Season 4/2015 for iRacing’s official V8 Supercar Championship kicked-off at the U.K.’s challenging Donington Park, where 30 laps of driver-friendly conditions stood between the green lights and the chequered flag.
Last season’s champion SDC Motorsports Ethan Grigg-Gault made a return to defend his hard-fought title win in front of some new names in the top split, all of whom had previously pressed hard to make a claim for the coveted winner’s trophy. With the introduction of sponsorship from iRacing.com and with live race feeds with RacespotTV the drivers and teams entered their respective splits with high anticipation.
Ian Ford dominated the one lap challenge last season, and with the introduction of the dynamic tracks to the iRacing servers it became every more important to snare the highest grid position available before the rubber marbles materialized off the racing line.
With a time of 1:05.734 Ford again showed he was the master of the one lap dash in the twelve minute qualifying session. Ford has somehow been able to extract the most out of his car for that one lap journey; however, defending series champion Grigg-Gault proved none of his skill or prowess had disappeared in the off-season by holding onto second grid position, just .14s off the pole position. SC team mates Beau Cubis, a previous series winner, and Jason Dickson secured third and fourth on the grid respectively with Sam Sutton and the ever improving Brett Cananzi, in his debut main SOF appearance rounding-out Row Three.
A maximum field of 25 sim racers upped the revs as the lights came on. Upon the green light Ford and Grigg made very controlled starts, holding position; however, behind them the same thing could not be said on the exit of turn one (Redgate) to turn two (Hollywood).
Dickson, going wide, slightly off the track returned onto the conventional race surface at a comparable pace to the field; however, upon returning he tagged the left rear quarter of Cananzi, sending him off course. As was the case with Dickson, Cananzi too tried to return to the track but with different resuts. A major crash developed, involving six cars, as the field was spread on and off the track. Several cars were severely damaged, including the Holden of Mitch McLeod who, for the past two races (the last round last season at Bathurst and now Donnington), has gotten caught-up in another person’s incident. The 4Motorsports entry suffered race-ending damage, as was the case with the SDC car of Marty Carroll who suffered serious damage, causing the loss of three laps in repairs.
It wasn’t the debut that Cananzi wanted no doubt, but with his pace he still battled on to to finish his first race (albeit with a highly compromised/damaged car) in 16th place.
Immediately following the major crash, an unrelated incident occurred at McLeans Bend causing race ending damage to Michael Fulcher’s car in what proved to be his short-lived return to the official series.
Up the front however, the leading duo of Ford and Grigg again showed their early lap pace was too much for the chasing field. Lap 4 produced the decisive move: Ford, just braking that fraction too late into the final chicane, Goddards, lost his momentum and exit speed, opening the door for Grigg – Gault to mount a successful passing move into turn one.
After the disaster of round one last season where he experienced multiple disconnects, Ford enjoyed an uneventful run to second place – a dramatic improvement for the busy Ford, who not only runs in this series but a number of hosted series and the Blancpain GT3 Endurance Championship.
An incident involving the Whey of Life car of James Keene at turn seven, McLeans, brought excitement to the race. After starting from 23rd on the grid, Keene had steadily worked his way through the field into ninth position where he was under constant attack from the JFF car of GT1 specialist Jason Bence. Keene held-off the hard racing Bence for a number of laps before contact between the two caused a spin for Keene and a loss of three positions. Considering that neither of them had any track time for the preceding week, both should have been happy with their results.
At the front however, with Grigg steadily pulling to what would eventually be a six second winning margin over Ford. Behind them, Cubis and Sutton battled at an arm’s length throughout, with the Dayco car on occasions just doing enough to worry Cubis without making a serious challenge, whilst Wayne Bourke carried off an excellent result to complete the top five finishers.
With new names into the top split like Cananzi, Brenton Hobson and Andy Carey (tenth in Round One) making their debuts, no doubt the series will continue on its path of going from strength to strength. With the new names, some drivers swapping teams (including Matt Stratford moving from 4Motorsports) and of course, the older faces mounting their challenges, the season promises to be a great one.