February 5th, 2010 by DavidP
In Europe, the most popular sport is football, or as Americans so lovingly call it, Soccer. Ask any football fan “Who’s the craziest player in the team,” and 99% will respond with a resounding “The Goalkeeper.” Just like the goalies of the footballing world, some might consider the front wheel driving posse of iRacing.com’s VW Jetta TDI Cup to be that little bit “out there,” but one thing that can’t be questioned is their dedication. Following a change to the Season 2 schedule, the D Class series found itself in a direct time conflict with the similarly levelled Skip Barber series, causing a dramatic reduction in participation numbers in comparison to the VW Jettas’ opening season. That said, the second season drivers are a hardy bunch and the trimmed roster put on 12 weeks of fiercely contested racing.
Week 1 – New Season and New Face Heads Jetta Series
The opening week of any series is fair game for any driver to grab the headlines, and making the opening salvo on the series at New Hampshire International was Jean-Marc Bernaldi. The Frenchman led a trio of Europeans in the top five, as he secured maximum points for the week after winning one of his two races. Bernaldi’s first outing of the week had ended in a pile of twisted body panels and transmission fluid, but his tenacity in race two was enough to establish an early lead over American Bryan Heitkotter and future series leader Bruno Le Doare in the championship.
Championship Top Five after Week One: Jean-Marc Bernardi (FR), Bryan Heitkotter (USA), Bruno Le Doare (FR), Jeff Bye Jr (USA), Jani Penttinen (FIN).
Week 2 – Penttinen Leads European Domination of TDI Cup
The European dominance of the top five in the second week was to act as a trigger for incumbent iRacing VW Jetta TDI Champion, Wyatt Gooden. Awakening the Ohioan from his racing slumber, Week Two at Road America was to launch Gooden’s entry into his second season in a bid to retain his title. Having seen Jani Penttinen lead no less than six Europeans in the top 10 with his first victory of the season, the American’s presence could be felt like something from Stephen King’s ‘Langoliers;’ a sense of impending doom gripped the the series as Gooden loomed from beyond the horizon.
Championship Top Five after Week Two: Jani Penttinen (FIN), Jean-Marc Bernardi (FRA), Bruno Le Doare (FRA), Samu Snabb (FIN), Alex Papler (INTL).
Week 3 – Penttinen Stays out Front of VW Jetta TDI Cup
Put any Finn inside a car, and before long they’ll pick up the nickname “Flying.” Despite the term being bounded around with great ease these days, Jani Penttinen was certainly living up to the nickname following a podium at Virginia International Raceway, securing the Scandinavian a 42 point lead in the championship. In fact by the end of Week Three, the top four championship spots were occupied by Europeans, with the likes of Le Doare, Snabb and Massimo Macagni keeping the USA firmly shut-out of the box seats.
Championship Top 5 after week 3 – Jani Penttinen (FIN), Bruno Le Doare (FR), Samu Snabb (FIN), Massimo Macagni (ITA),
Week 4 – Jettas Depart Sebring with New Series Leader
By the time iRacing’s Online Jetta series had left the bumpy concrete of Sebring, Jani Penttinen had fallen from the championship top spot due to absence, leaving Bruno Le Doare to sit atop the points table. It was around this time that the inRacingNews team spotted Sven Mitlehner, who had crept into the top ten ‘under the radar.’ Most noticeable of the German’s statistics was his lack of a win in the championship, despite all those around him having claimed at least one victory. Amazingly, Mitlehner would end the championship without a win to his name yet still contest his top ten seeding to the last.
Championship Top 5 after week 4:Bruno Le Doare (FRA), Samu Snabb (FIN), Massimo Macagni (ITA), Francois Jolibois (CAN), Jani Penttinen (FIN)
Week 5 – Bruno’s Back
Frenchman Le Doare continued to lead the championship following its visit to the Watkins Glen circuit, having collected eight wins, from eight starts over the previous fortnight. However, the Frenchman was falling afoul of score averages, and by the time the VW Jetta road show had departed the Finger Lakes, his lead was just 11 points over Samu Snabb. By his own words, Scandinavian Snabb ‘got lucky’ in Week Five, winning a high strength of field race, to remain second in the championship ahead of Francois Jolibois who was making his first excursion into the top three.
Championship Top 5 after week 5: Bruno Le Doare (FRA), Samu Snabb (FIN), Francois Jolibois (CAN), Massimo Macagni (ITA), Jani Penttinen (FIN)
Week 6 – Le Doare Soaks Up the Pressure
By the time the halfway point of the season had been reached with the series’ first foray to Mosport InternationalRaceway, Bruno Le Doare had extended his championship lead to over 30 points. Whilst on paper he looked like favourite for the VW Jetta title, the once distant rumble of Wyatt Gooden was developing into an ominous roar, as the American sithed a path through the field to move into the top ten and set his targets firmly on reclaiming his title.
