Round Seven of the iRacing.com V8 Supercars Series presented by BigPond took the teams to the community of Alton, near Danville, Virginia and Virginia International Raceway. VIR, as it’s known, is a 5.26km track in length with 17 corners and is without a doubt one of the series’ most challenging tracks. With acres of grass run-off areas bordering the pavement, there is no room for error as the slightest error is the ticket to a long agricultural adventure.
With championship leader Madison Down a no show this week due to Internet issues, the grid was wide open. Richard Hamstead took full advantage of the opportunity, claiming pole position by a single tenth of a second over Joshua Muggleton with Justin Ruggier just .007 behind Muggleton. Vail Riches and Mitchell McLeod rounded-out the top five starting positions for the main online race.
For the first time all season, the first race paid more championship points as its low number of entries, coupled with the main race’s full grid resulted in a higher strength of field. However, this didn’t change anything as far as Muggleton and Ruggier were concerned, as they came to the grid looking for their first main race victory.
Everyone got off the line safely. Heading towards the double Turns Two/Three, however, Chad Chastain turned across Ian Travis, damaging the nose of Travis’ Falcon and sending Chastain backwards into the wall and leaving him with the task of fighting his way back through the field. At the end of the back straight Patrick Bolster missed his braking point and took to the grass, getting into the side of David Hingston in the process, ending both their races.
Tony Autridge was the first to become victim of the famous “Oak Tree” double right hander leading on to the long back straight, while Shaun Kelly’s race came to an end on Lap Four when he jumped the curb through the Esses, lost control and spun off into the fence and retirement. Lap Four also saw TTL’s Greg Stewart nearly become Oak Tree’s second victim, saving it but dropping one spot in the process.
With Muggelton shadowing Hamstead at the front, Ruggier ran off the road in Turn Three on Lap Seven, costing him valuable time and dropping him from third back to fifth behind McLeod and Riches. Next time around Muggleton fell victim to Oak Tree, like Stewart just dropping the one spot (to McLeod) but seeing any chance of his first main race victory vanish as Hamstead now enjoyed a five second lead over McLeod.
With five lap to go McLeod, Muggleton and Ruggier were nose-to-tail in the battle for second to fourth when Muggleton had a massive “moment” in the Esses. Although he was forced to short-cut the track to keep from spinning out of control, he would ultimately regain the lost ground when Ruggier followed suit in the Esses the next lap around and lost ground to Muggleton and McLeod. Freed from the attentions of Ruggier, Muggleton pressed the attack on McLeod, diving down the inside in Turn One on Lap 16 to grab second and then motoring away.
The waning laps saw a recovering Ruggier close the gap back to McLeod, who responded by running onto the grass and spinning on the exit of the Esses. Ruggier just missed the spinning Tatts.com car while Riches took advantage of McLeod’s misfortune to move up to fourth. McLeod nearly collected Travis as he rejoined the action. As the two-some exited Oak Tree side-by-side, Travis clipped the grass not one but twice, the second time sending him into the side of McLeod’s Falcon. The damage resulted in both drivers getting the meatball flag, with the unfortunate McLeod he was unable to continue while Travis limped home seventh.
At the checkered flag it was Richard Hamstead getting his second round win for the season and regaining the championship lead from Down in the bargain. Muggleton grabbed second spot with Ruggier 2.5s behind him in third place, the both of them still searching for their first main race win. Riches would come home a very strong fourth place with Chippeway leading home the internationals once again in fifth place. Josh Smith’s solid run resulted in sixth place ahead of Travis with Omar Soto, Samuel Collins and Thomas Guerrini rounding-out the top ten.
Top Five Drivers – Championship Points – Overall
1. Richard Hamstead – 1673
2. Justin V Ruggier – 1490
3. Madison Down – 1481
4. Scott T McLaughlin – 1333
5. Joshua Muggleton – 1306
Split Two Winner: Carwyn May
Split Three Winner: Andrew Cooper
You can watch all the race replays on www.v8sonline.com.au