“That was the toughest race I have ever done” stated Ethan Grigg-Gault, the winner of Round 4 of the iRacing V8 Supercar Series at the conclusion of what was an epic 46 laps of the Phillip Island Circuit in Victoria, Australia.
Inviting weather welcomed the 24 starters to the wonderful Phillip Island Circuit, a favourite amongst many of the V8 Supercar drivers who were participating.
A tight field produced our third different winner of the coveted pole position with series leader Ethan Grigg-Gault showing he not only has strong race pace but a bit of sting to his single lap qualifying. With the 12 minutes on the clock seemingly disappearing quicker than ever Grigg-Gault posted his time of 1:29.188 while Beau Cattell followed-up his great third place finish the previous week at Spa by locking-out the front row with a time just .13s off that of our pole man. Ian Ford, racing for Evolution Racing Australia for the first time, was off the front row in third in front of Mitchel McLeod for the 4Motorsports team.
With the revs building, Cattell duplicated his great Spa start and took the lead by the end of what was a clean first lap. Within the first few laps it was obvious Cattell, Grigg and Ford would be able to pull-away from the strong field . . . although not necessarily in that order. For the first time in the series, Grigg was overtaken on the track on Lap Six by Ford who was immediately able to put pressure on the race leader. Sure enough, within the next lap Ford made a pass for the lead on Cattell with Grigg-Gault following through the next lap.
There were great battles throughout the field with a great race-long scrap between David Baxter (Redback Racing), Todd Parkes (Synergy Sim racing team) and Anthony Mancarella in the Maverick Welding Falcon vying for positions. This battle would go on for the entire 46 laps with differing changes in fortune for the sim racers.
With pit stops required in the endurance race without fuel limitations, the pit stop window opened beginning on Lap 11. Grigg-Gault in the SDC Motorsports Commodore was the first to blink on Lap 20 in what was a very aggressive pit approach. Hitting his marks perfectly, Griggs’ pit stop whilst quick and efficient wasn’t fast enough to make the undercut work on Ford, who pitted the following lap. Ford held what was a tight lead until Lap 33 when, after good drive out of Turn 2 (aka the Southern Loop), Grigg-Gault maintained his momentum into Turn 4 (the Honda Hairpin) to overtake a surprisingly forgiving Ford who didn’t appear to defend too hard. Counter to expectations that Grigg would pull away from the field, Ford stayed with the championship leader throughout the rest of the race as challenges were made — and fended off — by the battling leaders. Behind the first and second cars came a battle for the final podium position with a defensive Cattell and a recovering Mitch McLeod racing side-by-side at times. Positions ultimately stayed as they were as the SSR car eventually held that third position from McLeod.
Jason Bence made a great effort in the JFF Laser Commodore. Coming from last due to an incident with Mario Vlasic in the early stages, Bence applied pressure to the mid-field including Matt Stratford and Greg Sharp. Through some strong laps and a good pit strategy, Bence went on to finish in what was an excellent 13th position given the damaged his car suffered in the early incident.
The SDC Motorsport duo of Cubis and Michael Cracknell continued their recent strong form by running incident-free throughout the race while swapping fifth place. However, Cubis’ consistent speed enabled him to overcome his teammate, further highlighting the ongoing improvement in the 2015 Season 1 V8 champion’s comeback attempt after spending Season 2 away from the wheel.
At the end of 46 laps, however, it was again the series leader Grigg-Gault who was first across the line, albeit just .8s ahead of runner-up Ford, in what was later described as the “most fun he has had in a car”.
Cattell, McLeod and Cubis rounded out the top 5 in front of Cracknell and Benjamin Smith, with an unsung Wayne Kendall in eighth.
So . . a great race for the endurance series was completed without too many incidents. Next week the series goes to the Circuit of the Americas West course where the tight track layout ensures the sim racing will again be close throughout.