In an exciting round of iRacing.com V8 Supercars action, Week 8 of Season 3 saw the return of the 2014 Season 2 championship contender, Jarrad Filsell of ANZ Motorsports, light up the event. Additionally, it was also a chance for the V8 community to put their sim-racing skills to the test as the series tackled the newly added Donington Park Racing Circuit.
Though it was received with generally positive feedback, many drivers commented on the issue of understeer and the track’s slick conditions which only compounded the already difficult to drive Ford Falcon. Still, after days of practice, testing and some tweaks to their setups, the drivers arrived ready to (in the words of Mark Larkham) “release the geese” for the weekly Strength of Field (SoF) race.
Making his return with a heavy foot on the throttle, Filsell made his intentions known early as he took pole position with a time of 1:28.553. Starting beside him was Beau Cubis of Hi-Tec Sim Racing. Last week’s winner, Tony Autridge of Trans-Tasman Racing (TTR) began in third alongside Corey Preston of Kamikaze Race Team (KRT). With fifth place on the starting grid taken by Michael Fulcher, the top-five was separated by a mere .4 seconds.
Lined up on Wheatcroft Straight, the field of 20 cars roared to life as the lights turned green to begin the 35 lap online race.
The field progressed through Redgate and the Craner Curves without incident but the clean racing didn’t last for long. Justin Allen of Synergy Sim Racing misjudged the Craner Curves and braked too late to make it into the Old Hairpin cleanly. As a result, Allen took the scenic route through the grass and sand as he re-entered the track just before Starkey’s Bridge. The error was costly for Allen, however, as he found himself in last place after starting in fifteenth.
There were several movers and shakers during the race but one who many had their eyes on was Beau Cattell. After not posting a qualifying time, Cattell started in nineteenth. Following a brief off-track incident on Lap One, Cattell definitely had his work cut out. Needless to say, however, he made it look easy. Cutting through the field, Cattell was a man on a mission as he completed the race just outside of the top-five by finishing in sixth.
Another heavy mover was 2014 International Nissan GT Academy runner-up, Josh Muggleton. Also not posting a qualifying time, Muggleton started in eighteenth and found himself in twelfth after the first lap. Talk about being a mover! Muggleton would push on to finish in tenth after a hard charge though the field.
With battles erupting all over the field as each driver looked to take as much ground as they could, the action up front was no different. Although Filsell said Goodbye early on and left the field several seconds behind, the race for the podium was in full swing. Fulcher and Autridge went at it particularly hard as Fulcher looked to surpass third position, his highest finish of the season to date.
Things appeared to be coming to a head on Lap 27 between the two drivers as Fulcher, still trailing Autridge, made an almighty dive down the inside on Melbourne Hairpin. However, Fulcher braked too late and overshot the apex which allowed Autridge to perform a crossover as he maintained the proper racing line.
It wasn’t over for Fulcher, however, as the two headed towards Goddards. Attempting to hold the inside line, Autridge dropped down to clip the apex but Fulcher was able to squeeze the nose of his Falcon inside just as the two reached the apex. They exited turn side-by-side before Fulcher, in an attempt to use of much road as possible to maximize grip, briefly came together with Autridge entering Wheatcroft Straight.
The contact shook Autridge just enough to give Fulcher the advantage on the straight . . . but not by much. Still side-by-side, the two entered Redgate and only reverted to single-file as they approached the Craner Curves. Fulcher went at Autridge one last time again at Melbourne Hairpin and this time kept Autridge on the outside of the turn. However, as they approached Goddards again, Autridge’s track position put him on the inside, giving him the advantage heading into Wheatcroft Straight. Able to maintain a slight lead over Fulcher, Autridge popped out in front at Redgate at the start of the next lap.
Leading the field with no challengers in sight, Filsell completed his dominance of the online race leading 33 of the 35 laps, setting fastest lap (1:29.547) and crossing the line with almost an 11 second margin.
Although Fulcher remained glued to Autridge’s back bumper for the remainder of the race, he wasn’t able to complete the pass. Theirs was the race to watch for the closing laps of the event, however, as Autridge took second place with Fulcher completing the podium.
Ian Ford of Demidov Motorsports had a positive run of his own as he finished fourth after starting in ninth. SDC Motorsports driver, Martin Carroll, had a bit of a quiet race towards the end as he was over five seconds away from his closest competitor. Still, Carroll went on to complete the top-five after starting in eighth.
This Australian SoF race had a strength of 3674 and was split three times. The top-five finishers from the other splits are as follows:
Split 2/SoF 1912
1- Todd Parkes
2- Sam Compton
3- Paul Gorrell
4- David Baxter
5- Daniel Benfield
Split 3/SoF 1158
1- Spud Gibson
2- Matt Lopino
3- Liam Wild
4- Jason Cossey
5- Joshua Sawtell
With Mitchell McLeod absent this week, his championship lead dwindles as Beau Cubis takes the lead with 1633 points. Autridge (1547) moves up to second followed by Fulcher (1432) who has advanced to third. Fourth is the current location for McLeod (1416) with Curtis Chippeway still holding onto fifth with 1308.
With three of the four final weeks of Season 3 being held on Australian home turf for the V8 Supercars Series, Week 9 takes us to the legendary Oran Park Raceway. Already under attack in the practice sessions by many drivers, Oran Park is currently being rattled by Dean O’Brien as he set the V8 Supercars World Record lap time (as of September 24, 2014) with a 1:04.228 during a practice session. Still, judging by the close proximity of the lap times coming in, it only goes to show that Week 9 will be a race to watch. As is customary at this historic track, the battles will be tough for 34 laps and we’ll be sure to witness some great racing.
As we approach the conclusion of Season 3 as well, many drivers are well aware the winner of this week’s SoF race could very well be the final official race winner at Oran Park with the current car model. Indeed, the new Car of the Future (slated for a Season 4 release) will usher in some of the most groundbreaking changes in the history of the online series.
All in all, Week 8 of the 2014 Season 3 iRacing.com V8 Supercars Series will not be a race you’ll want to miss.