Season 2 | Pre-Season | Nürburgring
Pre-season testing session 3 is quickly upon us, as drivers are hosted at Nürburgring, Germany.
Turn out to the event was lower than expected, as teams found themselves stranded affected by the catastrophic floods that have recently affected the region. Fortunately, Race Directors agreed for our pre-season to continue as planned, despite Nürburgring officially closing its front doors to racing, to instead focus relief support for the affected region.
Before getting into the action, let’s take a look at this weeks’ announcements:
VK Simsports is pleased to confirm its entries for GT Challenge Fall Season, with Team Director Bram Vogel rejoining the Drivers on track.
"It's been a busy off-season period for VK Simsports, but it has been productive and there are some changes to the team I'd like to share," Director Bram Vogel announced.
I can now confirm our partnership agreement with BMW is still in effect, and I, Bram Vogel will be sporting the BMW M6 again this season. Confidence has been continuously increasing, and I'm certain the added challenge of setup work, compared to alternative GT3s will not be an issue for us.
As with the GT Challenge 2021 Season, VK Simsports will once again be entering 2 cars. Valtonen will be joining VK Simsports for the Fall Season. Valtonen finished the prior season in 6th position overall, and has already shown his excellent pace in pre-season testing. He brings the skill to contend for race wins, as well as the VK Simsport attitude of fair racing and sportsmanship. We're really pleased to welcome Valtonen to the VK Simsport family.
Valtonen also brings his pre-existing relationship with Lamborghini, and will be competing with his trusted Huracan GT3 Evo, a car we know can bring the best out of Valtonen.
An exciting partnership announcement from VK Simsports, and Valtonen will be one to watch out for at the front of the grid.
Another hot-topic announcement slipped under my door this week, and I can’t wait to share it:
Dapper Customs DBE Motorsports is excited to announce that we will be competing in the Pineapple Racing Club GT Challenge for a second season with Hibana Banana joining the team.
Banana is an especially strong and consistent driver who managed to pull four podiums last season including a win and finished with a strong third overall. With our setup knowledge of the Bentley and Banana’s experience driving it, we believe we can provide him the support to push for even stronger results as he will be a vital part of the team as we compete to win the team championship.
I believe it is no surprise to anyone that we will be sticking with Bentley for this season. After changing from BMW we managed to find the pace in the Bentley that we never could in the BMW, allowing us to have a more successful second half of the season. Combined with Banana already having a successful relationship with Bentley, it doesn't make sense for us to change things up.
We wish everyone good luck and look forward to a competitive season.
I had a fantastic season in my Porsche, but it sported a Bentley name on the rear spoiler for a reason. It’s time for me to return to my roots with the British manufacturer, and I’m honored to be doing so alongside worthy rival David Brown. I’ll just need to make sure I’m crystal clear surrounding team orders prior to the season start.
Keep an eye out on the Bentley gang as a livery reveal is to follow for the 2.4 hour Monza pre-season race.
The drivers hit a dry track for qualifying and it was sure to be an exciting one. Banana, Brown and Lipponen had all displayed similar pace in free practice, and each driver wanted that pole position.
In addition to the front runners, we had two new drivers join us for a preseasonal Nürburgring race. It was unknown how they’ll stack up against the community and this race served as a way to scout the new talent.
Early into the qualifying, Banana topped the charts, setting the fastest lap, but Brown and Lipponen quickly took possession of the purple sectors and took the top spots. As the 20-minute session continued, Banana struggled to improve, but eventually set a time to regain the pole position. Brown, not wanting to be outdone by his new Number 2 driver, hit the track again, beating Banana by just 1-tenth of a second.
Jackson qualified in 4th position, with Ishibara and Kingswell within 1 second. Williams, seemingly struggling in comparison to the other drivers, settled for 7th position on the grid.
As qualifying ended and the drivers performed the final changes to their car on the grid, the skies opened up and rain poured down on the circuit. The unexpected twist forced the drivers back to the drawing boards, scrambling to prep the rain tyres and make any changes they could to the car to make it more comfortable in the wet.
As the drivers lined up in double file, 5 green lights signalled the start of the race and Banana got a good jump on Brown to be alongside into the braking of turn 1. Brown’s Bentley held the inside line, and Banana had to tuck back in behind through turns 2 and 3.
As drivers tapped the brakes for Turn 4, Lipponen made an ambitious move up the inside of Banana. With very little time to react, Banana closed the door on the Honda, resulting in contact. Luckily, both drivers were able to avoid a spin. Lipponen took 2nd position, as Banana ran wide to regain control. Into Turn 5, Brown and Lipponen suffered understeer. Lipponen ran too wide, onto the slippery exit apex, lighting up the rear tyres, pitching the Honda into a spin.
As Lipponen made light contact with the barrier, Jackson in his Aston Martin, slipped through into 3rd position. Lipponen quickly came back on the Aston, however, as it sat spinning its rear wheels on the exit of the turn. Jackson conceded the position as Lipponen took the inside line into the hairpin.
