Circuit Zolder was the site for Week 2 of the iRacing.com V8 Supercars Series and what an exciting race it proved to be. It had indeed been quite some time since the almighty roar of the V8s was heard through the turns and chicanes of this Belgian favorite (2013 Season 1) and the drivers were keen to give it a go with the New Tire Model V5 (NTMv5). With conditions which were ideal for close sim racing action, the experienced drivers of the Ford Falcon combined with the 22 laps around this circuit provided just that: close sim racing action.
As the cars gridded up, it was Trans-Tasman Racing (TTR) driver Tony Autridge who took pole position with a 1:24.402. Hot on his heels was Beau Cubis of Altitude Brighton Volvo followed by last week's winner, 4 Motorsport driver, Mitchell McLeod. Michael Fulcher of Kamikaze Racing Team and Jake Burton of KustomImage Motorsport completed the top-five of the starting grid.
As the green flag dropped, the cars funneled their way through the wide sweeping left hander that is Turn One with, against many peoples' better guesses, no major incidents. After starting in fifth position, Burton was off to an excellent run as he found himself getting by Fulcher and McLeod for third by the end of Lap One. A few laps later, a costly incident between Fulcher and Wayne C. Bourke of Synergy Sim Racing saw Fulcher sustaining damage to his front right wheel. Able to bring it back to the pits, the front-runner was forced to retire prematurely.
In a second stroke of disaster for Kamikaze Racing Team (and again involving Synergy Sim Racing), Fulcher's teammate, Sam Collins, got loose on the final turn of Lap Four. Getting on the power too early, Collins looped his Falcon around on the front straight and eventually backed it into the wall. After a tow to the pits and some required repairs, Collins would ultimately finish three laps down. The same couldn't be said for the driver who was directly behind Collins, however. Synergy Sim Racing driver, Dean O'Brien, saw the sliding car of Collins in front of him and moved to avoid any contact. However, with Collins car moving erratically and in an unpredictable manner, O'Brien misjudged the direction of the wayward Falcon. As O'Brien attempted to pass Collins, he moved too close to the wall which, as Collins' car pressed in closer, caused O'Brien to smash against the virtual cement with such force that it caused all four wheels to come off the ground. Needless to say, it was over for O'Brien who effectively finished 19 laps down.
Although some drivers weren't having the race they were expecting, one driver in particular was. George Maris, who started the race in nineteenth position, was on a roll. By Lap 14, Maris had moved up to eighth position and began challenging Bourke for position seven. By the start of Lap 16, Maris was on the back bumper of Bourke and was in prime position to execute the pass when Maris got loose coming out of Turn Five. As he jumped the second curb, Maris's Falcon got some air time but came down sideways. As Maris hit the throttle, the progressive sideways motion was amplified by the power output which caused him to spin onto the grass. Losing a total of five positions as a direct result of the spin, Maris would retake one of them and ultimately finish the race in eleventh.
Back up front, there was an intense battle going on for first. Autridge had been doing an excellent job of holding onto the lead with Cubis following hot on his tail but an incident on Lap Nine changed all of that. As Autridge led the field through the chicane of "Terlamenbocht," Cubis had a dive on Autridge which resulted in contact between the two. The incident briefly forced Autridge off track but it was enough to be costly. Cubis was able to muscle past the furious Autridge with McLeod following suit.
The very next lap, the former champion was able to grab the lead from Cubis and that was all she wrote. McLeod slowly began to pull away from the ever-challenging Cubis and by the end of the race, took the victory with a 3.5 second margin and made it two-for-two so far this season. Cubis held on to finish where he started in second while Burton went on to overtake the pole sitter and claim the final spot on the podium. Autridge, although disappointed with the contact between Cubis and himself, still achieved a solid fourth position with Ian Ford rounding out the top-five.
This Australian Strength-of-Field (SoF) race had a strength of 3747 and was split four times. The top five finishers from the other splits are as follows:
Split 2/SoF 2301 1- Aaron Hamilton 2- Chris Coxhead 3- Timothy Hancock 4- Michael Cracknell 5- Justin C. Allen
Split 3/SoF 1681 1- Robert Hooper 2- Sam Compton 3- Scott Brown 4- Ian Bird 5- David Nenedic
Split 4/SoF 1035 1-Shane Best 2-Andrew Cooper 3-Aaron Mcintyre 4-Robert Klanke 5-Benjamin Syron
Despite the fact that we're only two weeks into a 12 week season, McLeod has emerged as the "driver to beat" with his back-to-back wins. He currently leads the championship battle with Cubis hot on his heels followed by Burton, Ford and Autridge.
As we complete Week 2, the drivers take the overseas voyage to Austin, TX as they make the return to the Circuit of The Americas (CoTA). Like last season, drivers will again be navigating through the West configuration of this tricky circuit which features 18 various turns over the course of 2.6 miles. Last season's winner, Madison Down (who has yet to appear this season), set the bar high so we're eager to see how things turn out this week. With the addition of the NTMv5, many drivers are keen to see how different the drive around Austin will be. One thing's for sure, however: we're looking forward to seeing all of the action as we continue the 2014 Season 3 of the iRacing.com V8 Supercars Series!