Week Nine of the 2015 Season 1 iRacing.com IndyCar Oval sent the series Twin Ring Motegi. Only a mere 52 sim-racers decided to take a trip across the virtual Pacific to the “Land of the Rising Sun” throughout the week. Aero-push, cautions, handling, lap traffic, pit strategy, tight racing, tire wear and use of the weight jacker were just some of the storylines that played out throughout the week of sim racing.
Nigel Marneef (Benelux) started on pole with Ryan Norton (Florida) on his outside. Christopher Demeritt (New Jersey) started third with Niles Anders (Plains) fourth, and Vick Caudill (Michigan) rounding out the top five starting positions.
Marneef had an excellent start, gapping Norton by several car lengths before the first turn. Demeritt easily cleared Norton exiting Turn Two only for Norton to cross-over and reclaim second down the backstraight while, just behind Demeritt, Ray Kingsbury (New England) battled Anders for fourth. Ray Kingsbury cleared Anders, only for Anders to repass him. This repeated once more until Ray Kingsbury pushed off of Turn Two, allowing Caudill to sneak past as well before the Michigander passed Anders himself.
Further back in the pack, Tim Holgate (Ohio) had climbed from a fifteenth starting spot to seventh in only half a dozen laps. As he caught Brandon Trost (Pennsylvania), Trost tagged the outside wall. Holgate continued his march to the front, tracking down and passing Ray Kingsbury a lap later. The field soon began to separate into distinct groups as a handful of sim-racers swapped positions back and forth.
One such group was Rob Unglenieks (Michigan) and Richard Hollyday (Carolina) who traded positions several times over the course of a several laps. Hollyday eventually tried to slide in front of Unglenieks, only to missed the gap and get rear-ended by Unglenieks. The contact sent the Carolinian drifting onto the apron and allowed Matt A. Kingsbury (New England) and Elliot Leach (New Jersey) to fly by. They wouldn’t get far as the caution waved a few second later when Jeff Zook (Virginias) made contact with Joe Branch2 (Indiana) and spun into the outside wall.
Almost everyone elected to pit on the ensuring yellow with Caudill was the only sim-racer to remain on track. Caudill duly led Norton by three car lengths into Turn One on the restart. However, Norton’s fresh tires allowed him to easily swing by Caudill a lap later. Caudill’s free fall continued as Marneef, Holgate, Demeritt, and Anders all passed him within three laps. By lap 36, ten laps after the restart, Caudill had fallen from the lead to ninth before finally stabilizing just inside the top ten.
Back in the pack, Stefan Remedy (Canada) was racing Branch aggressively, drifting into Branch off of Turn Two and nearly putting him into the outside wall. Remedy then set his sights on Matt A. Kingsbury, who was struggling to get a handle on his Dallara DW12. Remedy quickly caught Kingsbury and tried to make a pass on the outside. Kingsbury cleared Remedy, only for Remedy to attempt the same move in Turns Three and Four. Kingsbury broke loose, after forgetting to re-adjust his weight jacker, swerved to avoid Remedy, overcorrected, clipped Remedy’s left rear wheel guard and slammed the outside wall. Attempting to coax his DW12 back to pit road. Kingsbury looped it in Turn One. Everyone elected to make a service stop, with Holgate beating everyone off pit road.
Holgate had a good restart as Caudill started working his way back up through the field on fresh rubber. Norton and Demeritt battled for third, slowing the progress of Adam Dock (Texas) and Matt Pawelski (Pennsylvania). Caudill quickly caught the two sim-racers, making it three-wide on the bottom. Caudill thought wisely, and backed out of the three-wide situation before attempting to pass Pawelski low in Turn One. Pawelski had no idea Caudill was low and the two made contact. The duo drifted through Turns One and Two, Caudill along the apron and Pawelski tapping the outside wall, as the field scattered behind them.
Pawelski rejoined the action just outside of the top ten, as Caudill got back up to speed at the rear of the field. Pawelski quickly passed Seth Eggert (Carolina), and Unglenieks, with Eggert seizing the opportunity to follow Pawelski past Unglenieks. Soon afterward, the field became spread out, aside from some lapped traffic, and the race pace appeared to picked-up before Ray Kingsbury slapped the outside wall off of Turn Two. Kingsbury attempted to rejoin the race, nearly clipping Pawelski, before spinning off of Turn Four. At the same time, Gary Borkenhagen (Midwest) slapped the wall off of Four, and slowed to a stop in Turn One.
Everyone elected to pit once more under the ensuing caution but, as the field was about to take the green flag, Hollyday pulled off to the side and strangely disconnected after running in the top ten.
Marneef had an excellent restart, gapping Demeritt by several car lengths. Holgate quickly passed Norton, as Norton commenced slipping down the order, falling to eighth within seven laps of the restart. At the same time, Caudill continued his march through the field. Norton’s fall and Caudill’s march were interupted, however, by a crash involving Ricardo Rossi (Brazil) and Aaron Bean (Florida) the front stretch with just 16 laps to go. Holgate and Norton were the only two that elected to pit under this caution.
Marneef, Demeritt, and Dock all had excellent restarts as, further back in the pack, Eggert’s DW12 failed to upshift. Leach rear-ended the sluggish Eggert as those behind them scattered. The final 12 laps flashed by as Holgate jumped up to eighth with Caudill in tow. However, Marneef easily held off the field to take the victory in the 3123 Strength of Field by 0.485 seconds over Demeritt, earning 199 points for his win.
Dock finished third from Anders and Branch rounding out the top five finishers. Pawelski was the hard charger of the race as he climbed from seventeenth to six twice over the course of the race. Trost had the tough break of the race, ending up in twenty-fifth after starting in seventh.
Only six sim-racers graced victory lane during the week, with Trost winning a week high two races before the field packed-up for a virtual trip back across the Pacific, to the ‘Gateway to the West’ and Gateway Motorsports Park.