Over a dozen and a half Grand Prix Legends sim-racers attended the big Sunday race at Suzuka in the land of the rising sun for 13 laps of this classic Japanese F1 circuit. Last season’s champion Mick Claridge sat on pole with a 2:01.172, over a second faster than Victor Perelman could manage in second place. Bruce Snelson shared Row Two with Uwe Jacobsen with Duncan Coppedge rounding out the top five. When the red lights turned green Coppedge immediately lost a position to J. Matt Steele but some late braking at Turn One earned him his position straight back. Kevin Kosiorek had a great start as he overtook Scott Spahr for P11, but a wheel in the grass sent him spinning at the Turn 11 hairpin.
Kosiorek wasn’t the only sim-racer struggling with the complex corners of Suzuka. Stephan Roesgen had slotted into his seventh starting position and was going well between Steele and Brandon Whitworth until a spin at Spoon Curve dropped him down the pack.
Spahr had gained two positions in the opening lap because of the struggles of competitors ahead of him, but when he came into the same Turn 11 hairpin that gave him his first position of the race he overcooked the entry and ran straight off the inside of the track and into the barrier at the outside of the corner. He didn’t suffer any major mechanical damage, as his nose took the most from the hit, but he did lose loads of time and positions.
The next time around, on Lap Three, the seventh-placed Adam Firth either suffered a technical malfunction or a lack of confidence as he seemingly pulled wide at the Turn 11 hairpin and let Michael Wren go by as well as Jo Pearce. Firth lost another position to John Neely after running wide at 130R, dropping to tenth.
Firth wasn’t the only sim-racer struggling with their Lotus 49 on Lap Three, however, as Steele battled for grip at the entrance to Spoon and slithered off track, narrowly avoiding the barrier, and losing fifth place to Alex Uelk.
Neely started Lap Six in P10, up from twelfth on the grid, but lost that to JP Hieb into Turn One. Neely’s woes continued later the same lap when he went into the gravel at the exit of the Turn Eight (Degner), losing positions to Kosiorek and Firth.
On Lap Eight it was Wren and Steele who were having a good, clean battle for sithx with Wren closing on Steele. The pair were coming through Spoon when suddenly there was a real heart-in-mouth moment when a stationary back-marker appeared at the exit of the corner facing the wrong direction. Steele took evasive action and with lightning reflexes oversteered his way to the inside line while Wren, with the benefit of more time to react, took the more suitable outside line around the static Lotus 49.
Eight laps after Roesgen’s Lap One spin at Spoon he was running well in ninth and not far behind Pearce with four laps still remaining. Once more, however, Roesgen struggled with the infamous Spoon curve after oversteer sent him spinning off the track again, and losing him another two positions.
After nine laps of sim racing that held-up to the title “Grand Prix Legends,” Perelman was about six seconds behind Claridge and, crucially, more than six seconds ahead of Snelson. Immediately after putting in his fastest lap of the race, a 2:02.151, his virtual Ford-Cosworth released a deafening roar at the end of the Start/Finish straight and thick smoke began spilling out behind. He pulled to the exit of Turn One and got a tow to the pits, where he retired, promoting everyone in the race aside from Claridge.
On the final lap of the race the front of the pack appeared to have settled their positions firmly, but in the midfield from P7 to P11 everything was up for grabs as only a handful of seconds separated all five sim-racers. Pearce led the way with Roesgen just behind and Hieb even closer, then Kosiorek a second behind that, and Spahr two seconds behind that. When Pearce struggled to get the power down coming out of the hairpin he immediately lost positions to Roesgen and Hieb.
After 13 laps Claridge had an almost 20 second gap to Snelson who grabbed second place by just over two seconds from Jacobsen (and getting 128, 121, and 114 points each for their efforts; second, fourth, and fifth for the week). Perelman scored the most points during Week Three with 148 points from another high SOF race while Jason Wells scored third in Suzuka with 126 points for his championship.