Welcome to the Part 2 of the article covering the first quarter of online racing in the iRacing.com Global Challenge Series. Part 1 focused on the Kia Optima Class. This article will feature some drivers racing primarily in the Cadillac CTS-V Class, with interviews and statistics were collected after racing had concluded at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course during Week Three.
Aussie Dylan Sharman returns for another interview as the point leader. He’s won every race he’s started so far this season, and is becoming the driver to beat week-in and week-out this season. Bruno Linden Muller of Brazil stands in fifth place in the overall point standings as a Division Two driver. Lastly, Joni Bäckman of Finland joins us after running a limited number of races this season so far. We’ll discuss their views on the iRacing.com Global Challenge Series so far during the first quarter.
JW: Welcome gentlemen! Thank you so much for sitting down with me. Dylan you’ve gotten to see the inRacingNews.com virtual press room a lot so far this season! We might have to get you your own chair. Bruno, you have been racing very well so far. Your results have been great in the first quarter.
BLM: Thank you, but first I want to congratulate all of inRacingNews.com for your work. It adds a lot to the service and it’s also very cool to see some friends being interviewed and giving some feedback about what’s going on behind the series.
JW: Thank you Bruno and we’re certainly happy to hear that you all enjoy reading the articles and updates. Now I do see that you’re active in the iRacing.com community and often post messages on the forums. One interesting post of yours from late April was “I really have high hopes that [the] Global Challenge can be the virtual Pirelli World Challenge, with a good mix of several cars… Maybe it can be the most popular road series in the [iRacing.com] service.” Can you tell us a little more about what led you to that comparison?
BLM: Well from the beginning of the Global Challenge, I saw some people saying in the forums that iRacing.com set the KIA Optima together with the Cadillac inspired by the Pirelli World Challenge, so I went after some more information about the PWC and found out how great it is, with a lot of brands and different cars all together. Right away it came to me that we already have some cars and tracks on the iRacing.com service that are also in the PWC, so the comparison was inevitable to me. It would be great if iRacing.com could set a partnership with them to have their official series on the service. I can even see this series growing a lot more if we add more cars, especially new cars.
“I can even see this series growing a lot more if we add more cars, especially new cars.” – Bruno Linden Muller
JW: It would definitely be interesting to see another class added. If we can get enough support backing that idea we can present it to the staff. I know they’re always looking for input from drivers on how they feel the series can get better. Now, in order to add another car class, there would have to be an increase of field sizes by at least eight to ten cars, or more. In general this topic has come up in almost all of the interviews I’ve done regarding the iRacing.com Global Challenge Series. When I ask drivers what they’d like to see changed to better the series, almost all of them suggest larger grid sizes. So I want to ask you gentlemen the same thing, what would you suggest be changed to improve the series?
JB: I would just suggest bigger grid sizes. Currently there is a maximum field size of 20 cars, which is OK for a single class series, but for multiclass it’s too low of an amount. An increase to 24 cars would give two cars more for each class with equal circumstances.
DS:Maybe an increased grid size to 30 and race lengths to 40 minutes would be cool.
JW: What about you Bruno?
BLM: Larger fields look pretty nice to me. It allows for more action at many parts of the track at the same time, so you have to learn new lines and most importantly, you have to go out of your comfort zone and push your limits to be successful.
JB: Naturally with a D class series we have to be careful not to make the fields too big so that the racing remains clean. However, with the current split sizes, many people decide not to race ‘cause of not many opponents on the track.
JW: Joni I’ve seen some comments about that on the forum where drivers are unhappy because of the way the splits are divided and ultimately decide not to race. It’s really looking like larger grids are a step in the right direction for this series and it might bring some of those racers back. That being said, how do you all feel the iRacing.com Global Challenge Series has been so far from your perspectives?
BLM: If I compare the Global Challenge Series with the Cadillac Cup, I notice that we have a lot of new drivers racing with the Caddy. Then if you add the KIA drivers to the mix, it looks to me that we have more official races now than last season… at least during the times I raced. Right now I feel that the Global Challenge is in good health.
JB: The KIA and Cadillac combination has proven to be a very good one for this series. The lap time differential is significant enough to separate the two classes from each other for the most part. Of course there’s always the case with the fastest KIA drivers battling the slowest Cadillac drivers and being a burden to each other buy hey, that’s life. Overall I’d say this combination is excellent for participation numbers. The quality of racing so far in this series from my eyes has been very positive. In the races I’ve done, the racing has been very respectful every time.
“There’s always the case with the fastest KIA drivers battling the slowest Cadillac drivers and being a burden to each other buy hey, that’s life.” – Joni Bäckman
JW: During peak hours on the iRacing.com service there are some healthy numbers in the Global Challenge fields, so I agree with you both there. But Joni I can’t help but notice that you didn’t run any races during Week Two at Laguna Seca. Was that a personal choice to miss that week?
JB: Two reasons actually, one being that I hate Laguna Seca with every inch of my body, that track only fits for BMX bike rookie races, if even that (laughs).
JW: (laughs) Hey now I think that’s a matter of opinion there. I’m quite fond of that track! But continue…
JB: The main reason was that I have simply had so little time to focus on racing recently, that I have just driven random races in random series. Then the idea just popped into my head while I was at Club Finland TeamSpeak with my club mates and we were going to do a random race. We just decided to pick Mosport and Mid-Ohio both times with the Cadillac… …Aleksi [Elomaa, Pro/WC driver] naturally chose the ultimate man’s car, the Kia (laughs).
