Round 8 of the iRacing Grand Prix Series, saw the Class A drivers take to the historic Zandvoort Circuit. Home of the Dutch Grand Prix from 1952 to 1985, this twisting, cambered circuit features a mixture of blind, slow, medium & high speed corners, which makes it a challenging track for both drivers and engineers alike. Qualifying is always important here with overtakes mainly coming from driver errors due to the nature of the circuit layout.
Zandvoort, one of my favorite tracks for hot-lapping last season didn’t get along with my car so well this trip by. With so much camber and elevation change happening all over the course, I struggled keeping my FW31 feeling planted enough to depend on the throttle pedal while still being able to rotate efficiently in the high-speed corners on our new tire this season. I started the week out scraping by just to produce sub-1:14.00 laps, struggling to find a strategy around each corner. After a break from the track for a few days I got back in the seat and with some adjustments borrowed from Alex and Lasse’s time-trial trim, the recess served me well as I focused and was able to secure a top-3 position in Qualifying with a 1:13.536- one of my best grid results ever in the series.
On Saturday’s big race I pulled off an enormous launch that placed me multiple car lengths ahead of 2nd and 3rd positions which potentially could have turned into a rather effortless haul of major champ points, if I had only stayed on the track! While the surprise and nervousness of what was actually happening took hold of my brain I made the needless error of neglecting to short-shift into 2nd gear for T8 as I had been doing in practice. Naturally, on Lap 1 with a full load of fuel and cold tires, the FW31’s massive torque in 1st gear threw me directly into the wall and ended my race immediately. I calmed down, recovered and took a victory in the next race but the points and win were somewhat bittersweet, as most of the iGPS hot shots had already left for the day.
On Sunday I decided I simply needed to pull in a decent point score at any cost to help secure my standings in the Road to Pro. I dialed back my gearing and adjusted the rear end a bit to drive more safely. At launch I focused solely on trying to escape the chaos of the start that this race produced and succeeded well, pulling into 2nd place as Muià made an error and fell behind. Looking at Iwasaki’s rear end very closely at first, I decided quickly that it wouldn’t be worth it to attempt a move and made no sign that he needed to get off his line and defend, allowing us both to keep high pace and escape Meriluoto behind us. This paid off and I built a healthy lead over Meriluoto, but was quickly caught after a few laps by Muià who was blazing back toward the front after his error on Lap 1. After fending him off for a few laps and making a small error he got by but also made a mistake in front of me soon after, giving me a second chance to overtake and defend 2nd position, if I desired to take it. Again, I quickly made a tactical decision and decided that the risk wouldn’t pay off and lifted for him so that he could continue on and leave me to put Meriluoto a healthy distance behind by the end of the race. My plan worked as well as it could have- I cruised to the finish at a safe 95% pace to 3rd place and took home a satisfying 218 points!
Next up… Choke Tree corner at VIR!
Last week I said I had a love/hate relationship with Road America (RA). After this week I just plain hate Zandvoort!! I had a positive start to the week enjoying the high downforce levels compared to RA even out of low speed corners (go figure iRacing..) and was enjoying the challenge of the constant changes in camber and variety of corner types.
Recorded the 16th fastest qualifying time which I was satisfied with, under a second off the overall pole for the week (even on a short track like this) has got to be a result for me! Unfortunately I then proceeded to have by far the worst weekend of the season. The 14:00GMT race going official on saturday caught me off guard and I rushed into the race with just 5 minutes preparation which with hindsight was a very poor decision. I should have just skipped it.
Lined up on the front row alongside team leader Alex Simpson and had a great first 11/13ths of a lap trying to hang as close as I could to Alex, I had just reassured myself that 2nd position should be comfortable to maintain and to try to have a very steady race when I ran wide on the penultimate corner, over the outside kerb spitting me into the inside wall. Mildly annoyed
Race 2 I had learnt my lesson, had plenty of time to prepare and this time started mid pack. Got a great start and was comfortably sticking with the leading group of 5 pro license contenders on the first lap when I just slightly locked the rears into turn 10. I again somehow ended up in the inside wall. Thankfully I managed to not throw my wheels/pedals/TV out of the lounge window and just concede defeat and cut my losses. Almost 200 iRating lost I decided not to race on Sunday.
Roll on VIR!!
Actually I had plans this weekend, and was going to make this a drop week (not race), but seeing how close this race to Pro is getting, I managed to rearrange a little to make room for the two sunday SOF races.
Qualifying 7th among the A-class drivers this week gave me P6 on the grid for the first race at 16 GMT. Almost spun it when the green lights hit, but managed to save it. Several drivers went off in T1, so I could take back the positions lost at the start. From here on I had a 22 lap intense race as sandwich between Jan Niesiołowski in front, and Joonas Nukarinen close behind (positions 3rd to 5th). On lap 22 I couldn’t keep Joonas behind anymore, and soon after he was right on the tail of Jan. Jan had a little offtrack on lap 24 where Joonas and I got by.
I pitted on lap 31, 3 seconds ahead of Jan and the stop went well, coming out just behind Joonas in P4. Unfortunately I got stuck behind a backmarker on lap 32 in the T10 chicane right up till the end of the main straight, where Jan came out of the pits just ahead of me. Then the race was on again… 🙂 I couldn’t get by as Jan was up to pace very quickly, and I just had to follow the rest of the race, hoping he would make a mistake. It didn’t happen, and I finished P5.
Fantastic race! A little disappointed to only get 170 points, but the participation was weak this week unfortunately…
The 18 GMT ended in T1, where half the field was taken out. So not much to report here…
A tough track last season and one that would need a lot of work with the setup in order to get a more consistent ride. Taken in a direction I have never been with by examining the data the set slowly started to take shape until Saturday when I finally was happy with the overall balance.
Missed my pb of a 13.1 but still happy to put in a pole position time of 13.2 some 3 tenths faster than last season. This is a tough track to get a consistent quick time in, with a lot of it being down to luck over some of the curbs and the way the car rotates over them. Sure not looking forward to doing this one in the Pro series when you only have 3 laps to set a time in.
Had 2 clean races relatively unchallenged, drove within myself but fast enough to make sure I had enough of a gap should anything crop up to surprise me. This is a track that can easily catch drivers out and I didn’t want to push for the sake of pushing to only end my race in the wall.