Round Six of the iRacing.com V8 Supercars Series presented by Big Pond journeyed to Japan to visit Twin Ring Motegi as the series reached the half way mark. The championship is starting to heat-up as Trans Tasman Racing team mates Madison Down and Joshua Muggleton are only 30 points apart and, with Justin Ruggier a further 30 points back, it is looking like a three way battle for this season’s title.
Once again Ruggier captured the top spot in qualifying with a lap of 1:52.727 while championship leader Down was second fastest with Muggleton and Riches forming the second row of the grid. Michael Fabian and Shaun Kelly would start from the third row as Brad Ryan and a career best qualifying result for Tony Autridge would see that twosome on the fourth row ahead of Robert Hartley and Matthew Hill for the start of Round Six.
Once again Ruggier captured the top spot in qualifying with a lap of 1:52.727 while championship leader Down was second fastest with Muggleton and Riches forming the second row of the grid. Michael Fabian and Shaun Kelly would start from the third row as Brad Ryan and a career best qualifying result for Tony Autridge would see that two-some on the fourth row ahead of Robert Hartley and Matthew Hill for the start of Round Six.
Down got the jump on Ruggier when the lights went green and led into Turn One. However, Down ran a little too deep into the corner, allowing Ruggier to fight back and take the inside line into Turn Three. Following his rival’s example, Ruggier ran it deep into Turn Three and, unfortunately for Down, forced them both off the road, handing the lead to Muggleton and enabling Riches to commandeer second position. When the dust cleared, Ruggier found himself back in sixth position with Down P8. At that, they were better off than Ryan, whose race was about to come to an end when he “lagged-out” through Turn Five and re-appeared in Turn Six, where he got net-coded by Ruggier due to his (Ryan) having a ping of around 1500. Ryan would be the first driver to retire from the race.
Within four laps Ruggier and Down had made their respective ways back to third and fourth. Lap Four saw Leigh Ellis make a move on Paul Gallen into Turn Nine only for Gallen to turn across on Ellis. The resulting contact sent Gallen around and pitched Ellis into a half spin, while an opportunistic Jason Brunton capitalized on the mayhem to advance two positions.
Muggleton would be the first driver to take to pitlane, heading in for service on Lap 10. Ruggier followed suit the next time ‘round with Kelly, Hartley and Simon Black joining him in the pits. Muggleton would extend his lead when Ruggier re-joined the track and on Lap 12 Riches the pitted and re-join just behind Ruggier in third position. Down finally come in at the end of Lap 13 and exited in fourth spot.
Once the field completed their pit stops it was Muggleton from Ruggier with Riches just behind in third, while Down was a few seconds back in fourth with Kelly rounding-out the top five. Hill, Fabian and Hartley ran sixth through eighth, but with Autridge drawing ever closer with Black in tenth place and Tobias Czerny closing fast in 11th place.
By Lap 20 Ruggier had closed the gap to Muggleton and now the fight for the lead was well and truly joined on with 10 laps to go, with Riches hot on their heels. Muggleton dropped a wheel on the grass exiting the final corner on Lap 22 and got sideways, allowing Ruggier through and into control of the race with eight to go. Riches moved-up a notch as well while Muggleton had his hands full trying to keep his V8 Ford Falcon in a straight line and get back on track.
Thus while he had been forced to perform harder than he might have liked, Ruggier nevertheless collected his first checkered flag of the season to firmly insert himself into this fight for the online racing championship. Riches continued his strong form by coming home second with Muggleton rounding-out the podium ahead of Down and Kelly. Hill managed to hold off Fabian to claim a well deserved sixth place even as Autridge celebrated one of his career best performances in eighth place. Hartley and Czerny would round out the top ten finishers with Black just keeping Justin Di Giandomenico at bay for 11th and 12th place respectively.
Top Five Drivers – Championship Points – Overall
1. Madison Down –1455
2. Joshua Muggleton – 1434
3. Justin Ruggier – 1424
4. Vail Riches – 1340
5. Michael Fabian – 1136
Split Two Winner: Damien Bulter
Split Three Winner: Adrian Stratford
Split Four Winner: Mathew Stratford
Split Five Winner: Deborah Morrow
Broadcast done by the crew at www.v8sonline.com.au