Thirty-six sim-racers from all over the world came out to Round One of the 2012 Targa Series, the Pennsylvanian 150 this past Sunday. Pocono Raceway International Course played host to a 60-lap race filled with interesting strategies, and marred by attrition as the field came to terms with what the Targa Series is all about. Commentator Rob Sutherland best summed-up many of the driver’s feelings during the live GlacierTV broadcast while talking about the high attrition rate. “That’s how the Targa guys like to do it,” he remarked. “They like to give you a really difficult combination, three cars that are really quick, and it’s just all about getting to the end of the race.”
While no major incidents had any devastating impacts to the flow of the race, self spins and small instances of contact riddled the field throughout the event. It was the drivers who kept their nose clean who ended-up on top and some of the quickest teams during the week of preparations and qualifying saw their good finishes fade away with a damaged race car. The International Course at Pocono Raceway has extreme track width changes, something a lot of drivers aren’t used too. Concerns in the practices and qualifying about how the field would be able to funnel into these sections of the infield, and specifically the “flip-flop” (as the final chicane became known), were put to the test throughout the race. But it was the racing against other cars, and not the track alone, that became the real challenge.
In the C1 category, driving the Riley MkXX Daytona Prototype, qualifying was a battle between just two drivers, Slipstream Racing’s Tim Resciniti and P1 Racing driver John Paquin. Paquin had been quick all week, but due to the combined qualifying for all classes the DPs had to weave their way through traffic, meaning sometimes the driver with the luckiest lap and not the most speed would be quicker. Resciniti was able to take away the pole from Paquin by just a few hundredths of a second. Marty Sponsler, also driving for P1 Racing, qualified a quick third with Slipstream’s Patrick Bolster and Falcon GP driver Jonathan Johansson filling out the top five.
Eduardo Prado racing for Brazil Power Team led the way in the Ford GT’s for C2 qualifying. He was followed by a couple tenths by privately entered Roope Turkkila and The Black Rebels’ driver Oscar Sahlin. Interestingly in the C2 and C3 categories the fields became mixed on the grid. The speed of the slower C2 drivers had them start mixed with the C3 drivers. It would be an extra challenge for the start of the race to react to cars around who weren’t really for position, but had to be treated with just as much respect.
In the C3 class driving the Cadillac CTS-V, Naoya Nagai displayed absolute dominance qualifying a full six tenths quicker than series favorite and Rubagalline Racing driver Valerio Chietti. Anders Dahl, racing for iRacingDanmark, qualified in the third spot only a few more tenths off of Chietti. In total the field was broken down to a very even 13 C1s, 10 C2s, and 13 C3s; a lot of cars for a track that is barely two lanes wide in some places.
“They like to give you a really difficult combination, three cars that are really quick, and it’s just all about getting to the end of the race.” — Rob Sutherland
The start of the race was very clean. All drivers seemed to understand the golden rule of racing, “to finish first, you first must finish.” Tim Resciniti got out to a quick lead from John Paquin, while Jonathan Johansson overtook Patrick Bolster for the 3rd spot in C1. In C2 Eduardo Prado sped away, quickly being pursued by Roope Turkilla. On the first lap Oscar Sahlin made a mistake on the “flip flop” chicane, one that he would never recover from. Targa Series veteran Corey Davis quickly inherited his 3rd position and set to maintain his very well practiced consistency. In C3 Naoya Nagai made a sluggish start amongst the C2 cars, quickly being caught by Anders Dahl. Nagai and Dahl fought closely for the next few laps, but it was apparent Nagai had a very consistent and quick pace set for himself.
Lap 3 saw one of two major incidents during the race. While entering the second corner, C1 class Russell Klaesson driving for vApex Racing braked late and just caught the back of P1 Racing’s Jennifer King. King’s car quickly looped back around and hit the side of Klaesson, sending him end-over-end into the grass. Sascha Kraeger went for a crazy ride through the infield, successfully avoiding the maylay, but it would not be the end of his troubles. Both Klaesson and King’s races were finished as a result, leaving the former Targa Series marshal and the only women in the field both sitting on the sidelines.
Upfront Resciniti continued to consistently pull away from Paquin, using the traffic to help further extend his lead. By the time of first pit stop Resciniti had a near 20 second advantage, showing that either Paquin was running a very different strategy, or Resciniti had the confidence in traffic that was now so important. Although the C1 cars spread out quickly, the C2 class could not have been more different. Close racing was common throughout the entire pack, and upfront Eduardo Prado and Roope Turkilla had a monumental 24 lap battle until the worst happened. Still struggling from his earlier incident, C1 driver Sascha Kraeger out braked himself and put two wheels on the grass in turn 4, resulting in a spin which severely damaged Turkilla, and would bring him to end his race just two laps later. This allowed Prado to gain a very sizable lead over Corey Davis who now inherited second and was set to continue his consistent drive.
In C3 by the time pit stops began, and even beforehand, Naoya Nagai made it known that he was the quickest by far. The hottest battle on the track was between second and third place, privately entered Daniel Britton and Anders Dahl. Eventually through the aid of traffic, and perhaps better strategy worked out beforehand, Britton was able to extend a gap to Dahl, one that would last the rest of the race.
Upfront things looked wrapped up for Resciniti. After making his final pit stop, the bright pink and white colored DP was sitting just 15 seconds behind John Paquin who also was set for a stop, or was he? Paquin had worked some fuel magic, and over the next 10 or so laps fans eagerly watched to see if Paquin would pull into the pits, but each time he would drive by turning quicker laps that Resciniti and having better luck with traffic. By the time Paquin pit, with just six laps to go, his lead had been extended to over 15 seconds and because of the short fill required, he came out just 5 behind Resciniti. Paquin tried every trick in the book to catch Resciniti by the end of the race, but as they crossed the line Resciniti was able to stay in front, finishing with a gap of just 3.9 seconds. Resciniti’s teammate Patrick Bolster was able to pass Jonathan Johansson in the early going to come home with a very solid third place, putting two Slipstream Racing cars in the top three.
Eduardo Prado ran incident free for the rest of the day and easily took C2 victory after Turkkila had been knocked out. “Mr. Consistency” Corey Davis finished a wonderful second, with newcomer but experienced endurance racer Randolph Chenowth making a name for himself and bringing home the third spot. Chenowth was absolutely elated with his result stating that it was an “absolutely astounding race for me.”
Just as he showed in qualifying, Naoya Nagai brought home his Cadillac CTS-V in perfect condition, over a lap ahead of his closest competitor, and completely dominated the event. Daniel Britton was able to hang on to second place from Anders Dahl, the two separated by a large distance as well, showing that consistency and patience is really what made the difference as even just one small incident would ruin all of the hard work.
The Targa Series will be traveling to upstate New York for the New York State Classic at Watkins Glen International Classic Course late August for Round Two of the calendar. This ultra-fast layout at Watkins Glen will make having someone to work with essential. The racing is expected to be more like a superspeedway drafting chess match than a slow paced endurance race, and it will be sure to test drivers in a very different way than Pocono. Driver entry will be wide-open again, and the grid is expected to be at max capacity. Stay tuned to gplaps.wordpress.com for all info on the Targa Series, and of course GlacierTV for live coverage of the event!