Further back, Kingswell had an eventful first lap. As the lights went green, Kingswell got away well, out dragging Ishibara on the straight and braking late into the first turn, to secure 4th position.Unfortunately, Kingswell got a little too curb-hungry and used too much exit curb under braking for Turn 3, rotating the car sideways.
Kingswell promptly dropped back to 6th position. Undeterred, he got a strong exit out of Turn 4, and was alongside Ishibara into Turn 5. But just like Brown and Lipponen, Ishibara understeered wide and bumped doors with Kingswell. Kingswell was once again acquainted with the grass at the Nürburgring.
Onto Lap 2 and Brown ran too deep into the hairpin, getting caught in some sand, dropping back to 2nd place behind Banana. Meanwhile, Jackson was playing leapfrog with Lipponen, who was struggling with rear grip, causing him to have a few spins early in the race.
Fresh newcomer Kingswell was showing potential in this race, as despite a couple spins and light contact with Ishibara, he was battling well with Jackson, who ended last season in 3rd position in the AM Class.
As the drivers reached the midway mark, Brown once again found himself in the race lead, with Banana close behind. The teammates had been matching pace, with one unable to run away from the other.
Banana made an early pit stop in an attempt to undercut Brown. It was a very cautious pit lane entry, to avoid hitting the pitlane wall. The slow stop opened up a potential overcut for the other Bentley.
4 laps later, it was Brown’s turn to serve his pitstop. An equally cautious pit lane entry, likely to avoid speeding over the pitlane line, closed off the overcut opportunity, as Banana sailed past Brown just as he’s released by his pit crew.
It was an uneventful pit stop window for the rest of the field, but Lipponen’s bad luck wasn’t over yet. Shortly after donning new rear shoes, a seemingly gentle wall collision rendered his car significantly damaged and Lipponen was forced into an early retirement from the race.
The retirement of Lipponen’s Honda assured Jackson’s 3rd position, and promoted Ishibara into 4th place overall.
The matching pace of both Bentleys continued, with Dapper Customs drivers separated by just 7 seconds, before a careless spin from Banana shrank the time gap to just a couple of seconds.
In the final stages of the race, it was Brown who had the pace advantage and the gap started to decrease. Desperate to retain his race lead, Banana began pulling out all the stops, braking later, using more dangerous, slippery curbs, trying to maximise the time available on the track.
The riskier driving paid off, as Banana was able to pull away from Brown on the final lap to take the checkered flag, for the glory of a race win against his new team boss, but also with the added smugness of fastest lap on the final lap of the race, previously held by Brown.
Jackson was next to cross the finish line, to take 3rd position overall, ahead of Ishibara in his shiny McLaren. Kingswell took 5th position, with Williams finishing in 6th place, having finished his first ever race at the Nürburgring on ACC.
Following the race, I caught up with newcomers Kingswell and Williams to gather a little more information about our newest racers.
Banana: Fellas, You're both seasonal newcomers to PRC; how did you hear about us?
Williams: I have known Joviah and Dave for a number of years, and actually raced in the PRC at its inception. However, due to burnout I set racing aside for several months until the bug bit me again.
Kingswell: I found you guys on Reddit. I missed out on participating in season 1, but I'm ready for season 2 to begin.
Banana: We’re pleased to see you both on the grid. Do you have previous racing experience?
Williams: I started racing with NASCAR 3 from Papyrus back in 1999. In the early 2000's I caught the Formula One bug and started racing with Grand Prix 4 by MicroProse and have had an interest in that sport ever since.
Kingswell: Quite limited, I'm coming to the end of another league, and this will only be my second league season, and I’m looking forward to a new season.
Banana: How did you handle the weather twist of the Nürburgring Preseason race session?
Williams: Big oof to be honest. I had never run at Nürburgring in ACC prior to yesterday and the track is a challenge on a sunny day. The surprise rain at the start was a curveball that upset my plans of staying on the racing surface.
Kingswell: It was very difficult conditions to race in, but a good learning experience, especially with a new car for myself. I’ll need to get up to speed in the Mclaren quickly before the season starts.
Banana: The conditions were a surprise to everyone and luckily we’ve got a final test session at Monza, so you’ll get more track time to get comfortable with ACC and your cars. What are your plans and expectations with the upcoming season?
Williams: 1) Don't wreck anyone, 2) Keep the car on the track, and 3) Finish the race. If I can pull that off week in and week out, I will consider the season a smashing success. While I like winning as much as the next guy, at my age (53) I just enjoy the entire race process.
Kingswell: Just to be competitive really! This league has a lot of quick drivers, and I'm in a new car but hopefully I'll slot into the midfield/ towards the back and just enjoy some good racing.
Banana: Great attitude from both of you. Thank you for your time and best of luck with the rest of preseason practice and the rest of the season.
Well time for practice is coming to a close. Just one more week of Pre-season testing is scheduled. Next we’re visiting Italy, as Monza is the host of the pre-season finale, a special 2.4 hour race at Monza.
Hopefully by that time, we’ll know exactly who’s teamed up with who, what they may be driving, and we may even see some liveries begin to showcase on the grid.