After a week of sim-racing on the sweeping turns at Mosport, the iRacing.com Grand Touring Cup featured a completely different challenge with the tricky chicanes of Belgium’s Circuit Zolder. Having been absent from the GTC schedule for two years, Zolder was new to most of the drivers and had to be re-learned by the others. “I haven’t driven this track for a couple of years – forgot how much fun, and how infuriating, it can be,” said Solstice class competitor Neil Rocks.
Indeed, fury was the reaction of several drivers who challenged the curbing too much during Week 4’s competition. Catching too much curbing on entry or exit to a chicane sent several drivers into the wall nose-first or careening in a lurid spin across the track in front of oncoming traffic. Others struggled to find the right speed from one lap to the next – being just a bit too cautious on entry would cost precious exit speed and get you passed before the next corner.
Among those finding the right balance of aggression and precision were Revolution Race Group teammates Todd Honczarenko and Mike Wille who battled top Mustang contenders Kevin C Ford and Nicholas Bailey in the highest Strength-Of-Field race for the week. The four pony-car sim-racers battled closely in the opening laps of Sunday’s race with pole-sitter Honczarenko outracing Ford to take the lead into Turn 1. Behind them, Wille battled with Bailey for the first lap before making the pass and setting off after Ford.
As the leader gradually moved further ahead, Ford had his hands full with Wille and Bailey running right on his bumper for four more laps. On lap 5, Ford caught too much curb on the entry to the first chicane, bouncing his Mustang into the air and forcing him to lift off throttle at the exit to stay off the wall. Wille needed only that brief mistake to slip past. Ford and Bailey battled for several more laps while hounding Wille, until Lap 9 when a second error by Ford in the same chicane allowed Bailey to take the final podium position. With the points earned in that race, Honczarenko extended his overall lead in the class championship standings to 68 points over Bailey, with Wille just 22 points further back.
Another team showing well during Week 4 at Zolder was Black Adder Motorsports, with Marco Luca Abbate getting a win in both the Jetta and Mustang, while also setting the top Jetta qualifying time and the second-best Mustang qualifying lap. His teammate Bryan de Bruyn made Abbate work for his Jetta win in Week 4, as the two drivers battled their VWs nose to tail for 25 minutes, with Abbate prevailing by just 0.7 second. With the exception of his one loss to the class championship leader, de Bruyn completed the week with an impressive scorecard of five wins in six races. Abbate finished the week with a class leading total of 688 points in the championship standings, while Dan Karaconstantis rallied from off the podium to second with 580 points. Luis Antonio Piccolo2 slipped to third, needing just 19 points to regain second place.
The Solstice class championship battle continued to get interesting in Week 4 with past-champions crowding the top of the field. Brad Wootton, the 2014 Season 2 Solstice Champion, took the most points for the week to extend his overall points advantage. Jerome Marschall trails by only 76 points showing he is ready replace his division championship with a class championship in the Solstice. Andreas Katz has been the runner up for the class championship twice, but his performance at Zolder was good enough to keep him third on the podium and just 110 points off the leader. Katz also set the top qualifying time, but only by a tenth of a second over 2014 Season 3 Solstice Champion Andrey Loginov. This was Loginov’s first return to the series since his Championship season and he has plenty of time to challenge for the top spot with eight weeks to go in the 12 week season.
A final accomplishment worthy of special note was Dan Karaconstantis’ display of significant skills in all three cars in the series with his performance in the time trial competitions at Zolder. After winning the Solstice class with the best average lap time in the time trial, he went on to finish with the second fastest average lap times in both the Jetta and Mustang class time trial competitions. Karaconstantis managed to do these time trial laps in all three cars while also performing well enough in the Jetta regular race series to be second overall in the class championship points.
Week 5 brings something completely different – no chicanes at Lime Rock Park unless you count the moving traffic of slower cars ahead of you. The short and popular track is expected to produce full fields that will test the patience and skill of sim-racers in all three classes. Hot weather conditions will mean greasy tires in later laps as the classes mingle, making passing strategy and clear communication between drivers a necessity. Everyone will find a track map, lap guide, videos and other helpful information in the Series Forum.