The sixth week for the Classic Team Championship in 2014rought the sim racers to Donington Park, a classic track that arrived one the service one and a half month ago, bringing new challenges and fulfilling the wishes of many. The virtual replica of the famous European race track was probably one of the biggest achievements of iRacing so far, and it was time for the Lotus 79 drivers to officially do their first laps there.
The week had 10 official races, one of them the SoF race with two splits. The week’s winners were Maykel Melis, Alex Saunders, PJ Gaudie, Michel Dudognon, Marcel Penzkofer, Tapani Linnaluoto, David Wormald and Andre Heggheim. Dudognon won three times, one of them coming in the Sunday’s main event, achieving his first victory in a SoF race this season.
But it was no easy job for Dudognon. He had to battle against the best sim racers of the series until the very last corner. This is what happened back at Donington:
The green lights flasher for Dudognon on the pole, followed by Gernot Fritsche, Linnaluoto, Mattias Anreus, Nuno Moreira and Kalle Ruokola, all of whom started on the first three rows of the grid. The top three qualifiers had less than one tenth of second separating them, showing how tough it can be to be the fastest driver of a week on the CTC.
The first turn (Redgate Corner) brought trouble to a few participants, when Penzkofer (P7), James Rawson (P9) and Paolo Accurso (P8) tried to go three wide, with Accurso on the outside making contact with Rawson. The Italian spun and the second half of the field had to dodge his car, even if that meant taking to the grass. Rawson also became an obstacle a few meters down the road, involving other drivers on a crash. Both of them had to retire from the race without even completing one full lap. Marko Kiika (Ferrari) was also damaged on the scene and would soon leave the competition.
Meanwhile, Dudognon jumped to the lead closely followed by Fritsche, Linnaluoto, Anreus, Moreira, Ruokola, Thomson and Penzkofer. It was a good start for the pole sitter, creating a gap to Fritsche who was left to deal with Linnaluoto.
From that point, Linnaluoto mounted a serious challenge for Fritsche for second place. Anreus got a bit behind and wasn’t a threat for the Ferrari representative by then, without having to worry too much about Nuno Moreira, who was very busy Ruokola on the sixth place, glued on his gearbox. Penzkofer had already got past by Thomson.
Over the first half of the race, Dudognon started to suffer from issues stemming from a combination of low ride height and soft springs, as the Lotus 79’s front wing and sidepods were deformed from hitting the ground too many times. But this wouldn’t keep the Walter Wolf Racing representative from pulling out his best lap on the race by Lap 22. Fritsche was still occupied with Linnaluoto as Anreus drew closer to join the fight for P2 while, behind them, Ruokola overtook Moreira for fifth.
The duel between Fritsche and Linnaluoto ended on Lap 31 on a superb move from Linnaluoto who overtook the Lotus JPS at the Chicane. For his part, Fritsche displayed a very sporting attitude, respecting his rival’s maneuver. With Fritsche taken care of, the Ferrari-ist could now charge his after the leader Dudognon, who was still going very fast despite his well-used car. Into the final lap and a drama awaited them as they approached the smoking Tyrrell of Thiago Izequiel (21st) who had suffered engine damage and was looking for a place to park. The leaders went to the finish line separated by 0.353s with the order unchanged. Fritsche finished in the third place ahead of Anreus and Ruokola.
When asked about his duel with Linnaluoto, Dudognon said:
“I did some bad choices with my setup, too low pressure tires and too soft springs. It helped me to have a decent pace during the first laps of the race, but the car started to get damaged by bouncing too much due to the soft springs. Then the tires started to overheat during the last laps. I had to drive carefully to not aggravate the situation while keeping an eye on Tapani’s gap which was decreasing like snow under the sun, not sure I could have hold him another lap.”
On the second split, Andre Heggheim won the race after starting on sixth place. Ryan Littlemore, who had the pole, came in second and PJ Gaudie finished third.
Coming next: Mid Ohio! Stay tuned.