JW: (laughs) Dylan, you also ran only two races during Week Two and Week Three.
DS: Well I didn’t run in any of the morning races to prepare myself for the big Friday 22:45GMT race so I missed out on a race there. I didn’t run the Saturday 22:45GMT either because I just needed to sleep in (laughs).
JW: That’s completely understandable! Sometimes you just need a break. Let’s look at the point standings here after Week Three. Dylan, you’ve taken over the top position, and managed to stretch your lead a little. It’s still a very close battle, though. Is it just as exciting for you driving as it is for us watching?
“It’s very close up at the top and it is exciting. Xavier last week pushed me all the way . . .” – Dylan Sharman
DS: Yeah it’s very close up at the top and it is exciting. Xavier last week pushed me all the way… I somehow managed to get pole position in the last qualifying session and even in the race I couldn’t make an error as he was all in my mirrors. I wasn’t probably looking forward as much as I normally would but it was a very hard race for sure!
JW: You and Xavier definitely keep the action level high on the track, but your consistency level is what’s really impressive. To be as fast as you both are week in and week out is astounding and very admirable. Bruno, you’re a Division 2 driver in the top five in points! Congratulations on that accomplishment. Do you think you can hang on to that spot up until the halfway mark at Week Six?
BLM: I really hope so, but there are some great names that are outside the top five. Considering that we have four weeks to drop as well, they are still alive and kicking. I think this season will host a great fight from first place to tenth place because there are a lot of rounds and different tracks that Cadillac racers used to know from the Cadillac Cup. It will be fun!
JW: If the season continues the way it’s been going, I think we’re in for a few surprises in terms of who will come up the rankings and challenge for a top ten spot. A quick change of pace here gentlemen; one of the things I like to do in these reports is hear from drivers at different levels of competition in the iRacing.com Global Challenge Series. I want to bring in Craig J Capon, a Division 3 driver like myself who, while not at the top echelon of the standings, is very consistent and capable of showing improvement as the season progresses. So Craig, you and I are comfortably in the top 25 in our division point standings at the close of Week Three, and in the top 50 overall. What do you feel you need to work on in order to move up in the rankings?
CC: Two things, first I need to do more races. If I do that, I have more chances to get a critical win or two before the end of the season. Second, I need to qualify better. That will put me in a better position to win.
JW: What’s your overall goal for this season? For me, I would like to move into the top 25 in overall standings. What about you?
CC: I would be honored to finish in the top 5 of our division.
JW: That would be big. There are a few Division 3 drivers running well so far, namely David Weiss and Francesco Chiarello among others. Now in order to move up, practice has been said to be very important. Have you been able to practice a lot and work on setup changes?
CC: No, unfortunately with a full time job, a wonderful wife, and two great kids, along with five other iRacing.com series that I run in, I do not get nearly as much practice as I would like, nor do I tune. I rely on the generosity of others for tunes. I do practice enough to get familiar with the track. I am confident that more practice would equal better outcomes during races.
JW: I agree. For drivers out there like Craig who don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to setup adjustments, there are setups posted regularly on the forums by skilled racers. On the other hand, is it safe to say that gaining your own knowledge of setups can benefit you more, especially early on in the series? How do you guys feel about being able to adjust setups now?
“If a guy is faster than me, I won’t block him, nor will I needlessly risk an incident by chasing him.” — Craig J Capon
JB: Having an open setup holds an insanely large influence on how you can drive this car. The open setup gives people a lot more space to affect the cars’ behavior during trouble spots. It took me quite some time to get comfortable with the driving style, and I still have a million things to improve on it, but at least now I’m able to drive at semi-competitive level.
BLM: For me most of the improvement I attribute to the practice. This is true for setups as well. I see a lot of people in the forums saying they don’t know how to make a setup, but I think everyone can try a little tweak here and there on the setups they download, and with time, they begin to understand how it works and start making some setups according to their driving style.
JW: That’s a good point. Many setup changes are trial and error. The more you can realize what each change does to the car, the quicker you’ll be able to apply the changes for yourself instead of risking downloading the wrong setup for your driving style. Also, I find that I do much better in races where I race the course instead of racing other drivers. Normally that leads to fewer incidents through the run.
CC: Yes, absolutely. I do not spend nearly as much time worrying about other drivers as I do about the track. If a guy is faster than me, I won’t block him, nor will I needlessly risk an incident by chasing him.
JW: Very well put. Gentlemen I’d like to thank you all again for your input. This is shaping up to be an exciting season all the way through Week 12. I wish you the best as we move forward.
Looking at the point standings through Week Three, the first three drivers all have average finishes of first place; Sharman, Silvente, and Engelage. The only other driver in the top 25 with a first place average finish is Alessandro Costa, who happens to be Silvente’s teammate. Costa sits in ninth place in the overall point standings, and is certain to move up quickly as the weeks progress.
Standings through Week Three:
1. Dylan Sharman (Div. 1) – 586
2. Xavier Cuartero Silvente (Div. 1) – 552
3. Michael Engelage (Div. 1) – 478
4. Nathan Moore (Div. 1) – 444
5. Bruno Linden Muller (Div. 2) – 411
6. Kristopher Hen (Div. 2) – 386
7. Sami Salmi (Div. 2) – 374
8. W.J Ammerdorfer (Div. 3) – 373
9. Alessandro Costa (Div. 2) – 369
10. David Weiss (Div. 3) – 353