Continental Endurance Sports Car Series: Round 7

The Continental Endurance Sports Car Series (CESCS) made a stop 5 May 2012 at Watkins Glen International in the Finger Lakes region of New York for the seventh round in the multi-class online racing series featuring the Ford Mustang FR500S in the GS class and the Mazda MX-5 Cup in the ST class.

Qualifying

The GS and ST classes ran separate 15 minute qualifying sessions with Brian Strodtbeck in only his third appearance this season taking his second pole with a time of 2:06.420.  Oscar Sahlin (2:06.977) qualified in the 2 position, and Russell Klaesson (2:07.155) completed the top three in GS.  Trace McRae was late for qualifying and the 5 time pole sitter would roll off seventh.  Fans were expecting a drive to the front that did not materialize, and McRae would not be a factor all day.  Jady Baumgardner does not make a qualifying lap and decides to start from pit lane.

Aussie James Stevenson, the ST championship leader, continued to be perfect in qualifying with another pole – 5 for 5 this season – at a time of 2:12.796.  Arthur Chan backed up his result from Road America qualifying in the 2 position at 2:13.061, followed by second in points Giancarlo Lenzi with a time of 2:13.302.

Race Review

The online race got off to a clean start with Strodtbeck leading the top 5 qualifiers into Turn 1, funneling down single file at the exit and holding position.  In ST, Stevenson had to check up in the Esses letting Chan get a run on him down the backstretch and Chan gained the lead going into the Inner Loop.  Strodtbeck and Chan lead Lap 1 while Stevenson followed his normal strategy of pitting at the end of the first lap along with a few other ST cars further back in the pack.  Having gotten his bonus points for leading, Chan pitted on Lap 2 handing the lead over to Lenzi, but Chan would make the mistake of overrunning his pit stall, losing valuable time.  Stefan Overgaard gained the ST lead at the inner loop with a classic Watkins Glen pass, drafting Lenzi onto the backstretch and dropping to the inside to out-brake him entering the Loop.  Lenzi took his turn to make the obligatory pit stop, followed on the next lap by Overgaard, handing the lead over to Antti Tuominen in a carousel of ST leaders.

Strodtbeck leads the field into Turn 1.

Up in front in GS, the top three – Strodtbeck, Sahlin, and Klaesson – started to stretch a lead over the pursuing sim racers until on Lap 3 Klaesson made a mistake braking for the Inner Loop and went for a ride across the gravel trap, making slight contact with the tire barrier.  At the same time, a battle between David Waters, Ayrton Ellis, and Steve Brown for what would become third position became hotter as Waters made a mistake on the brakes at the same place as Klaesson.  Ellis had to check-up and Brown bumped him in the back sending him wide into the grass outside the Inner Loop.  Waters was able to hold his position to take over third in GS, but Ellis lost a spot to Brown.  Klaesson dropped down to ninth before he could get back on track.

In ST, Chan’s slow pit stop allowed Lenzi to erase the deficit he had to Chan and he had come out of the pits to take position right behind Chan.  A lap later Lenzi made his move, dipping to the inside of Chan and out-braking him to take the position at Turn 1.  Chan fought back through the Esses and drove by Lenzi down the backstretch, only to go wide in Turn 6 and hand the position back to Lenzi.  Next lap, down the backstretch, Chan once again got a run in the draft and was back ahead at the Inner Loop.  Lenzi kept the pressure on but it all ended for him on lap 8 when he blew the engine coming out of the Heel of the Boot.

After Lenzi’s blown engine the field settled down with some close racing in a few spots but no overtaking and the field mostly got strung out as everyone completed their mandatory pit stops.  By lap 20 Strodtbeck led Sahlin by five seconds in GS, and Stevenson led ST by 10 seconds over Chan.  Then Chan nearly lost control in the Inner Loop, allowing a group of STs – Tuominen, Eric Biggs, and Overgaard – to catch him.  With the break in momentum, Tuominen got to the inside of Chan at Turn 6 and took second.

Tuominen (left) grabs second from Chan.

The first caution came out on lap 22 (47 minutes into the race) when Hang Ho Tao spun in Turn 6, hitting the wall and sliding back onto the track.  All of ST, except Stevenson, were a lap down to Strodtbeck and were eligible to get waved around the pace car.  Chan, however, made a grave strategic error by pitting, thinking he needed to fix some damage from very early in the race.  The move prevented him from receiving the wave around with the rest of the ST class and he would drop from third in class to ninth.  Also pitting during the caution were overall leader Strodtbeck, Steve Brown, Ellis, and Waters, promoting Sahlin to the lead followed by Jady Baumgardner.  Strodtbeck would restart in sixth.

