The iRacing.com Blancpain Endurance Series descended on the historic Circuit Gilles Villeneuve located in Montreal, Canada for Week 3 and it’s fair to say that the track was represented in the best possible way. For 112 laps around the hybrid circuit, teams and drivers navigated through the treacherous chicanes and sweeping turns as the three-hour race commenced. However, Week 3 proved to be different than the previous race weeks in that we saw our first solo driver take the overall victory.
Although he didn’t compete in the first two rounds, Nathan Schartner of SDC Motorsports entered the fray as a solo driver and made the most of it. Starting at the pointy end with a qualifying time of 1:33.875, Schartner would lead an ultra-competitive 43-car field which featured the top 14 cars being less than a second apart from each other. Despite the pressure, Schartner went on to win from pole after leading 84 laps in his Ford GT. However, as Schartner explains, the win was no walk in the park.
“The top three were within a second for almost the entire first hour,” said Schartner. “Lapped traffic made things very interesting as every time I started to gap just a bit, I would lose it all passing the traffic. Unfortunately, the fun came to an end when second place got taken out by a lapped car. From then on, it was just put in consistent laps and not screw up the pit stops.”
With the win, Schartner (who is also Canadian) takes-in 200 championship points along with the satisfaction of representing his home turf with a win. Although he is currently down the order on the overall scoreboard since this is his first time racing this season, we can certainly expect more from the SDC driver in the future.
Taking the second step of the podium for Week 3 were Patrick Rall and Markus Vogt of Banzai Motorsport. Despite starting outside the top-five, the duo managed their time, car and fuel wisely as they navigated their RUF through traffic while only accruing one incident point over the course of the three hour online race. Splitting the driving duties by way of 38/74 laps respectively, Rall and Vogt fought their way into second position. Despite being unable to catch Schartner, the duo earned 195 championship points along the way. Like Schartner, the Banzai Motorsport duo make their Blancpain Endurance series debut at Montreal; but with their podium performance, we certainly hope to see more from them throughout the season.
“The top three were within a second for almost the entire first hour,” said Schartner.
Do you solo?
Looking to continue his run of consistency and good fortune was Lukas Jestädt of MSP Drivers-Home #1. Currently the Blancpain Endurance series championship leader, Jestädt is the only driver on the Week 3 podium to have participated in previous race rounds within the category. As such, Jestädt, who started the Montreal race in second, managed to bring home a third place finish in his Ford GT just behind Banzai Motorsport. Although his race was not as clean as Rall and Vogt due to traffic, Jestädt currently holds a 24 point lead in the championship. Additionally, Jestädt managed to win an endurance race in a lower Strength of Field (SoF).
Schartner’s win (along with a slew of other Ford GT’s taking the overall top-10) extended Ford’s complete domination of the unofficial Manufacturers Championship. Three of the four manufacturers were represented in the top-ten this week with the exception being BMW. For full documentation, please visit the forums here.
Before teams and drivers alike head to the next stop on the iRacing.com Blancpain Endurance series calendar, they’ll be treated to an off week. This will certainly allow teams to get any issues they may have discovered thus far in order before the season continues in two weeks in Leicestershire, England where, for three hours, teams and drivers will attempt to traverse the famous Donington Park Grand Prix Racing Circuit. The nearly 2.5 mile circuit features several historic turns such as the sweeping Craner Curves along with the Melbourne Hairpin which is quickly followed up by Goddards.
A favorite among real and sim-racers alike, we can fully expect some great racing next week at Donington. And although the various teams have been showing their skills early on, the solo drivers seem to be on the offensive as of late and will likely continue to do so heading into Round 4.