VRA and Backfire SimSports present Grand Touring Club Cup Round 9 from IMOLA

Greetings and Salutations my Sim loving friends and welcome to Imola! So I have been pondering how to present a race when I have actually been taking part. Unfortunately I have been devoid of inspiration and have decide to just carry on in my usual ermm..style?

These events are a different kettle of fish to my usual 15 minute blast in an Mx5. 90 minutes of concentration and pit stops! There have been changes to the grid also with the retirement of the BMW Z4 (sob!) and the Ford GT and replaced them with the new Lamborghini Huracane and the BMW GT4 Prototype. As it happens I was very fond of my Z4 and have struggled to find my feet in the prototype Beemer.

The championship points are remarkably close after 9 rounds with the PRO’s being headed by Thijs Simons 1954, Chris Shaw 1816, Martin Versleeuwen 1635, Jamie Wilson 1349 and Abdulkheir Al Amry in 5th with 1310.

The Amateur ranks have Adam Wright up front on 1530, Ben Cullen 1522, Jeremy Mclintock 1412, Kevin de Winter 1308 and Jacob Lebraun 1194.

Keep your eyes out for these chaps as they are likely to be at the sharp end of things today. Toon will be bringing up the rear in fine style!

With qualification well underway there were familiar names percolating around the top of the charts; the final flourishes ending with Thijs Simons on pole for Pace Works eSports, Ben Tusting Team Chimera, Adam Watson Pace Works eSports, Jonathan Foote also Pace Works eSports, Martin Versleeuwen Dutchie’s E Sports and Jamie Wilson Team Chimera.

As the Pace Car rolled around it was fingers crossed for a clean start. This is a tricky old circuit and cold tyres can be a handful but as the lights changed everyone had their sensible heads on and pulled away smoothly. Adam Watson having a slight contact as he came under pressure from a charging Ben Tusting the Team Chimera driver moving into second from 6th on the grid.

Kevin de Winter meanwhile in his eye catching Red and Yellow livery was going balletic; poetry in motion after Barry Vanengelenhoven ‘persuaded’ his car onto 2 wheels. His first bruising encounter of the day but not his last. Such close racing invites the occasional contact even with these classy pilots aboard and there was nose to tail racing right around the circuit.

The cars were looking fabulous in their colourful paint against the background of this famous and hallowed track and the first 8 laps had disappeared in no time with constant action between these well matched drivers, with the notable exception of series leader Thijs Simons who had created a considerable lead by lap 10 when BANG! The flags were waving as the random safety car was bought into play, right at the beginning of it’s window, catching just about everyone by surprise.

The inevitable confusion ensued as drivers lined up and the field closed together, hard won gaps disappearing. Drivers were now faced with making quick decisions about their fuel strategies and whether to make use of the ‘free’ pit stop. Most, including myself pitted under the safety car filled up the tank and rejoined before the SC pulled off.

Lap 12 saw the re-start as the SC pulled into the pits and the pedals hit the metal, Thijs Simons wasting no time in trying to re-establish his early lead. Adam Watson and Ben Tusting then had a ‘moment’ both visiting the sand as the outcome; Jeremiah McClintock joining the spree after a nudge from behind.

Chris Shaw a familiar face to the Backfire clan was making his way up the bunch running in 11h with an 11 second gap to close. Thijs was re-establishing his lead by lap 18 with the re-shuffled leaderboard putting Martin Versleeuwen in second and Jonathan Foote in 3rd breathing down Martin’s neck with an unfortunate contact spinning Martin off the track, rejoining in 5th. Tom Sluiter inheriting 3rd position.

Too much happening with such close racing to describe it all. Cars flying in all directions as the race intensified; many of the early leaders having to make their way forward through the field, spawning battles the length of the track as we start to think about the second round of pit stops.

By now tyres were getting very worn and drivers had to decide whether to risk the tricky handling or use the 30 seconds a tyre change takes. Like the fuelling these can be critical decisions, often deciding a race.If you have ever driven at IMOLA you will know about the vicious nature of some of the kerbs here and they were playing their part in creating havoc among the bouncing cars as tyre wear started to bite.

No let up in the action at the front as Thijs hurtled down the straight just in front of Jaime Wilson exiting the pit’s and immediately getting into battle with Ben Tusting in the other Chimera car.

Real edge of the seat moments with the momentum of the race swinging back and forth until Thijs got a wheel onto the grass and had to watch Jaimie zooming by to join teammate Ben, dropping Thijs to 3rd. Ben then became a fuel stop victim having to pit and dropping down the table to rejoin in 14th putting Thijs into second and in a straight fight with Jaime half a second ahead.

Intense top bracket driving showing just how tense and exiting Sim Racing can be. Adam Wright in a fantastic 3rd place overall after the shuffles; a really outstanding performance for a AM class driver.

Ralph Cullinen was driving the wheels off his fire breathing McClaren still in the thick of things but starting to show a lack of tread as he was head to head with Charles Kellyman who was also having an excellent day out.

As the time ticked down Thijs despite all his effort’s couldn’t get by the flying Jaime Wilson who took the Chequered Flag by seconds. Thiys as we now know was in trouble, fuel saving like crazy to reach the end and Adam Wright with an overall third place and a great win in the AM class. Kevin de Winter after all his adventures in a fantastic second in the AM class and another outstanding performance in the AM’s from Karl Hardy in 3rd.

Whew! What a Race. It get’s no better than this my friends great racing down to the wire. Congratulations to Jaime, Thijs and Adam. I came in 28th my normal thing but no drive through penalty this week!

Alan.

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