Week Seven of the iRacing V8 Supercar Series by Bigpond Sport travelled to the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. The Indy “club” section, with its tight, narrow confines, is a stark contrast to the wide-open, sweeping curves of the forest section. With its dramatic elevation changes and awkward cambers, it would prove to be another tyre-killer.
With less than half the season to run and only three points separating series leader Mitch McLeod from the rapidly closing Madison Down, things were getting tense.
McLeod did what he needed, duly taking pole from Madison Down, by 5/1000ths of a second, the story of the season. Once again, Down was the cat amongst the Nfinity pidgeons, with U’Ren and Broekman third and fourth.
Richard Hamstead was an excellent fifth in his first Monday night top split appearance. Next was Craig Woodhouse, Shay Griffith, Joshua Muggleton, Lewis Dodimead and Richard Lock. Outside the top ten were Cal Whatmore, George Fullerton, Simon Black, Simone Gelli, Marty Atkins, Darrin Vouch, Guy Leach, David Hingston, David Bente and another Split One first timer, Finland’s Roope Turkkila.
Sadly for Griffith, connection issues sidelined him before the green light. McLeod watched his pole position fizzle as Down squeezed through paddock bend into the lead. Broekman, U’Ren and Woodhouse followed from Hamstead, Muggleton and Dodimead.
Muggleton tapped Hampstead into Graham Hill, unloading the newcomer. Muggleton duly spun out of sixth place a lap later exiting Paddock Bend. It halted Muggleton’s impressive performance thus far in the season “Very disappointed this week in myself. I wasn’t there mentally and paid the price.”
Fullerton had made a mother of a start and was up to seventh by lap three, working over the back of Dodimead, until he slipped through to sixth with a demon move into the Druids Hairpin.
Much like the series leaderboard, both Down and McLeod pounded out the early laps nose to tail with a gap opening out back to Broekman in third, who was still followed by Nfinity teammate U’Ren. Behind Woodhouse in fifth and Fullerton sixth were Dodimead and Whatmore. A little further back were Gelli, Vouch, Leach and Lock, ninth back to 12th.
A recovering Hamstead began working over Atkins with some contact through Turn Seven on Lap Four, before sliding past awkwardly at the hairpin a lap later. Atkins was also passed by Bente while unsettled. Atkins returned fire on Bente into the uphill left hander at the end of Cooper Straight unloading Bente out of contention. There were definitely some terse moods going on.
By lap Six U’Ren had squeezed past Broekman but Down and McLeod were already six seconds up the road. Broekman stayed with him and kept eachother occupied as the lead pair extended the gap. Craig Woodhouse was still in fifth, and George Fullerton was a season best sixth, keeping Woodhouse in check. Behind him in seventh and eighth were Dodimead and Whatmore.
Commencing Lap 13 Broekman got a run on U’Ren and passed him into Paddock Bend, U’Ren then tapping him into a half-spin at Druids Hairpin. It was the cardinal sin between teammates, but U’Ren backed off to let Broekman back in front on the run down the hill into Graham Hill. A lap later, Fullerton got past a squirming Woodhouse who had got it all wrong into the uphill left hander, allowing George to drag past him on the long forest section straight. Fullerton now fifth.
Eventually, Dodimead and Whatmore joined the fun. Meanwhile Darrin Vouch spun into the pit entrance wall at the end of Lap 14, and reset a lap down. He had another spin later on at Turn Seven, wondering what ladder he’d walked under.
Gelli was ninth, under pressure from Leach, the red-misted Hamstead and Richard Lock. Hingston was a relatively lonely 13th, ahead of Muggleton, Atkins, Bente and Roope Turkkila staying out of trouble in 17th.
Whatmore nailed Dodimead for seventh lap 17 at the end of long forest section straight, and eventually got past Woodhouse also.
“In the cockpit I was under big pressure” – Madison Down
Up front, Down had pulled out a 2.5 second lead. For McLeod, in terms of the championship, it may as well have been 2 laps, as they closed on the chequered flag. Thus they finished, from Broekman and U’Ren in Fourth. Fullerton and Whatmore fought tooth and nail for fifth on the last lap. Fullerton: “I saw Cal in the mirror with 1 to go…I spun up off the curb and hit the grass (at the penultimate turn). The next corner was ugly, both myself and Cal …driving off into the sand pit.” Whatmore and Fullerton limped home fifth and sixth, George still happy with his season best finish.
Dodimead looked set to claim seventh from Woodhouse who was having all kinds of grip dramas. On the final lap, Woodhouse lost it into the Cooper Straight left hander and collected a helpless Dodimead. Woodhouse continued and finished seventh. but Dodimead crawled home with damage.
Hamstead was next after a charging recovery drive, then Gelli. Lock was tenth from the crabbing Dodimead, Hingston, Atkins, Muggleton and Bente.
Down: : “It looked like an easy race but I can tell you it was far from it. In the cockpit I was under big pressure, any mistake made and I knew that Mitch would’ve beaten me..”. Sure enough, five rounds to go, and Down now leads by 9 points.
While most would be thrilled with second place, McLeod was circumspect as his series lead disappeared. “I worked so hard to get pole this week because I knew how hard it was to pass around here, only to blow it off the line…”
Other split winners from four splits overall were Jay Boving, Stuart Chugg and Sean Carter.
SERIES OVERALL STANDINGS
|32||Stefan Miller||2||Western Canada||570|
|33||Thomas van Bussel||4||Benelux||569|