A Question of Balance
June 30th, 2010 by DavidP
After missing race six of the 2010 iRacing World Tour (the Indianapolis 500) due to me actually attending the real thing for work I managed to make Race Seven (aka the iRacing.com Road America 200) having had enough practice to where I felt I could at least handle myself around Road America in a Class B Impala SS. I knew this was going to be a race of attrition and figured it best to stay within my limits as much as possible.
Before the event I had run two practices and one qualifying, setting a best lap of 2:18.411. After the server hiccup forced the race to be postponed for an hour I found myself able to improve in a second qualifying, setting a 2:17.232. It seemed obvious that because I was still gaining such huge amounts, I was leaving a lot of time on the table. Richard Towler (probably one of the best sim racers of all-time) happened to be in the same second qualifying and set a 2:09! Still, not too disappointed to be that far behind someone like him on a track this long and with a car and setup that felt so tough to turn.
Our race start was very clean and I made a good one from tenth, holding position into Turn One. Over the course of the lap people slid off ahead of me and I crossed the line to begin lap two in sixth-place. I grabbed fifth-place from Ian Seely on lap two when he ran off-track in Turn Eight.
After lapping consistently for a few laps I ran wide in turn one. I suffered no damage but dropped down to sixth, a position I would shortly gain back when Brian Harford left the track, gifting me fifth-place once again.
On lap seven I ran wide in Turn One once again and lost control when trying to rejoin the race track. I hit the wall with the left-front and severly damaged the handling of the car on right-hand turns. At a clockwise track like Road America I really was not happy I’d put myself in this situation with 43 laps remaining.
By lap 16 I had settled in and dropped back to 13th-place. My cars handling was very difficult to predict and I decided to pit, dropping down to 16th.
Attrition of those ahead of me had allowed me to climb to tenth by lap 33 and really at this stage I was delighted to still be within sight of a top-ten. Entering Turn Eight I was inspecting my fuel usage and completely missed my braking point… I slid into the turn and slammed the barrier, damaging the right-front and getting stuck in the barrier. I had to get a tow back to the pit lane and lost a whole lap on the leader, eventually rejoining the track in 12th.
After a few laps I discovered that the second contact had almost balanced out the handling of my car. I began to push hard and found myself quickly catching cars ahead of me. I unlapped fourth-place on lap 34 and on lap 35 moved into 11th-place when Jacques Richard pitted ahead of me.
After a small mistake on lap 38 which cost me a bit of time, I noticed fifth-place Riku Roiha coming up to lap me. I pulled off-track to let him by but immediately noticed I was capable of lapping the same pace as him so basically used him to try to improve my consistency. Later that lap I gained tenth-place when Michael Yoda retired.
On lap 48 I still had Riku right ahead of me and although I had given him plenty of room he reacted in a big way to a spin ahead of him. This produced a scary moment for me where I had to avoid smashing into Riku under braking. The next lap Greg Dukowitz, who was trying to cope with a damaged car, ran off-track in the final turn, allowing me to pass him and move into ninth, which is where I would finish.
The race took me two hours and almost four minutes. I had a whopping 18 incidents, most of them while trying to lap with my ill-handling car. However, because it was such a long race I only lost a minuscule 0.02 safety rating. My fastest lap came on lap three and was a 2:16.973. Before this race, I had never enjoyed the stock cars on the road courses, when the late model goes to Lime Rock I instantly balk at the prospect of racing it… This has probably changed my mind as by the end of the race I felt pretty comfortable out there and felt competitive. But, as always, too little – too late. I should probably try doing some testing, lots of it, before the next race.