Season 2 | Round 2 | Donington
Welcome back to Pineapple Racing Club’s GT Challenge Fall season for Round 2. Donington hosts this next round, as drivers are entered for a 1-hour sprint race.
The chance of rain is low this week, with just a 20% chance of downpour, but stranger things have happened. So, it’s advised to prepare for all eventualities.
This is the first time PRC has raced at Donington for an official season event, as it poses an interesting challenge. Firstly, it has been reported that some drivers on the grid have not raced this circuit in many years, if at all.
Donington is a narrow circuit, and does not present many opportunities to overtake, so expect to see some trains forming as drivers are caught behind each other. Drivers will need to stay composed if attacking or defending, as many corners are high speed with only one suitable racing line. Coming off the ideal line almost certainly results in an off-track excursion and once a car is out on the grass, those walls approach very quickly.
The championship standings after Round 1 at Silverstone are as follows:
Banana leads the overall standings with 25 points, ahead of Kent in 2nd, and Heesch in 3rd position.
Beentjes climbed to the top spot in the Silver Class, ahead of Daniels and Bowler. Cockell and Williams were the only AM finishers at Silverstone, taking 1st and 2nd position in class respectively. Gomez and Ugarov both DNF’d at the opening round and will be looking to score points this round.
The race day practice session was wet, But, as the session came to a close, the rain had eased and the track had begun to dry. Qualifying started, and whilst the track was dry, it was far from optimal conditions. However, the track would get faster as drivers rubbered in the circuit.
The short track proved difficult for the 23 drivers, as drivers struggled to find free track space to lap without being held up by other drivers also trying to set their flying laps.
At the end of the session, BSKIT Motorsport - Racing for Rob were able to lock out the front row, with returning Season 1 champion Dominiak claiming the top spot with Kent in second. Banana was hot on the heels of the Porsches, settling for 3rd position.
Lipponen joined Banana on the second row, returning to the circuit after a short break to recover from a wrist injury.
Valtonen appeared to be struggling with outright pace with his Lamborghini this week, as he qualified in 12th position.
Beentjes once again secured pole position for his Silver Class, in an impressive 6th position overall.
Gomez was able to outqualify Cockell for the AM pole position, no doubt wanting to redeem himself after a retirement at Silverstone last week.
As the drivers prepared for the race start, issues struck both Lipponen and Valtonen, as both drivers missed the start of the formation lap and were both forced to relinquish their qualifying positions and start the race from the pit lane.
The drivers lined up side-by-side, and as they crossed the start/finish line, the 5 green lights signalled the start of the race.
Heesch, now alongside Banana after Lipponen missed the race start, got a brilliant jump off the line, and was ahead of Banana into Turn 1. But, Banana had the positioning for the inside line, and was able to hold onto third position.
Further back, teammate Brown’s race was off to a poor start, as he was awarded a drive through penalty for incorrect start procedure, as Brown was slightly ahead of Kingswell as the lights went green.
At the rear of the pack, Cockell made a good start against Gomez, and stole the class lead around the outside of Old Hairpin.
The start of the race saw close racing in the midfield. Jackson, Yang, and Bowler were all on the offensive, trying to progress forward on the first lap.
The first lap was not without incident, as unfortunately contact between Brown and Jackson resulted in Jackson facing the wrong direction. Jackson had just completed an overtake on Daniels, and Brown was also pushing hard to pass. Brown braked too late into the Coppice, tapping the rear quarter of Jackson, pit maneuvering the Aston around.
The contact was reviewed by the stewards after the race, and Brown was given a +5 second time penalty added to his race finish time.
As the pack rounded its first lap, Brown pulled into the pits to serve his drive through penalty as he watched his competitors roar off into the distance. He’d have a lot of ground to make up if he wanted to secure a points-scoring position.
A driver already on a comeback drive was Lipponen, who started from the pit lane after troubles at the race start. The first few laps were showcasing his strong pace, as by lap 4 he had climbed up to 15th position. More trouble struck the driver, as he retired from the race before being able to complete his 4th lap.
At the front of the field, Dominiak continued to pull away from his teammate, but Banana continued to pressure Kent. On lap 4, Banana was given an opportunity to pass, as Kent oversteered wide out of Mcleans. Kent went defensive into Coppice, and Banana tried to pass around the outside.
Slight contact was made between the Bentley and the Porsche, but both drivers were able to maintain control. Banana had the better exit out of the turn and was able to slip ahead of the Porsche as they approached Fogarty Esses chicane.
Valtonen, also having started the race from the pits, was battling through the pack and found himself in a heated fight with his VK SimSports team boss Vogel. It was a fair fight from both drivers and Valtonen gained the position after Vogel attacked the curbs too much into the Esses chicane, upsetting his car stability, almost spinning.
I previously mentioned that drivers would need to be patient in order to overtake, as this circuit is not an easy track to make a move stick. Winegarden found himself on the tail of Jackson and they had very similar pace. They raced closely during the first half of the race, and after several laps of being glued to the rear diffuser of the Aston, Winegarden was able to pass as Jackson ran wide through Turn 1.
