The Land of the Rising Sun played host to the first night race of the GES season, as the championship headed to the Twin Ring Motegi motosports facility in Japan’s Tochigi Prefecture. The 2.983 mile road circuit was in use for the race – rather than the 1.549 mile super speedway which is the only one of its kind in Japan.
With mixed fortunes for the entries that were picked for success at the start of the season, this race had the potential to make or break many team’s seasons. The top three teams in the standings had stolen a march on the competition through the opening two rounds, and this race gave SimRacing for Holland, Backmarker Racing and SimRC.de the opportunity to solidify their claim on a top three championship placing, and with it a grid-spot in the championship “bonus round” with the NES at Le Mans. Whilst a top three championship standing would be difficult for the teams trailing behind them in the standings, the opening rounds have shown that nobody can be complacent, and with three points covering fourth through eighth place in the championship, every point gained or lost could have massive implications in the final standings.
After finishing on the podium at Imola, the Legends pairing of Adam Parle and Darren Seal were looking for more success in round three, and helping to repair the damage done to their aspirations at Road America.
The Motegi road course is a firm favorite for the team, and after establishing a solid setup for the race, Darren and Adam were pleased to find themselves towards the top of the timesheets in many of the practice sessons prior to the race, whilst some of the other teams appeared to be struggling, but they would not be complacent, and were still pushing to improve.
Mixing things up, Adam took charge of qualifying duties, setting a PB on his second flying lap, and was on course to better it on his final lap, before a poor last couple of sectors meant he wouldn’t improve. Legends Racing would line up 4th on the grid.
With low ambient temperatures and cold tyres, the start was always going to be a tense affair, and so it was. Dustin Hickman of SimRC.de managed to hold the inside line into turn 3, dropping the team to 5th. Backmarker Racing, after a fine qualifying from Nicklas Hjelm, sat just ahead of the embattled SimRC.de and Legends Racing cars, and the Radicals and Torque Freak Racing entries were close behind. With 3rd to 7th running so close together, and with the slower classes being lapped, there were several close calls, near misses, and exchanges of paintwork.
With the pit window looming, and team looking at an early stop to get the “undercut”, and the chance of some clear air to move into a podium position, Adam had a momentary lapse in concentration, braking early into turn 11. This would spell catastrophe for the team, as it caught out Jake Robson in the Torque Freak Racing protoype who – despite a valiant avoiding effort – hit the left corner of the Legends car, pitching it into the wall. The contact was light, and the loss of time was small, but the car was damaged sufficiently to receive the dreaded “meatball”, and would force the team into the pit lane a little earlier than planned.
TFR were rightly acquitted of any blame for the incident, whilst the Legends prototype headed into the pits. With minimal repairs required, the team’s strategy of pitting early to get some clear air was still very much in effect. At this point disaster struck again, as iRacing’s “pit-bug” prevented the team from leaving their pit-stall. The team tried swapping drivers, changing tyres, adding fuel … all to no avail. The result of being stationary and revving the engine was that it too would fail, leaving the team with 30+ minutes of mandatory repairs and no guarantee that they would be able to resume racing even if the repairs were carried out. As such, with heavy hearts, the team withdrew from the race.
After such a promising build up to the race, an excellent qualifying, and a solid start to the race, for this comedy of errors to result in a DNF for the team was gut-wrenching. To further add salt to the wound, the DNF also ruins any aspiration of bettering last seasons championship position, or possibly qualifying for Le Mans.
Ultimately in the prototype field, it was a two way battle from start to finish, with Thrustmaster Mivano triumphing, and SimRacing for Holland finishing just behind. The Dutch outfit extends their lead at the top of the championship table, with Thrustmaster Mivano moving up the table and moving into the top 3. SimRC.de continue their strong run of finishes as they rounded out the podium, moving up a place in the standings to 2nd overall.
For the majority of the field, the race at the Nurburgring on 14th January will be the penultimate race of the season. For those teams chasing a top 3 standing, it represents the next step towards qualification for Le Mans. Coverage of the GES Round 4 will be provided by Race Spot TV and iRacing Live from 1830GMT, we’ll see you there.