In a fitting end to a chaotic race, Stanaway muscled past Ruggier on the last lap at VIR to claim the win.

Round 5 of the iRacing.com V8 Supercar Series headed to Virginia International Raceway.  It has been a few seasons since the drivers took to VIR and the sim-racers would have to re-acquaint themselves with the full 5.2 km circuit consisting of 17 corners.

Qualifying was lead by Madison Down who posted a very impressive lap of 1:48.159 which was two tenths quicker than fellow-front row sitter Justin Ruggier while Josh Muggleton and Richard Hamstead occupied the second row of the grid. Shaun Kelly and Richie Stanaway would start from the third row with Adrian Stratford and Troy Cox on the fourth row and Vail Riches and Leigh Day rounding-out the top 10 starters.
When the lights went green Down went nowhere, causing a massive start line pile up.  By the time Down realised he had forgotten to put the car into gear it was all too late.  Teammate Muggleton tried to take evasive action but clipped Down, sending him sideways as a bevy of drivers took to the grass to avoid the accident.   Not so Kelly, who found himself upside down, while a lot of other drivers suffered at least some damage.

iRacing’s Eye in the Sky captures the start-line melee.

After all the virtual dust settled, Ruggier had taken the lead from Hamstead and Stanaway.  One of the biggest movers on the opening lap was Scott McLaughlin, who found himself in P9 at the end of Lap One after starting a distant twenty-first.

Hamstead was the first driver to come call on pit lane who wasn’t involved in the start-line chaos.  As he was being serviced the race took an interesting turn when Leigh Ellis slightly out-braked himself down into Turn One whilst trying to get around Matthew Barron and McLaughlin in the same move.   Even though he has far enough up the inside, Ellis had a little too much speed and made wheel-to-wheel contact, spun around and heavily damaged the rear of McLaughlin’s Ford.  Both drivers continued on but coming through The Esses, Hamstead came upon McLauglin’s hobbled car and — evidently — didn’t recognize its slow pace.  The resulting contact fired the beleaguered McLaughlin off into the wall, further damaging his car.

Hamstead v McLaughlin Act I

Back up front Ruggier and Stanaway’s battle for the lead was currently at a stalemate with both drivers trading fast lap times each lap while Cox and Day moved into the top four ahead of with Marlon McMullen.   Lap Nine saw Cox come into the lane to fill-up in preparation for the run home, which moved Day into third place.   At the end of Lap 12 ANZ’s Ruggier and Day made the call to pit, with Ruggier coming out just ahead of Hamstead and Day returning to the track alongside of Cox.   Cox would prevail, getting the job done by holding the outside through Turn One while put him on inside line into the next corner.

Four laps later McLaughlin exited the lane right in front of Hamstead and Ruggier.  McLaughlin would let Ruggier through on the approach to Turn Four but Hamstead wasn’t as lucky as McLaughlin escorting him off the road and out of the battle for the lead.  Unfortunately things wouldn’t end there.  Hamstead was now driving with a little bit of steering damage and, by Lap 18, in a battle for the final podium spot with Cox and Day.  Coming into the same turn (four) an ill-considered move by Hamstead saw him pull to the left and ram the back of McLaughlin (again) sending him off the road and unfortunately right into the back of Cox.  While Cox headed to the pits with heavy damage, McLaughlin retaliated half a lap later, when he cut the track at the end of the back straight to take himself and Hamstead out of the race.

Hamstead v McLauglin Act II. Act III ended in retirement for both.

Stanaway pitted at the end of a memorable Lap 18, and came out right behind Ruggier.  The battle for the win was now joined with Day sitting in third place and McMullen now up into fourth with Tony Autridge now up to fifth.

On the final lap, Stanaway outbraked himself at the end of the backstraight and hit the back of Ruggier sending the race leader around.  The incident gave Stanaway the race win and left Ruggier to wonder what he has to do to get a victory this season after dominating the race.   In contrast, a career best for Day saw him finish on the third step of the podium with Marlon McMullen and Autridge also enjoying career best finishes in fourth and fifth having a career. Robert Hartley would came home sixth place ahead of Michael Fabian, while Richard Hunter, Marty Atkins and Matthew Barron dodged the online racing carnage to grab top 10s and score some much-needed points.

Top Five Drivers – Championship Points – Overall
1.    Justin Ruggier –1248
2.    Josh Muggleton – 1112
3.    Leigh Day –1005
4.    Madison Down – 970
5.    Marlon McMullen – 912

Split Two Winner: James McKnight
Split Three Winner: Paul Gorrell
Split Four Winner: Nikora Terrill

Broadcast done by the crew at www.v8sonline.com.au

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