Mosport was the scene for opening hostilities in the iRacing V8 Supercars Series, presented by new sponsor Bigpond. Yet another feather in the cap of the world’s best motorsport simulation- to be named the official online series of the biggest motor racing category Down Under.
Perhaps “hostilities” is a bit unfair. The camaraderie in this series is second to none. Having said that, some of the series’ regulars were wearied by some early-lap carnage towards the end of Season Two. Many vowed to clean up their act, knowing that this series is famous for superb racecraft, intense action with nary a bent panel required.
Mitch McLeod declared his intention to wrestle back the title he lost to Madison Down in Season Two, by claiming pole position. Down was second from Mick Claridge and Rens Broekman. Barely hundredths covered this top four.
Peter Read made a welcome return for season three with fifth on the grid. Simon Madden was next from Joshua Muggleton, Troy Cox, then the two Scotts- U’Ren and McLaughlin.
Make no mistake, simply qualifying for this top split of four is a class act. Quality abounded all down the 21-car field with names like Vouch, Gulson, Griffith, Harris, Fullerton, Norrgard, and Black. Some semi-new faces in Boulton, Fredriksson Whatmore and Moore added to the excitement.
As the green light dawned on Season Three, it was back to business for this epic series. Season two nearly-man McLeod made a clean getaway to lead Down, and by lap two the pair had pulled a slight gap on Claridge. Broekman held down fourth until running wide at the double-apex tight right hander, handing the place to Read, and almost Muggleton. Broekman re-took the position from Read on Lap Five up the back straight. It actually looked as though Read missed a gear but the Target Falcon pilot insisted “he just got a good run on me”.
By which time, Claridge had bridged that gap to the leaders and made it a three way fight for a few laps. No quarter was given or taken.
On Lap Seven Vouch unsettled himself on the kerb onto the start finish straight and collected the wall, giving him major front end damage. It was a shocking two days for Vouch, having traveled even less further in the GT race the previous night at Silverstone.”I made several small errors in the opening laps the field crucified me for them. …then a little too much happy pedal and I looped it..”
Still, he motored on and made a gallant charge to stay on the lead lap, just outside the top ten.
“Did I mention I hate Moss Corner?!” – George Fullerton
Behind Read was Muggleton in sixth and U’Ren in seventh. McLaughlin was holding off Shay Griffith, Madden, Wayne Harris, Bigpond’s Vern Norrgard and Cal Whatmore. McLaughlin’s defence came unstuck on lap 10, Griffith nudging the Fujitsu car into a spin exiting the double apex Turn Five and Six (Moss corner). Griffith was a little sheepish at having unloaded a real-world racer, bent steering not helping his cause either.
Further back, Simon Black had looped it in the same spot, causing mayhem for George Fullerton and Jakob Fredriksson. Turns Five and Six were claiming some scalps tonight, Fullerton quipping “did I mention I hate Moss corner?!” So do several others now.
On Lap 13, leader McLeod was relieved of the pressure a bit, courtesy of Down who ran wide allowing Claridge past. So it was McLeod-Claridge-Down, with a small gap back to Broekman whose charge to haul in the leading trio had halted somewhat.
Perhaps it was worn tyres, perhaps season opening nerves, or possibly a mix of both, but the jitters were settling in to the leaders. On Lap 16 , just when things were looking good for McLeod, he ran wide at Moss Corner, dropping back to third behind Claridge and Down.
“Just goes to show how tough this season is going to be” – Peter Read
Now it was Claridge’s turn to feel the heat, and Down applied it mercilessly with some serious attacks into the ultrafast turns One and Two on Lap 18. Along the back straight Claridge had to defend to put Down in the wrong spot, all of which was sweet music to McLeod, who was able to latch back onto the leading pair.
By Lap 20 it seemed that Claridge was slower, but with passing difficult here he had a red-hot go at holding the lead. Nonetheless, Down pounced, pulling off a demon move around the outside of the fast Turn Eight at the end of the back straight, going for the apex “literally a millimetre clear of his front splitter…thankfully Mick gave me room…”.
And that was it. Down cleared off, leaving Claridge to deal with McLeod and leaving the spectator gallery struggling to remember ever seeing a dull race in this series.
Down was not taking his win for granted.”Finally got the monkey off my back at Mosport…a hoodoo track for me, for what ever reason I’ve always struggled in races here. Tonight the setup just seemed to hold onto tyres a lot better”.
Down was both victorious over, and oblivious to, the action for second place behind him. Claridge held off all of McLeod’s attempts, including a last corner lunge on the final lap. Despite his early dominance, third must have seemed a small consolation for the Season One champ but a podium and points in this hotly contested series is no small deal. Broekman was fourth, carrying on from his giant-killing performances in Season Two. Returnee Peter Read was fifth in the Target Falcon: “I just didn’t have the pace all week… it just goes to show how tough this season is going to be!”.
Scott U’Ren was a very impressive sixth, Muggleton an equally impressive seventh, with Madden and Harris eighth and ninth. Vern Norrgard in tenth place put on a worthy performance for the series’ new sponsor Bigpond, after many races away in Season Two.
Screenshots courtesy of Bigpond Sport/ V8 Supercars Australia
SEASON THREE OVERALL STANDINGS (combined divisions)
|21||Stefan Miller||2||Western Canada||120|
|22||Mark A Rayner||3||Australia/NZ||119|
|26||Edward Van Velsen||2||Australia/NZ||112|
|27||Ray Butcher||3||California Club||110|
|29||Mertol Shahin||2||Central-Eastern Europe||106|