The draft fest elimination was a new race idea that I don’t believe to have ever seen done before in iRacing. It was hosted in the Skip Barber Formula 2000, at Watkins Glen – Classic configuration.
For qualifying, over 50 cars would compete to make the grid, with only 40 of those getting into the race. There was however a twist, as the entire grid that made it would be in reverse order. This added a very tough decision for the drivers to make. Should I play it safe and secure my spot, meaning that I start near the back? Or should I try and qualify slowly to start near the front and avoid all of the wrecks, while being at risk of not making the race? In the end I went for a mix between the two, which ended up being the 19th quickest time, placing me in 21st on the grid.
For the first few laps I pushed quite hard in order to get up to the front of the field as quickly as possible. This was in order to keep safe from any wrecks that happened, as it would be much more aggressive the further back you went. By the end of the first lap I had gained 4 positions, and kept on fighting to get further up the front. I clearly didn’t do a good enough job of this, as I got damage from contact with another car during the third lap. I then had a spin exiting the penultimate corner which made entering the pits extremely difficult. I had to wait for all cars to go by before I could cut across the track. We did have unlimited fast repairs for this race, so I came out of the pits with a perfect car, but I was over half a minute back from the leader in a two car tandem with Bill Fraser. We kept on pushing to gain time, hoping that something would happen allowing us to catch back up. We were both a few laps away from being eliminated as the yellow flags came out, and the field bunched back up.
Once again, I knew I needed to be aggressive in order to avoid wrecks, and I carried this mentality throughout the entire race. I got very unlucky with wrecks happening directly in front of me, but due to some luck from the cautions, and not giving up, I went into the final part of the race fighting for the win. This was quite a shock for me, especially after knowing that I had even been a lap down at one point, and so I knew that I could already be pleased with how I had done.
With just 7 cars remaining, I was in 3rd position for the restart. Just before the caution had come out, the top 3 of the field (Tom Ward, Duncan Coppedge and I) had been able to pull a gap to the rest, after working together very well. This made me confident that we could achieve this once again, and it seemed like the other two had the same idea. We didn’t fight a huge amount for the first laps, and the drivers behind were quickly being eliminated. With just 2 laps to go, all 3 of us had survived. It was now time for us to start fighting for the win. Going into T1 for the penultimate lap I was in 2nd position. I was a bit too close to Tom for what I would have liked, so I had a small lift to make sure I didn’t catch him going through the esses and ruin all of the momentum I would have from the draft. This almost worked, however Duncan, who was in 3rd had my draft too. This meant that he managed to sweep by Tom and get alongside me for the lead. I made sure to try and leave as little room as possible, as it’s not easy to hang around the outside of the carousel if you run wide. This worked well and gave me the better exit off the corner, and I slotted into a comfortable first for the final lap. Tom managed to follow through into 2nd, and pushed Duncan down to 3rd, and out of the race. Going into T1 for the final time, I was trying to decide on a strategy. I decided that Tom was inevitably going to get past for the carousel, and that I would need to pass him on the following straight. Tom did exactly what I expected, and exiting the carousel he defended on the inside for the second to last corner. In previous seasons I had managed to pull off the move here around the outside, so I was fairly confident I could do it once again. Going into the corner I had got a nose ahead due to the side draft, but I overshot very slightly, and compromised my line. If all had gone to plan, I would have exited the corner more than half a car ahead, but instead I was slightly behind. I took lots of speed into the final corner, with Tom leaving nothing more than a car’s width for me on the inside. We had a bit of rubbing on exit, and I knew he had the better run to the line, being on the outside. I made sure to get as close as possible to try and steal some side draft, but we had minor contact that caused me to lose all of my momentum. Tom came across the line just half a tenth ahead of me. A great finish to a great race!
Thank you very much to Philippe Leybaert for organising this great event! I’m looking forward to the next one!
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