The iRacing.com V8 Supercar Series presented by Big Pond came to America last week, with a thirty-lap event at Watkins Glen. The track was set in its Cup configuration, so the large, heavy Ford Falcon would need to negotiate the Inner Loop chicane.
As has become the custom this season, V8SC Americas kicked off the week with the first official race, at 02:45 GMT Friday (9:45 PM EST). 29 sim racers made the grid, strong enough attendance for the race to split. Canadian Curtis Chippeway won, for the second straight week, with Charlotte-based Jeremy Burris and Californian Ray Butcher completing the podium. Same time the next day, and the Americans were at it again; this time, however, Chippeway was joined on the podium by Dutchman Thomas van Bussel (the winner) and Aussie Curt Bond (in third). Van Bussel then went on to win the best-attended European time zone race of the week (18:45 GMT Sunday), taking victory over Trevor Johnson, Kevin Duwel and 18 other drivers.
The biggest events of the week, as always, were held Monday evening, Australian/New Zealand time: the 08:45 GMT early event, and the 10:45 GMT big race. The top split of the earlier race, (Strength of Field 3352) was won by Richard Hamstead, who was joined on the podium by Mitchell McLeod and Cal Whatmore. John Latham won the second split, and Graeme Phyland the third.
The big event split four ways, with Stephen Jenkins and Richard Stamenkovic winning the lower pair of races, while Josh Smith won over a powerful field (SOF 2400) in the second split, with Latham and Mitchell Boulton also on the podium.
Hamstead sat on the pole for the top split (SOF 3846), with McLeod joining him on the first row, Rens Broekman and Stuart Wood on the second, three-time series defending champ Madison Down and Whatmore on the third and Fujitsu V8Supercar and V8 SuperTourers Series driver Scott McLaughlin sitting to the inside of Simon Madden on Row Four.
Hamstead led the field into the first turn (“The 90”) in a clean and fair start. Down had a strong start initially, but then couldn’t get a fast line through the Esses, losing momentum and positions to Wood, Whatmore, and McLaughlin. Racing was tight into the Inner Loop, and Mick Claridge made a big pass on Madden on entry, only to have Madden gain the advantage again on the way out to the Carousel. Compared to the previous two races there was little opening lap drama, however, with positions settling quickly. Hamstead crossed the start-finish line first, followed by Broekman and McLeod, then Wood, Whatmore, McLaughlin, Down, and Joshua Muggleton—a group that was to provide some excellent action in the coming laps—with Madden and Justin Ruggier leading the chase pack.
On Lap Three, Whatmore was heavily pressuring Wood for fourth position, having a look underneath him into The 90, with Down giving McLaughlin a “good to see you mate” push in the braking zone right behind. Yet Down’s car just didn’t seem to be carrying the momentum through the Esses, and his TTR teammate, Muggleton, was able to move by easily on the exit to the Back Straight: Muggo now had McLaughlin, Whatmore, and Wood in his sights.
At The 90 next lap on, McLaughlin made a huge move to the inside of Whatmore, scrubbing some speed with a flick of the tail and placing himself into fifth position; Muggo played a bit of “follow the leader” on the pass to get by him too, with Whatmore losing a bit of momentum toward the Esses—and three spots in the bargain.
As the field came to the Inner Loop, Claridge and Ruggier, among this same group of drivers but battling for tenth, got together at the entry to the Chicane with Claridge getting the worst of it. Off-line and out of momentum, he and Emerson (running twelfth) subsequently touched in The Carousel, and the first major incident of the race occurred as both cars spun.
McLaughlin started pressuring Wood for fourth spot by Lap Seven, and on the final corner made his move: track camber proved difficult at this spot, however, and instead of gaining a position to Wood, McLaughlin lost fifth to Muggleton on the ensuing straight. Wood was clearly battling his setup a bit, however, losing tiny bits of momentum here and there, and Muggo seemed intent on making a better go of it this week than the previous two. While the top three—Hamstead, Broekman, and McLeod—were having a clean open drive up front, fourth through tenth positions—Wood, Muggleton, McLaughlin, Down, Whatmore, Madden, and Ruggier—were poised for drama, tragedy or both.
As if on cue, Muggleton nearly lost it all on the exit to Turn Six, as the rear stepped far out on to the curbing, but he was not going to let it all go wrong this time—willing his car back into line with an exquisite bit of skill. By Lap 13, Wood’s car was not getting power onto the pavement with enough consistency: he wiggled on the front straight and Muggleton made a move into The 90, taking fourth position in the Esses, while Wood dropped back to sixth behind McLaughlin and Whatmore slipped inside of Down for seventh.
By Lap 14 the tires were starting to show some wear, and more action occurred at The 90: McLaughlin tried to nab fifth from Wood, got loose, and gave up a position to Whatmore in the Esses, as errors in the first corner continued to be paid in full.
With clean running for the front four—Hamstead, Broekman, McLeod, and Muggleton—and tires dropping off, the fifth through eighth spots were still close and taking chances: on lap nineteen, McLaughlin lost it a bit going into The 90, and he would have gone off had he not given Whatmore’s Ford a hard slap in the side to straighten out and make the pass. Whatmore lost momentum into the Esses, dropping to tenth place behind Down, Madden, and Ruggier.
On Lap 22 McLaughlin nearly passed Wood into Turn Six, but Wood continued to hang on. Three laps later, McLaughlin got inside Wood in The 90 and held momentum through the Esses to take fifth.
Meanwhile up front, Broekman just got onto the inside grass exiting the Esses, and McLeod, who had been applying increasing pressure for some time—including an excellent but unsuccessful pass attempt in the Carousel—pounced to take second place away from him.
With no one in his mirrors at this point, and having led every lap from pole while setting fastest lap (1:11.308), Hamstead cruised to victory, with McLeod and Broekman on the podium as well. In fourth, Joshua Muggleton may as well have been in comparison to the start of his season, and Scott McLaughlin rounded out the top five.
Several other drivers, not already mentioned as having done so, won official races at Watkins Glen last week: John Briggs; Thomas Guerrini; Muggleton; Robert Rosengreen; Adam Surplice; and Kris Tarrant all had honors (or honours, as the case may be).
Next week the series returns to home ground Australia for the race at Phillip Island.