The midway point of the Lotus 79 Classic Teams Championship saw the drivers taking in the sights from the new venue of Mount Panorama in Australia. After a bruising week for the drivers between Bathurst’s close walls, sixteen drivers took to the grid for the top split of Sunday’s main event. A monster average iRating of 4123 meant the highest points haul of the season so far was awaiting the winner.
In qualifying, Michel Dudognon delivered a near-perfect lap of 1:53.219 to displace the week’s pacesetter Tapani Linnaluoto, the Finn not managing to find the same form in qualifying that he showed in practice. Three tenths behind them came Gernot Fritsche, pipping Lambert at the last moment, while Nuno Moreira was a disappointing sixth behind the other Williams of Andrea Ventura, almost a second off the leading pace.
The cars got away safely from the grid, with several changes on Lap One including Moreira passing Ventura in what would become an increasingly profitable move. The top four cars quickly pulled a gap, maintaining formation until Lap Six when Fritsche took advantage of Dudognon’s slipstream to pass Linnaluoto down Mountain Straight. This had disastrous consequences three laps later when the faster Linnaluoto took the inside line down Conrod Straight in an attempt to re-pass Fritsche. The Williams driver tried to hang on around the outside of the turn 20 kink and lost control, hitting the grass at close to 190mph/305kph and losing little speed before rejoining the track after Turn 21, collecting the unfortunate Linnaluoto and taking him out of the online race.
This promoted Lambert up to second place, pushing hard to catch leader Dudognon he set a blazing fastest lap of the race on Lap 14 of 24, however his eagerness to catch the leader eventually proved his undoing as on Lap 17 he lost the car through the downhill Esses causing race-ending damage.
This allowed Dudognon to cruise to the finish with a comfortable margin over the wounded Fritsche, who in turn finished in front of championship rival Moreira. Ventura came home fourth after being unable to re-take his qualifying position from Moreira, while Christopher M Payne finished an impressive fifth, overtaking Dawid Hyzy, Robert Podgorny and Ben R Chadwick on the way.
In the drivers’ championship the gap between Fritsche and Moreira remains tight, while it looks like Linnaluoto’s challenge has gone up in smoke. Meanwhile there’s a change in the lead for teams’ battle. After a disastrous week for the blue cars, Ligier drop down to second place, with Williams taking the lead. In the battle for third, Moreira’s Renault squad have extended the gap slightly to eleven points over the plucky Brabham team, with Dudognon’s mammoth haul keeping Lotus in the running a further seven points behind.
The second-split farm team also held its sixth racing week of the season at the incredible Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia. There were a large number of drivers participating, with 16 sim-racers forming the second-split race for the Strength-of-Field Sunday series!
The excitement for the Sunday race was high, and the week’s eight warm-up races saw a lot of wrecks and damage. The pit crews worked overtime to repair the cars and ensure they were ready for Sunday.
The podium went to Matt Pawelski (Johansson Ralt team), who led through the whole race and finished with a commanding 25 seconds ahead of Roy Cunningham (Candy Team Tyrrell Canada). Mark Pickford (Charles W Clowes Racing GB) came in third, 43 seconds behind the leader.
Pickford and Sam Boren (Osella Squadra Corse) battled strongly for about five laps, overtaking each other for third place repeatedly. In the end, however, Boren finished fourth with a solid race.
Julio Cesar Hauer (Marlboro Team Alfa Romeo) and Michiel van den Berg (Team ATS) got the crowd excited as they went from their 12th and 13th start positions and finished fifth and seventh respectively, with Marc Dorval (Osella Squadra Corse) splitting them in sixth place.
“I almost had a heart attack”, exclaimed Matt Pawelski, after a surprise spin in the second-to-last lap at the top of the mountain. Fortunately for Matt, he had enough of a lead to get himself back on the course to maintain his position.
Mount Panorama proved to be particular brutal for cars and drivers. Everyone learned a lot during the warm-up races, where half of the field rarely finished the race. This race saw 11 of 16 cars finish, a tribute to the dedication of the drivers in learning this challenging course.
YouTube Video recap:
The next Lotus 79 race series race will be held in Japan’s flowing Suzuka International Race Course. Will Fritsche continue to hold the momentum or will Moreira rekindle his winning form? Find out next week!
Images: Michel Dudognon, Cam Walsh
Video: Mark Campbell, Roy Cunningham