‘A featureless pile of steaming dog s***t’.
Not always the best way to begin an article of the stature of an IRacing powered Touring Car Championship’s Race Report but then again, this is the BSRTC Pro Series; A 35 week long, $10,000 prize funded touring car championship that has had 50 of the simulation racing service’s most eccentric drivers fighting for a slice of the pie on MotorsTV every week. For our newfound readers- last week marked the end of the ‘actual season’, paving the way for the final five weeks wherein the top 10 PRO Drivers, top 5 AM Drivers, top 3 teams and 3 wild card entries alone would legitimately compete for their respective titles and subsequent prizes henceforth. With the first of those five races scheduled for the 5th of November, the general consensus with regards to how things would shape up at the Okayama Short Circuit in the week preceding it, was best illustrated by Team Leo Bodnar’s (now merged with Team Euro Chip Digital) PRO driver Steve Hefford in the article’s opening line.
It’s true, every IRacer has had their fair share of the Okayama circuit – being as it is one of those tracks they are subjected to on a more than frequent basis as they work towards getting out of the Rookie division. Littered with belligerent idiots of drivers yet to come to terms with a steering wheel – spin outs, trysts with the gravel pits, obnoxious overtaking and tyre barrier kisses are commonplace. And now, despite the distinction of it being a PRO division race, the drivers expected nothing less. 2 Km in length, most of which would be enveloped by a grid of 30 odd drivers anyway, Okayama advances from one tight hairpin to another, coming to an end before even beginning. Overtaking would mean side by side action and accurately timed entries/ exits between turns 1 to 7, with slipstreams along the straight being the drivers’ only solace. And so, elbowing and incidents of road rage that had risen to quite a high in the season’s last few weeks were inevitable.
And yet still, incidents had to be avoided – for the Showdown demanded that ‘fast repairs’ in the pit be omitted; any wounds suffered by the cars would not be healed in a matter of seconds nor would they be healed in their entirety. In addition, only a maximum of 11 incident points (an incident point is incurred on contact, off-tracks etc.) would be permitted in comparison to the season’s 17 thus far. Drivers then would have to play fair and drive clean – lest face the back of the pack and lose their respective shots at the title altogether. Incentivising the rest of the pack thankfully, would be the Five-O championship that offered $200 for those not in the Showdown but scored the most points at the end of the five weeks nevertheless; and a $500 prize for the series’ cleanest driver thus far. Whether a few $100 would prove to be incentive enough though, remained to be seen.
Round 88 – Duff Setups and Left over Spares.
For all intents and purposes the starting grid that had lined itself up at an overcast Okayama as so –
– remained relatively unchanged through the course of round. Not for the New Homes Digital pair of Laura Bond and Steve Richardson though, the latter of whom could be heard alluding to the fact that his team mates had perhaps sabotaged his car with centuries-old spare parts pre-race; The start of the lap saw Laser Tools’ Rob Graham dive into the middle of Bond and Richardson in 29th and 30th place ahead of him respectively at Turn 2, swerve to the left to avoid Richardson on his right, send Laura into a drift by nudging her as a result before pushing Richardson into the tyre barrier to his right. As Bond struggled to steady herself, Graham drove over her bonnet like a monster truck in heat before advancing forward as cool as a cucumber. ‘ I’m surprised I was even able to continue after that bit of ping pong back there!’ , he confessed as he laughed it off later.
Amusingly a punch-drunk Richardson would reverse back on track, drive around in a circle by the scene of the accident before going forward the wrong way – hitting another barrier on the opposite side of the track and retiring to the pits altogether. Bond would carry on for half a lap before doing the same (retiring to the pits, that is) – leaving the New Homes name in the hands of team mates Jamie Rushworth and Jamie Fluke within the top 10 at the time. ‘And just like that, Graham killed half of New Homes before Turn 3’, a rather glum Stephens reflected from 26th place after the round. Bond had, as a result of the incident, dropped all the way down to 4th place in the AM’s Showdown Standings from 1st place and Richardson to 6th . ‘There’s no point talking to Laura either. She barely remembers half of it anyway.’ Soon after, Lap Two saw Apex Racing’s Jake Blackhall descend into a never ending spiral of overturns in 24th place between turns 3 and 4, post being forced into the track barrier after a tap to Stem Sim’s Paul Smith’s rear ahead of him caused him to lose control as Smith regained his.
