V8SCOPS Imola 500 Fearless Predictions

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The V8SCOPS Endurance Cup heads to Imola for the second of the 500km races this weekend, so our expert panel members are back with their fearless predictions.

 

Lachlan Mansell – Sim Racing Oz editor

1: Madison Down/Dayne Warren – Trans Tasman Racing

While the strategic bounce of the ball may not have quite been with them at Phillip Island, the Down/Warren combination demonstrated an abundance of speed, which I believe will come to the fore this weekend.

 

2: Richard Hamstead/Jake Moloney – Trans Tasman Racing

Hamstead and Moloney have established themselves as endurance specialists the last couple of seasons and their brilliant, strategically-crafted win at Phillip Island put the rest of the field on notice.

 

3: Ethan Grigg-Gault/Jordan Caruso – Evolution Racing

I tipped the experienced combination of Grigg-Gault and Caruso to finish on the podium at Phillip Island and they duly delivered, albeit a spot higher than I predicted. I expect them to feature in the top three once again.

 

Look for: Scott Gamble/Benjamin Smith – Evolution Racing

This car is one to watch for sentimental reasons, with one of the nice guys of sim racing, Scott Gamble, announcing his retirement from the sport. While this car may not have the pace to contend for outright victory, a top-10 result is certainly in the offing if they can pull off the same sort of bold strategy call they made at Phillip Island.

Ryan Jones – Sim Racing Oz reporter

1: Fawzan El-Nabi/Harley Haber – United Sim Sports

2: Richard Hamstead/Jake Moloney – Trans Tasman Racing

3: James Scott/Cooper Webster – Altus eSports

Look for: Jordan Ross/Kyle Stokes – Synergy Sim Racing

 

My top 3 picks are all obvious choices, but that’s because they’re some of the best drivers in the series, I’ll feel silly for not picking them. With one endurance race under our belt already, we know that none of these guys are showing any signs of slowing with the enduro format.

 

As for my one to watch, well I cheated and picked another combo that can probably win the race. They have pace in abundance and consistency to match.

Rhys Gardiner – V8SCOPS series commentator

1: Ethan Grigg-Gault/Jordan Caruso – Evolution Racing

Endurance Cup means look out for ERT. It was Hamstead and Moloney who took honours at Phillip Island thanks to a brilliant late strategy call, but EGG and Caruso’s fuel-saving mastery ensured they took second place, and I think it will help them immensely at Imola too. This circuit lends itself well to fuel-saving, with fast corners leading into medium-speed chicanes. Ethan was in contention for the Imola 500 win in 2018 before a slow-down penalty on the last lap in the heat of battle cost him. Here’s hoping he and Jordan can rise above and show that ERT can still rule the roost in enduro season.

 

2: Madison Down/Dayne Warren – Trans Tasman Racing

Being short on fuel late in the race at Phillip Island, Down and Warren had to settle for P4 after clearly being one of the fastest cars out there. Last year’s Imola 500 saw Down grab a top 5 driving with Josh Muggleton – partnering this time with Dayne Warren, the current king of pace, I expect this car to be in major contention as long as they don’t find themselves in the lurch with fuel again!

 

3: Fawzan El-Nabi/Harley Haber – United Sim Sports

It was a tough one for these two at Phillip Island, but Fawzan set the timing screens alight in a dogged pursuit for P3. El-Nabi leads the championship after drop rounds are applied, and Haber can never be discounted for pace. In 2019’s Imola enduro, El-Nabi partnered with Brady Meyers to finish P2, so he certainly has past form to back himself up at this legendary Italian track.

 

Look for: Brett Loxton/Thomas Hinss – Zuver Racing

These guys showed great promise at Phillip Island despite a few instances of poor luck. They’ve shown themselves to be a strong endurance pairing, with a great balance between consistency and pace. If they can avoid on-track incidents and react well to the inevitable safety cars, I’ve got my fingers crossed for a top 10 at Imola.

 

Jake Sparey – V8SCOPS series commentator

1: Ethan Grigg-Gault/Jordan Caruso – Evolution Racing

The Island went well for the boys in white and blue, and Imola could very well be the same. It wasn’t all of two years ago that drama befell this team on the last lap, in the penultimate corner. Here is where the wrong gets righted!

 

2: Andrew Gilliam/Michael Talijancich – Pursuit Sim Racing

Pursuit’s quiet recovery up through the field went very much under the radar and each time I hear the word “pursuit”, I hear Gilliam and I hear another level. Imola is a very versatile track and one which is good for the fuel savers. I reckon Pursuit will have their best run of the enduros here.

