After a successful 2014 S4 Ruf Cup season, I decided to try to get a second championship title in a row during 2015 season 1 as I liked the clean door to door racing in this series. As I was on iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series vacation for 10 out of 12 weeks I could really concentrate on this championship.
From the previous season I knew that to win the championship, a good average result would be around 200 championship points per week. I also knew that the first weeks of the championship are crucial as attendance and weekly top scores are higher.
Week 1: Road Atlanta
The first race week of the season was held at Road Atlanta, but unlike previous seasons where the full course has been used this season was run on the short course. I ran 4 races starting in pole position but could win only 2 of them. In race #1 I lost the car being too aggressive in the chicane and in race #3 (SOF race) I was taken out as I was taking the lead back in T1. With a bad result in the SOF race I only scored 151 points instead of 215. The following video is the stream of race #2:
Week 2: VIR
At Virginia International Raceway, for the second race week, I raced only once as I was travelling during Christmas holidays. This race had a low SOF as it was held very early in the week. Despite my win I only earned 113 championship point, which would ultimately turn this week into a drop week.
Week 3: Mosport
I was back home for the third week at Mosport, a fast flowing track I always liked. My qualifying performance was not that good but I had a very good race pace being able to run fast all race long. I ran 3 races, the latter being the SOF race, and won all three. In the SOF race I earned a whopping 249 championship points. Here is the stream of my first race of the week:
At this point it was already clear that winning the championship would not be easy. A pack of 5 drivers was very close to me in performance: namely Anthony Seminerio, Jeremy Bouteloup, Jack Sedgwick, Yassine Bebert and Steven Humbert. Despite my strong performance at Mosport, I was then only 10th in the standings because of my poor points in the first 2 weeks.
Week 4: Daytona Road
I never liked the Daytona Road track because I always felt that a win there is more related to drafting decisions than to pure driving talent and racecraft. My performance was good but it didn’t show in the qualification position as I didn’t want to qualify in the draft. But I knew that I would be able to easily overtake on the banking.
Out of 3 races I won 2 and most important, the SOF race which again earned me the best score of the week with 210 championship points. This race was very close between Steven, Jeremy, Joshua Chin and me. Steven made a mistake and lost the draft. With Joshua and Jeremy we changed positions many times in a epic battle, but ultimately I was in Joshua’s draft in the last straightaway and could win by 8 thousands of a second, my closest win ever in the Ruf! Stream of this epic race:
Week 5: Summit Point
The fifth week of the championship was held at Summit Point, a fast and intense track that always provides great battles. My pace was very good with a pole position just in front of Jack Sedgwick. I ran only 2 races: the first was a test race I won in front of Jeremy and Steven. Having a bad launch, Jeremy and Steven passed me in the first lap. I then came back lap after lap and overtook them both. Stream of first race:
In the second of my Summit Point races, Jack pushed Steven at the end of the first straightaway. Steven then crashed into me and I could just avoid a flip! The car was severely damaged but I still could finish this SOF race in second position. With 167 points compared to winner’s 179 best score of the week I was still happy to save my week. Stream of the crash:
Week 6 and 7: Homestead Miami and Sebring
I decided to not race during week 6 and 7, respectively held at Homestead Miami Road Course Sebring Modified, as I don’t like both of these tracks. Additionally, these tracks being rarely used for any race I was quite sure the maximum championship points of the week would be low. This turned out to be true with only 185 points at Sebring and a lowly 151 points at Homestead. During both weeks Jack took the best score and came back in the championship standings.
Week 8: Interlagos
Autodromo José Carlos Pacé at Interlagos in the Grand Prix configuration is one of my preferred tracks. Unlike in 2014 S4 where the Moto configuration with an ugly chicane was run, this season the fantastic Grand Prix configuration had been selected for the championship. I had a very good setup this week: good corner entry as well as enough traction out of the slow corners.
The week started well with a pole position, but in the first test race of the week I could not translate it into a victory as my race setup wasn’t fast enough. Yassine won this low SOF race. After fine tuning my race setup I won both subsequent races. The most important was the sunday SOF race where I was able to beat Yassine, Steven and Anthony with a large 3 second gap. This week again my race starts were miserable and I had to fight to come back into the lead. Stream of the 2nd and 3rd race of the week:
I was pleased to score a whopping 207 championship points at Interlagos, which brought me back into the top of the championship standings.
Week 9: Motegi
Twin Ring Motegi was hosting the next week on the Twin Rin Motegi East track configuration. As in Daytona the races were held at night, which was a first for me at Motegi. This week again, I was able to take the pole in front of Yassine, Steven and Jack.
I planned to do only both sunday evening SOF races. The first race was a disaster as iRacing crashed when I turned on the stream overlay just before the race and I was left with only one high SOF race to score my championship points. Therefore I decided to take no risk.
