by Colin MacLean on April 20th, 2011
ISRA – Grand Touring Championship Season Three Review
Epic. The most over-used word in motorsports. However, as hard as I try I cannot come up with any other word that so perfectly describes Season Three of the International Sim Racing Association’s (ISRA) Grand Touring Championship (GTC).
This season had everything and then some. It had 40+ drivers every race with a waiting list. It had incredibly challenging racing at some of the greatest virtual tracks around the world. It had three wonderful cars, the Late Model, Mustang FR500S and the Mazda MX-5. It had more passes and side-by-side action than you could possibly imagine. It brought together a vast array of talented drivers from both the real and virtual worlds. Every race had plenty of excitement and drama. In short, Season Three of the GTC Championship was the pinnacle of multi-class sim racing.
The ISRA made a bold choice with their car choice. Returning from season two were the Mustang and MX-5. These two cars co-exist incredibly well in multi-class racing as their lap times are well separated and the Mustangs have enough scoot to drive by the MX-5 on the straight. Looking for a replacement for the V8 Supercar the ISRA settled on the Chevy Late Model after extensive testing. What may have seemed a strange choice at first turned out to be a revelation. This car is the perfect combination of easy to drive, quick and above all incredibly fun. Furthermore the speed differential between the Late Model, Mustang and MX-5 ensured the racing was guaranteed to be close, tight and thrilling.
Going into the opener at Sebring it was anyone’s guess who would dominate in each class. In the GT class the season two GT class champion David Sirois looked to be the man to beat. His experience in the GT class would give him a leg up on the competition. Hot on his heels was season two ST champ Colin MacLean. Sure to challenge for the podium was hotshoe Eric Palacio whose pace in the MX-5 last season raised a few eyebrows.
The ST class running the MX-5 was definitely going to be interesting with season two standouts Kevin Savoie and Mike Young. Newcomer Russell Kao signed up late to the series and threw a wrench into the works for Savoie and Young’s two-car battle.
The GS Mustangs were, without a doubt, going to be the cars to watch. Season One Daytona Prototype champion, Jaymz Mynes joined Season Two standout Daniel Graulty and the always quick Mike Kelley as the favorites in the class.
The season would comprise nine races over some of the best virtual race tracks in the world. Highlights of the season would include an enduro at Sebring, the GTC’s first visit to Silverstone and the iRacing road-racing bullring of Barber Motorsports Park. Every race went off smoothly and the grids were full every race. Looking back on this season, no matter where they finished every racer should be justifiably proud of their contribution to one of the best multi-class road-racing seasons ever. The ISRA members put together dozens of videos showcasing the racing and those speak volumes.
After nine hard-fought races Sirois took home the crown in the GT class. He faced stiff opposition from MacLean and Palacio but over the course of the season he took home the most wins with six, earning himself a deserved championship. Sirois’ combination of speed and consistency was unmatched by any other driver and his mistake-free season was impressive to watch. Palacio finished second in the championship followed by MacLean in a close third place. Alex Ulleri and John Middleton impressed with their pace challenging the top three at many tracks this season.
The ST class was tighter with Young and Savoie bringing home three wins apiece. Vincent L’Herbier would join the ST battle with a couple of solid wins mid-season. Russell Kao also joined ISRA mid-season and managed one win. At the end of the season Young took the championship with a comfortable lead over Kao in second and a consistent Dean Ayer in third place. Savoie could only manage fifth in the championship after missing three races.
The GS class championship was one for the record books. Rarely do two drivers so close in pace battle it out over the season and in this case there were three. On many occasions Graulty, Mynes and Kelley qualified literally within thousands of a second of each other. Graulty would start off the season with a bang taking home three successive wins. Determined to fight back, Mynes stepped up his game mid-season with two wins of his own at Spa and Road America. At Barber, Kelley took the victory really closing the gap in the championship as Graulty faltered in fifth. The Watkins Glen Enduro was a big win for Mynes but Graulty came back with a vengeance at Silverstone. Going into the last race Mynes and Graulty were almost neck and neck in the championship with Kelley poised to leapfrog both should they both DNF. At the checkered flag of a dramatic race Mynes took the championship win with a third place finish as Kelley took second and Graulty recorded a DNF. A special mention goes to John Roussetos who took the victory in the GS class at Daytona lifting him to a great fourth position in the championship.
As the sun sets on this season and we look forward to the next, we wonder if it’s possible Season Four could match the drama and excitement of Season Three? We hope it will be, as you say, Epic.