The sixth round of the 2015 iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series was held at Watkins Glen, a short but fast flowing track. This track having no hard braking zones the only overtaking opportunity is in the back straight. Therefore the car has to be setup to allow some overspeed in the draft. The track being so fast, drivers are on the edge most of the time: the slightest mistake results in at least a lot of time lost and at worst in following drivers crashing into your car.
Watkins Glen is a track where I usually struggle to find confidence and pace in qualifying trim while having a good race pace. In 2014 I only qualified in 33th position but during the race I was catching up and battling for the 20th spot when I was involved in a big crash. Sadly, this year was no exception …
During race preparation I found a good compromise for the race setup: the car was progressive on the edge, allowing to build up confidence and pace. The qualifying setup was more difficult to build: I had a good optimum but could not string a good lap together. I found a good and reliable compromise only few hours before the race. We opted for a two stop strategy as it became clear that the times with a heavy loaded car would be offset by almost 1 second a lap while the time lost in the short Watkins Glen pitlane would be on the low side.
Just before the qualification run, I drove many laps that were very close to my personal best and would have put me in a top 10 spot on the grid. My first qualification run started very well being very close to my personal best until turn 8 where I suddenly lost the rear end of the car! With only one qualifying lap left I chose to drive cautiously: this turned out to be a bad idea because with a slower pace I made many small mistakes ending up 0.6 seconds off my personal best in a deceiving 28th position on the grid.
The race start was good as I went through the usual T1 crash without any damage, but during the starting procedure I discovered that the force feedback of my steering wheel had disappeared! The FW31 being almost impossible to drive on the edge without a very good steering wheel force feedback, I was still worried when I was catched in a major collective crash in T6. Aleksi Uusi Jaakola had lost his car in T6 in a place that cannot be seen from corner entry and collected more than 10 cars. Unfortunately this ended Sebastian‘s race. Having a broken front wing I went back into the pitlane for repairs. I quickly jumped out of the car and in again to try to get back my force feedback and it worked.
I was then far behind the leaders in 20th position, which is a pity as I had a top 5 pace. I passed Tommaso who was on a 1 stop strategy. After the first batch of pitstops I found myself behind Tommaso again. As I was on a 2 stop strategy I was much faster than him. I had a good run on him in lap 41: I passed him on the outside in turn 6 when I slightly lost the rear of the car: I was catching the slide when Tommaso ran into my car finishing both our races!
Because so many car were already out of the race, I could still bring home a 21th position at the end of the race. Given the crash this is not a bad result as in the best case I could have finished in 18th position. Scoring only 9 championship point I am now in 14th position in the iWCGPS championship standings loosing 2 spots.
Afterthoughts: Starting grid position is the key to a good result. With my race pace and a good grid position I would have battled for an easy top 10. I now have to improve my qualifying performance to improve my championship standing.
Gratz to Greger and the podium.