The Pro Mazdas were backing in action for Week 4 of the iRacing season. This time they would head to the south of Europe, albeit the north of Italy to take on one of the most famous race tracks in the entire world: Autodromo Nazionale Monza, otherwise known as the Cathedral of Speed! The 11 turn – 5.793km – circuit would have drivers (and spectators) on the edge of their seats for the entire race. With the whole track being flowing and no clear cut slow sections – with the exception of Variante del Rettifilo – the Pro Mazda drivers would certainly be looking to work the high speed drafting to their advantage.As the slowest corner on the circuit, the Rettifilo figured to offer one of the more ideal overtaking opportunities throughout the race, but that doesn’t mean passes wouldn’t occur elsewhere.
Before the drivers could even think about making moves and trying to win the inaugural Monza Grand Prix they’d have to survive Lap One . . . let alone the first turn! Pole position was taken by Luis Rodriguez with Alexander Voß joining him on the front row.
Much to my surprise nearly everyone escaped unscathed from the Rettifilo on the opening lap. Voß managed to execute his launch off the line perfectly, which enabled him to take the lead as the huge check-up occurred going in to the first turn. Further back in the pack Matthew O’donnell had to jam on the brakes harder than expected which led to the American having a lock up and almost running in to the back of Bruno Domiter; Rafal Mroz left his braking even later than O’donnell and ran in to the back of American, inflicting damage on his front wing but somehow it didn’t inflict any damage on his American competitor.
Unfortunately for Fabio Aoki and David Gimenou Bou they came to blows at the second chicane – Variante della Roggia. Aoki (in his perfectly themed car for this race!) overshot the entry and never managed to quite regain control. The lack of angle on turn-in for the second part of Della Roggia led him to go over the lethal sausage curb, which effectively got him stuck and ultimately left nowhere for Gimenou Bou to go.
Rodriguez had managed to reclaim the lead by the end of Lap One, although this was short-lived as he got passed on both sides coming in to the Rettifilo. Once the second group of drivers had entered Turn One all hell began breaking loose! Three of them collided and veered off to the right of the track; Danny Giusa looked as though he’d survived the ordeal, but it wasn’t to be. Domiter collided with his rear left tire, inflicting suspension damage and ultimately ending Guisa’s race. Guisa’s race was well and truly over though around Curva Grande, as the Core Motorsports driver plunged head-on in to the inside retaining wall once the rear become too hot to handle.
By Lap Four Oliver Connor had built-up a small but sizable margin over the chasing pack, with second place down battling hard, this enabled Connor to bridge a gap. On the exit of Ascari the British driver ruined his golden chances of breaking away further and even getting the win. This dropped him all the way back to fifth with a sizable gap between him and the top pack.
Lap Eight would be where it ended for Lewis Gillett and defending champion Gregory Tanson with a synchronised spin around Della Roggia. Both drivers survived the initial spin, but Gillett’s uncontrollable car came across the rear of Tanson’s Pro Mazda which vaulted the British driver into orbit and onto his roll hoop. Tanson’s race also effectively ended here, as his rear right suspension was destroyed and his chances of retaining the prized Pro Mazda championship seriously compromised. The accident promoted Connor and O’donnell to third and fourth places respectively, but they still faced an almost impossible task if they wanted to catch Rodriguez and Voß at the head of the pack.
With only 2 tenths separating the top two come the final lap it really was either of their races to win . . . so we thought. But it wasn’t to be Rodriguez or Voß who took the checkereg flag, not after they came to blows at Curva Parabolica. Voß tried to go for a last chance move as they entered the Parabolica and it looked as though he’d secured the victory. But it wasn’t to be. Guisa’s fellow Core Motorsport teammate also had his race ended in the wall.
The aftermath of the incident was much more dissatisfying for both drivers. They were competing for the win fair and hard, and a small misjudgement on Voß’s part meant he pushed up mid-corner in to Rodriguez’s path and sent him spiralling rearwards in to the outside tire barrier. Rodriguez managed to complete the race – ultimately in 6th position – after executing three perfectly executed barrel rolls. He crawled to the finish line with a battered car which could barely drive straight! What this meant was that out of all surprise victors for this race Matthew O’donnell would claim his first SOF victory of the season! Of all the race finishes since coverage began on the Pro Mazda series. this certainly has to be the most peculiar of them all! You only need to lead one lap o win a race, and O’donnell did just that!
The American picked-up 208 points for this effort. Connor accumulated 195 points for second position – with a seriously deranged front wing, so a superb effort on his part. Thomas Schmidt kept it quiet all race but benefited from the last turn scuffle to round off the podium with 183 points. Marcio Arizon and Andreas Nilsson both narrowly beat Rodriguez to finish in the top five positions of this race.
Next week the Pro Mazdas will once again return to the Mountain, a.k.a Bathurst! With a strong grid expected once again, could it be anyone’s race to win?
If you’d like to watch this race from the winner’s perspective, you can find this video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_4nx4VvT_0