Back-to-back wins for the Evolution Racing Australia Holden of Ian Ford has thrown the official iRacing.com V8 Supercar Series championship wide open. Following his first win of the season last week at Oulton Park, Ford continued his recent return to good form with a strong victory at the famous Mt Panorama, Bathurst Circuit, home to this week’s Road Warrior Bathurst 1000.
Inviting weather welcomed the full field to Round Four of the championship, with the welcoming of new drivers as well as the return of some familiar faces in what is the flagship of V8 Supercar venues.
Ford yet again showed he was the master of the one lap dash at The Mountain with a highly committed lap in the twelve minute session. His time of 2:05.420 proved to be the fastest of the session, just under two tenths of a second in front of known fast starter, Beau Cattell in what was a welcome return to the series. Dayco team mates Sam Sutton and Jake Maloney filled the second row of the grid in front of a returning Aaron Hamilton. The qualifying was relatively tight throughout and the potential of a fast race was on the cards with the favourable weather.
A great start by Ford in his newly-liveried Logitech Holden enabled the pole winner to easily lead the field to the first turn, Hell Corner. A clean race unfolded in his wake, which would ultimately set-up some great battles throughout the field during the entirety of the 33 lap event.
A great save by Corey Preston into Griffens Bend (turn two), had the hearts racing, but upon the field settling down it was clear that a vigorous three way battle involving Ford, Cattell and Sutton was about to take place. The three cars were never more than one and a half seconds apart until Sutton pitted on lap 12 to try and make the most of the undercut possibly available with new tyres. This was a crucial decision, one that did not pay dividends as Sutton’s quicker car was held up badly, but fairly, by Mario Vlasic, who had yet to pit. Sutton lost considerable time for the half a lap that he was stuck behind Vlasic’s car number 18. Over the top of Skyline, to the entry of The Dipper, Sutton tapped Vlasic’s rear bumper car, turning the European’s car and precipitating a shunt that would ultimately cause considerable damage. This incident also caused Sutton to straight-line The Esses where he received a slowdown as a result of the incident. This would have major implications to the results, as Sutton eventually finished second in the race to the chequered flag after coming within three second of the race winner Ford during the mid – later stages of the race.
The following lap (13) saw Cattel’s pit stop. A known fuel saver, Cattel had a quick stop putting him in a strong position to challenge Ford at the conclusion of the leader’s pit stop on lap 15. Upon the Logitech exiting the pits, Cattell’s car was also exiting Hell Corner and would have put himself in a realistic position to have a great run on the ERA entry up Mountain straight. However, Cattel got on the power too early on the exit, putting the car into a full spin. The time and the position loss dropped Cattell into the chasing pack where he, Aaron Hamilton and Jake Maloney maintained a tight, exciting race throughout to the flag.
Hamilton drove an adventurous race, firstly getting involved in an incident at The Chase with James McKnight where — after making light contact – both sim racers made great saves to keep themselves in the race. Hamilton, driving at his favourite track, would eventually pick-up his first podium position (third) in the Maverick Welding car.
The field was tight during the entire race and great battles ensued as the laps ticked-by. In the mid-pack the cars of Burdon, Preston and Sim Spec’s Jason Dickson had an exciting tussle. Eventually Burdon’s GT Omega car came out on top after Dickson’s Falcon ran out of in the closing laps and a chasing Preston was disqualified for exceeding the incident count . . . on the approach to the last corner!
Nor did the drama end there. After coming up short on his refuelling, Ford had to drop his lap times in an effort to save fuel, bringing Sutton within a challenging position. With the fuel saving completed and new tyres to use, however, Ford drove away from Sutton to win by a convincing nine second margin.
So with two wins from Ford, and the absence of the previous series leader Ethan Grigg-Gault at The Mountain, the series lead has changed. However, with the likelihood that Ford will be absent due to personal commitments at the next round of Lime Rock Park, the championship will no doubt turn again.