In a tale of two races at Lime Rock Park, Wyatt Gooden clinched iRacing’s inaugural VW Jetta Championship, and he’s now within touching distance of a full season’s drive in the 2010 SCCA Volkswagen Jetta TDI Series. The Ohioan claimed his crown with a mere seven points margin over the ever present Carl Modoff, as the pair traded wins across two legs of racing.
The first race of the weekend proved to be academic for Gooden. Starting from pole position, the Ohioan extended his lead to several seconds over Modoff by the half-way point of the race, and cruised to a faultless victory; something respectfully acknowledged by Club West’s Modoff post-race.
“Wyatt drove great. He got a good start and ran fast the whole race. I was making mistakes and had nothing for him”
With 228 points in the hat for Gooden, Modoff’s only hope of taking the championship was to finish higher than the series leader and gain at least 233 points for his efforts in the ‘feature’ race. Having gained some insight into the challenging Lime Rock circuit after the first race, and realizing only a victory would be good enough, Modoff headed into the finale like a man possessed. Starting from second again, behind Gooden, he was on the attack from the outset and pressured the ‘would be’ champion through Big Bend on the opening lap. Heading into Lime Rock’s only left hand corner, Modoff took the wide outside line, setting up his No.5 car for the inside of Turn Four.
“I was a little more confident as I had figured out how to take Turn One and the last corner better,” an exhausted Modoff offered after the big race. “On the start I got a good launch off the line that put me at Wyatt’s rear bumper so he could use the full track into the first turn. So coming out of Turn One I had a bit of a run on him but he had the inside blocked. So I went around the outside knowing that if I could just hold on, the next corner was a right and I’d have the advantage. It worked perfectly and Wyatt also dropped a wheel allowing a few cars to get by him.”
In fact, Gooden lost five spots over the ensuing corners, as Curtis Fung, Ben Anderson, Tim Rescinitini and Chris Damron Jnr, all capitalised on the now leader’s pass.
“Just when I thought I had it in the bag, the first lap of the feature race added another dramatic twist to the championship leaving me unsure as to who was actually going to win,” Gooden shared after the weekend’s events. “Carl made a great outside pass through Turns Three and Four, and when I went to slot back behind him our cars oddly stuck together and I had to turn hard left to avoid turning him around. I lost momentum coming out of Turn Four, going onto the backstraight and uphill, getting moved back to seventh or eighth by what seemed like an endless train of cars on the preferred line.”
It took a few laps for Gooden to recompose himself but, by the time the sixth lap had started, he was moving back up the field with a pass on Damon Jnr for fifth. By Lap Fifteen, he was into fourth after out-braking fledgling iRacer, Tim Resciniti into Turn One.
Resciniti holds the quirky record of the most laps raced in the VW Jetta series and, on the strength of Sunday’s performance, looks set to be a name to watch out for in the future.
“I was running as high as fourth after Wyatt (Gooden) lost momentum on Lap One. He ended-up catching back-up and I let him by so not to lose time fighting him and let Chris Modiano catch up,” the Pennsylvanian explained after thirty-one laps of the Connecticut circuit.
Once in fourth, Gooden gave all he had to offer to catch the leading trio of Modoff, Fung and Anderson who were three seconds ahead and had stayed coupled to each other like freight train carriages, lap after lap, after lap. The tenacious Fung showed no favoritism, as he relentlessly hassled and harangued the lead car throughout the thirty minutes of racing.
For his part, Modoff had to use all his guile to fend off the Canadian to take the win.
“I had Curtis right on me keeping the pressure on for every corner, so I was glad I was able to hold him off until the checkered flag..
On the drop of the flag, Modoff had claimed his thirteenth victory of the VW Jetta TDI Cup. However, a check of the points collected left him seven points shy of his 233 target, awarding the title to Gooden.
Modoff may count himself unfortunate, as the conspicuous absence of two championship challengers dented the possible amount of points to be awarded, something the Las Vegas resident is not unaware of.
“I was really bummed before the race started because Andre (Gomes) and Max (Dell’Orco) didn’t show up and I knew I needed their iRatings to get enough points to win the championship,” he said.
“I won thirteen races in a stacked field though, so I can’t complain. I just wish the high strength of field races early-on would have been a bit different.”
Despite bringing his car home in fourth position, the flag-to-flag victory in the day’s earlier race gave Gooden the points haul he needed to be crowned iRacing’s first ever VW Jetta TDI Champion. As a result, he now has the opportunity to attend the 2010 VW Jetta TDI Driver selection program scheduled for February of next year. If he is chosen as one of the top 25 drivers, Gooden will earn a sponsored ride in the 2010 SCCA Pro Racing VW Jetta TDI Cup series.
“It’s incredible to have finally won, especially in such a nail bitter right down to the very end. The championship really couldn’t have been closer between Carl and I. It’s still hard to believe that I’m finally getting a shot at an SCCA Pro series through a simulator,” exudes Gooden, the karter and now sim-racing champion.