The final Virtual Racing School V8SCOPS round before the season of endurance was an absolute cracker, Madison Down and the Trans Tasman Racing squad executing a strategic masterclass to pull off a surprising but well-earned victory.
Lachlan Mansell presents our thumbs up/thumbs down analysis of the Virginia International Raceway action.
Thumbs Up – Madison Down, Richard Hamstead and Trans Tasman Racing
On lap 18, the prospect of a podium finish for Down or Hamstead looked highly unlikely, let alone a race victory. Both drivers were running in the lower reaches of the top 10 and Down had lost some valuable time and track position with an unforced off-track excursion early in the race.
But on lap 19, the TTR team pulled off a high risk, but ultimately high reward masterstroke by calling both drivers into the pits when a Safety Car was deployed to deal with the stranded car of Jack Boyd. While the decision left both drivers marginal on fuel and saw them temporarily sacrificing track position, it meant they had completed their final pit stops under caution while their main rivals needed to stop under green.
The late-race tussle for the lead between the pair undoubtedly caused some hair-tearing moments for TTR management, but it was clean, fair and highly entertaining with Down ultimately getting the job done.
Leading into the endurance races, where race tactics will play an even greater role, such a strategically crafted victory is a massive confidence boost for TTR and a worrying sign for the rest of the field.
Thumbs Down – Jarrad Filsell
The reigning V8SCOPS Champion’s return to the series was one to forget. While Filsell showed pace in qualifying, he raised the ire of the officials by breaching the “no escape” rule on multiple occasions.
The race went downhill very quickly; Filsell was forced wide at the first corner and fell towards the back of the field. To add insult to injury, he was then penalised for his qualifying indiscretions and retired after just a handful of laps.
Thumbs Up – Fawzan El-Nabi
For the first half of the race, El-Nabi was locked in a three-way fight for the race lead with Dayne Warren and James Scott. While El-Nabi lost some time to his rivals with a longer first pit stop, this paid dividends later in the race when his final stop was shorter than Warren and Scott.
Even though El-Nabi – along with Warren and Scott – ended up with a sub-optimal strategy of having to take the final pit stop under green conditions, he had the pace to drive back onto the podium. With his chief championship rival Scott finishing seventh, the evening represented a useful points haul for El-Nabi leading into the endurance races.
Thumbs Down – Jack Boyd
From the highs of qualifying for a start in the previous round of the Porsche eSports Sprint Challenge, Jack Boyd fell quite literally back to earth in last night’s V8SCOPS round. He had already been enduring a difficult evening, but things became worse on lap 18 when a hardware failure launched his Commodore into a spectacular somersault, triggering a Safety Car intervention.
Thumbs Up – Phillip Worley
Cynics might suggest Phillip Worley only achieved his fifth-place finish by adopting the same strategy as the TTR duo, but to reach that conclusion would be selling Worley’s performance short.
Yes, he qualified down in 20th but a rapid opening stint saw him pushing forward to 13th within the first five laps.
After the pit stops had played out, Worley demonstrated he had enough race pace to run inside the top five on merit and his team-mate Andrew Dyson backed him up with eighth to make it a pair of DPR Racing Mustangs inside the top 10.
The V8SCOPS switches into endurance mode for the next round, the Phillip Island 500 on Sunday, 9 August.
Virtual Racing School V8SCOPS – points after Round 8 (unadjusted)
- James Scott – 3,199
- Fawzan El-Nabi – 2,949
- Andrew Gilliam – 2,816
- Harley Haber – 2,795
- Thomas Hinss – 2,698
- Madison Down – 2,587
- Michael Talijancich – 2,531
- Wayne Bourke – 2,479
- Jordan Ross – 2,330
- Adam Briggs – 2,268