Meanwhile, Euro Chip Digital’s Andreas Katz’s lead ahead of Apex Racing TV’s Sebastian Job and Engine Oil’s Wojceich Swirydovicz would continue to grow increasingly dominant over the next 22 laps before eventually granting him a win 4 seconds ahead of 2nd place. Katz had previously begun the season in all his usual panache, going on to win up to 7 races before hitting a personal plateau that threatened to unsettle his championship’s standings. ‘I may have got in to the Showdown by virtue of a wild-card but rest assured, I will be pushing for the podium come the final race of the Drivers’ Championship.’, stated the jubilant Euro Chip Driver, now in 4th place in the PRO standings as a result of the win. ‘The fact that I’m at peace now and can concentrate on my racing give me confidence – coupled with the fact that I’ve promised to send all my winnings to a charity for Orphans in Africa, which only serves to incentivise me.’
As for his immediate competition – Job’s slowdown penalty at turn 3 by Lap 4 would drop him behind the PRO Drivers’ leading contender Swirydovicz for the remainder of the round. He would emerge as a threat only by the final 7 laps of the round by which, having drawn dangerously close to Swirydovicz’s rear in the intervening time, Job would be seen knocking against the Engine Oil driver’s rear at the corner exits. Fortunately for Engine Oil, Swirydovicz would continue to stay ahead of Job by barely half a second, extending his lead over the latter by 8 points in the Showdown’s PRO standings.
Yet amidst it all, all of Okayama’s energy from the round served to reside along positions 4th to 7th of the grid till the very end. Set into motion by Stem Sim Racing’s Ben Palmer overtaking GT Omega’s Daniel Hunt to don 4th place ahead of him, the ensuing laps would have the duo soar past turns 2 to 7 as they touched doors – until Palmer managed to pry himself away, albeit momentarily, by Lap 14. By then, Peter Newman Media’s Ashley Sutton – known for miraculous drives that have had him finish in the podium from the back of the pack – had grown alarmingly close to New Homes’ Jamie Rushworth in position 6th who up till then, only had Hunt and Palmer to worry about.
By Lap 16, Palmer’s slow entry into Turn 1 and Hunt’s delayed braking served to reunite the pair once again – with Hunt just about making contact with Palmer’s rear bumper. Reacting to the opening that had been caused by Rushworth slowing down in crash avoidance – Sutton swiftly moved into the middle of Hunt and Palmer on entry to turn 2, before dropping behind Hunt after getting in contact with the latter. A lap later, Sutton pulled through the inside of Hunt at the same turn, putting himself in 4th place behind Palmer where he would ultimately finish the race in. Remarkable through all it was Rushworth and Hunt’s persistence, as could be witnessed from their uncanny ability to hang on to the bumpers of the cars ahead with little regard for the consequences sudden braking would bring.
Hunt’s eventual 6th place finish ahead of Rushworth had now pushed him into the top 10 of the Showdown’s PRO Standings. ‘That was a great battle.’, explained Rushworth as I spoke to him about it later. ‘Initially I was trying to get past Palmer so I stood a chance of catching Woj (Swirydovicz) and Seb (Job) in front, but as the laps went on and I saw the gap to them grow, my mission changed to just pure stubbornness to get past. I had to stick close to the car in front to capitalize on any mistakes made. Spoke to Palmer after the race and first thing he said was “Hah, I finally beat you!”‘
And thus, with a minimum of only 3 cars being forced out of the race and only a modicum of action to be witnessed over 22 rounds – Round 88 at Okayama had managed to crown itself as one of the BSRTC’s most uneventful meetings in recent times.
