Mixed feelings in Monza

10

The highly anticipated opening race of the 2017 iRacing Blancpain GT Series took us to Monza, where VRS Coanda Simsport, fielding two AMG Mercedes and last years championship winning #1 BMW Z4, would hope for relatively strong results despite lacking outright performance compared to the faster McLarens at the high speed circuit.

Qualifying would display the dominance of the MP4-12C, with the top 10 fastest times all driven with the mid-engined GT3’s. VRS Coanda’s #8 Mercedes AMG would take 11th on the grid in the hands of Red Bull GRC driver Mitchell deJong to be the highest placed non-McLaren.

The #18 AMG, driven by Mack Bakkum, would be the next best AMG, qualifying in a solid 16th position and a mere 13 hundredths away from Mitchell, such was the level of competition in arguably the strongest iRacing line-up ever.

Clearly the weakest circuit on the calendar for the BMW Z4, the #1 car would line-up 28th on the 49 car grid, facing a difficult race ahead with the lack of top speed characteristic from the beemer.

Mitchell and Mack heading into T1

Mitchell and Mack following the McLarens in T1.

As the 3 hour race got underway, the opening lap would be a surprisingly clean affair, with the majority of drivers proving to be well behaved, despite some early lunges into the first chicane. The strategy for VRS Coanda was clear: Keep things clean, stay in the draft from the McLarens, and save as much fuel as possible.

While Mitchell would find himself able to stick with the pack and run a full 34 lap opening stint for the #8 car, Mack would have to push the car harder at times, pitting a lap earlier. Both cars would leave the same tyres on, with Mitchell rejoining in 7th, up 4 positions from the race start, and would slot perfectly back into the draft from the McLarens ahead. Mack would have less fortune:

Mack overtaking Team Redline Black

Mack overtaking Team Redline Black

“2nd stint I came out in no man’s land so I was losing a little bit of time to Mitchell who just about hooked up to a McLaren. After half a stint it seemed I got lucky because Redline came out in front of me in a fresh car, but surprisingly I was still quite a bit quicker on old tyres so it wasn’t worth staying behind.“ Mack Bakkum

Running mostly under the radar, but consistently lapping away, the #1 Z4 would have an uneventful opening two stints, with Markus Lendermann handing over to Rens Broekman after opting to change tyres in the first stop, dropping to as low as 42nd place on the alternate strategy.

For the final stint Mitchell would hand the #8 car over to David Williams, with the #18 AMG being handed to Jörn Jens. Both cars would change tyres for the final stop, rejoining in 10th and 15th respectively.

Disaster would soon strike for Jörn, however, with his internet connection dropping 5 laps into the stint. The cars reserve driver Jeremy Bouteloup would then have wheel issues, adding insult to injury. The #18 would eventually cross the line 2 laps down in 45th place.

“A real bummer because our championship hopes pretty much already end today. We were looking really good too with our fuel and should’ve really finished in P5 a few seconds behind our sister car. Luckily the #8 did a lot better though!
Anyways we’ll be back for Brand’s and hopefully can win it just like last year”Mack Bakkum

In the BMW, with Klaus Kivekäs behind the wheel for the final stint, the #1 car would stay on the same tyres, allowing Klaus to leap up the field to eventually come home in a solid 21st to keep their championship very much alive.

BMW showing the cars behind how to take a kerb

The #1 showing cars behind how to take a kerb

“Our race was really uneventful. There was a bit of stress on the second half of the last stint when we realised that the race would go 101 instead of 100 laps, but even that didn’t matter in the end because CoRe lapped us with a couple of laps to go”Klaus Kivekäs

Fortunes were much better for David in the #8 car, the fresh set of rubber allowing him to carve through several cars ahead who were on either older tyres or fuel saving, eventually working up to 4th place before crossing the line.

David overtaking the JIM McLaren for P4

David overtaking the JIM McLaren for P4

“This is an awesome result for us at what is a dominant circuit for the McLarens! Mitchell did a superb job in qualifying and the first two stints, managing the fuel and draft perfectly. My stint was smooth running with a minor concern about fuel 30 mins in after we realised it would run an extra lap but fortunately we were comfortable by then. Gutted for the #18 car who deserved 5th!”David Williams

Congratulations to CoRe SimRacing for a dominant victory, and Evolution Racing Team for strong podium finishes. With the next round at Brands Hatch only two weeks away, VRS Coanda Simsport will be hoping for very good results from their cars.

About: Mack Bakkum

Appreciative of the colour pink.

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