iRacing VLN Round 9 2017: Ranked Races

VLN has been wacky all year. You talk about Pure and MSP hitting sixes and sevens out of each other, Wallmeier crashing with two laps to go and dragging a wounded vehicle home, you talk about Aldo Massa with fifteen minutes left throwing the Porsche category and the birth of #VendavalMoment when Robin Esterson disconnected with just four corners to go. VLN has consistently pushed the boundaries of what makes a sim racing event unmissable and it is very safe to say, that another barnstormer was created.

The Race

The final round of a bizarre and enthralling season would come to a close at the Nurburgring. Two titles would still be up for grabs in the race with the Porsche and MX-5 fields but one constant was for certain in the VLN. Team Heusinkveld were already GT3 champions. The Porsche’s would come down to Australia versus France as Evolution Racing Team and Real Championship would scrap for the title while Team RSO would scrap among themselves knowing that Sloth Racing would be waiting if something was to happen.

In GT3, Evolution Racing Team would take pole position with a time of 7:56.416. Elliot Biddle would impress again but would face stern competition from GTros SST Orange and Alex Arana alongside with row two consisting of Rick Haese’s Motorsport4All AMG Mercedes and Nils Lorentz in the Epsilon Motorsport machine. The champions elect would start from eighth on the grid. In Posrche’s, Real Championship would start from the front with Dimitri De Matos behind the wheel but would be chased by Blake Neck and the Evolution Racing Team Porsche. Brendan Cronin of Team Slow would start third along with the Playing Ducks Racing: Ducks Fly Together #7 of Rene Kierchhoff. MX-5’s would see Rookie Racing Team return with Yonny Mestampo along with AGteo Esports Y and Gianmarco Cordorba on the front row. The RSO swarm would take positions three to five, Alex then Tobias Czerny before Elmar Erlekotte.

All classes would get away cleanly and with no major issues, the rhythm would soon settle down into the four hour pattern everyone would normally expect. Elliot Biddle would lose the lead early in the event to Alex Arana with a basic move made before Arana would begin to pull away. Biddle would soon get digested by the world renowned Nurburgring Armco and end their day early. Alex Arana would break away in the next few laps to never be seen again however ERT would have some more issues as the other GT3 machine of Beau Albert would also run into disaster and compound more issues for the team. The MX-5 battle would be the pick of the bunch for the opening hour though as the leading five would consistently change positions involving Mestampo, Cordorba, the Czerny’s and Alex Novo of GTros SST Black. Every lap the lead would change and even through the traffic, nobody had a chance to break away. De Matos in the Porche’s would break away slowly but methodically in the opening hour.

There would be a lot of intrigue on the pit road strategy as HAWK Simracing would switch away from Christian Bug into Stephan Ebert which tactically would drop them out of the podium battle being fought between Haese and Lorentz. the MX-5’s would also make some interesting decisions as RSO would make the early stops on the hour, getting into clean air early and jumping all drivers by a considerable amount. The chasing would continue in Porsche but drama would occur as Blake Neck would tumble into turmoil at the end of the second hour, needing to use a fast repair and falling to fifth overall, not enough. There would be a driver change for Real Championship as Djawad Karoni would hop into the vehicle with tyres and all but would fall behind Team Slow on an audacious no tyre strategy.

The GT3 champions who again had quietly moved up onto the podium would find a spot of bother, having a major incident and having to pit for the fast repair.

Blake Neck would fly at break neck speeds to get back up to the pack where he would swiftly make work of Karoni and Cronin before Cronin decided to play defence. No way through in two straight laps for Djawad would leave him frustrated, especially with the hold from Cronin with all four tyres on the grass to keep position however under the Bilstein bridge, Karoni would spin out after contact and somehow escape without a scratch on the vehicle due to magnificent car control. Cronin would be the driver to pit first out of the three for the final time with Neck going in before Karoni.

Rick Haese though would be closed up for second in the final stages and lose the position with four laps to go before Haese would steal the position away with two laps remaining, capitalising on lapped traffic in front. Alex Arana would submit the field to more trauma however as with over a minutes lead, he would cross the line with just ten seconds remaining on the clock, forcing the race to go one lap longer. Within the lap, the two Czerny’s would still battle it out all the way to the final straight where on the Dottinger Hohe, Alex would edge out brother Tobias by a mere tenth of a second. It would Elmar Erlekotte who would take the title for RSO however by finishing third overall. Nils Lorentz would steal back second position on the line to deprive Motorsport4All and Rick Haese the satisfaction of winning the battle. It would be a wait for Real Championship but they would win the overall race pitting at the last second and getting the jump on fuel. However disaster would strike on the last lap for Evolution Racing Team as the fabled technical difficulty would resign them from second to fourth overall. At that stage the title was Real Championship’s by virtue of a tie, however due to later splits, ERT would steal the championship by seven points.

Overall

Instantly a classic race with a lot of great battling with drama and suspense throughout the event. All three categories had battles towards the end of the race with very good driving standards throughout. There were a couple of questionable moments and normally I would like to see the main category for the overall come down to a showdown but there are no complaints from me over that. A beautiful race of both strategy and car control.

Rating

4.5 Stars out of 5.

You couldn’t ask for much more out of a finale. The championship in the Porsche went down to the wire with questions asked even seven hours after the event. There were relevant plays throughout the field and you had to stay alert for when the final battle was going to take place. Arana deserved his win but ultimately would run away and never return but sometimes it is good to see something like that happen.

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