July 31st, 2010 by DavidP
Twenty three cars. Over 120,00 hp. Brands Hatch Racing Circuit in Kent, England. What better combination to open the 2010 Simulated Sports Car Association (SSCA) North American GT Championship (NAGTC)? Chosen for this championship were the pinnacle of Australian sedan racing, the Ford Falcon V8 Supercar; the Riley MkXX Daytona Prototype and the formidable Chevrolet Corvette C6.R GT1. Together they formed a potent combination of raw V8 power.
The SSCA chose an awe-inspiring selection of international motor racing circuits from Philip Island in Australia, Zandvoort in the Netherlands to North America’s own “green hell,” Virginia International Raceway. Taming these awesome machines over 1000 miles on some of the greatest circuits in the world challenged all of the drivers to their fullest and produced some incredibly close racing and fierce competition.
Each race comprised between 40 and 50 laps with a duration of just over one hour. It became clear that competing pit strategies as well as competing drivers would determine the finishing order in the series. This played out at every race during the year as different pit strategies made for difficult tactical decisions. The Daytona Prototype was able to run the entire race on one tank of gas but tire management was absolutely critical, making it impossible for the DP drivers to run at full-speed for the entire race. The C6.R and V8 Supercar could run at maximum pace but they had to make one stop to take on new tires.
The opening race at Brands Hatch introduced both old and new drivers to the names David Boden, Billy Smith and Chris Hughson who stamped their authority on the series with strong victories. Moving across the Atlantic, race two at my home track of Road Atlanta brought a victory in the DP class for me (Colin MacLean), while Steve Bycroft and Scott Kennedy brought home the honors in the C6R and V8 respectively.
Next we travelled north to Bowmanville, Ontario and made our visit to historic Mosport, a race that turned-out to be one of the highlights of the season in the DP class. David Boden made a comfortable pole position followed by myself and Ash Hogan, all within a few tenths of a second. I had elected to make a one stop pit strategy as I was sure that everyone was doing the same. After a couple of laps I could see I was comfortably faster than David so I pushed past into first. I was trying to conserve the tires and luckily for me a charging Ash Hogan got tangled with someone and took to the grass. I built up a comfortable gap to David by Lap 25. As I pushed-on, my tires became unmanageable as I stretched their useful life as far as I could. I pitted around Lap 33 for four tires and fuel only to find to my complete surprise that David hadn’t pitted and was ahead! I had seventeen laps to make up a seventeen second deficit. The race was on!
I pushed as hard as I could laying down laps at qualifying pace and the time was coming down around one second a lap when to my surprise David’s car was suddenly only four seconds ahead. David was able to pick up the pace and no matter what I tried I could only close in a few tenths per lap. Coming down to the wire on lap 46 I was right on his tail. We threaded the needle through the first group of traffic but David was catching a V8 way too quickly around the last complex of turns. I knew I had my opportunity. I backed way off and took an almighty run on them. I timed it just right and came onto the front straight with a head of steam. David chose the inside line and I was able to get a nose ahead by Turn One. We turned-in side-by-side. Just inches separated us as I squeaked ahead and completd the outside pass before Turn Two, taking my car on to the win only seconds ahead of David!
As the season wore on Chris and myself extended the lead in our respective championships. The battle in the Corvettes, however, was far from over! The ever-quick Billy Smith, Steve Bycroft, Alex Ulleri, and Jerry Knitter all had a realistic shot at the championship as we reached the mid-point at Watkins Glen running the Classic Boot configuration, a track where the Corvette really shines! What followed was a fierce battle at the front of the field as the Corvettes led the overall race for the first time this season. Steve Bycroft took the Corvette win with Alex Ulleri and Giles Mourette not far behind. The first three Corvettes all finished within fifteen seconds and tightened the points gap at the top of the championship.
As the checkered flag flew at the final race of the season in Zandvoort, Chris Hughson had cruised to victory in the V8 Championship, I had clinched the DP championship and Alex Ulleri, through consistent podium finishing, had taken the honors in the Corvette.
The NAGT championship had been hard-fought and along the way we even had some fun too. Friendships were made, rivalries were born and we all thoroughly enjoyed racing with the SSCA. Consistency was key to victory this season and as we look forward to the new Grand American Championship, we have to wonder. Will the new regulations that force the Daytona Prototype to make a pit stop result in a Corvette taking the first overall victory? Will the new batch of DP and Corvette drivers challenge the series champions? Tune in to our next season to find out!