 

3: Fawzan El-Nabi/Harley Haber – United Sim Sports

They’ll gain more points in the title fight, but not many. I have this feeling that not only will this be one for the fuel savers, but it may be another case of uber-aggressive defending mixed with a need and desire to steamroll late in the race. This team will have the pace, but I predict old father time will negate any real inroads.

 

Look for: Coby Jones/Ben Christensen – ANZ Motorsports

This team has been long overdue a great finish and I reckon it comes up millhouse here. Ben has been peppering results in and around the top 20 all season, when he hasn’t made mistakes and Coby is proving he has the talent to really motor on. Now all that is needed is for someone to apply some Purdie repellent to the rear of the car and their race is set.

 

Mike Koroleff – V8SCOPS admin

1: Richard Hamstead/Jake Moloney – Trans Tasman Racing

Take Richard’s closing stints over the last two years at Imola, add however many hail-Mary’s were said in the last stint of PI and how could you bet against them…? The early stop placed lap speed pressure on their sister car that eventually ended in tears. There were no mistakes, no chink in the armour, just sustained, relentless speed and the will to use strategy to their advantage. They have sprayed the “Chandon” already, and you will need to be having a really good day to deny them doing it again.

 

2: Ethan Grigg-Gault/Jordan Caruso – Evolution Racing

This combo deserves a win. Had fuel conservation played a different role, they just might have snagged it at PI. More importantly, the question mark over Caruso’s head is fading fast. He can cut it in the big game and is a name for the future. You’re only as good as your last race, and their last race was a pretty damn good result given the company they were keeping.

 

3: Madison Down/Dayne Warren – Trans Tasman Racing

But for an incident, this pair could well have denied the #28 of the top step on the podium at PI. Their recovery was well executed but showed how deep the talent in the field runs when they couldn’t just drive to the front again and challenge. Truth be told, there is nothing between these top 3 combinations for the win, with the smallest of external factors having the possibility of determining the outcome… and lady luck hasn’t played her hand yet…

 

Look for: James Scott/Cooper Webster – Altus eSports

This crew gets the nod, just a nose in front of four other deserving combos. And they get it for only having two incident points for the Phillip Island race, a result only bettered by the winners who both had a zero-incident race. If you are going to win, you must not make mistakes, and this combo has a maturing versatility of driver/track/strategy and car speed. It will not take much for them to pop to the top of the charts, and one tends to think that they can withstand the pressure of being there from the challenging pack.

Beau Albert – SimSpeed TV commentator and Altus eSports driver

The top three (in no particular order):

Madison Down/Dayne Warren – Trans Tasman Racing

The #77 pairing proved to be a very dominant force in the first endurance round of the year, but the strategy card didn’t fall their way and they had to settle for a top five after leading in the dying stages. Plenty will be watching them eagerly at Imola as they try and find the podium.

 

Richard Hamstead/Jake Moloney – Trans Tasman Racing

Off the back off a stellar victory at Phillip Island, the #28 pairing is undoubtedly full of confidence and motivation heading into the next round. Imola does feature very different characteristics compared to the Island, but I can see this duo maintaining their form moving forward.

 

Griffin Gardiner/Reuben Goodall – Pursuit Sim Racing

Both drivers have experience in the Supercar across multiple seasons now, but a real stand-out performance in Pre-Qualifying after the first night made everybody stand up and take notice.

 

Look for: Brady Meyers/Sam Blacklock – Altus eSports

The #215 entry features Brady Meyers, who has historically run extremely strongly around Imola in several series and comes in fresh to the enduros after missing out at Phillip Island. He finds himself paired up with Sam Blacklock who just 12 months ago at this very event, broke through for his first V8SCOPS victory. Expect to see this pairing at the pointy end of the field.

 

Jay Kennedy – SimSpeed TV producer

1: Richard Hamstead/Jake Moloney – Trans Tasman Racing

2: Ethan Grigg-Gault/Jordan Caruso – Evolution Racing

3: James Scott/Cooper Webster – Altus eSports

Look for: Brett Loxton/Thomas Hinss – Zuver Racing

 

Hard to go past the on-fire combo, but all three of my picks were showing great pace at Phillip Island.

 

Loxton and Hinss showed glimmers of speed and a second outing will help them show better form at Imola.

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