Pro Drivers’ Standings After Round 88
AM Drivers’ Standings After Round 88
Round 89 – The Crush.
‘Race 20th was easy, I could have won it from 20th on the grid’. The grid-reversal had placed New Homes Digital’s cheeky mascot, Kip Stephens in second place behind Engine Oil Direct’s Dan Blake, who- right after the green light went off – lost control at Turn One allowing Stephens to zoom past into first place. The Season 1 and 2 champion would then slip into the zone for the next 21 laps, keeping his lead before eventually finishing with it. Having dropped down to 11th in the Drivers’ standings as a result of his 26th place finish in the previous round, the win served to hurl him all the way up to 4th place , replacing Euro Chip’s Andreas Katz behind team mate Jamie Rushworth. ‘I’ve deliberately been driving crap all season just to give them a false sense of security – This championship is mine, I’m just getting warmed up’.
Meanwhile, the sun that had now crept over Okayama’s claustrophobic layout seemed to inspire in the rest of the grid an energy so familiar – that, after the abnormally civil show of Round 88, had me wondering if I’d accidentally switched to a replay of an older race from the season. Yes, gone were the repressed personalities and in was the drama – beginning with Euro Chip’s Lee Berridge’s rather freakish line through the inside of Lap One’s Turn One in position 10th , that resulted in him introducing Apex Racing TV’s Richard Gore to the track-barrier head first before the race had even begun. Fortunately Gore would manage to pull through the damage and finish in 22nd, which was more than could be said for Berridge whose meeting with the barrier, courtesy of GT Omega’s Russell Laidler in 16th place on Lap 6, ended in both being disqualified from the race.
Through the commotion, starting -grid position #24 resident, Apex Racing TV’s Sebastian Job had risen to position 18th alongside Peter Newman Media’s Ashley Sutton . This meant of course, that it was time for either of them to bid good-bye to Round 89 given each of their penchants to aggressively place themselves on the podium regardless of starting position – True enough, the duo meandered through turns 2 to 7 over the course of lap two, racking up the incident points with nudges and bumps until Sutton emerged victorious.
The spoils to the victor sadly, came in the form of New Homes Digital driver Jamie Rushworth who was suffering from a less than sunny day – Rushworth, in position 14 on lap three had just been rammed into by Laser Tools’ Aleksandar Smolensky, after slowing down to steer clear of Berridge who was then keeping himself busy with setting up GT Omega’s Russell Laidler’s one way ticket to the barrier at Turn One. Rushworth’s swift reflexes had saved him from the Berridge Barrier by but a fraction of an inch. ‘Aleks nearly putting me in the wall scared the crap out of me!’ yelled Rushworth through his Facebook messenger when I enquired of the rush of emotions that had coursed through him at the time. I thought for sure it was all over but I just managed to get the car under control in time- When I watched it back I saw that my rear bumper was literally millimetres from hitting the wall!’ Impressively, he would go on to finish in 12th place well ahead of his Round 88 nemeses, Ben Palmer and Daniel Hunt.
As he re-joined the pack alongside Sutton who was now past Palmer in position 17, Rushworth’s improper inside line through Turn 2 had caused him to unsettle Sutton’s, who after recovering from the drift had been set into another by Palmer before being corrected by Rushworth again. The game of table tennis sadly was too much for Sutton’s incident point record, causing him to be disqualified. Job then was in for a field day as he moved from bumper to bumper, door handle to door handle, incident point to incident point, unchallenged to finish – not astonishingly- in 9th place. ‘What? How? When?’ I asked, astonished nevertheless. ‘I think the main way for me to get passed other drivers is by forcing a mistake’, he confided, rather amused at my child like fascination. ‘This was key at Okayama as it’s almost impossible to pass without a mistake unless you are way faster. The faster drivers were very hard to pass because of this.’
