Imola – Introduced to the iRacing service in 2016 and even though the final section of corners seems to cause major stutters to even the most powerful PC, the track has become a firm favourite amongst sim-racers across the world, myself included. Everyone it seems except my team mate, Ben “wheels” Warren – “I f**ken hate this track….” I think that was shortly before I saw Ben inspecting the Armco barriers nose first just after the Variante Alta chicane…..but Im getting ahead of myself.
As ever, qualifying for the AOR GTE league is an open 20 minute affair, and with the fairly wide range of driver abilities in the series (split between Pro, Pro/Am and Am classes) finding space on the track for a quick lap can be quite a challenge. Ben had done his usual amount of pre-race practice (10 laps maybe?) and posting a time of 1:39.202 wasn’t great, placing him in 19th place of 33 cars, but his internet was rock solid, he had a bucket nearby and he was ready to race! For me, my practice was my out-lap for Quali – and it showed. Placing dead last of the cars that qualified (31st) with a time of 1:40.740 (2 guys chose not to set a time). Thankfully, my nearest rival in the Am cup Jake Towns hadn’t attended the race however Stephan Kamke was looking racey and Sam Blackwood had won the Am race last time he attended, so a win was going to prove a challenge, to score as many points as possible was the plan.
Unusually, T1 wasn’t a place of carnage for a change, and Ben managed to climb a couple of spots to P14 by the end of lap 3. I’d got a similarly decent start, avoiding a couple of spinners and climbing up to around 20th spot before picking up a slow down penalty and losing almost all again… so by the end of lap 6 I was up to 25th. Lap 10 saw Ben get in to a tangle with Darren Potter dropping down to 24th and literally 2 seconds ahead of me, with Stephan Kamke between us and stuck in to a battle with Sam Blackwood. Lap 17 and Stephan had a slide letting me by, choosing this time to take an early pit. On the same lap, Sam had a small self spin on the mountain kerbs at Variante Alta placing Ben in P18 and me in P19 with Sam hot on my heels. I could sense that he wanted past quite urgently, and with the championship in mind I let him slip past a couple of laps later only for him to have another wee self spin on Acque Minerali letting me by again.
By lap 29 me and Ben were line astern again, running 14th and 15th….and that’s when it happened…
Me – “erm, Ben, why you parked in that fence?”
Ben – “Just checking the disabled parking provisions, don’t worry about me… move along” (or words to that effect) so that was 19 incidents. A couple of corners later Ben was DQ’d #SadFace
So lap 31 I decided to pit from 15th just before the leader Valtteri Alander caught me for a lap. Coming out of the pits in 17th I had an early pitting Soren Kruse behind me and a hard charging Chris Dubrequ moving away in front of me. For the remaining 16 laps Soren and myself were locked in a pretty good battle, never really separated by more than 1.5 seconds. Soren managed to squeeze past at one point, only to slightly overshoot the turn and lose drive on to Tamburello where I nipped back past. Lap 45 he finally got past me and I struggled to keep on his wheel, resigning myself to 15th I let 3rd placed Dominik Schepers past as I didn’t want to hold him up, only to see Soren facing the wrong way with just half a lap to go!
A final position of 24th for Ben and 14th for myself (a gain of 16 places!) wasn’t a great result for the team, although it was a win for me in the Am cup, with Sam in 2nd and Niclas Domino in 3rd. In the Am cup, with Jake missing the race, Im now 66 points clear at the top of the table with Stephan now hot on Jakes heels in 3rd just 21 points behind. Sam is up to 4th ahead of Niclas.
Ben is clinging on to 10th place in the Pro/Am cup, but by the skin of his teeth. 3 good results in the last 3 races should help him out with that!
Results are here.
View from Sorens car is here (skip to 65 minutes for an RSR battle of epic proportions!)
The official AOR broadcast is here.