For my first race for the Vortex Star Mazda team I was competing at Spa-Francorschamps iRacing circuit. This season I'm in division 3, with another Vortex teammate, Ryosuke.
My preparation this week has been a little interrupted, with affairs in real life taking a priority. At the start of the week (Tuesday night) I was doing 2:18.4's using my setup from last season. By Saturday morning, after maybe 2 hours of practice, I lowered my time down to a 2:16.9 on the same setup. It was all about throttle control and getting the right lines and that's something that only time on track could give me. I saw still a whole second off Ryosuke's time. At least his time was very quick in the overall standings.
I tried Tony Rappusard's setup from the Forums, which ran slightly more wing front and back (21/22), but I couldn't get any faster and it felt less stable than my 20/20 wings - comparing the two sets, his seemed to have a lot more rebound damping front and back.
I qualified on Saturday afternoon with a 2:16.7 which at the time put me at the top of the Vortex Racing Star Mazda guys. I knew Ryosuke was doing 2:16.0's so my qualifying time was little consolation. Before I could go racing I needed to know how my race pace was, so after qualifying I spent about 90 minutes practicing with race fuel loads. I didn't change the setup any and managed consistent 2:17.3's, which when I looked at the fastest race laps of guys competing in the splits I thought I'd be in, that compared pretty well. By this stage I was consistently in the top couple of drivers in every practice session. I dind't want to race yet, as I was very tired - I thought it best I leave the racing until Sunday.
Sunday morning came and I lined up for my first race in pole position by over a second on 2nd place. Unfortunately I didn't stay there off the line and we battled up down the straight and into the subsequent corner. I backed out, not wanting to cause an incident and confident I had enough pace to retake the lead before the 13 lap race was over. As we came to the final chicane (second last corner) I was right up on his gearbox. I made a better exit from that corner and pulled along side into La Source, the final turn. We both made it through clean but he dropped it on the exit (as I'd done a few times in practice) and speared across the track clipping my rear left wheel and completely pushing it up and taking me out of the race. I didn't want my round to end on that low note, so I thought I may as well do the full four (where only the best one of four will count).
Race 2 and I was again on pole, but this time by a slim margin. I finished 2nd this race, to someone who didn't qualify, but was faster, and I had a decent little battle with the guy 2nd on the grid. This race also netted me 127 points, my best race of the round.
Race 3 and I started 2nd to a guy a full second faster than me, so I knew I had little chance of winning. I got by on the first lap and led for a few laps but his superior speed was too much and I didn't waste time driving defensively. On the same lap I lost 1st I also lost 2nd to the 2nd place grid sitter from the previous race. We were very close in speed and I did hold him up maybe just a little, I felt, in the previous race, so I made it easy for him to get by this time. I hoped I would be able to tuck up behind him and use my vastly superior straight line speed to blast by him again. Unfortunately I didn't get it right and as I ran close to him coming into Les Combes, we touched for a 0x. He was ok thankfully but I slipped off track and lost a few positions while I recovered. It did make for some fun racing though as I hunted down the two drivers in front of me, Mark Sheppard and the top ranked driver in the race. I was catching them both but come off the track just as I'd caught up to within 2 seconds. This allowed for the driver behind me to close right back up again and we battled it out for the last lap. With him right behind me, I ceded the place at the end of the 2nd last lap, knowing I had far greater straight line speed. As we shot along Kemmel Straight, I pulled of the draft and shot back into 5th place, and held the place until the end of the race - getting a thanks from the driver for a near race long tow around the track :)
Race 4 and I again started from 2nd, this time to my fellow Moggill Area resident and namesake, Scott Gray. We raced within 2.0 seconds for the entire race. I didn't quit have enough speed to get in the tow until the very end when he probably made a mistake (although I led for a few seconds on the first lap when I got by him on Kemmel and into Les Combes - a recurring theme ;)). Two laps from the end I'd reduced the 2 second deficit to 1.3 seconds and could see in iSpeed that I was starting to get the advantage of being in the slip-stream when I made a mistake into turn 12 and lost the rear. I still managed to finish 2nd, albiet 9 seconds back and I thoroughly enjoyed the good clean race.
Here are the highlights of my Round.