The real-world V8 aces again had to contend with the sim racing world’s best in Race Two of Monday night’s iRacing Supercar series at Mid-Ohio. Australian V8 Supercar Series standout Shane Van Gisbergen may have taken pole again with a lap of 1: 23.553, but sim racer Madison Down was breathing down his neck at 1:23.885 with Shay Griffith next and young NZ V8 star Scott McLaughlin squeezing in a qualifying session to slot himself on grid four. Next came George Fullerton, Wayne Harris, Vern Norrgard, Richard Lock, Stuart Wood and Matthew Nethercote.
The start was almost a copy of Race One earlier in the evening. Van Gisbergen led, but by the skin of this teeth Down and McLaughlin were all over him, with Griffith a whisker behind. As Giz defended his line into Turn Two on Lap Two, McLaughlin tried a cheeky move under Down but thought better of it. Behind them, Griffith looped it into the infield, dropping to 12th place.
Down wasted little time in making his move, taking Van Gisbergen under brakes into Turn Four. The Giz fought for it as the tramac switchbacked through the Esses, but eventually Down made it stick.
By Lap Five, Down had pulled out a two second gap, leaving the two real-world V8 warriors Van Gisbergen and McLaughlin to fight it out for second. Norrgard was not too far back in fourth, being kept busy by Fullerton, having a much better race second time around for the evening, while Harris was a couple of seconds behind in the Seeka Falcon.
Griffith was putting on a stirring charge back through the field. He got a run exiting Turn Two and made the move on Nethercote for position eight on Lap Eight. It only took a lap for him to reel in Stuart Wood, who went side-by-side through Turns Two and Three but eventually accepted Griffith’s pace. A lap later Wood gave away ninth place to Nethercote after outbraking himself into Turn Two, but recovered to rejoin the battle for the top ten.
“It was a great battle. He’d pull away in the middle sector but I’d get him back in the last and first sectors.” – George Fullerton
Up front, Down was putting on a “virtual-oso” performance, barely putting a wheel wrong, while stretching his lead to over four seconds by Lap 10. “The Giz” managed to break the shackles of McLaughlin. Fullerton was not being quite so polite to Norrgard, however, harrying the Bigpond driver for fourth place. Fullerton was throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Norrgard, with some spirited sliding through the Esses. “It was a great battle” said Fullerton “He’d pull away in the middle sector but I’d get him back in the last and first sectors. Unfortuately he made one slight error and put a tyre onto the grass. Without an error I don’t think I would have had him.”
Harris was back in fifth but by Lap 19 was set upon by the recovering Griffith, who was ruing his earlier error and what might have been. Griffith made a move into Turn Two but they both crossed up and the resulting contact put Griffith out. It was a sad end to a storming recovery drive.
Meanwhile, up front, the leading pair of Down and Van Gisbergen had pulled out a gap of over fifteen seconds on third placed McLaughlin by Lap 21 even as The Giz whittled the lead down to two seconds. By lap 24 it was 1.5 seconds, and the stage looked set, with some lapped traffic giving The Giz some hope. But Down had done the hard work and Van Gisbergen ran out of laps.
“Shane began reeling me in by a few tenths each lapm,” said Down. “I realised that I’d need to drive near perfect to win the race.”
“Shane began reeling me in by a few tenths each lap. I realised that I’d need to drive near perfect to win the race.” –Madison Down
He did. It was tense stuff, but the sim racing youngster withsood enormous psychological pressure to stave off an experienced real-world racer.
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