The biggest race for the first week of iRacing’s V8 Supercar Official Series, 2012 Season One at Okayama International Circuit took place at 10:45 GMT on Monday, February 6.   In all, 84 drivers signed-up for the time slot and the online race split four ways—21 per.

On the pole of the top split (Strength of Field 3881) was Shane van Gisbergen—former New Zealand Formula Ford champion and the man who finished fourth overall in the not-so-virtual 2011 International V8 Supercars Championship.  Joining him on the grid were Holland’s Rens Broekman, former iRacing V8SC champion Mitchell McLeod, three-time defending iRacing V8SC champion Madison Down, and 17 other superstar drivers.

Van Gisbergen grabs the lead at the start from Broekman (#3) and MacLeod (#2).

Thus some serious sim racing talent piloted over 28 tonnes of big iron—live axles jumping under the acceleration—into the first corner of the narrow and technically demanding Okayama circuit. The high level of skill was evident as the field went through the downhill braking zone entering the important Attwood Curve, as several cars were nearly interlocking side mirrors. Van Gisbergen was first onto the high-speed uphill straight, followed by Broekman and McLeod, while behind them Richard Hamstead (in fifth) gave Madison Down the first of several love taps. Nonetheless, Down managed to hang onto his car while climbing the hill toward the eventful Hair Pin; he and Hamstead battled side-by-side for more than a lap—with Joshua Muggleton lurking close by, waiting to pounce should either make an error. Courage, respect, and skill were shown by all three drivers, and Down finally bested Hamstead at the Attwood Curve on the following lap.

By the braking zone of the Hair Pin on Lap 3, the race had settled down into a lead pack—Van Gisbergen, Broekman, McLeod, Down, Hamstead, and Muggleton running nose-to-tail—and a second somewhat looser group, consisting of Mick Claridge, Troy Cox, Justin Ruggier, Scott U’Ren, Brad Ryan, and George Fullerton. Ryan seemed to miss his braking point into the Hair Pin rather badly, and he put his Ford Falcon onto the grass on the outside of the track, slid through the sand trap, and made heavy contact with the wall: it was a sportsman’s maneuver, avoiding the drivers in front, and one can only wonder what went through U’Ren’s mind as Ryan’s Falcon careered past on the left. That same lap, Down got another touch from Hamstead going into the Redman Corner—although this time it was caused by Muggleton having snuggled up to Hamstead—and the defending champ demonstrated his excellent car control, keeping things going in the right direction with some opposite lock.

Down (#1) and Hamstead (#6) battle into Redman ahead of Muggleton.

Next lap on and Muggleton was not as lucky: going into the Hair Pin, he made a gutsy attempt on the outside of Hamstead, held the outside line, and then lost the rear, catching a glimpse of John Emerson (in 13th and still braking into the Hair Pin) while doing a full 180 onto the inside grass. Set to the back before he could get going again, Muggleton, who had won a V8SC race the day before (SOF 2630), now had some work to do.

In an attempt to wrest the lead from van Gisbergen on Lap 5, Broekman also made a huge move on the outside approaching the Hair Pin. He overcooked it ever so slightly, but managed to hold on to second position on the lower-grip outside line (which had cost Muggleton so dearly) and stave off a canny move by McLeod (who had already won a 3452 SoF race earlier in the day).

Broekman has a bold but unsuccessful try 'round the outside of van Gisbergen at the Hair Pin.

Ruggier had the bad-luck race of all: having slipped by Claridge in Redman, Claridge hit him hard in Hobbs, then Fullerton chopped him in the high-speed Mike Knight Corner, and Ruggier headed for the pits. U’Ren was the ultimate beneficiary of the melee, as he drove cleanly from ninth to sixth in a few seconds.

Back at the front, McLeod made the outside move stick at the Hairpin on Lap 8, taking second position from Broekman.  Adding insult to injury, the Dutchman then touched the dirt (and McLeod, just a little) on the exit to Revolver, losing third position to Down. The defending champion spent many laps working on McLeod, and seemed to have him when the latter slid in the Hair Pin, but McLeod held on through Revolver to preserve second place.

"Coxie" gets around Claridge in the Moss S ahead of Fullerton and Kelly.

Lap times got worse around lap 20, but van Gisbergen’s tires seemed to last a lap or two longer than the other front-runners, and he brought the trophy home, having led every lap. Joshua Muggleton worked back up to ninth position after his early spin, and he nearly set fastest lap, missing by just 0.05s to Ruggier’s 1:31.813.

In an altogether different time zone, Scott Brakenridge and Mike Budzien have been working to stir up interest in V8SC in the Americas with an 02:45 GMT Friday/9:45 PM EST Thursday race. Week 1 featured drivers from the Americas both north and south of the equator, along with a Scot and a few ANZAC types. Californian Ray Butcher won from the pole, adding a fastest lap (1:32.313) to complete the triple. Scotsman Michael Booth pushed Butcher until his handling went the way of his tires, while Curtis Chippeway rounded-out the podium. Each of the top three managed sub-1:33 laps, quick enough to have done well in Monday’s big event.

In Europe, the biggest race took place on Sunday, at 18:45 GMT. Broekman won it, with Kevin Duwel and Thomas van Bussel also standing on the podium.

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