Excitement and anticipation were both high as the WiFiSPARK iRacing NASCAR team prepared for the penultimate round of the 2014 European Stock Car Championship. Staged at the famed Indianapolis motor speedway, (aka The Brickyard) the race was broadcast live, in high definition, on MaxSpeedTV.
The race marked the debut of The Netherlands’ Harm Smit on the team in his orange #29 WiFISPARK Chevrolet SS Gen 6, partnering with 2014 European Stock Car Championship veteran Rick Timmis in the black #55 WiFiSPARK Chevy.
An unfortunate crash-out episode at New Hampshire for the newly augmented WiFISPARK team was followed by a no-show at Pocono Raceway by Timmis, while Smit suffered a critical failure that took the final WiFISPARK car out of the race at the “tricky triangle.” Thus the team headed to the virtual Brickyard with high anticipation and a simple objective: bring the WiFiSPARK team Chevrolets home safely across the fabled yard of bricks.
At the green flag, Smit took the team lead lead running P18 slot with Timmis in 23rd position at the very back of the field. Sadly, Timmis’ #55 Chevy soon began showing signs of overheating due to a tape miss-configuration, forcing an unscheduled pit stop on Lap Six. While Timmis rejoined two laps down and faced the prospects of running the rest of the race from the back of the field, Smit was making good progress, moving up to the number 13 slot.
Running well clear of the field, leaders Pierre Verner and Michael Gocalinsky dominated the race. No sooner had commentator Rudy Cummings uttered the words “green flag racing with no incidents” on Lap 60 when the yellow flag flew as Marcus Hagmann lost control entering the pit road, spun back on to the track and hit the wall on the main front straight. Exiting Turn Four amid the melee, Smit bounced off the wall and spun backwards into pit lane in a cloud of smoke as he tried to limp to the pits for repairs.
Misfortune struck once again for the WiFiSPARK team, as the #29 Chevrolet is damaged beyond repair and cannot complete the race. As the result of Smit’s untimely exit, WiFiSPARK crew chief-in-waiting Gie Slachmuldyers faced a critical call on the strategy for Timmis in the team’s remaining car.
Slachmuldyers decided is to keep the car out for a long run in the latter stages of the race. So Timmis took the opportunity to pit under the yellow flag to take a full tank of fuel and four new tyres; the hope being to make as much progress as possible from his current 23rd place. Two laps down to the leaders, the goal became to successfully bring the car home in the 80 lap race, with 19th place the likely best possible finish.
The final laps of this race were intense, with Verner leading and Gocalinsky closing fast. The lead sim racers diced and tangoed for the win, with Verner working hard to hold-off Gocalinsky’s aggressive challenge.
Gocalinsky finally forged past on the inside to take the lead just two laps from the finish. His tyres degraded, Verner was unable to mount a counter attack. Thus Gocalinskygok took the win by a cat’s whisker from Verner, the pair crossing the finish line over 15 seconds clear of third place finisher Luis Dinis.
Meanwhile, Timmis executed the WiFiSPARK challenge strategy to perfection to bring the #55 car home safe, sound and – under the circumstances – with the best possible finish: P19.
Although team WiFiSPARK clearly need time to settle and become more established, the results for this inaugural outing in the 2014 European Stock Car Championship show they have passion and determination. However, more testing and coordination will be required for the 2015 sim racing season.
Missing from the WiFiSPARK team at the moment is that third driver. Who will take the place behind the wheel of a third Gen 6 Chevy to run the WiFiSPARK team colours for 2015? All eyes will be open across the track as we evaluate drivers’ performance in the final race of the 2014 European Stock Car Championship season on December 20th at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida. You can catch all the action live by subscribing to MaxSpeedTV on YouTube.