Mount Panorama Circuit is not known for being easy, and neither is the Lotus 49. This combination of car and track is arguably among the most challenging you can encounter in iRacing. To call the Grand Prix Legends visit to “The Mountain” a race of attrition would be the understatement of the young century. With breakneck speeds, tight twisting corners, elevation changes — and concrete barriers awaiting any mistake — it would be nearly impossible to hold any sort of race at Mount Panorama without suffering casualties, let alone one featuring the Lotus 49.
Bruce Snelson sat on pole position for this race, but was only a tenth quicker than Daniel Curtz and two tenths quicker than Uwe Jacobsen. When the lights went green, however, it was Darwin Meints in fourth who got the best launch, allowing him to take third off Jacobsen with the outside line for Hell Corner.
Bogdan Dumitrescu had a good start from P7 as well, as he overtook Daniel Steinemann for sixth on the opening lap. Sadly for Dumitrescu, he also became the first victim of the track’s treacherous corners after making contact with the barrier coming out of Turn 17 before tumbling violently towards Forrest’s Elbow and retirement from the race.
The next retirements didn’t come as a result of the track surprisingly, at least not directly. Pierre Ketels started Lap Three in ninth just behind Ted Hough. When Hough braked earlier for Hell Corner, Ketels was caught off guard and the pair collided, sending both cars spinning with minor damage.
Robert Plumley gained two positions in one corner as a result of the spinning Loti ahead of him, and gained a third position when Mikael Engberg spun later the same lap. Unfortunately for Plumley, Lap Four did not go nearly as well for him as Lap Three had. As he powered down the Mountain Straight he hit the crest of the hill at 160mph, the car went light, and he was sent to the left where he contacted with the barrier. Plumley suffered too much damage as a result and retired at Griffins.
The next unfortunate sim-racer to suffer the wrath of Bathurst was Steve Sarlls. Sarlls was up to P9 by Lap Five and seemed to have the track tamed until understeer approaching Sulman Park put him in the wall at over 100mph, ending his race on the spot.
Not long after Sarlls retired came a second spin from Engberg. He’d already managed to loop it without damage earlier in the race, but this time he spun in The Esses. Amazingly, Engberg countersteered the spin and kept it out of the barriers a second time, enabling him to continue his race (although much further behind Ketels).
After a couple of laps without major incident it appeared the remaining drivers may have been experienced enough to go the distance. Carlo Bellini was running in second to last position, but that didn’t stop him from pushing hard, and when he clipped the inside of Quarry it nearly sent him flying off the mountain entirely.
On Lap Nine John Bonta in P5 proved just how easy it was to make the same mistake as Plumley. As he reached the peak of the hill on the Mountain Straight the car went light and, like Plumley before him, and shot off to the left. Unlike the car of Plumley, Bonta’s Lotus went spinning, tumbling, and even break-dancing its way towards Griffins before coming to a rest in a state of complete obliteration.
Overshadowed by the destruction of the midfield, the top two of Snelson and Curtz ran a nearly flawless race, never separated by more than a couple of seconds. Curtz drove a superb race that surely would have earned him a win if it had not been for Snelson’s equally magnificent drive. The pair of them put on a real show, and displayed their talent on a fantastic level. Curtz never did find a way past his rival, but the pair of them crossed the line after 25 minutes of racing with only 0.199s separating them. Nearly as amazing, Meints was only 1.5s behind them, making for one of the closest podium finishes of the entire season in what will surely count as the most challenging race on the GPL schedule.