Week Six of the iRacing V8 Supercar series by Bigpond Sport headed north to iRacing’s new Suzuka Circuit for the first time. It meant starting from scratch with no existing setup data, here at the full 5.8 kilometres of the Suzuka GP track.

At the halfway mark of the iRacing V8 Supercar Series, as expected, a tight battle is unfolding at the sharp end of the points ladder. Mitchell McLeod leads by a slender 13 points from Madison Down, with Rens Broekman and Mick Claridge not far behind.

Even with points up for grabs in other splits and timeslots, regular participation in the “Monday Night Main” and consistent finishes, certainly pays off.

The form guide continued at Suzuka, it was Down who poled with a time of 2:03.914, the only driver in the 03’s, from Mitchell McLeod just a whisker behind on 2:04.057. Broekman was third from Scott U’Ren. An excellent fifth was Craig Woodhouse, from the consistently improving Joshua Muggleton.

The field plunges into Turn One

Seventh was Terry Nightingale Jr, again preferring the steering wheel to the microphone, then John Emerson, Richard Lock, and Shay Griffith tenth.

Outside the ten were Simone Gelli, Cal Whatmore, Darrin Vouch (fresh from a second place at Mid-Ohio in the Ford GT the night before), Colin Boyd, Guy Leach, David Hingston and Matt Anderson stepping up from lower splits, Bigpond’s Vern Norrgard, Mark Foley, Marty Atkins, Paul Rodgers, Mitchell Boulton and Mathew Probert among some of the new faces.

Down took the lead at the start as McLeod and Broekman fought over second, McLeod winning that battle. Muggleton pulled a demon start, passing  both U’Ren and Woodhouse to take up fourth, showing that his run of impressive finishes have been no fluke, a worthy front runner. Griffith was the only Turn One casualty, after moving into the path of Gelli. It was not quite Senna-Prost stuff but the contact was enough to put Griffith out of contention.

Muggleton had a great finish, and his start was even better

U’Ren got past Woodhouse and gave Muggleton no rest for fourth until Muggleton got sideways exiting the chicane at the end of Lap Four. U’Ren and Woodhouse pounced. Nightingale would have done so too, but for a cut track penalty at the same moment taking the wind out of his sails.

By Lap Six it was Down, McLeod, Broekman, U’Ren, Woodhouse and Muggleton. Nightingale carried on in seventh, with some choice drifting through the esses, appreciated by John Emerson in eighth. Lock was ninth and Boyd was hanging on to tenth by the skin of his teeth, as Hingston was all over the back of the TradingPost Falcon. Gelli and Norrgard soon joined this battle.

As the furiously drifting Nightingale closed up to the back of sixth-placed Muggleton, tyres were squirming, knuckles were white, and it was only Lap Eight of 23.

Up front, it had spread out somewhat, but McLeod was not letting Down out of his sight. That was his championship lead disappearing down the road.

Fully sick! Nightingale drifts...

Commencing Lap 11 and David Hingston bowed out of the battle for tenth with a pitstop for new tyres, which he regretted with hindsight. At the same time Muggleton was getting leery, giving XSG’s Nightingale a sniff at sixth. It didn’t end well for the XSG driver however, with a lose under brakes after going wide at the frightening 130R. Muggleton saw him coming, only slightly alarmed at the sudden appearance of Nightingale flying backwards at the chicane. Muggleton carried on serenely in sixth.

Whatmore and Boulton squeeze into the hairpin together

Behind them, Boulton, Whatmore and Leach battled over 13th-14th-15th, with some contact between the front pair into the hairpin.

Lap 13 and Nightingale’s night ended with a spin on the astroturf at Turn Two, getting clobbered by Lock.

“Ironically, I understeered straight off the road…” – Madison Down

Lap 14 and now first through to seventh was well spread, with Down in control. Now it was Boyd in eighth, fending off Norrgard, Gelli and Lock. Leach and Whatmore now fought over 12th and 13th. Atkins, Vouch, Griffith, Foley and Anderson filled 14th to 18th respectively. This entire bunch were covered by barely seven seconds.

