The iRacing Grand Prix Series headed to Northern Europe for Round 8 of the season. One of the (if not THE) most historic and well known tracks in Britain was the destination: Silverstone Grand Prix circuit. The track was a fitting one for the series to end its journey of Europe before heading back to Central America for the final leg of the season.
Jorge Montanes took pole position with a 1.18.126; Mack Bakkum was just under two tenths behind starting the race from second position. 21 drivers turned out for the race, the majority of whom are still in the battle to claim a Pro license.
The start of the race was fairly hectic – only for fifth down to ninth though – they were four wide as Copse approached for the first time! Riku Alatalo got an absolute flyer of a get-away which moved him up four spots in the space of a few hundred metres; more importantly for Bakkum at the head of the field, he passed Montanes as they headed in to Maggots for the first time which gave him the much needed clear air to try to pull out a gap. The first turn wasn’t without incident though: Fabio Gonzales got ploughed from behind which ended the Mivano driver’s race prematurely, capping an underwhelming week for the German’s quick pace.
However, even more casualties were in store on Lap One. Peter Berryman and Diogo Oliveira had a coming together exiting Abbey; I use the term “coming together” very loosely considering there was at least a one metre gap between their two cars. Berryman’s ended on the spot and I’m sure the Apex Racing UK driver wasn’t best pleased as netcode played a part once again.
What has been clear from the week at Silverstone is that dirty air really plays into the hands of driver at the head of a queue, making it much easier to defend once a gap of .5s is established; this was shown especially by Ricardo Torres’ and Alatalo’s battle on track. It took the Finn – who definitely seemed quicker – 10 laps before he could even break down the gap to create a passing opportunity, which he he took with both hands. After having an initial passing move squandered around Maggots and Becketts he ensured he had the better run off Chapel to then make the move around the outside of Stowe. It was a nicely executed passing manoeuvre to say the least. To rub salt in the wound of Torres, he got loose exiting Stowe losing another two places, but was fortunate enough to catch the spin before he fully rotated.
Maarten van Loozenoord had an intriguing moment on Lap 13 . . . the Mivano Academy driver pulled off a 360 degrees spin without hitting the barrier on the exit of Chapel. Although what he did was quite pleasing to the eye, I’m sure he’d be kicking himself inside for losing touch with the group ahead, and gifting Jon Oncala with a “freebie.”
Torres certainly had a race to forget, especially after it started so well! The Portuguese national planted himself in the inside tire barrier on the exit of Stowe. He over ran the exit, which then had him slightly tapping the grass which set his car all off balance and, ultimately, hard in to the barrier.
Oncala was the first of the front runners to take the dive in to pit road, with ducking out of his slipstream to remain on track another lap. If history was any barometer, Loozenoord would win the battle of the pit stops considering the overcut is the strategy which tends to work. Loozenoord managed to get one more lap out of his tank than his competitor, knowing his “in lap” could be the one to jump Oncala.
As the Dutchman entered the pits he would have just caught a glimpse of the top two (Bakkum and Montanes) exiting and being on their way to the flag; and at current time it looked like Bakkum had it all to lose considering the gap he’d built. What Oncala would be hoping for is that he had done enough to keep his position, and he just about had . . . only by the skin of his teeth though!
What had been a race had begun turning in to more of a precession come Lap 30. The closest competition was to be found from fifth down to ninth, but none of the drivers were able to make anything happen; even Loozenoord who was certainly the quickest of this pack couldn’t do it. This shouldn’t discredit Oncala’s performance: he was doing everything right, placing his car correctly and taking ideal lines to make sure he kept his top five position.
If I wanted to report on anything for the last 10 laps, I quite literally couldn’t . . . nothing happened, either dirty air’s too strong or I’m being oblivious to something! Until the final lap that is, and it was definitely a final lap worth waiting for . . .
Loozenoord had been stuck behind Oncala for 25+ laps and had been trying to regain that fifth position ever since he’d lost it, and he just happened to be able to make something happen come the last six corners. Talk about better late than never! Oncala, knew his fellow competitor would be trying right until the death to get past, so he didn’t make it easy. Nevertheless, Loozenord managed to eclipse his defense right at the very end, elbeit with a small mistake from the Spaniard which enabled him to get close enough to make a pass. On the exit of Abbey the Dutchman placed his Williams-Toyota FW31 in an ideal position to get the undercut as they came under Bridge and into the final section of the track, this meant holding it around the outside of Priory and Brooklands! Much to everyone’s surprise, Mivano’s Academy driver was able to keep his car placed on the outside taking just enough speed so that Oncala couldn’t shut the door before Luffield . . . but it wasn’t over until they they tried to out-drag each other coming past Woodcote to the chequered flag, Loozenoord left it late but beat his rival by a mere .02s! What had been a defensive masterclass by Oncala was finally breached by a brilliant overtake.
Whilst this was all occurring Bakkum crossed the line to take victory from Montanes and Alatalo, whilst Oliveira came home a very respectable fourth ahead of Loozenoord and Oncala
Next week the series heads back over the Atlantic to Texas; where the Circuit of the Americas awaits. Like marmite, COTA is a track you either love or hate . . . then again, I’m sort of in the middle so it’s not quite like marmite for some. Nonetheless, with COTA being a real life Formula 1 track, the drivers know what they’re taking on, secure in the knowledge it won’t be an easy task!
You can watch the Apex Racing TV Broadcast of the race here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRIBr6n8bKM