A 29 car field of sim racers took to the track on 21 April, 2012 for the sixth round of the Continental Endurance Sports Car Series (CESCS), a 90 minute contest at the picturesque Road America in Elkart Lake, Wisconsin.  The multi-class online racing series features the Ford Mustang FR500S in the GS class and the Mazda MX-5 Cup in the ST class.

Qualifying

The GS and ST classes ran separate 15 minute qualifying sessions with Trace McRae continuing his dominance of the GS class posting a time of 2:28.567 for the pole; more than a second faster than his nearest competitor Oscar Sahlin (2:29.770).  Steve Brown completed the top three in GS.

ST championship leader, and undefeated this season, Aussie James Stevenson did not race opening the door for second in points Giancarlo Lenzi to try to close some of the gap.  Lenzi got off to a good start by taking the ST class pole position with a time of 2:38.162, followed closely by Arthur Chan at 2:38.215 and Flavien Vidal.  The top six in ST would be separated by less than one second.

Race Review

Trace McRae leads the field through Turn 1.

At the drop of the green McRae got the jump on the field and lead into turn 1.  The opening few laps in GS were uneventful with the leaders holding position and McRae slowly extending a lead over the field, but back in the ST class an odd number of GS cars had put pole sitter Lenzi on the outside for the start and Chan gained the ST class lead in turn 1.  The ST class lead became a four way battle between Chan, Lenzi, Vidal, and Ryan Worley.  Vidal would make a few attempts on Lenzi’s position during the opening couple laps including attempting an outside pass at Canada Corner after Lenzi had gone into the grass off the Carousel then defended the inside after the kink.  But a mistake on the brakes put Vidal into the sand and he lost 3rd to Worley.  A lap later Vidal gained back the position when Worley spun exiting turn 8.  On lap 4, Lenzi finally got a good run off the last corner and was able to drive past Chan to take the lead.

Chan decided to visit pit road on lap 6 for his mandatory stop along with Worley and Wes Earick (ST).  The timing would prove fortuitous as shortly after exiting the pits the caution flew for the first time for an incident in turn 1 where Antti Tuominen dropped a tire into the grass exiting the corner and spun hard into the inside wall, bouncing back onto the track.  GS class driver Joseph Ottofaro narrowly squeaked by on the outside, but Jason Bryfogle (ST) was not as lucky as Tuominen’s car continued across in front of him and hard contact is made.  Both drivers would eventually return to the track, but laps down.

Pit road became a beehive of activity as nearly the entire GS field visited pit road along with many ST cars including the top 5 in ST.  McRae had a slow stop, dropping two positions exiting the pits while Steve Brown’s stop jumped him in front of both Sahlin and McRae.  The overall lead, however, would belong to Chan, and GS lead to Ottofaro who had also already made his stop.

As the track went back to green on lap 10 the GS cars swept past the slower ST cars, and it did not take long for the top three in GS before the caution to reassume their positions with Brown, Sahlin, then McRae all taking their turn passing Ottofaro before the field reached turn 5.  Green flag racing was short-lived, however, as on the front stretch Lenzi drifted toward the right side of the track not noticing GS driver Bill Daily was already passing to his inside.  The two made contact and Lenzi spun into the inside wall then across the track collecting fellow ST driver Matthew Reinoehl and GS driver Matt Ferris.  Those still coming up the hill could not see the stopped cars over the rise and a secondary incident added Stephen McPherson (GS), Ayrton Ellis (GS), and Stephane Morien (ST) to the number of cars involved.  Reinoehl, McPherson, and Morien would all be done for the day.

Reinoehl (44, Center) spins-off the front of Ferris while trying to avoid the spinning Lenzi (R).

Going back green on lap 15 the action in ST heats up quickly.  In Turn 1 Vidal swept around the outside of Chan to take the lead of ST, and James Farrugia, Hang Ho Tao, and Ryan Worley went three wide into the braking zone for turn 1 for third with Farrugia also making the outside pass work, coming out ahead and completing a great restart that moved him from sixth to third.  He would not be able to hold the position, though, falling first to Worley in turn 3, then to Tao in Turn 5.

Vidal takes the lead from Chan on the outside while Worley (L), Tao, and Farrugia go three wide for third.