The fight with Winegarden and Jackson had allowed Brown to close up, and after Jackson recovered from his mistake, Brown took Winegarden’s spot on the rear diffuser of the Aston. Jackson maintained a tough defence against the Bentley, eventually conceding the position after a case of snap oversteer. Brown had climbed to 13th position as the pit window opened. A points finish seemed achievable.
Back at the front of the pack, Kent was still harassing Banana trying to retake his 2nd position. Kent had gotten close to getting past on a few occasions, but was unable to complete the move.
As they continued fighting, the pit window opened, and both BSKIT cars took to the pit lane early. At the last round at Silverstone, Kent lost the race lead to Banana through an undercut in the pit stop, so perhaps the early pit this time was in protection against the same thing again.
On the very next lap, Banana followed Kent into the pit lane. By completing the pit stop early, it would deny Kent a chance at some clean air, and ensure they were close on track again to continue their fight.
As other drivers completed their tyre change, Heesch elected to stay out for as long as possible, eventually gaining the race lead before he served a stop of his own. As he did so, he was lucky to avoid knocking the front end of his McLaren against the pit entry wall.
The pit window closed and the race order settled down, and it was clear Banana had gained time on his rivals yet again. The gap to Kent had extended from 0.2 seconds to over 3 seconds, and Banana was in close proximity to Dominiak also.
Bowler also gained time through his pit stop, as he was able to jump ahead of Yang, whom he’d been stuck behind following for several laps before the pit stop.
Banana was forced to defend hard from Kent, who had been able to catch up again, with help from lapped cars, caught in their own races. Pressure continued to mount on Banana as Kent continued to make his presence known and tried to overtake at every possible opportunity. Banana was clearly struggling through the final sector of the lap and, with just 6 minutes remaining of the race, Kent was far enough alongside after the chicane to shoot up the inside of Melbourne Hairpin.
Banana tried to defend around the outside, but the superior acceleration of the Porsche secured the position for Kent.
On the very next lap, Banana pushed too hard into Fogarty Esses, catching the attention of the stewards, claiming another drive through penalty for Dapper Customs. The penalty pulled Banana away from the fight for 2nd place, but Heesch in 4th was not close enough to capitalise.
The final stages of the race saw Vogel pushing hard once again, trying to gain ground on Jackson, who was running in 15th position. Vogel was unable to get close enough to launch an attack, but last minute car trouble from Jackson saw him retire from the race on the penultimate lap, giving his 15th position to Vogel.
After 1 hour of tight racing, the checkered flag was flown and Dominiak was first to cross the line, with Kent following in second place, taking the maximum possible points for their team championship bid.
Banana came home in 3rd position, despite a late drive through penalty. Heesch followed in 4th place, having held off Langaard for the 2nd stint of the race.
Daniels was the first driver of the Silver Class to cross the line, finishing in an impressive 6th position overall. Bowler and Bartocci rounded off the Silver podium.
Gomez took the Class win for the AMs, ahead of Cockell.
As the drivers completed their cool down lap, I was able to have a quick chat with Dominiak:
Banana: Congratulations on your first win of the season. How were you feeling coming into the new season, as the returning Champion?
Dominiak: Thank you! It is great to be back. I couldn't attend the first round because of other racing commitments so I’ve started a bit on the back foot for this season's championship.I was pretty confident because of the amount of practice I had before the race, but I haven't seen any of my competitors pace. Overall it was stressful and pressure crept in throughout the race, but I had my teammate to help me through today.
Banana: That's a nice Segway into your teammate. Charlie Kent is a new face around PRC. How do you know each other and why have you joined forces?
Dominiak: I met Charlie when I joined the BSKIT community. We did two endurance seasons together and raced against each other many times in one off races, etc. He is a really nice guy, very quick and he was crazy enough to join me in the Porky 911, so here we are. I fully trust him that as a driver he will do everything to get the best possible result for our team and be a team player. We’re racing as equals, and we’re gunning for the Team Championship this season, and we’re committed to achieving it.
Banana: It’s funny you say you're aiming for the team championship - you’re not the first person I’ve heard say that so far. It’s a pleasure to have you back on the grid, and I wish you the best of luck for the remainder of the season.
Donington is a tricky circuit to race at, as it takes a lot of focus and patience to fight effectively with other cars. Every driver fought cleanly and fairly, and although we had some retirements due to server and car trouble, and due to some drivers struggling with the challenges of the circuit, the race remained competitive and fun.
The votes are in and this week’s Driver of the Week is Dominiak! Congratulations!
Each driver receives a week's break now, as the next event takes place in 2 weeks’ time at Oulton Park for a special 2.4hr solo endurance race. Drivers will be challenged with another demanding circuit, with a narrow track width and bumpy track surface, whilst also having to fight their own focus for over 2 hours.
For those of you who want to follow the live event, head on over to our Twitch channel, twitch.tv/prcsimracing, and drop us a follow. We’ll be broadcasting the live event starting at 2pm EST on August 28th. Join us then for the action.