The past two weeks in the iRacing Mazda MX-5 Cup have been thrilling ones, taking sim racers from the Golden Coast of California to the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. After over 5000 sim racers participated in the two weekly events, many names rose to the top of the overall standings, The Unofficial Hot Lap Championship and the roster of weekly winners including names like Steven Diem (West), Glenn McGee (California), Richard Eklund (New York) and Christian Szymczak (California).
Entering the first of two incredible weeks, the MX-5s stopped at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, fittingly. The sim racers strapped on their virtual helmets, and raced their MX-5s around the historic virtual circuit for 10 laps. The reccurring goal of achieving 170 points for the week was reached by only three drivers: Ben Lykins (Indiana), Szymczak (California), and overall championship leader Diem. Lykins and Szymczak went one-for-three in their efforts attempts, winning once and achieving top fives in all three of their races for Week 4.
As for the quickest hot-lappers, Diem once again showed his strength in the virtual MX-5, as he posted a lap that was 13 hundredths of a second quicker than second fastest (Szymczak), posting a 1:41.050. 10 other sim racers were classified under the 1:42 mark at the home of Mazda; which is over five seconds under the SCCA lap record (1:46.689).
Granted, comparing real life to a sim has many facets. One major factor is pushing beyond the limit. In a sim, drivers can push the car as hard as they dare, crash hard . . . and just hit a reset button. In real life, drivers have to be on the limit all the time, and not to take into account the g-forces, and the thoughts of paying for a wrecked car or getting some extended “sheet time.” With a sim, a driver can theoretically have unlimited practice, while the real-world racer gets only limited practice.
After the competitors exited the famous Californian circuit, they headed east to West Virginia and the Jefferson Course of Summit Point Raceway. While known as a karting and road-safety course, the 1.1 mile Jefferson Course can still produce intense side-by-side sim racing. The 15 lap events held throughout Week 5 welcomed 2451 sim racers from around the world to participate. Once again, West Club’s Diem stole the spotlight, collecting a whopping 201 points, the most points so far of any event this season. Glenn McGee also benefited from the high strength of field, snagging 180 points from the week’s events.
The quickest qualifiers around Summit’s karting track were the usual suspects: Szymczak, McGee, and Eklund, respectively. Since the circuit is so short, qualifying times were very closely matched, witness the fact that the top 25 were separated by only 9 tenths of a second. And with just seven turns to its name, Jefferson offers little room for error . . . or recovery. Unfortunately, the SCCA has no records of Spec Miatas or MX-5s at the Jefferson Circuit, but Szymczak’s pole time of a 55.638s (Pole) was unquestionably quick. Considering Laguna Seca was over five seconds quicker than the real-world counterpart, the times will be record-setting nonetheless.
Now, the series heads south to the former Beast of the Southeast: Charlotte Motor Speedway. No, competitors will not be running the 2.5 mile oval; rather they will seek to come to grips with the 2.25 mile, 12 turn roval. Just after crossing the start/finish line, the sim racers will take a massive dive into the infield road course, where a 7-turn complex awaits before rejoining the oval in time for Turn One. It’s a challenging, yet great beginner course for someone who new to the series. The road to the Mazda Shootout will soon cross the halfway mark, and will be nothing but a downhill race to determine the fastest Mazda sim racer on iRacing in Season 3.