February 7th, 2016 by Paul Malokas
The first half of the season has seen Mikko Nassi dominate. Leading into this week’s race at Twin Ring Motegi, Nassi had captured pole and won four out of the five races he showed up to. However the trend of stellar fields competing each week continued and Nassi had a lot of competition to get the win here.
Nassi did not disappoint in qualifying. He captured pole by 0.107 over Arjan de Vreede with Enzo Canta a further 0.017 behind. Series regulars Jim Parisis, Rob Read, Tom Ward, Brian Doell, Philippe Leybaert, Daniel Schwonek and David Stefanini rounded out the top ten. The top 20 drivers were all within a second of Nassi’s time.
The early stages of the race saw the top nine racers pull away from the rest of the field. This front pack chose to sit back and let the race develop before fighting for position. The only changes to this train prior to the pit stops was Parisis retiring early after a minor incident. Leybaert took advantage of this incident and moved from seventh to fourth.
This led to the usual battle of pit stops to see who the challengers would be at the end. Read pitted first and had the fastest stop of the day. However, he would have to deal with some traffic after rejoining. Two laps later, Nassi pitted from the lead. He was followed in by Ward and the rest of the pack stayed out. Nassi rejoined just ahead of Read and Ward rejoined a couple of seconds behind. On the next lap, Leybaert and Schwonek pitted. Leybaert rejoined in between Nassi and Read. Schwonek joined Ward created a small group behind the leaders. Next to pit were de Vreede and Canta. De Vreede rejoined just behind Read at the tail end of the lead train. Canta rejoined alone behind the group of Ward and Schwonek. Doell was the last of the leaders to pit and had a good stop and rejoining with the lead pack.
This setup a battle between the top five of Nassi, Leybaert, Read, de Vreede and Doell. Entering the final sector with three laps remaining the group remained together with the only change being de Vreede moving ahead of Read. This was the end of the calm though. Coming into T11 Leybaert attacked Nassi and took the lead. However, Nassi wasn’t ready to sit back and immediately challenged Leybaert in the T12-14 complex and took the lead to setup an incredible final two laps.
Leybaert challenged Nassi again going into T5 and the two of them went through the entire sector side by side. At T9 de Vreede joined the fray and the three of them went side by side down into T10. The hairpin however settled this somewhat. Leybaert took the lead with Nassi falling to second. However, all five racers were lined up nose to tail. In T11 Nassi did not challenge Leybaert, but did have to defend against de Vreede but it was not a real challenge. The group was now entering the final lap and stayed in a line until the run to T5. Nassi moved to the outside to challenge Leybaert and Read moved to the outside of de Vreede to challenge him. De Vreede moved ahead of Read on exit, but was himself challenged by Doell. At the front Leybaert and Nassi again exited the corner side by side and went through turns six and seven this way. Finally Nassi came out ahead for the moment with de Vreede right behind with Read and Doell also navigating this sector side by side. Entering T9 Leybaert challenged again, this time taking the outside line on Nassi on entry. He quickly realized he wasn’t going to complete the pass and tried to setup the over under, but de Vreed was on his inside and Read was on de Vreede’s inside. Read and de Vreede touched lightly, unsettling Read’s car and letting Doell get past him heading down to T10. Heading into the final sector it was Nassi leading over Leybaert, de Vreede, Doell and a small gap to Read. In the final corner Nassi made a mistake and got a poor exit. Leybaert however got the exit perfect and quickly came along side Nassi for a dramatic run to the line. In the end Nassi held on by 0.021 seconds over Leybaert and 0.288 over de Vreede. Doell and Read finished a very close fourth and fifth.
In the next group Schwonek, Canta and Ward finished in sixth through eighth. Behind them was another great battle that saw Mickael Lamoureux come home in ninth, just ahead of Johnny Guindi in tenth.
The win was Nassi’s fifth in six tries this season and has given him a large lead in the championship. He now leads by 48 points over second place de Vreede. Leybaert is now comfortably in third place 19 points behind de Vreede. Schwonek continued his excellent season and is now at the head of a group fighting for the final places in the top five. The championship now switches gears as they prepare for the first every endurance race on the Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit.
|3||Arjan de Vreede||Benelux||-0.288||46|
|5||Rob Read||UK and I||-1.679||37|
|8||Tom Ward||UK and I||-6.392||24|
|14||Barry Morrison||UK and I||-26.329||19|
|17||Collin van Raam||Benelux||-32.971||16|
|18||Fahim Antoniades||UK and I||-35.965||15|
|26||Jim I. Parisis||International||-10 L||0|
|2||Arjan de Vreede||232|
|10||Jim I. Parisis||99|