Greetings and welcome to the 3rd season of this exiting motor challenge. As you can see from the mammoth intro there have been a few changes since the end of the last season. EDF Motorsports have come aboard as a major sponsor which is great news for everyone from fans like me, to the drivers who stand to pick up a handsome prize, and a nice bit of recognition for the great team at Backfire. EDF MOTORSPORTS get me typing their name in big as their reward!
There have also been a few changes to the grid with some new faces appearing to fill the shoes of drivers who are taking a break this season. The most significant change has got to be Andy Hopley the double champion having a break after a great defence of his title for Haitch Motorsports. Kevin Viemont who has impressed everybody with some great drives in the Cayman is also stepping aside so we can expect a different look to the GT4 table.
Over in the TCR camp Tom Stanley our defending champion is still in place and I’m sure he is looking forward to the resumption of his epic battles with Chris Shaw. Newcomer Lee Bowden will will be looking to make an impression in his first outing in the series alongside Ben Sharpe with a returning Andy Perks. Great to see new drivers coming to join the old hands in this high quality event.
There have also been a few changes to fuelling rules so the guys will have to put on their strategy hats to get the best solution to those pesky short fuel regs! Another change is the solution to a small issue with safety cars which means we are now going to get a proper driver in the car instead of the iRacing A.I. With Mr Clyde Whiting in command what could possibly go wrong!
As we moved through qualifying Stewart Dick was showing good early pace followed by ‘Triple AAA’, Abdul Al Amry with Paul Burgess and Tyler Newitt all breathing down his neck. No surprise to see Chris Shaw and Tom Stanley already sitting at the front of the TCR field Karl Hardy and David Eyers showing well for Result Clothing in 3rd and 4th.
As the last ripples flowed through it was Stewart, Abdul and Tyler Heading the GT4 grid and Tom popped into the lead over Chris and Karl in 3rd for the TCR’s
As the Safety Car pulled into the pits the massive charge began with a battalion of adrenaline fuelled racers crushing the accelerator to the floor and tearing down the track. Was the BMW going to be able to use it’s power or would the agile Porsche weave it’s magic around the wonderful flowing bends at Spa. AAA was first into action beating Stewart Dick to the punch and nipping into the lead with Paul Burgess in 3rd. Roger Morton and Martin Brennan were saying hello to the sound of scrunching metal; after a brief contact. Then Garry Craig pulled off a brilliant save as his car plunged towards one of the rather robust walls of Spa and he managed to pull the car round at the last second; avoiding certain suspension damage from any kind of contact.
Ben Sharpe is a familiar sight to me, normally disappearing into the distance in his Mx5 so I was all agog to see how he would get on in this very different car. Ben has all the race-craft one could ever need and I am expecting him to be making his presence felt as the season develops. He was looking comfortable in 5th just behind Tyler Newitt.
Princess Pete Bingham had made a great start, causing Clyde to raise an eyebrow in surprise, but an unfortunate ‘Slowdown’ penalty; instantly honoured by Pete, cost him dear, and he dropped back into ninth place. Still showing that he was far more than just a pretty face..
Abdulkheir Al Amry was still leading but the gap was miniscule ahead of Stewart Dick as the Asimetric team mates were demonstrating complete confidence in each other; nose to tail, then side by side through the esses. Nothing to choose between the BMW and the Porsche. Martin Brennan was trying out some choice Anglo Saxon phrases as a minor misjudgement had a wheel on the kerb then the whole car on the grass. No one can doubt Martins commitment and courage; racing hard from green light to flag and improving with every race.
Chris and Tom were still leading the way with Chris Shaw in front at the moment on lap 6 with David Eyers in a great 3rd place while he resisted the efforts of teammate Karl Hardy still in 4th. Stephan Goebel meanwhile had made an error and found himself in amongst the TCR’s as he tried to climb the ladder back to the GT4’s.
Another of the new drivers Andy Gefaell was holding off the unwelcome advances of Roger Morton behind and Princess Pete in front still running in 8th spot. Lap 9 and Tom Stanley bought a temporary halt to his ongoing discussions with Chris by diving into the pits for a strategic fill up while Chris stayed out.
All of a sudden the pits were alive as drivers strategies started to unfold. Tyler Newitt temporarily leading the GT’s and Chris and Tom still locked together in the TCR’s at the half way point. Rob Venn and Andy Perks were also still close together, running in 6th & 7th and enjoying the hothouse atmosphere of Spa.
Scott Malcolm had jumped past Pete Bingham and Mark Heron was trying to do the same with The Princess resisting his advances firmly. Chris Shaw had come out of the pit into a world of pain well down among the TCR’s who were all battling hard for position with Chris desperate to get back to the front and Tom Stanley; who was making hay while his rival was delayed in the traffic.
By lap 17 Stewart Dick was leading from Triple A and Paul Burgess with Ben Sharpe in 4th Andy Perks 5th and Tyler in 6th with a 12 second gap to Perks. Tom Stanley had an 18 second gap over Lee Bowden who was turning in a great performance in his first race. Ashley Gefaell another new face was driving well and still circulating in his TCR and had already been anointed with his very own BSTV moniker ‘Ashley Gravel’.. ‘Gefaell’ having completely defeated our commentators.
Lap 20 and pit stops were still happening, putting Scotty Malcolm in the lead with a restored Chris Shaw having regained his lost ground and more appearing at the top of the leader board when Scotty pitted, which re-instituted the Shaw/Stanley battle at the front of the TCR race.
Further down David Eyers was fighting hard to regain some of his lost ground and had the leaders of the GT field catching him up on the last lap.. Making for some nervous moments as the GT cars eased by. They crossed the line Stewart Dick leading Triple A and Paul Burgess who had turned in a great drive and was still pressing hard right to the finishing line. Tyler Newitt claimed 4th place with Ben Sharpe’s late pitstop dropping him to 5th place but still a fantastic maiden voyage by Ben who is one of the nice guys of iRacing and will fit in well with this group of talented and fair drivers.
After another epic race long battle Chris Shaw had the edge this week with Tom Stanley coming in 2nd and a great drive by Lee Bowden to stand on the podium in his first race. A terrific performance. Scott Malcolm and Karl Hardy 4th and 5th.
Well the series is off to a flying start and I expect there will be plenty to enjoy in the next few months so join us on Wednesday Evening. Set a reminder on YouTube and settle down for an hour of first-class entertainment.