Week Five of the Team GT3 Challenge took to the serpentine Suzuka circuit, and saw a return to the one hour race length seen in Weeks 1,2 and 3. Taking the front row for the rolling start were Angelo Peter in the Trinity-Motorsports.de BMW Z4 with the familiar RUF of GT World piloted by Massimo Erra. Approaching the chicane on the pace lap, Erra backed-up the cars on the right side, and seemed that he might be nodding off at the launch. The fact was, Erra had nailed the launch strategy and not only helped himself at the start by flying ahead of Peter, he benefited all the other cars starting from the right lane. David Wöhleke in the familiar orange and black OSR iRacing GT3 team’s BMW Z4 gained the most from Erra’s tactics, moving ahead of Olaf Ballerstedt in the Altbier Racing Club RUF and Mikkel Flemming Jensen in the Benzo Motorsport BMW Z4.
Jensen came back at Wöhleke at the inside of Turns One and Two but contact at the exit of Two sent Wöhleke spinning into the barrier and dropping him to dead last while Jensen lost two positions to Ballerstadt and Marcel Unger in the Online-SimRacing.de Ford GT.
Jensen’s second lap was infinitely more fruitful than his first as he started pressuring Unger for fifth at the hairpin before finally completing the maneuver at the inside of 130R and at over 100mph.
Luckily for Jensen, he didn’t have to worry about Unger for long as spun at the exit of Turn Two the very next lap, and dropped behind Wöhleke’s damaged BMW Z4.
A few laps later Jensen flew up to the back of Ballerstedt at the hairpin, much as he’d done to Unger on Lap Three. Unlike Lap Three, he was unable to complete the move before 130R and was forced to wait for the chicane where he grabbed the inside line and moved into fourth.
At the start of Lap 11 Wöhleke also looked to improve his fortunes as he got a tow from Uwe Länger in the Liqui Moly Oldstars Team’s BMW Z4 and breezed by to take P6 before Turn One (and surprisingly not far behind Jensen at this point).
After Jensen’s Lap Six overtake on Ballerstedt he was unable to shake him from his rear. The green Altbier Racing Club RUF loomed large in Jensen’s mirrors and, at the chicane on Lap 14, the RUF’s image got a lot bigger as there was contact between them. The coming together sent Jensen spinning and forced Wöhleke to polish his rally racing skills with an inventive path around the collision (as if his race wasn’t exciting enough). After the incident Ballerstedt dove straight into the pits for a repair and change of driver and was joined by Länger and Unger as they approached the halfway point of the race.
Taking over for Länger was Oliver Walter, who wasted no time attacking the Altbier Racing Club RUF now in the hands of Rainer Giese. With a great run out of Spoon, Walter pulled alongside Giese heading towards 130R where Giese lifted and conceded his sixth place position.
GT World have had their share of pit stop nightmares already this season, and Suzuka would be no different as Erra pitted at the end of Lap 15 to hand over to Roberto Badinelli. When Badinelli pulled out of his pit box I’m sure his heart sunk as he saw Rene Leiring already pulling on the track in the Trinity-Motorsports.de BMW Z4.
While Badinelli was contemplating the Z4 in front of him, Giese was having even more problems in his RUF as oversteer at Dunlop Curve sent him into the barrier with heavy damage to his front end. Giese countersteered the slide and drifted it beautifully in true Japanese style, but it became too much to handle and dropped him to P8.
With no more stops left in the race, Badinelli knew he would have to make the pass on track; but with more than 10 laps still remaining he also knew he would have to be surgical in his execution to avoid contact or damage. Leiring made his job much easier when a slight oversteer moment through the final corner hindered the BMW’s speed coming on to the straight, and Badinelli’s RUF breezed back into the lead as they started Lap 19.
After the pit stops – and with the benefit of a fully repaired car — Olaf Matzenbacher in the OSR iRacing GT3 BMW Z4 made possibly the most beautiful overtake of the day on the inside of Emmanuel Suter in the GTrs The Racing Spirit RUF at Dunlop Curve. Suter and his teammate Corentin Goncalves had been running a comparatively third place until Matzenbacher came storming through with only 15 minutes left in the race.
On Lap 27 things got even worse for Giese, already a lap behind Erra. Under braking for 130R Giese got a bit eager on his downshifts and his RUF began pouring dark smoke on the track, forcing him into the pits where he would sit for the rest of the race, dropping another position to P9.
A bit later in the lap, the Benzo Motorsport Z4 under the command of Carl Oskar Østergaard had a similar oversteer moment to Leiring; but when he countersteered the BMW snapped left to the outside of the final corner before hitting the barrier. As a result, Østergaard lost sixth place to Jakob Lehmann in the Online-SimRacing.de Ford GT.
The white flag waved as the field started Lap 29, signaling for some a time to relax because the race was almost over; for others it triggered a sense of urgency as there were 3.609 miles, 17 turns — and just over two minutes — left for them to make their move. Walter was in the second group, as he had been closing on Suter for a number of laps, and fancied a run at fourth place on the final lap. Walter had a much better run through Dunlop than Suter and took the inside line for the Degners, but contact at the exit of the second Degner sent Suter into a spin.
Walter slowed down for Suter, unsure of his level of blame for the whole incident, but then took off once Suter was just behind, as if to say “Sorry about the crash, I’m not letting you through, but I’ll give you a fighting chance.” Suter pushed hard but was unable to catch Walter with less than a lap remaining, and after 60 minutes of sim racing finished six tenths behind Walter, and in fifth place.
In the end GT World finished over 14 seconds ahead of Trinity-Motorsports.de while the OSR iRacing GT3 team’s amazing recovery from the Lap One incident landed them a further 13 seconds behind second place, but still managing a podium (and overtake of the day). In the championship, GT World took max points for the week with 112 while race rivals Trinity-Motorsports took fourth with 105 points. Second for the week went to Team Gran Turismo with 109 points and third was Putkarit Racing with 106 points (both of whom won races with SOF ratings of 1752 and 1697 respectively).