The ST class wave-arounds were unable to catch the field before the green flag flew on  Lap 26, so Stevenson, not needing the wave-around, had a healthy lead over Tuominen with another large gap back to Overgaard in third.  While trying to catch the tail of the field before the green flag, Eric Biggs, who had been third in class, looped it in Turn 8 losing positions to Overgaard and Joseph Peak.  The green flew as Biggs got back up to speed and he wound up in the middle of a battle for fourth with Peak, James Farrugia, and Jason Bryfogle.  The rules do not allow passing before the line on restarts so though the green came out when the group was in Turn 9, everyone had to be mindful not to execute a pass until the line.  Coming to the line, Farrugia looked like he may break that rule as he had a good run onto the front stretch and was alongside Biggs at the line, but he was only up to the door and safe by the rules.  He completed the inside pass on Biggs at Turn 1.  Ayrton Ellis in GS, however, had restarted in eighth and took a run down the front stretch to move up to fifth, but had passed Brown before the line and was rewarded with a black flag.

Action over the next several laps was dominated by the ST battle for fourth and by Strodtbeck trying to race his way back to the lead.  Strodtbeck had executed a pass on Stephen McPherson going into Turn 1 on the restart, and at the end of the lap passed Chris Moran off the last turn.  With Ellis’ penalty, Strodtbeck had moved back up to fourth in the first lap from restart.

In ST, Biggs fought back against Farrugia getting to the inside coming out of the boot.  They went side-by-side all the way to Turn 1, but Farrugia had the inside and Biggs went wide at the exit allowing Farrugia to keep the position.

Back to Strodtbeck, he got a better exit from the Inner Loop than Alexis Molina and dipped to the inside through the Carousel.  The two went side-by-side down into the Boot where Strodtbeck fought to hold onto the outside so he could have the inside at the Toe of the Boot where he would finally complete the pass for third.

In ST, Bryfogle was now applying pressure to Biggs through the Esses, the Inner Loop, and down into the Boot where Biggs took it in too deep under braking and went very wide in Turn 6, dipping a rear wheel into the grass and spinning; making hard contact with the wall.  Biggs was able to limp back to the pits for repairs but he was out of contention.  The next lap, Farrugia took the fight to Peak for fourth, getting to the inside of Peak heading into the Inner Loop.  Peak gave Farrugia room to go two-wide, but was able to retain the position.  Coming out of the Toe of the Boot, Farrugia again got to the inside of Peak, but further up than the last attempt and takes the position at Turn 8.  Advance half a lap and Peak got a good run in the draft up through the Esses and onto the backstretch.  Farrugia defended the inside but Peak was alongside at the braking zone for the Inner Loop.  Neither wanted to give this late in the race – about 20 minutes to go — so they went two-wide into the Loop for a second straight lap. Peak, once again, came out ahead.

Lap 30: Peak (right) and Farrugia (left) side-by-side into the Inner Loop while Bryfogle (middle) lurks.

Exiting the last corner onto the front stretch, Farrugia got on run on Peak who defended to the inside; Farrugia took to the outside.  Instead of going into Turn 1 side-by-side, Farrugia backed-out early and executed a classic over/under getting to the inside of Peak off Turn 1.  They went side-by-side through the Esses, down the backstretch, and, for the third straight lap, went two-wide into the Inner Loop with Peak again to the inside.  But this time the outcome is different and Farrugia takes the position.  Bryfogle had been sitting back watching the two battle, patiently waiting a chance to make his own move.  He got that chance at Turn 1 when Peak went very wide into the runoff and Bryfogle pounced, passing Peak to the inside entering the Esses.  Going through the laces of the Boot, Bryfogle and Peak got a scare as the laps down car of Stephane Morien lost control in front of them and hit the inside wall, but both squeaked by.  Peak lost the battle the next lap as he lost control exiting the penultimate corner and broadsided the inside tire wall.  After the race Peak would comment that he just “pushed too hard to try to get back in the mix”.

