In all police TV shows they will tell you, “there’s an easy way, or there’s the hard way.” Round 8 for the iRacing v8 Supercar Series saw Ethan Grigg-Gault do it the hard way to earn his fifth win of the season.
A full field of 25 cars sat in their pit bays waiting for qualifying to begin, in what would be a pivotal race of the season. The track’s long. fast layout ensured that competitors who would be able to make the most of any slipstream from a car in front would benefit greatly over the course of a lap. After what seemed like a short twelve minutes the field was tight at the top. The pole position again went to the one lap shootout specialist Ian Ford with a time of 1:49.320, just the 11 one thousandths of a second in front of the series leader Ethan Grigg Gault. Beau Cubis in the SDC Motorsports car was third, just ahead of the Whey of Life Commodore of Marcello Rivera in a season high fourth.
42 degree track temperatures with a strong northerly wind made the track just that much more difficult for the sim racers who had 38 hard laps in front of them with restricted fuel that would ensure a pit stop would be needed. A great jump off the line by Rivera had the leaders three wide entering the first chicane. Ford backed-out of what could have been a big incident, ensuring that Grigg-Gault, Rivera and Ford led the pack through in what was an incident-free first lap.
The continued bad luck of two of the better V8 drivers had their trend continue for the season. Michael Cracknell, who has been in his own words “struggling” to get the car to the finish crashed out on lap 2 at the exit of Turn Five (della Roggia) and after a recent bout of sickness Beau Cattell had timing issues where from sixth position due to lag issues had a lap time not count and put him an automatic lap behind, resulting in both cars yet again, not being able to finish.
The race was turned on its head on Lap 7. Grigg-Gault and second place in the series Ford collided lightly on the exit of della Roggia causing the SDC car to be passed by team mate Beau Cubis and Ben Smith’s Demidov Innovations entry. The Evolution Racing Australia 1-2-3 wouldn’t last long however, as Rivera would soon make a mistake on the exit of Ascari with the resulting slight aero damage would restricting his opportunities to challenge as the race went on.
The battle for the top five started to settle, pulling a gap on the sixth place car of Corey Preston, doing an outstanding job in the Apexi Racing Ford Falcon for what would turn out to be his highest finish for the season.
With the pit window opening for the enduro both Grigg-Gault and Ford pitted at the same time. With a pit stop 1.7 seconds faster than Ford, Grigg-Gault produced a sensational out lap that enabled him to break the draft of the trailing car and. with a succession of quick laps, he was able to produce what would ultimately be a winning gap.
The trailing pack, including David Moore and Mitchell McLeod in the 4Motorsports entry had a tight race throughout. Moore, with the new alliance of SR to ANZ racing after a strong qualifying, had a strong race with Matt Stratford and Jake Burton in the Dayco entry. The racing for this group continued throughout the race.
Another great battle with Greg Sharp, TTR’s Michael Healey and Dale Neish was also raging from go to woah with the competitors turning consistent fast times and often running two or three wide without any major incidents. The Healey car sustained damage on the exit of Turn One and Two (Rettifilo) but McLeod was able to keep his car pointing in the right direction where, through good race craft, he kept his car competitive despite the aero damage.
With just the three laps to go, Grigg Gault was comfortable ahead by about five seconds. However, ex-team mates Cubis and Ford were turning up the heat for second position. With the one lap remaining, Ford, braked too deep into Rettifilo) and tapped the rear of the Cubis car, causing it to be unbalanced on the exit. Ford capitilising on the moment as he overtook Cubis who then returned the favour into turn four where Cubis and Ford spun after the contact. Smith and Rivera made the most of their opportunities as they passed both Cubis and Ford in the last half of the last lap. With Ford still a mathematical chance of taking the title, the ERA drivers formed a formation finish to allow the struggling Ford through to what was a well-deserved second place ahead of a giving Smith and Rivera. Cubis, with slight damage was able to bring his car home in fifth place.
Next week the series moves back to the USA at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. A real drivers track with some technical corners, including the famous Corkscrew, Laguna should produce a close race in Round 9 of the championship.