The iRacing Road To Pro Series makes it’s way to the other side of the World, for a trip down under at the sunny Phillip Island Circuit. This extremely fast 4.445 km track ,with it’s 12 turns usually see’s the most tightly packed grid of the series and this season was no different with 8 tenths of a second covering the top 25 drivers.
A historically strong circuit for the ApexRacingUK team saw them carry over the great confidence built up at Road America, setting the early pace for the week. In the end Alex Simpson took overall pole for the week with Lee Thompson only .434 behind his team mate.
It was so good to be back at Phillip Island. This was the first place I ever drove the Williams FW31 and it really goes to show that experience at a track / car combination can have a real impact in overall performance. I felt really fast from the off this week and the car just seemed to get better and better the more the engineers zoned in on the setup.
Overall pole for the week really pleased me and only something I have achieved once before. The car as I said felt great and while I missed my PB by .1 in qualifying it was enough to grab pole.
I entered 4 races this week and those on Saturday were pretty straight forward. I decided to go for a 1 stop strategy as the car was just a little unpredictable with the higher fuel load onboard. It was a few seconds slower overall for me but consistency has been key this season and I felt I had enough pace to make a 1 stop work and come out in front of my rivals after the pit stop. True enough for both the first 2 races finishing some 20 seconds in the lead by the end of the race.
Sunday was however the a very different story, the extra day had given the WC and Pro drivers a little more time to set a qually time and the grid looked even tougher. For the first race I line up along side Daniel Lopez with Teemu Iivonen and Olli Pahkala behind on row 2.
Teemu got a blistering start from 3rd and while my start was ok the tiny bit of wheel spin in 2nd gear cost me 1st place going into turn 2. From here we had a great battle for 11 laps and while we might have been holding each other up Olli sitting in 3rd was just out of striking distance. As the race progressed I was becoming more and more concerned that the pace was not going to get us out in front of the no stopping Daniel Lopez so I really started to pile on the pressure.
Unfortunately going down the straight on lap 11 where I had finally got my nose in front we touched wheels spinning Teemu off the track and damaging my rear wing, which resulted in a spin for myself in turn 1. From here I limped the car back to the pits where some aero changes made the car controllable but extremely slow. I brought it home in the end for 11th place, with Michele Chesini taking the win from Rafa Bordoy & Olli in 3rd.
The final race of the week saw me line up alongside Olli Pahkala with Kazuki Oomishima in 3rd. This time I got a perfect start and retained the lead going into the first corner. Olli however was overtaken by the no stopping Kazuki and while trying to get back past at the Honda Hairpin found himself on the wrong end of a netcode crash causing him to spin out and back down to 11th place.
It was fair to say that with a 9 second lead going into lap 7 I felt confident that the race was going to plan, maybe a little too confident as I missed my braking point and ended up taking a trip through the kitty litter. It cost me my entire lead and from a simple win, this race had turned into a massive uphill struggle.
I pushed as hard as I could for the rest of the stint and managed to grow the gap from half a second to 22 before my stop, while it was close it was not enough as I exited from the pits 4 seconds behind the RONIN Racing Team driver. From there I was eating into the lead and with 5 laps to go I was close enough to make a move if presented with half a chance. That chance never came as Kazuki drove a faultless last few laps and with the great top speed of the RONIN car was able to defend any attack I made down the main straight.
While I was disappointed to not win it was still a great race and look forward to returning to Phillip Island for the Pro Series.
Thanks to Dean for painting the 2013 ARL-TV car & Leo Bodnar for sponsoring the new sister team.
Well done to my team mate Lee on yet another 200 point week and I will see you all at Virginia for the next round.
My one race on Saturday night started me off on 4th on the grid, with the majority of protagonists for the A-Class top 10 chase surrounding me on the track! Got a decidedly average start off the line losing one spot to Jorge Montanes and gaining one to Samuel de la Fuente. Montanes scrabbled to avoid Javier Jose Martinez Arrieta under braking into Honda Corner, almost losing the rear and allowing me to skirt round the outside and moving up into 3rd!! Running into the start of lap 3 and I managed to get a great run on Arrieta around the outside of turn 1, unfortunately Arrieta was unable to hold his inside line and touching wheels spat me out onto the grass. Luckily I managed to keep it pointing straight and made my way back to the track.
Dropping back to 5th, during the next 2 laps Arrieta lost the rear exiting turn 1, I managed to get back past Muhammed S Patel and then de la Fuente lost the rear at turn 2 throwing him into the barriers. I then managed to hold my 2nd position for the remainder of the race giving me a decent 200 point result to start the weekend!
The SoF broadcast race had the biggest SoF I have ever participated in!! With Daniel Lopez and Teemu Iivonen (WCS drivers) locking out the front row, again the rest of the field was everyone fighting for their black stripe next season!! Started in 7th on the grid this time I got a good start making up one position on Rafa Bordoy off the line but got boxed in behind Javier Soto and Lopez through turn 1. Spent the first half of the lap trying to get back past Bordoy so I could begin my chase of those up ahead. I knew most others at the sharp end would be making no stops, whereas I was sticking with my one stop strategy from the previous day. Took me until the start of lap 4 to make a move on Soto up the inside turn 1 (fortunately managed to hold my line!) and then the start of lap 7 I managed to get a great run on de la Fuente out of turn 2 sticking it up the inside into Honda Corner.
The rest of the race was focusing on trying to bang in the laps and gain the maximum amount of time that I could over the no stoppers. By the time my pitstop came I just managed to jump LJ Garnett into 4th position and began my hunt down of Soto in 3rd. I was able to run 3-4 tenths a lap faster closing in from the 5 second gap I started with, only broken by a spinning Anthony Kopec when I lost one second ensuring I wasn’t going to get collected. Ultimately that lap made all the difference as I crossed the finish line 7 tenths behind a podium spot!! Managed to beat my PB lap by 3 tenths on the final lap, I was doing everything I could to get that spot!! 221 points was a satisfactory result, but it meant I lost points to my main rivals in the championship.
This will be a much shorter synopsis of the race:
Starting from 7th on the grid again, Ariel Eduardo Bernardi spun his rears ahead of me spinning across the track taking out a large number of drivers. I was lucky enough only to lost my front wing and nose and so after pitting for repairs I managed to complete the rest of the race with no damage and thankfully managed to gain iRating and only lose the smallest amounts of Safety Rating.