Watkins Glen provided a lot of talking points from a fully-green 64 lap thriller, which saw another new name headed to the top step of the podium. With six different winners from the nine races held thus far, the waters remain muddy as to who is the best-placed for a title challenge. Series commentator Jake Spareyattempts to purify those waters with his analysis of the race.
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IMAGES: Cameron Dance
Thumbs Up: Madison Down, Trans Tasman Racing
Is this the perfect advertisement for the new VRS direct drive steering wheel? Madison has been close to winning on a number of occasions this season and he headed to Watkins Glen determined to ditch the bridesmaid tag. Strong pace for Trans Tasman, perfectly executed strategy along with raw talent and calm nerves helped not only to cement Madison’s first win of the season, but a one-two finish for TTR with Richard Hamstead. Direct drive is about consistent feel, and moving from Logitech over to VRS has seemingly given Madison the extra feedback he has been looking for. In a season where nobody has seized the initiative, it may be Down who finds himself first to the treasure.
Thumbs Down: Fawzan El-Nabi, United Sim Sports
This is a harsh choice but one that needed to be singled out. Fawzan was the fastest driver at Watkins Glen. He excellently qualified the car on pole position and pulled out a sizable five second lead during the opening stint. Yet the issues became apparent far before his pit stop miscalculations. Fawzan’s first misdemeanour came during a qualifying collision with Zuver Racing’s Chris Coxhead, sidelining him for the rest of the session after setting the fastest lap overall. Following that, the mistake of over-fuelling the car proved decisive in the context of the race, ultimately costing El-Nabi not just the win, but second place as well.
Fawzan is about to become the poster boy of Australian sim racing with his wildcard entry to the Supercars E-Series. This was supposed to be the moment where he showcased to every hardcore fan of sim racing that he belonged in that seat. His pace was superb, but the strategic miscue meant he passed up a golden opportunity to place some daylight between himself and the rest of the pack.
Thumbs Up: James Scott, Logitech G Altus Esports
James’ pace since the start of the season has dropped. There’s no denying that the pack has caught up to him and there have been plenty of occasions where he has had to overcome his lack of raw speed with a dose of race-craft. No greater of a display of this did I see than at Watkins Glen, where he came from the 8th row of the grid to salvage a sixth place finish which has kept his performances ticking over at an elite level. There is a reason why he has the most points so far, and that is the brilliancy concocted through the opening stops to get track position. With the AOSC crown wrapped up and the title decided against him on Monday nights, more focus can now be poured into the SCOPS season, and trying to find a first overall win in Altus colours.
Thumbs Down: Dayne Warren, Logitech G Altus Esports
This is where people will get the Nico Rosberg meme out and ask if his season is already over. Dayne used all his drop rounds in the first four calendar meetings meaning that finishes had to be a priority. He certainly didn’t need a first lap incident, an early retirement and plenty of time to contemplate what might have been. Dayne is now at a large deficit of 450 points – once drop rounds are taken into consideration – which is a herculean task to bring back, even for the very best of drivers. As much as I love watching Dayne race, he shouldn’t be racing in this series right now when he has the opportunity to direct all his time into the Porsche Esports Supercup and play for some very important cash which he is capable of getting.
Thumbs Up: Brenton Hobson, Synergy Sim Racing
It is always nice to see the 88 machine out and racing, with a sterling drive part of the demonstration for Hobbo88 on his YouTube and Twitch feeds. A drive from 28th to 19th wasn’t documented heavily during the broadcast, however it was done so with minimal fuss and minimal exposure to the cameras. Having struggled with health scares over the last 18 months, the priority looks clear for Brenton: fun first instead of overall major results. I don’t expect to see the sixth place finish meme come out in SCOPS for another two years at least, however I have been proven wrong many a time before. The streamer style of racing often doesn’t lend to winning results, but the performance was admirable and forms a great building block for future races.
Thumbs Down: The Race Stewards
Before we go further, I’m not going to lambaste them for making a decision. No matter what people may think of the decisions, every member of the team is human, and gave up their time on a Sunday night to help run the series, thus deserving respect. With that in mind, the contention came with a baker’s dozen laps to go when Hugh Barter and Bradley Rattew came together in a spectacular fashion, leading to the end of Rattew’s race. The debate came over whether or not his positioning on track warranted a Safety Car.
In the eyes of the stewards, after talking to Simon Black after the event, it was their assumption that due to the fact Rattew had rolled down most of the back straight all the way to nearly the apex of the Bus Stop, he had demonstrated the car could still move to a safer spot on circuit and crucially, had not requested for a tow back to pit lane from the stewards, which meant no safety car was called. This had a large impact on the race for two laps as drivers found their primary source of overtaking was blocked off with a vehicle stationary on the racing surface.
I disagree with their call. Yes, I can see why the stewards would want to prevent the manipulation of Safety Cars for fears of teams looking to push the needle out to the extremes of Singapore 2008. However, because of the inaction for a number of laps, the Stewards made themselves look a lot less competent than the very sound reasoning they gave for the lack of a Safety Car, which in the moment looked like a sure-fire stoppage in any real world racing series. Just as important as the integrity has to be the image, and the image that the viewers saw of the incident was that of a solid two minutes without any action being taken by the stewards, despite the fact that the stewards were in fact monitoring the situation very closely.
I personally think there needs to be a review of this rule moving forward. In my view, any person who looks to actively manipulate a Safety Car (and I am not saying for one second in my mind that was the intention that Bradley Rattew had,) could be seen to be similar to match fixing. Integrity is important along with image, so if ever this scenario arises again, a Safety Car has to be called, but what I would then do is disqualify the driver who put themselves in a position to knowingly or unknowingly manipulate the Safety Car. From there, a hearing should take place on what transpired during the event in which the stewards must then decide to either accept the reasoning or look at further punishment such as the docking of championship points and/or race or calendar year bans.
The stewards do a thankless, unenviable task. With that decision though, while they may have made the right call within the rules, I think it was the wrong call within the context of the image and integrity of the series. While on the paper it looked black and white, the spectrum was very complex in reality.
Virtual Racing School V8SCOPS – points after Round 6
- James Scott – 2,402
- Wayne Bourke – 2,117
- Harley Haber – 2,114
- Fawzan El-Nabi – 2,105
- Andrew Gilliam – 1,946
- Thomas Hinss – 1,940
- Adam Briggs – 1,876
- Michael Talijancich – 1,873
- Jake Moloney – 1,814
- Sam Sutton – 1,806