The team rolled into Road America for round 7 of the iRacing Grand Prix Series full of confidence and with an addition to the driver line up, following Michael Gomen appointment it was sure going to be an exciting week.
Road America, is a favourite of mine but one of the hardest to get a good balance for. Found a lot improvements in the setup from last season and was able to beat my PB from Season 1 often in practice. My luck how it is of late saw my Shiny Club Sport wheel brake and from there the car felt just a little different after managing to bodge it back together with sticky tape. I ended up P4 in qualifying with an ok 35.3.
Only did 2 races but had a lot of fun in both, the first saw me having a great battle Ariel Eduardo Bernardi. I was able to pull away at first but as the fuel started to burn off, the balance shifted and felt like the car needed some crazy amount of work in the slow speed to keep it pointing forward. Both of us pitted on lap 23 straight after I made a small mistake on turn 8, from here the race was well and truly on. Ariel made good use of the backmarker that hurt my line in turn 1 and was able to get a run going down into turn 5 for a clean pass. I stuck close behind and noticed that my car was a ton easier to drive in the dirty air so found it easy to keep the pressure on. After Ariel made a small mistake in turn 3 I was able to get a fantastic run myself into turn 5 for a move around the outside. Sadly the fun ended shortly after that as the sudden change in aero balance caught Ariel out in the kink sending him over the curb and into the wall.
The second race saw me fighting with Yuho Abe, we both made good starts and pulled away from the chasing pack. With the setup tweaks in place to keep the aero balance in check I was able to push a lot more. I was kept under consistent pressure but not really under threat until we started lapping. the 1.1 second gap soon become .3 and I was defending all over the place. Sadly one backmarker cost me too much time and Yaho pounced like a veteran hunter stalking his prey. To rub salt into the wound I pitted at the same time as a back marker that slowed for the pit lane speed limit halfway up the hill costing me 3 seconds. After the stops I was 5 seconds behind and pushing over the edge to catch up, which was just leading to more mistakes. I settled it down to bring it home for P2.
Had a good week here, and was very happy to qualify 6th among the A-class drivers, right behind our new teammate Michael Gomen. Felt comfortable with the set, and much more than the awful last week at Suzuka. As it turned out to be a very good first race attempt, I ended up only doing 2 races for the week.
1st attempt was the saturday 16 gmt race. Started P5 and found myself in 4th after 2 drivers went off in T1. From here on I had a great battle with Jan Niesiołowski. On lap 6 I couldn’t hold him back anymore, as I made a small mistake in the last turn and we were side by side crossing the s/f line. I tucked in behind Jan before T1, to not risk anything this early, and tried to hold on the following laps. On lap 9, Jans luck ran out when his engine blew in T7. Suddenly in P3 (as Robin Friskopps, had an accident too) it was just a lonely drive home from here on. Finished 3rd for a very nice 210 points.
2nd race was the sunday 18 gmt. It was broadcasted and the turnout was really weak, so I thought I might as well give the people a little show. I started out by plowing the gravel in T1 to make things a little exciting. Coming out dead-last (P13) it was just a long run from here on, trying to get up through the field again. I think the confidence from my 210 points the day before, gave a little extra speed. Felt great and was able to push most of the race. Had great battles with Matt Hannagan, Christiaan Tanahatoe and Mikko Meriluoto among others, on the way up. Many positions/laps later I found myself closing in on Jan Niesiołowski on P5 with not a lot of laps left. With 2 laps to go, I finally caught up with him on the straight into T5. I was very close, and was surprised seeing Jan taking the wide line into T5. I made an over-eager decision of trying to dive inside. I braked too late and we had a little contact. All my mistake, and a shame to finish a good drive this way. Thank goodness Jan could continue, but my car was too bent up to make the last lap in a safe way (wouldn’t risk taking anyone out on their last lap) so I parked it. All in all, a very fun race!
I have a very love/hate relationship with Road America, its as equally enjoyable as it is frustrating!! I was very quick here last season but was unable to translate it into any kind of result. Great setups from the team meant I was very happy being the 14th quickest A-Class driver in qualifying, though as always felt I could have gone quicker than my 1:36.110 showed. Lost 4 tenths in the final 2 sectors
My other half spent all day Saturday at her parents which meant that none of the jobs on my to do list got completed but I was able to complete 4 races, which suited me!! I was very happy with my performance through the day, couldn’t really have finished any higher up in any of the race without taking undue risks which I am just not interested in at the moment. Scored 117, 118, 111, 117 points in each of the races, 1 win in a second split race and 2 other top 5’s. Although points scored were fairly low I was much happier with my iRating gain. 198 increase through those 4 races is really improving my chances in getting to the top splits and hopefully try to prove myself against the top A-Class drivers!!
Sunday is a day at work for me and as a result I always find it much more challenging to maintain my concentration for a full race in the evening. I was really unsure whether to enter a race after such a strong Saturday as I didn’t want to blow the iRating gained. With my points scoring being so close the previous day at least I wouldn’t miss out on a higher points score by entering a 5th race for the week. Very glad I did as my improved iRating scraped me into the top split for the Sunday night first SoF as the lowest ranked car.
Tried to just focus on staying out of trouble through the first laps and others around me gradually started falling off the track. Had some fun battles with Daniel Pedrosa and Jamie Burn and managed to safely bring home the car in 6th position (despite a couple of scares from lapses of concentration as predicted). That netted me 144 points, my highest score of the season and very clearly shows me why I must keep building on my iRating to get into these top splits every week.
Looking forward to the challenge of Zandvoort, though most of my races may have to happen on Sunday this week, which will be tough after a day at work…..