The second week of the Team GT3 Challenge went from the UK to Japan for another one hour endurance race, this one at the Twin Ring Motegi East configuration. Sim-racers from around the world strapped into their various McLarens, RUFs, BMWs and Ford GTs to decide who was the fastest pairing. The 21:00GMT race last Sunday was the second highest SOF race of the week and starting from the best position was Massimo Erra in the GT World racing team’s RUF after posting a time of 1:18.844, just over a tenth faster than #47 BMW Z4 of Trinity Motorsports.
Erra had a great launch at the rolling start of the race, and the top five qualifiers all slotted into their positions. Marcel Möws took the wheel first for Trinity Motorsports and sized-up Erra within just a few laps before making a lunge at the inside of Turn One on Lap Three to take the early lead of the race.
A lap later, Jan-Philipp Wied of Wied Motorsport tried to make the same move on Uwe Länger in the Straight Line Oldstars car, but was too far back. Wied was pushing hard to get by Länger as there were three hungry sim-racers just behind him willing to take the chance for him, but oversteer at the entrance to Turn Eight and dropped the BMW down the order.
Wied regained his focus and started putting-in the consistent laps he knew he was capable of and by Lap Nine was sniffing at the tail-pipe of PwC Racing’s Christer Bach Brun for P7. Wied snagged the inside line at Turn One and began his climb back to the front.
Skipping ahead about ten laps, Länger was still running a comfortable fourth but, after a few slow laps in the 1:21s ,Jakob Lehmann in the Online-SimRacing.de car was able to close the gap. At the end of Lap 19 Lehmann tried a move at the outside of the Turn 11 hairpin, forcing Länger into a side-by-side drag race down the Start/Finish straight. Lehmann hit the brakes later, and took fourth at the outside of Turn One.
At the end of Lap 23, Erra became the first of the front-runners to dive into the pits for fuel and a driver swap (and probably tires) from second place, as his teammate Roberto Badinelli took over.
Möws stayed out an extra lap longer and so must have been quite surprised when he came into the pits to see the GT World RUF still sitting in the pit box, now an entire lap down. A technical issue had clearly befallen the GT World team as Badinelli pulled out of the pits shortly before Möws’ teammate, Rene Leiring, was finished with his stop.
Länger, like Erra, had pitted at the end of Lap 23 and his teammate Oliver Walter took control of the Straight Line Oldstars BMW Z4. Lehmann, like Möws, stayed out until Lap 24, when Marcel Unger took to the cockpit for the second stint. The Straight Line Oldstars car seemed to benefit quite a bit from the earlier stop, as Unger emerged from the pits just ahead of Walter. When Unger went deep into the penultimate corner, Walter didn’t hesitate to grab the inside line and took the position with ease.
After Brun pitted for PwC Racing and handed the car to his teammate, Johan Aasen, the gap to the car ahead was pretty comfortable. Wolfgang Wildenauer had taken over the Wied Motorsport Z4 and seemed to be a bit off the pace, possibly because of not changing tires at the pit stop. Aasen thus caught Wildenauer at quite a rate of knots, and by Lap 38 was able to make a move at the inside of Turn One for fifth place.
Not far behind the battle for fifth, Badinelli’s RUF was lapping at a much faster pace than the dueling Z4s ahead of him, sometimes as much as two seconds faster a lap. By Lap 42 Badinelli was right on Wildenauer’s bumper and took him without much drama at the outside of Turn Six.
As the grid crossed the finish line at the end of Lap 43 the white flag waived. Badinelli at this point was just a couple of feet from the back of Aasen and getting a nice tow into Turn One. Sure enough, Badinelli moved to the right, took the inside line for the corner, and breezed into fifth on the final lap of the race.
In the end, the Trinity Motorsports BMW finished the race in front, but might not have if the race had been too much longer. Leiring was definitely struggling toward the end of the race, and Walter was still pumping-in impressive times, closing down the gap pretty significantly. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough, as the Straight Line Oldstars car finished nearly ten seconds behind. For their efforts, Möws and Leiring were awarded the second most points for week two, earning 107 each (only three points less than Riku Byckling and Joonas Savolainen of Finland who won the only race with higher SOF for the week). The Straight Line Oldstars were also rewarded with a nice points haul of 98, enough for third for the week.