November 14th, 2017 by Bill Lawrence
The 60Plus Racing Adventures Series is an Iracing Series for “serious and seasoned” drivers age 60 and older. Our goal is to provide first class competition with mutual respect for others. We hope to help each other develop a level of mastery in car control as well. We are currently nearing the end of our 4th season for 2017. Our league has two races every Wednesday at 18:30 GMT and we compete for a Drivers Championship as well as a Team Championship. The podium finishers in Race 1 do not compete in Race 2 and Drivers Points are only awarded in Race 1. Here is our coverage of our race at Okayama last week.
Welcome back to Mark Lison who made his first debut since a tragic fire destroyed his residence. Mark has been rebuilding including a new rig and we look forward to racing with him again. 22 cars made the field for race 1. The challenge is on for this season’s drivers’ championship and leading the pack coming into the race is Team SBMA’s Mark Robertson at 178 points. Mark is followed very closely by the next 3 drivers of Donal Fitterer, Steve Carkner and Jos Van De Ven.
The top 4 are in a fight to the finish and with only three races left after Okayama, it is anyone’s championship to win and lose. The top spot is important, but the series is very close throughout the field. Moving down the leader board to driver positions 5 thru 13 we see the next 8 drivers are only separated by 10 points. Running down this order we begin with Oliver, Morgan, Coulombe, Fidler, Martin, Grinnan, Di Pasqua and Poole filling out that part of the roster.
Last season’s champion Steve Carkner returned from a two-week hiatus to dominate the practice and qualifying sessions. Steve blistered his way to pole position with a screaming 1.22.958 and was the only one able to break into the 1.22’s. The rest of the top 5 qualifiers were all in the 1.23’s setting up what would prove to be a closely fought battle up and down the field.
The drivers are not only competing for the drivers’ championship but are also representing their teams. Last year Team SBMA took the team championship and began the season with a huge target on its back. SBMA is currently at the top coming into the race with 416 points followed by Teams Green, Copper and Otto in that order, themselves only separated by 8 points.
As the above shows, the last 4 races of this season are going to be critical for individuals and team achievements.
It was a classic day for racing at Okayama, perfect weather and a big field. The pace car led the drivers through a short stretch allowing minimal tire warm up and began at Hobbs Corner. Carkner was on the throttle quickly coming into the straight with the rest of the field in hot pursuit. There is not much opportunity on this track for passing and it is the patient driver who may seize on any opportunity.
And opportunity arrived quickly for Fitterer when Carkner, on cold tires and coming into the Atwood Curve, got out of shape and almost lost it. The Harley Davidson sponsored Fitterer took quick advantage moving to the outside line taking the lead down the back straight. This allowed Morgan in third and Fidler running 4th, to close the gap resulting in a 4-car train coming into the hairpin at the end of the straight. Back in field and at the same Atwood curve, Remigio Di Pasqua took advantage of Fred McIntosh’s wide line to dive inside and race Fred side by side down the back stretch.
Early, we saw some very clean side by side racing on cold and slick tires by Remigio Di Pasqua and Fred McIntosh. Remigio had the inside line and with a late and safe breaking maneuver out positioned Fred into the hairpin to take a spot. Remigio was now inside Bruce Poole coming out of Piper passing cleanly on the inside at Redman. This placed him squarely behind his fellow Italian team mate, Paulo Bonasera who himself was only two behind Gianni Raspaldo in 12th.
By the 4th lap the field was beginning to string itself out beginning what is normally the race within the race. Small packs of drivers wrestling for position throughout the field. At this point the race had been relatively cleanly fought. The timing was perfect for Andrew Fidler to make a move on John Morgan coming into the hair pin and he took position 3 by braking late and holding a good line.
Later, on this same lap, Team Cooper’s Kenneth Baldwin, who had moved up a position from 10th to 9th exited wide coming out of the last corner onto the front straight. His car became unbalanced as he reentered the track. Coming over the curbing he lost control and became the first casualty of the race. It was not to be the last.
Fortunately, a closely following Richard Coulombe was able to slip around the careening car 30 and the remaining cars got by as Baldwin’s car came to rest on the outside barrier.
Carkner, who had lost a position to Fitterer, was able to retake the lead on lap 5 at one of the only opportunities at Okayama, the end of the back straight. Fitterer gave the charging Carkner room and a clean pass was made. At the same corner, same lap, Kenneth Dummer made a move on Gianni Raspaldo. Gianni threatened Ken by keeping the inside on the next corner, Revolver and Ken went wide into the gravel trap giving up another position to fellow Turtle teammate Remigio Di Pasqua. Not so fortunate for the third Turtle now rounding Revolver to see Baldwin trying to get back on the track. Unable to slow enough, Paulo Bonasera nearly clipped the left rear of Baldwin after jumping the inside curve coming out of Piper. Avoiding contact the two cars did a perfectly timed pirouette coming to a stop without hitting the wall as Poole and McIntosh went wide to avoid the mayhem. Paulo must have had a bad scare as on the next lap, lap 6 and at the exact same corner he spun again. Once again lady luck smiled on him and the following 4 cars as everyone went through unscathed. Unfortunately for the lucky Italian he had now dropped from 15th to 20th. His car was intact however!
It is difficult to hit you marks very precisely for anyone, but Okayama is a track where precision is rewarded. Miss a mark however and take a little too much curbing and you will find yourself off track very quickly. Ralph Kemmerer took too much curbing at the end of lap 7 and his spinning car 73 quickly found itself in the wide gravel trap obviously designed to catch these slips. Ken did a fast tow for repairs and the pit lane would see a little more activity throughout this race. Moving from lap to lap it seemed like Piper was the corner to give most drivers some grief. Often there was little to no contact but just spins.
At the half-way point of the race Jos Van de Ven who had been battling Mark Robinson for 6th from the beginning took an inside line at the end of the front stretch and got by Mark. Both drivers remained cool, but Josh had the position. The top 5 were no longer running nose to tail but had been separated from each other by small margins. Further down the field Raspaldo had gained 4 positions, Remigio 7, Gilley 4 spots and Freels, along with PJ Salley had gained 5.
Drivers had now settled into comfortable rhythms maintaining lines and pace. It is often at this point in a race were a slight error is the only hope of overtaking the next car. With just 5 laps remaining Andrew Fidler, still in third, went a little wide coming off the last corner into the front straight. The gravel slowed him enough to lose 2 positions to Morgan and Lawrence. Lawrence was able to press Morgan on the next lap at the end of the back straight and like many others took the inside line into the hair pin to gain position 3. From this point on the top 7 remained in position until the end of the race with Carkner back in it for the drivers’ championship taking home the win once again. Fitterer, new to the club this season, showed once again why he is a strong contender for the drivers’ championship. Rounding out the podium finish was Lawrence who barely held onto third from a charging John Morgan only a couple of 10th’s back with Andrew Fidler coming in 5th. The podium finish gave Team SBMA some great team points coming into the last three races.