Week Three of the 2015 Season 2 iRacing.com IndyCar Combined Series sent the series Twin Ring Motegi. A total of 109 sim-racers took to the track in “The Land of the Rising Sun” throughout the week. Aero push, cautions, crashes, handling, lap traffic, pit strategy, restarts and tire wear were just some of the storylines that played out throughout the week.
Brandon Traino (New Jersey) started on pole with Alex Simpson (UK and I) on his outside. Joe Branch2 (Indiana) started third with Austin Espitee (New England) fourth, and Erick Davis (Canada) rounding out the top five starting positions.
Traino had an excellent start, as he started rolling just before the pace car left the racing surface. Branch had a slow start, dropping numerous positions before reaching the start-finish line. Branch’s slow start allowed the top five to easily become single-file and separate themselves from the field. Brandon Trost (Pennsylvania) took advantage of the slow start for the inside line and jumped from eighth to fourth within a single lap.
The front half of the field stabilized as Branch began to battle Erick Davis (Canada) for seventh. Davis dove low and easily cleared Branch on the backstretch, only for Branch to dive low in Turns Three and Four. The duo swapped positions for several laps before Davis finally pulled away from Branch, who fell into the clutches of Terry Matthiensen (California). Matthiensen looked low, but fell back in line behind Branch. Shortly after Branch held off Matthiensen, the majority of the field settled into a single-file rhythm with few passes being made.
One such pass was for third, as Trost continued to move up through the field, and slowly caught and drove by Espitee. Meanwhile, Toni Helminen (Finland) held up a sizeable portion of the field, as everyone from fifth through twelfth ran nose to tail. However, none of the sim-racers were able to get the momentum to pass one another. Meanwhile, Traino continued to extend his lead over to Simpson to nearly a full straightaway.
Passing picked up once again when Matt Pawelski (Pennsylvania) missed the entrance to Turn One, giving Davis a run on him into Turn Three. Pawelski relinquished the position, only to give Branch an opportunity to swing by. Pawelski continued to lose positions as Matthiensen, Joshua Chin (Florida), and Derek M Murray (UK and I) all snuck.
Green flag pit stops began a few laps later as Davis, Joe Hassert (Midwest), and Murray ducked onto pit road. Trost, Espitee, and Branch pitted a lap later at the midway point of the race. Within two laps, all but Seth Eggert (Carolina) had stopped on pit road for service. Before Eggert went to make his stop, Matthiensen made contact with Espitee. The contact sent Espitee skidding into the outside wall, bringing out the caution. As Matthiensen slowed for the caution, it caused a chain reaction behind him as Murray rear-ended Chin. Eggert and several other lead lap cars pitted as several were forced to take the wave-around.
Traino had an excellent restart as Trost passed Simpson entering Turn One. Simpson immediately fought back, diving low on Trost in Turn Three to make the pass. Trost returned the favor in the first turn. Simpson attempted to reclaim the second position in Turn Three, only to fall back in line behind Trost. Further back in the pack, Adam Dock (Texas), Matthiensen, and Murray battled for position. Dock, unable to make any ground on Matthiensen fell back in line, as Matthiensen hounded Murray. Matthiensen finally got to Murray’s inside in One and Two, only to clip the apron and get loose. Matthiensen recovered, but fell back in line.
Undaunted, Matthiensen attempted the same move again a few laps later. This time however, Matthiensen made contact with Murray, sending Murray into a drift as Matthiensen sailed by. Murray recovered, and was able to hold off Dock as well. The field looked as if it would return to the single file racing of the first run as the front runners began to spread out.
This quickly changed as Hassert began to fall back through the field. Pawelski, got stuck behind Hassert as Chin attempted to use Hassert as a pick to box Pawelski in. However, exitingTurn Four, Chin drifted up towards Pawelski, and cranked the wheel further to the left to avoid slamming into him. Unfortunately for Chin, this avoidance sent him directly into the inside wall. The impact flipped Chin’s Dallara DW12 and sent him skidding down the track, bringing out the second caution of the race with only twenty laps to go. Everyone elected to pit as Trost was able to beat Traino off of pit road.
Trost made an excellent restart as he easily gapped Traino by several car lengths entering Turn One. As Traino tried to run Trost back down, racing in the middle of the field began to become chaotic. Helminen ran into the back of Branch, sending Branch shooting up the track in Turns Three and Four. Branch dropped way back as Murray and Matthiensen made it three wide on the inside of Branch on the front stretch. Murray backed out as Matthiensen pushed up and into Branch in Turn One, nearly sending Branch into the outside wall. The chaotic sim racing came to an abrupt end as Dock hit the outside wall coming on to the pit straightaway. The impact sent Dock down the track into an unsuspecting Pierre Bourdon (Canada), destroying both DW12s.
Trost slowly brought the field to the green. Traino attempted unsuccessfully to anticipate Trost’s move while, behind them, the slow restart caused chaos as several sim-racers were three wide before they even reached the start-finish line. Matthiensen, Eggert and others had to take evasive action to avoid the damaged car of Helminen. Little changed in the final three laps, as Trost easily beat Traino to the line.
Trost won the 3853 Strength of Field by 0.618s over Traino, earning 242 points for his win. Simpson finished third, with Davis fourth ahead of Hassert who, incidentally, was the hard charger of the race after climbing from eighteenth to fifth. The tough break of the race went to Espitee who ended up eighteenth after starting fourth. Only twelve sim-racers picked up a victory with Marco Aurelio Brasil (Brazil) scoring a week-high four victories before the series packed up in Japan, for a virtual trip back across the Pacific to the historic Watkins Glen International.