After Peak’s accident the action swung back to Strodtbeck.  He had run down second place Baumgardner and on lap 34 got a run on him through the laces of the Boot to get to the inside at Turn 7, making the pass for second.  The leader, Sahlin, was now in his sights, a mere one second in front.

Back to ST . . .  Bryfogle caught the draft off Farrugia up through the Esses and dipped to the inside on the backstretch, making the pass at the Inner Loop to move into fourth.

A lap later Strodtbeck made the move to the inside of Sahlin exiting the Turn 7 toe of the Boot, making the pass stick at the Heel to re-take the lead.

In ST, Bryfogle went wide of the apex at Turn 1 and Farrugia was able to get to his inside.  The two went side-by-side up through the Esses and down the backstretch but Farrugia took fourth position back going into the Inner Loop.

Lap 36, 10 minutes left to go, the caution flies.  It seems that Peak missed the entrance to pit road after his accident and he went all the way around the track, dropping debris and finally race marshals decided to through the yellow.  Crew chiefs made quick calculations trying to determine if the race would end under caution.  There was only 50 seconds left on the clock as drivers started another caution lap, which seemed to cement the finish.  But confusion reigned because drivers were not shown the white flag.  Coming back around to start/finish no one was sure what was going to happen.  Then the green flag flew.

The leaders would hold their positions through Turn 1 and down the backstretch, through the Inner Loop.  But Sahlin went a bit wide through Turn 6 and Baumgardner attempted the outside pass through 7 but Sahlin held on.  Bryfogle and Farrugia resumed their battle for fourth in class and down at the laces of the Boot, Farrugia went too deep into Turn 6 and drifted wide before the exit, allowing Bryfogle to get to his inside and make the pass.  The class leaders, Strodtbeck and Stevenson, went unchallenged and half way through the lap the white flag was finally displayed.  Strodtbeck picked up his second win of the season.  Stevenson would get a scare coming to the flag as in front of him Klaesson in 8th, fighting the ill effects of a car damaged earlier in the race, got very loose off the last corner.  He overcorrected and spun back to the outside into the path of Steve Brown who had nowhere to go.  Brown collided with Klaesson then ricocheted off the wall collecting Chris Moran.  The three spinning cars nearly blocked the track but Stevenson was able to pick his way through to pick up his fifth win of the season, remaining undefeated.  Tuominen in second slowed dramatically for the wreck and Overgaard may have gotten second “if I had just closed my eyes and floored it”, but instead he also checked-up and settled for third.

ST leader Stevenson's view coming to the checkered flag.

GS Class Podium
1.    Brian Strodtbeck (#7 Cleveland Fire Dept.)
2.    Oscar Sahlin (#84 The Black Rebels)
3.    Jady Baumgardner (#63)

ST Class Podium
1.    James Stevenson (#11)
2.    Antti Tuominen (#90)
3.    Stefan Overgaard (#41 49 Motorsports)

Race Statistics
Number of cars: 29 (11 GS, 18 ST)
Laps completed (by leader):  40 laps
Cars finishing on lead lap: 20
Overall lap leaders:  Brian Strodtbeck (26), Oscar Sahlin (14)
Full-course Cautions: 2
DNF’s: 3
Fastest Lap (GS class): 2:06.563 – Oscar Sahlin
Fastest Lap (ST Class): 2:12.960 – Arthur Chan
Race Marshal: Mike Perry

Championship points after 7 of 10 races:

GS
Trace McRae – 258
Oscar Sahlin – -25
Jady Baumgardner – -59

ST
James Stevenson – 275
Giancarlo Lenzi – -83
Jason Bryfogle – -83

Next race is at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on 19 May 2012.

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The CESCS is an official iRacing league which mirrors the Grand-Am Continental Tires Series. It features the Mazda MX-5 Cup competing in Street Touring (ST) and the Ford Mustang FR500S competing in the Grand Sport (GS) class. It was established to provide a proper mixed-class racing experience for drivers of the MX5 and the Mustang beyond what is currently offered and especially to provide a true endurance series for drivers of both vehicles. The schedule aims to replicate the real-world series featuring timed endurance race distances (currently 90 minutes) run at the same tracks as the real series including Daytona, Mid-Ohio and, this season, Indianapolis!

You can follow our races streamed live over the internet through GlacierTV or via our Live Timing & Scoring app. Both links are located on our Schedule page.

For more information on the Continental Endurance Sports Car Series check out the official website – http://www.wix.com/contienduranceseries/cescs

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