Apparently, one doesn’t get to second place of the PRO Drivers’ Standings by impetuously gluing their pedals to the floor. In comparison, current PRO Driver standings’ Number One, Engine Oil Direct’s Wojceich Swirydovicz played his cards with extreme prudence given how, prior to the race, he had expressed dread of being overcome by the mania at the rear of the pack. And so, the round would have him stay in his starting position in 27th for over 10 laps – ascending within the Grid standings only as a result of the its intermittent disqualifications, a momentary yet cautious duel with Stem Sim’s Robert Plumley over laps 10 and 11 and another with Peter Newman Media ‘s Steve Burke that would involve Burke moving dangerously close to the pit wall in an attempt to block the Engine Oil driver from overtaking ( A move previously pulled by GT Omega’s Michael Schellbach who seemed annoyed by Friction Racing’s Colin Cunniffe’s prods on Lap 7). His 20th place finish at the end of it all did little to affect his lead in the Drivers’ standings – reducing the gap between him and Job by a mere 7 points.
Things were just as exciting on the AM horizon. Stem Sim’s Paul Smith’s 5th place finish had served to put him ahead of Richard Gore on the drivers’ standings who for the time being, was still clear of Engine Oil’s John Roberts. While Burke struggled with a miserable setup and an even horrid internet connection, finishing in 25th – 3 places ahead of his Round 88 finish – New Homes’ Laura Bond and Steve Richardson added yet another few frames to the crash compilation reel. Post turn 6’s exit on lap 14th, an incidental tap on Plumley’s rear by Bond had sent him head-first into the barrier beside him. ‘My perspective is that he just didn’t leave me enough room’, she reflected when asked if there was any deliberation behind the act. Stephens of course had more to add, ‘ Rob (Plumley) always likes being close to Laura (Bond). I think there’s a crush.’
Regardless, the force of impact – from the barrier that is – brought Plumley back on track in Richardson’s path who, with barely enough time to react, rammed into his side sending him up in the air in what seemed reminiscent of a display of Pizza Acrobatics. As Plumley retired to the pits, Richardson – having suffered only a minor wheelie in all the hubbub – laboured on to finish in 28th place with Bond in 21st. The finishing grid then, with Hefford adding to his and mate Katz’s newfound team’s glory in second followed by GT Omega’s Schellbach in third stood as so –
Round 90 – Job Hunting.
By the end of the final round at Okayama, the New Homes Digital team would lay its mark on the podium for the second time that night– courtesy of a one-two finish by members Jamie Rushworth and Jamie Fluke. While Fluke’s pole start functioned as the primary contributor, it was Rushworth’s energetic launch off the line in comparison to 2nd and 3rd place holders of the starting grid – GT Omega’s Daniel Hunt and Laser Tools’ Aleksandar Smolensky respectively – that served to place him in second place behind Fluke. Fluke would give way to his team mate only by lap 12 though, following which he would act to keep Smolensky away from the lead that remained less than a second from his grasp by the end of round. This more than anything, helped solidify Rushworth’s position in 3rd within the Pro Drivers’ Standings – extending his lead over the Laser Tools driver by 32 points, who now lay in 4th after a 3rd place finish.
Wrapping up the top 5 by the end of the round were GT Omega’s Daniel Hunt and Apex Racing TV’s Sebastian Job. ‘It was the incredible battle between Job and me over the course last 9-10 laps that turned Round 3 into the night’s highlight for me’, Hunt stated. And for good reason – as the round began with Hunt dropping to 4th place on the grid after Rushworth and Smolensky’s comparatively superior start, Job would adopt the usual attacker’s stance against Stem Sim’s David Baker, Engine Oil’s Jeroen Keizer and Euro Chip’s Rob Fagg ahead of him to place 2 seconds behind Hunt by Lap 8. As the gap grew smaller between the two, so did Hunt’s aversion to aggression – visible from him moving into the Apex Racing driver’s path along the straight on Lap 13 as he grew closer to an overtake from Hunt’s passenger side. The move drove the duo dangerously close to the pit wall until Job – seemingly playing street-smart – darted to the left only at the last minute so as to attain a slow in, fast out line through Turn One from out wide. This proved to be ineffective as Hunt’s faster line from the inside reigned superior, keeping Job at his rear for yet another lap.
