Round 8: Misano 4/11/2021
Round 8 brings us right back to where we started: Misano World Circuit.
Back in January, drivers were given 4 weeks to set their fastest times to determine the class each driver would be placed in. The circuit was chosen at random, with almost every driver having the same reaction when Misano was revealed: "Oh please, no."
Here we go again.
On the run up to the weekend, drivers were again warned of a chance of wet weather, but as the weekend rolled around, skies were clear and the track was dry. I'm convinced a driver is secretly conducting sacrificial ceremonies to satisfy the Rain Gods. Not that I’m complaining.
Misano is well known for its unique allowance of track extending; however, push it just a little too far (it's extremely easy to extend just a hair too much) and catch a cut-track warning. If a driver collects 4 of these warnings, they're awarded a drive through penalty. I'd expect there to be at least a couple of drivers caught out during the race.
As a recap to the current standings going into the event, in the silver class, Dominiak is almost 40 points clear of Banana in second, who is just 7 points ahead of Lipponen in third. Heesch is threatening to steal some of Lipponen’s thunder, as he is just 4 points behind. Langaard, Valtonen, and Yang are all close together, but Brown will be one to watch, as he’s showing some good pace with his new Bentley. He took a points penalty to switch cars and will be wanting to recover some lost points.
AM class is going to get interesting, as Chmura and Reynolds are leading the AM Championship, but were unable to attend the event, leaving the door wide open for Cruijsen, Bartocci, and Jackson to close the lead and gain some traction to climb the standings.
As practice ended, Banana was the first driver to hit the circuit for qualifying and topped the table on his first flying lap. 10 more laps, however, were not enough to improve, and dropped to 4th on the grid. Lipponen, Brown, and Dominiak all showed great pace during practice and found themselves trading places for the entirety of qualifying. As Dominiak achieved the provisional pole from Lipponen, Brown put in a late effort and pushed Dominiak off the top spot.
In the AM class, Bartocci took the pole position, just one-tenth faster than next rival, Jackson.
As almost everyone formed up side-by-side, with the exception of Goswick, who was stuck back at the pit garage. Unfortunately, Goswick missed the race start whilst trying to affix a replacement steering wheel after it developed a fault following the conclusion of qualifying.
5 green lights signaled the start of the race. Immediately, Brown was handed a drive through penalty by the in-game race control. We'll try and catch up later to get more information. Turns 1-5 are extremely tight when the pack is as bunched together, but everyone did exceptionally well to have navigated the first sector without incident.
The first contact came in turn 10, between Langaard and Heesch, when Heesch carried a little too much speed into the turn, resulting in door-to-door contact. Langaard was mostly unharmed, but Heesch was spun against the inside of the turn, where Valtonen had nowhere to go, and gave a secondary tap to the McLaren, sealing the spin. Luckily, no other drivers were involved.
It didn't take long for the McLaren driver to catch up to the pack again, and Heesch's race turned from bad to worse, as a small contact between Heesch and Roulee caused Heesch to spin again. Heesch found a safe place to rejoin the circuit, but the in-game stewards were not happy with the time gained from skipping Turn 14 entirely, and Heesch was slapped with a disqualification penalty after just 4 laps.
In the opening laps, as Dominiak sped ahead and Brown served his drive through, drivers Banana and Lipponen were battling hard for 2nd position. Through undercuts, side-by-side rubbing, and slipstream, Banana was unable to find a way around the Honda. Yang introduced his Bentley in the mix, after Banana dropped back following a mistake. As Lipponen was battling, and losing time with Yang, Banana dived into the pits early to attempt an undercut strategy.
Just 1 lap later, Lipponen and Yang pitted together. As they exited the pits in the same order, Banana sped past to gain a 4 second on-track advantage.
In the second stage of the race, Yang found himself once again in an attacking position against Lipponen, but some tough defence meant he was also unable to make a move stick. Lipponen crossed the finish line in the final podium spot and Yang settled for 4th.
Goswick was the first driver to fall foul to the track limits, incurring a drive through penalty on Lap 15 while chasing down fellow silver driver Roulee. He wasn’t the only driver, however, as Porsche driver Cruijsen also exceeded track limits, one time too many, to also collect a drive through penalty.
After serving his drive-through penalty on lap 1, Brown found himself on a quiet part of the circuit, and with clean air, was able to focus on extracting as much pace as possible out of his Bentley. As he crossed the checkered flag, he had climbed from 14th position, back to a solid 5th place.