Norrgard was the first to blink, albeit compulsorily, as he got a cut track penalty at the chicane on Lap 16. This simply allowed Gelli and Lock to have a crack at Boyd. Leach then snuck through Norrgard also, and not without some bumper-car action ensuing.Norrgard: “I tapped a few people, a few people tapped me…it was all just good hard racing.”

The furious battle for eighth

Whatmore and Atkins then starting pressuring an ailing Norrgard. It was action aplenty. The excitement carried on lap after lap, but Boyd would not relinquish eighth. Finally Lock, who had passed Gelli on Lap 17, nailed Boyd a lap later.

Things had not changed much up front. It was uncharacteristically processional by iRacing V8 standards, but the championship battle was tense enough, as still McLeod would not let Down away by more than 1.5 seconds. Just one mistake from Down was all he needed. He almost got it, too, with Down running widewhen he “softened off the front anti-roll bar … I wanted more turn and ironically I understeered straight off the road..” Still, the “Tilke Tarmac” saved him.

Lap 21, and Atkins and Whatmore came together on the run into 130R. Both drivers blamed the other, something which has never happened before in the history of motorsport incidents. (/sarc)

McLeod had closed right up to Down on the final lap but it was not to be. “I think I left it a little too late, gave Madison too much at the start, and then pushed too hard catching him..”

Down victorious by 0.6 seconds. In third was Broekman from Nfinity teammate U’Ren. Woodhouse, Muggleton and Emerson were rightfully elated with fifth, sixth and seventh respectively.

Lock withstood the furious midfield battle finishing eighth from Boyd, Gelli, Leach, Norrgard, Foley, Atkins, Hingston, Anderson, Whatmore, Vouch and Rogers still on the lead lap.

In the second split, the top three was Leigh Ellis, California’s David Comstock and Curt Bond. Split Three: Carwyn May, France’s Thibaut Bentejac and Clayton Brooks.

And McLeod’s championship lead? Pardon the pun, but it’s Down to 3 points….

Images courtesy of Bigpond Sport.

Broadcast at LiveStream.Com

DIVISION OVERALL STANDINGS

POS DRIVER DIVISION CLUB POINTS
1 Mitchell McLeod 1 Australia/NZ 1263
2 Madison Down 1 Australia/NZ 1260
3 Rens Broekman 1 Benelux 1176
4 Craig Woodhouse 2 Australia/NZ 922
5 Mick Claridge 2 England 917
6 Scott U’Ren 1 Australia/NZ 819
7 Richard Lock 2 Australia/NZ 758
8 Shay Griffith 2 Australia/NZ 717
9 Colin Boyd 3 Australia/NZ 713
10 Simon Madden 2 Australia/NZ 710
11 Joshua Muggleton 2 Australia/NZ 706
12 Cal Whatmore 2 Australia/NZ 700
13 Marty Atkins 2 Australia/NZ 696
14 Stuart Wood 2 Australia/NZ 680
15 Simone Gelli 2 Australia/NZ 675
16 Scott McLaughlin2 2 Australia/NZ 655
17 Gavin Barton 2 Australia/NZ 653
18 John Emerson 2 Australia/NZ 641
19 Vern Norrgard 2 Australia/NZ 633
20 David Hingston 2 Australia/NZ 633
21 George Fullerton 1 Australia/NZ 614
22 Leigh Ellis 3 Australia/NZ 574
23 Simon Black 1 Australia/NZ 565
24 Tony Hellier 4 Australia/NZ 563
25 Richard Hamstead 2 Australia/NZ 546
26 Angelo Mastrantoni 4 Italy 535
27 Kevin Duwel 3 Benelux 534
28 Andreas Lewau 2 Scandinavia 531
29 Troy Cox 2 Australia/NZ 523
30 David Jaques 1 New York 512
31 Dylan Gulson 2 Australia/NZ 511
32 Richard Hunter 3 Australia/NZ 498
33 Lewis Dodimead 2 Australia/NZ 492
34 Stefan Miller 2 Western Canada 485
35 Mitchell Boulton 2 Australia/NZ 476
36 Jaroslav Polma 2 Central-Eastern Europe 475
37 Michael Koroleff 3 Australia/NZ 474
38 Robert Northway 7 Australia/NZ 473
39 Carwyn May 7 Australia/NZ 468
40 Stephen Michaels 2 New York 467
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