Up in front in GS, McRae got a run on Sahlin through Kettle Bottoms completing the pass at Canada Corner to take second.  A few seconds later, the caution flies for the third time for an incident in the same corner when ST driver John Montoya gets into the back of Ferris.  Daily and Lenzi were added to the pile when Lenzi made contact with Daily — for their second incident together in less than two green flag laps – in a near duplicate incident of Montoya and Ferris. Montoya was done and Ferris called it quits a few laps later.  Lenzi managed to not only continue, but benefitted from the caution and got back onto the lead lap with the help of a wave around.

The green flag waved for the last time on lap 19 and on the back stretch McRae peaks to the inside of leader Steve Brown at Canada Corner and Brown goes wide of the apex giving McRae the room he needs to get fully alongside.  Brown tries to hold on coming up Thunder Valley but McRae completes the pass at the Billy Mitchell Bend to take back the lead.  Two laps later Sahlin takes his shot at Brown, getting a run off the last corner to pull alongside at the line, and complete the pass at the turn 1.  The best battle in GS over the closing laps would be between Brown and Russell Klaesson for third.  Klaesson made a pass at Canada Corner when Brown went wide into the sand on lap 24, but three laps later Klaesson lost momentum after dipping wheels into the beach off the last turn and Brown would get to the inside going into turn 1.  Klaesson fought back on the outside but would finally succumb at turn 3.  With less than 10 minutes to go, Klaesson made an attempt to out-brake Brown at turn 5 but went too deep and lost contact with Brown by the time he drove it back out of the sand.  That would set the podium for GS with McRae winning by 5 seconds, followed by Sahlin, then Brown.

McRae (Left) re-takes the lead from Brown.

In ST, pole-sitter Lenzi was trying hard to work his way back up through the field when on lap 27 his bad day was made complete as he got involved in his third incident of the race, this time when he went to the inside of Farrugia at turn 5 for fourth position.  Farrugia apparently did not see him and turned down to the apex spinning Lenzi who was then hit by Tao.  Lenzi would not return.

Up in the ST lead, Vidal and Chan foght it out for the win from the lap 19 green until the last lap.  Chan made several attempts at passing Vidal with Vidal often defending the inside to force Chan to make the attempt the long way around.  But Chan was unable to complete any of the pass attempts and on the last lap when making another attempt on the outside of turn 1 he finally found the beach and lost contact.  It was Vidal taking the win in ST, followed by Chan, then Worley.

GS Class Podium
1.    Trace McRae (#69 Team Green)
2.    Oscar Sahlin (#84 The Black Rebels)
3.    Steve Brown (#82 Buffalo Wild Wings Bar & Grill)

ST Class Podium
1.    Flavien Vidal (#09)
2.    Arthur Chan (#50)
3.    Ryan Worley (#33 Team Northwest / Wrangler)

Race Statistics
Laps completed (by leader):  31 laps
Cars finishing on lead lap: 15
Overall lap leaders:  Trace McRae, Steve Brown, Stephen McPherson, Arthur Chan
Full-course Cautions: 3
DNF’s: 13
Fastest Lap (GS class): 2:29.078 – Trace McRae
Fastest Lap (ST Class): 2:38.569 – Arthur Chan
Race Marshal: Mike Perry

Championship points after 6 of 10 races:

GS
Trace McRae    210
Oscar Sahlin    -24
Russell Klaesson    -51

ST
James Stevenson    220
Giancarlo Lenzi    -58
Jason Bryfogle    -64

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The CESCS is an official iRacing league which mirrors the Grand-Am Continental Tires Series. It features the Mazda MX-5 Cup competing in Street Touring (ST) and the Ford Mustang FR500S competing in the Grand Sport (GS) class. It was established to provide a proper mixed-class racing experience for drivers of the MX5 and the Mustang beyond what is currently offered and especially to provide a true endurance series for drivers of both vehicles. The schedule aims to replicate the real-world series featuring timed endurance race distances (currently 90 minutes) run at the same tracks as the real series including Daytona, Mid-Ohio and, this season, Indianapolis!

You can follow our races streamed live over the internet through Glacier TV or via our Live Timing & Scoring app. Both links are located on our Schedule page.

For more information on the Continental Endurance Sports Car Series check out the official website: http://www.wix.com/contienduranceseries/cescs

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