tricky, but I'm able to switch between them and get used to them quite quickly,” she says. “It's important to prepare well mentally and on the simulator because the racing is completely different. One is endurance, the other is sprint. One is a formula car, the other a prototype.”
To stay fit physically for all the different categories, she has to train twice as much.
“We don't have power steering in the formula cars, so the steering is heavy, but you do have an open car so it isn't very hot unless you’re on the grid or behind a safety car,” she says. “In LMP2, there's power steering but the car is faster so it's tough on your neck.
“Moreover, the car is closed which means it can sometimes be 40-50 degrees inside during the race. You’re also in it for much longer. You have to work hard to stay focused in those conditions.”
When asked what race she’s most looking forward to this year, Beitske answers quickly: Zandvoort.
“A home race is always cool,” she says. “Supporting F1 and Max Verstappen driving in that series means that a lot of Dutch fans will come to the race. This weekend in Austria we’ll already see many Dutch fans, because they’ll allow full capacity which is great to see.”
Even though she's really looking forward to Zandvoort, she does provide us with other circuits that she enjoys.
“I don't really have a favourite circuit,” she admits. “I like circuits that flow, so the ones where you need to drive in a rhythm. I've always loved Paul Ricard, but sadly we aren't racing there this year. Monaco and Jerez are both tracks I also really like. But at the end, most drivers will pick the circuits on which they have scored well.”
Because of that comment, we suggest to her that she should maybe pick Zolder as her favourite circuit, because of her W Series win there in 2019.
“Zolder it is!” Beitske says.
All images are courtesy of W Series, Richard Mille Racing and DPPI Images.