As Meatloaf once sang “two out of three ain’t bad.” And so it was with Ethan Grigg-Gault as Round 3 of the official iRacing V8 Supercar Series returned to Belgium and the highly-anticipated challenges Circuit de Spa–Francorchamps.
Clear skies welcomed the drivers to qualifying and, with just the twelve minutes on the clock and a lengthy outlap and hot lap needing to be completed to post a time, the sim racers quickly got down to business making their qualifying runs for the battle for the coveted pole position.
As was the case in the previous round at Oulton Park, Ian Ford in the Evolution Racing Australia Holden Commodore sealed the deal and took pole position quite comfortably from series leader Ethan Grigg-Gault in the SDC Motorsport Falcon.
From previous rounds it was clear that qualifying would again be close and so it was with Beau Cattell in the SSR Ford Falcon again troubling the leaders to round-out the top three starters. Benjamin Smith rebounded from last week’s dramas at the start to snare fourth whilst Michael Cracknell, from his 12th place in the previous round showed his true potential by taking be in fifth spot on the grid.
The clear skies and warm weather made the track seem like it had little grip; however, as predicted by the RacespotTV crew, Cattell catapulted off the start line and headed both Ford and Grigg-Gault into Eau Rouge. There was little drama throughout the field except for the unlucky Marcello Rivera who, after being caught up in last week’s opening lap shenanigans, received a black flag for a shortcut that would not clear.
Taking full advantage of his aggressive setup, Cattell was able to maintain his lead throughout the first lap before he was overtaken by Ford’s Holden exiting La Source.
Ford, Cattell, Grigg –Gault, Smith and Cracknell started to put an immediate gap on a battling group led by TTR’s Michael Healey and TTL’s Vail Riches, with Corey Preston and 4Motorsports Mitchell McLeod joining the fun. However, Preston went off the track at Les Combes and lost touch trail with the pack, ultimately destined to finish 19th after having lengthy repairs in the pits.
The battle of the race was between the teammates, SDC race manager Marty Carroll and an ever- charging Cubis in the number two car. On successive laps the two SDC cars ran side-by-side through the Eau Rouge corners, something that can only be done with complete trust between the drivers. Cubis would go on to finish in eighth position, showing that his improvement continues.
The most significant moment in the race unfolded on Lap Five when Ford ran too deep into La Source, giving the opportunity to Grigg-Gault to take a lead he would maintain throughout the rest of the race.
With a fuel loads restricted to 80.6 litres, the cars would not be able to complete the 22 laps without making a required pit stop. And with the “endurance” layout of the pits, the cars seemed to take an eternity on pit lane.
With the pit window opening between Laps 7 and 15 cars began to spread out as the race progressed. Grigg-Gault and Cattel pitted at the same time, with Cattell gaining time on the leader thanks to needing less fuel.
With Ford having pitted the previous lap, Cattell exited the pits in-between Grigg-Gault and the third-placed Ford. Cattell and Ford subsequently engaged in a fierce dice for second spot, enabling Ford to draw away, getting himself out of the draft zone into clear air.
So as was the case in Round 1 Zolder, Grigg-Gault went on to win the race without drama to complete his Belgian V8 sweep Ford, last week’s winner, finished a very strong second to continue his climb in the standings after his first round 1 dramas while Cattell came home in an excellent third place.
Cracknell and Smith rounded out the top five whilst, further back, Mitchell McLeod to Matthew Hill in the third TTL car came home in 6th and 10th positions respectively.
Next week the series moves on to the fantastic Phillip Island Circuit in Victoria, Australia, a track really suited to the V8s. With more fuel restrictions and 46 laps of hard sim racing ahead, no doubt the series will continue to grow in stature as it has over the opening rounds.
Watch the full race replay . . .