As usual, my start was not that good and Steven was able to take the lead in the first corner. As I couldn’t use the first race to fine-tune my race setup, my pace was not fast enough to follow Steven and Jack was closing the gap behind me. Jack was then able to pass me but went wide under my pressure. As he tried to come back onto the track he touched the rear of my car and crashed out. With a slightly broken car I decided to bring it back home without taking any additional risk. In the following video, have a look at 16.50 for the battle with Jack:
With a 200 points score at Motegi I was leading the championship. Steven and Jack were right behind me in the standings, Anthony and Jeremy could still come back strong taking into account drop weeks, and Yassine was a little bit further down in the standings.
Week 10: Suzuka
Suzuka Grand Prix is an outstanding track with a very difficult turn 1 leading into a very fast flowing and technical combo, where the slightest mistake results in more than half a second loss in laptime. My qualification pace was good, but I was not able to string together a perfect lap resulting in a deceiving 5th spot on the grid.
In the first race I started in 4th position. I had a very good pace: I quicly closed up to the leader and was able to overtake them one after the other, for a win. In the SOF race, once again Steven passed me at the start. On lap 3 Anthony went wide in turn 1, allowing me and Steven to pass him. I then chased Steven for several laps, pushing hard and putting a lot of pressure on him, when I braked slightly in the grass in the Degner 1 braking zone. I could save the car but lost contact with Steven and Anthony. I was able to close half of the gap but there was no way I could fight for the win:
Thanks to my first win I scored 198 championship points, where Steven scored 201 points in the SOF race. At this point it was clear that the battle for the championship would be between Steven and me, with Steven being strong and highly motivated to close the gap in the last weeks.
Week 11: Donnington
For the 11th Ruf Cup race week the National variation of Donnington had been chosen. This track is technical and fast flowing except for a ugly chicane with big sausage curbs just before the start/finish line. The weather was somewhat unusual with some dense fog limiting visiblity.
Unfortunately, during this week I also had to start the preparation for the first iWCGPS race at Interlagos. This very much impacted my Ruf Cup pace and consistency, as the driving style needed for the Ruf C-Spec and the Williams FW31 are completely opposite. Despite my lack of consistency I managed to string together a fast lap for pole position.
In the first race of the week, I made a mistake at the end of lap 1, taking the sausage curbs of the chicane. Andrea Masiero passed me on the start/finish line and in the urge to close the gap to the leaders, I spun out in T6. I found myself in 15th position pushing very hard to join the pack. Overtaking at Donnington is quite difficult because positions are easy to defend and it is easy to fight back to an attack. Driving at the limit all race long, I managed to overtake drivers one after the other finishing in 7th position:
In the SOF race I managed to get an unusually good start and kept the lead in turn 1. I could then put a small gap gap between me and Yassine. But I really struggled with consistency and made many mistakes, which ultimately allowed Yassine on lap 11 then Steven on lap 16 to pass me. The battle with Steven lasted until the last corner, where I almost took him out in some kind of emergency braking! Stream of the Donnington SOF race:
At Donnington, Steven managed to slightly close the gap to me again. But with a 46 championship points gap in the standings, the only option left to Steven to win the championship was to score more than 209 points with me scoring less than 151 points during the last week at Spa.
Week 12: Spa Francorchamps
The last week of the Ruf Cup championship was held at Spa Francorchamps, the famous track in the Belgian Ardennes. As at Daytona and Motegi races were held at night, but the result was very different this week as at Spa Francorchamps only the start/finish line and the pitlane are lit.
Being almost sure to win the championship and knowing the SOF would be low because of low attendance, my motivation to race was quite low. It showed in the qualification results as I set only the 5th best laptime. In the first sunday evening SOF race I started in second position behind Sergio Avendano. I could place one attack in the first lap, but then my pace was too slow because of a somewhat understeery setup. Nevertheless, I finished 2nd and scored 162 points: overriding my poor 151 points from Road Atlanta. Stream of this first race:
Being quite upset with my poor performance in the first race, I built a new and better setup. I was then immediately faster in race trim than I was in qualification! I knew that I would have to race against Steven Humbert in the last SOF race of the week as it was his last chance for the title. I also knew that following him without taking any risk would be enough to win the championship.
I started in second position behind Andrea Masiero, Steven being right behind me. Andrea made a mistake in Eau Rouge and gave me the lead. Steven was following me with a 1 second gap until I made a mistake in the chicane and he could overtake me. Then I followed him, putting some pressure on him: he was at the limit everywhere to keep me behind. I overtook him at the hairpin and then drove some quick lap. Steven couldn’t follow: he pushed too hard and got a slowdown in Eau Rouge, loosing more than 10 seconds and any chance to do well. He didn’t give up driving as fast as he could, but he exceeded the offtrack limit and got disconnected! Andrea overtook me when I did my second mistake in the chicane, but I managed to pass him just before the last lap and won the race:
I scored the best score of the week with 174 championship points which was more than enough to win the championship.
I’m really glad to have won a second Ruf Cup championship in a row, mostly because this season the series has been much more competitive than in 2014 season 4.
The Ruf Cup is an incredible simracing series, with close and clean racing. The car is really difficult to master, but when you have found some pace it is really rewarding.
As I am leaving this series, I want to thank all my contenders: Steven, Yassine, Jeremy, Jack, Andrea, Sergio, Jere, Aki, Daniel and many others for some epic moments.