Championship Top 5 after week 6: Bruno Le Doare (FRA), Samu Snabb (FIN), Massimo Macagni (ITA), Francois Jolibois (CAN), Jani Penttinen (FIN)
Week 7 – Christmas Number One for Le Doare
Summit Point certainly lived up to its name, with Bruno Le Doare and Wyatt Gooden meeting head-to-head in the seventh week of the season. In a battle between the great pretender and the master, ‘Jedi’ Gooden come out on top, but the Ohioan had to fight to the last to take the win by a slender one second; a clear signal by both drivers, neither was going to make claiming the title easy. Gooden’s unwavering will to keep the crown in the USA was reflected in his defiant comments after collecting the crucial victory: “After hearing about all this European domination I decided it’s time to make sure the title stays in America!”
Championship Top 5 after week 7: Bruno Le Doare (FRA), Samu Snabb (FIN), Massimo Macagni (ITA), Jani Penttinen (FIN), Sven Mitlehner (GER)
Week 8 – Snabb Grabs Swag to Close In on Le Doare
With the eighth week of Jetta racing taking place during the Christmas period, many drivers chose to take a sabbatical from racing at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to spend time with families and friends. Suffering from an overdose of turkey and wine, Bruno Le Doare failed to collect any type of Christmas bonus, as Samu Snabb reduced the gap to the Frenchman to only 32 points. Taking advantage of many absent drivers, former series leader Jani Penttinen moved into the top three, but running a single race a week was costing the Finn dearly and it remained to be seen if he could challenge the top spot again.
Championship Top 5 after week 8: Bruno Le Doare (FRA), Samu Snabb (FIN), Jani Penttinen (FIN), Sven Mitlehner (GER), Massimo Macagni (ITA)
Week 9 – Snabb Steps Up in Jetta TDI Cup
Having shadowed Le Doare for seven weeks, Samu Snabb finally stepped into the championship top spot as the series headed into 2010 and a visit to Road Atlanta. It was the first round of ‘drop weeks’ that presented Snabb with the points lead, as the Scandinavian club driver leap-frogged Le Doare by just three points. Collecting the biggest haul of the week, Wyatt Gooden’s ominous rise continued unabated, and the American was fourth in the championship with a couple of weeks of results still to be counted by the time Road Atlanta was just a memory.
Championship Top 5 after week 9: Samu Snabb (FIN), Bruno Le Doare (FR),Massimo Macagni (ITA), Wyatt Gooden (USA), Jani Penttinen (FIN).
Week 10 – Le Doare Returns to The Top
Lime Rock Park awaited the iRacing VW Jetta Cup for Week 10, and Bruno Le Doare, Samu Snabb and Wyatt Gooden, found themselves face-to-face in a ‘mock’ championship showdown between the main protagonists of the series. Gooden’s dominance was apparent from the early stages, and the Ohio Club driver took the chequered flag by eight seconds. Meanwhile, Le Doare and Snabb were locked in a bumper to bumper battle in the opening laps, until the Frenchman found a way past the Finn, taking the second spot and enough points to move back into the championship lead.
Championship Top 5 after week 10: Bruno Le Doare (FR), Samu Snabb (FIN), Wyatt Gooden (USA), Jani Penttinen (FIN), Massimo Macagni (ITA).
Week 11 – Gooden Goes Top
In hindsight, it was inevitable that the current VW Jetta TDI Cup Champion, Wyatt Gooden, would stride into the series lead at some point during the season; it was just a question of how big the margin would be when he got there. The answer was 122 points, as he registered his eighth result of the season at Barber Motorsports Park, to take the championship lead from long-time occupier, Bruno Le Doare. With just a week of racing remaining and such a huge lead, only a miracle was going to stop the American retaining his crown.
Championship Top 5 after week 11: Wyatt Gooden (USA), Bruno Le Doare (FR), Sam Snabb (FIN), Jani Penttinen (FIN), Massimo Macagni (ITA).
Week 12 – Gooden Claims Second Online Racing Jetta Title
Despite a relatively below par third place finish at Silverstone, Wyatt Gooden collected his second successive iRacing Jetta TDI Cup crown by a margin of 137 points. Bruno Le Doare, the long-term series leader finished the season in second position, even though the Frenchman scored no points. Finland’s Samu Snabb consolidated his series third position, whilst Jani Pettinen was left to reflect on what have been following his lack of appearances early in the season. Holding onto the prestigious top five spot, Massimo Macagni was sweating to the last, as Frederick Vaissaire closed to within two points of the Italian as the final points were totalled up.
Championship Top 5 Finish Positions: Wyatt Gooden (USA), Bruno Le Doare (FR), Sam Snabb (FIN), Jani Penttinen (FIN), Massimo Macagni (ITA).
Although numbers for iRacing’s second VW Jetta TDI Cup season were down, the racing remained just as close as the first season. A recent change to the schedule will see season three run at opposite hours to the Skip Barber series, which is sure to swell attendance and bring fresh blood to the fixed setup championship.