The act would be repeated several times, leading the two to trade door paint as they serpentined their way through turns 2-7 over the next 8 laps. By the final lap, Job – not one of patience – had made a desperate dive through Turn 2 using Hunt as a crutch with two wheels on the grass, causing the GT Omega PRO Driver to return the favour by blatantly showing him aside on entry to turn 3. ‘At the time I was pretty frustrated’, Job explained in relation to the incident, ‘But I am not bothered now. It was only one position, and my overtake on him was very optimistic.’ Regardless as the 4th place finish served to nudge Hunt up the PRO standings by two places – Job had managed to reduce the gap between Engine Oil’s Wojceich Swirydovicz to a diminutive 5 points. A similar duel had transpired between Swirydovicz and Peter Newman Media’s Ash Sutton, after the latter had made yet another whopping climb from 34th place on the grid to 15th place behind the PRO Drivers’ leading contender by lap 15. Sutton would hang extraordinarily close to Swirydovicz’s rear and door handles until finally running wide (which is a rare sight within the BSRTC honestly) to let Stem Sim’s Ben Palmer through towards the end of the final lap.
AM driver Richard Gore of Apex Racing TV meanwhile enjoyed a considerably better round as opposed to the previous, letting him finish in 18th place ahead of Peter Newman’s Steve Burke in 22nd and Stem Sim’s Paul Smith in 26th. This brought Gore back into first place by but a 2 point lead over Smith in the AM Standings while Burke continues to hover between New Homes’ Bond and Richardson who for the first time that night – made it through to the end of the round without incident. Burke had earlier alluded to his plans of using his image as a ‘wrecker’ – and the consequent want of the rest of the grid to stay out of his way – to his advantage prior to the race and so, when asked why things had turned unfavourable he explained, ‘In each race I had strong, aggressive and clean starts. Yet most of my time was spent defending places I had made up due to lack of speed. The setup I chose didn’t work well past 50% tyre wear – they were just destroyed.’
‘Plus Steve was on a dodgy connection’, chimed Pete Newman, team manager. ‘So we couldn’t talk on mumble (chat) and were worried he was going to disappear. No matter -I think we have a better setup for Interlagos and should be in top form’. Through it all, member Ashley Sutton – in abidance by his nature to stay out of the limelight – remained unavailable for comment.
PRO Drivers’ Standings After Round 90.
The first round at Okayama determined nothing. Gaps were far from exorbitant and drivers could still rise to/drop from positions within the standings as fortune played them – that being said, with Interlagos set to be far from A featureless pile of steaming dog s***t , my days as a writer for the BSRTC are to turn loony. Speaking of loony, in case you’re wondering what happened to the defaced Excel Sheet Mr. Keizer had invited the BSRTC’s drivers to fill in last week – only the best apparently.
This race will also be aired on MOTORSTV on the 24th of November as per the schedule here. Meanwhile, Higher Eclectic Ground is not only covering the last five races of the BSRTC, called the Showdown, set to be streamed live on ApexRacing TV’s Youtube channel at 8.15 P.M GMT – but will also be making an announcement with regards to its collaboration with the British Sim Racers and Higher Eclectic’s indie and art community. To make sure you do not miss out on anything, do head down to our Facebook page where all the activity lies and ensure you’re signed up. Moreover, those interested in racing with the BSRTC community or simply hanging out with them by the pitlanes, can do so by signing up to their closed group on Facebook . Those still doubtful about what the BSRTC is all about meanwhile can learn more by viewing our previous coverage of the same which also includes a never-seen-before look at the championship’s rise.
Track side photo courtesy, BSRTC Pro Series Driver Jamie Rushworth.