Throughout the first half of the race, Langaard, Valtonen, and Winegarden were in a train together, later joined by Jackson, as Langaard made his wide BMW even wider to retain his track position. Unfortunately, a better pit stop strategy from Valtonen and Winegarden gifted them track position over the BMW. Valtonen found himself behind Brown but was unable to match pace. Crossing the line in 6th position, whilst Langaard was able to regain a place against Winegarden, to finish 9th and 10th respectively.
In the AM class, Jackson, who started 2nd in class, was able to bring his Lexus home to his first class win of the season, having risen to the challenge put forth by Bartocci.
After the event, I found some drivers to have a chat with.
Banana: Brown, Congratulations on your pole position in qualifying. That was a mega lap. How are you settling in with your new car?
Brown: Bwoah! Thank you, I've been chasing it for a while now and I'm over the moon. I've got the monkey off my back. I'm settling in well with the car, it definitely suits me a lot better although I am struggling with the rear suspension when it comes to setup, but I will master it over time.
Banana: I think we're all looking forward to seeing you and Dominiak toughing it out. But today wasn't going to be that race. What happened at the green flag?
Brown: Honestly, I'm not quite sure. I was within the widget and doing under 70kph. I was shocked and a little disappointed at the penalty especially since I was looking forward to battling Dominiak, but I shook it off, got my head down, and finished well.
Banana: Very well done for not losing your cool and running a great recovery drive. How did you manage the remainder of your race?
Brown: I think I could have battled for 1st and I'm pretty disappointed that I didn't get the chance to do so but I'm very happy with my pace. Regarding the management of the race after the DT, I just got my head down and aimed to maximise every lap. I just tried to get as close as I could in case the leaders made any errors. Unfortunately for me they were all on good form.
Banana: Jackson, you've just earned your first class win. How does it feel?
Jackson: I feel good! I was hoping to be more competitive and that’s exactly what I got. And the fact that I was able to get 1st place in AM exceeded my expectations. It’s a really good feeling when hard work and practice yield the results you’re hoping for. Even in qualifying I felt I had more pace than I was able to put down, but still qualified 10th, which I was happy with
Banana: It's great to see the rewards of your hard work. At Barcelona, you told me you were gunning for some top 10 finishes. Is this what we can expect from you going forward?
Jackson: Of course, my goal is to keep up with this performance. I want to keep the practice up and continue to learn and grow. I think this is just the beginning for me. I’ve come to grips with the game and figured out a car that fits, so it’s time to start getting faster.
Banana: I know myself and other drivers are looking forward to seeing you more on track. What was the most memorable moment of the action for you?
Jackson: I think the moment that I remember the most was trying to decide when to pit with Winegarden and Langaard in front of me. I wasn’t sure about when I was going to come in and made the split-second decision to follow Winegarden in when he did. And I’m glad I did because I managed to come out of the pits in front of him.
Banana: Great decision. Thank you, Jackson. I look forward to seeing you on track again next time.
Banana: Lipponen, that was an exciting qualifying session. How were you feeling, both at the start, and end of qualifying?
Lipponen: Well, excited definitely, despite knowing that my pole time wouldn't stick. As soon as my time was reported back to me I knew Dominiak would be on his way back to his car fuming. Brown too, as we had shared some practice data so I knew if he could stitch a lap together, he'd most likely be able to beat my time. So, in the end the disappointment wasn't bad.
Banana: You had an action filled race, defending from Banana in your first stint, and Yang in your second stint. Who were you more worried about?
Lipponen: Banana. Despite leaving pits bumper to bumper with Yang, I knew that once I was on fresh tires I could get some fresh air between us, though not as much as I wanted. Still a bit disappointed at the poor showing in the pits, but it's racing and P3 is nothing to scoff at.
This week, we have a new addition to the recap. After the race, drivers, stewards, and spectators voted for who they believed was most deserving of a 'Driver of the Day' award.
Brown won this award by a landslide. After showing blistering pace in qualifying, he was struck by a penalty, which ruined his chances of a race win; but was nonetheless able to recover himself to 5th position overall. An incredible drive, but no doubt a frustrating one. We all look forward to the race where there is a real fight between Brown and Dominiak. It's going to be an epic spectacle.
Dominiak is once again grabbing the full 25 points, for his single-man championship. Banana gains a further 3 point advantage over Lipponen. Heesch’s 5th class position is now under serious threat from Yang.
Preliminary results show Jackson receiving 25 class points, with Bartocci and Winegarden taking 18 and 15 points, respectively. If positions stand, that should leave Cruijsen with enough points to secure 2nd place from Reynolds, whilst Bartocci claims 3rd. Jackson remains in 5th position but is in a much better position going into the next race.
Next race is in just under 2 weeks’ time. A Special 2.4hr Endurance at Monza, where some cars will shine bright, whilst others form moving chicanes on the long straightaways.