As Marlon McMullen wraps up a dominant win at Sonoma, the defending champion has his eyes on a fourth title.
Week 11 of the iRacing.com V8 Supercars Americas series brought drivers and fans alike to the technical and challenging Sonoma Raceway. The penultimate race of Season 2, tensions were high as V8 Supercars Americas defending champion, Marlon McMullen, fought tooth and nail to extend the lead he currently holds over his closest championship competitor, Shaun Kelly, before the final round of the season at Phillip Island.
As the 21-drivers arrived for the online event and began the pre-race qualifying session, it was SDC Motorsports’ Ethan Grigg-Gault who topped the time chart with a very quick 1:11.437 which put him on pole position. Despite several attempts, McMullen, couldn’t find the qualifying pace he wanted and fell into second. The second row was comprised of Kelly along with World Championship driver and sim-racing ace, PJ Stergios, ahead of Mitchell McLeod.
As the 25-lap sprint race got underway, it proved to be heartbreak for Grigg-Gault as he was immediately jumped off the line by McMullen who then took control of the race. As Grigg-Gault battled to regain his lost position, the two drivers developed a gap of several seconds on the rest of the field even as McMullen began to slightly pull away.
A Man of Many Hats
Stergios got the start he was hoping for as he was able to jump Kelly off the line for third. Throughout the entire race, Stergios proved to be a strong contender despite not being a regular to the series. Stergios, being gifted with the unique ability to be ludicrously fast with everything he races, showed that he was able to not only match but also maintain a quicker pace than the majority of the field. Should he decide to consistently participate in the V8 series, Stergios could prove to be a strong championship contender in the future.
As the race progressed, tragedy soon struck for Maverick Welding Commodore of Ian Ford on Lap 9. While pursuing the former champion, Mitchell McLeod, for fifth position, Ford had a momentary lapse of rear grip which caused him to go sideways and collide with the wall while navigating through The Chute. Surprisingly, Ford only took minor damage but lost a total of five positions as a result. By the end of the race, Ford had recovered a few of his lost positions to finish in ninth.
Sonoma Strikes Back
In addition to Ford falling victim to the tricky Sonoma Raceway, McLeod was also on the unfortunate receiving end of things on Lap 15. Heading towards the downhill section towards Turn 4a, McLeod got loose on the curb, lost control and went head-on into the wall. Taking serious damage, McLeod was able to get his car moving again but soon pulled off and retired from the online event.
Back up front, the battle for the lead was in full swing as Grigg-Gault closed the gap on McMullen. As the laps ticked away, however, it soon became obvious that Grigg-Gault was giving it all he had. Despite a valiant effort and a strong comeback, McMullen went on to cross the line as the winner of Week 11 as Grigg-Gault finished just .4 seconds behind.
Stergios was able to hold off Kelly as the two finished third and fourth, respectively, as Martin Carroll held off his SDC Motorsports teammate, Michael Cracknell, to round out the top-five.
With this race having a Strength of Field (SoF) of 3263, the second split (SoF 1342) was won by Joseph Cervone. Tony Lynch and Matt Jones took the remaining steps on the podium as Gary Haywood and Craig Jackson completed the top-five.
Here are the results from the Monday SoF race:
Split 1/SoF 2968
Split 2/SoF 1282
|1-Ethan Grigg-Gault||1-Ryan O’Sullivan|
|2-Ian Ford||2-Jason Cossey|
|3-Michael Cracknell||3-Peter Goodwin|
|4-Martin Carroll||4-Sam McLeod|
|5-Aaron Hamilton||5-Adam Fullagar|
Back Down Under
For the final week of Season 2, the iRacing.com V8 Supercars series heads back home to Australia for 27 laps around the sweeping circuit of Phillip Island. With just over 74 miles remaining in Season 2, McMullen currently holds the Americas championship lead with 2119 points but is closely followed by Kelly with 2069. With Phillip Island being a personal favorite for Kelly, this will be his last chance to jump McMullen and take the Season 2 Americas championship for himself.