VTM Classic: Season Preview

It was a sad moment when the checkered flag dropped in Bathurst back in 2012, at the final race of the fourth VTM season. The days of the Touring Car Legends mod, that formed one of the most important championships and formed TPS to the league that it is now, seemed to be over.
But nothing lasts forever, not even a TPS announcement that rFactor and Touring Car Legends are outdated, and VTM is back. On rFactor, with the Touring Car Legends mod. With the race format, tracks and cars from VTM season 2, one of the true classic seasons in TPS history: VTM Classic.

Peter Duivelaar won the championship back in season 2 in this Volvo. The picture was taken in season 4 with Mate Orban behind the wheel. Image by Photoborg.
Peter Duivelaar won the championship back in season 2 in this Volvo. The picture was taken in season 4 with Mate Orban behind the wheel. Image by Photoborg.

TPS’s own, taller version of Bernie Ecclestone, Ryan Callan, made the plans in a small room with dimmed light in the basement of the TPS headquarters. According to rumours, Toby Davis, who announced his retirement from TPS not too long ago and left in anger, was spotted there, negotiating with Callan. But at the end of the day, we will never know. Callan announced the league and it was certainly a surprise for many drivers.
11 different cars are available to choose from, 11 different cars will be on the grid, and over 40 drivers have signed up. These drivers include two TPS champions and several race winners. None of them has won the VTM title yet though, so everyone will be hungry.

Even back in season 2, the Volvo seemed to be an unlikely car to win the championship in. While it offers good cornering abilities, it has the aerodynamic effect of a fridge and very low top speed. And so a lot of it was down to the skills of Peter Duivelaar, who proved to be exceptionally consistent even on tracks where the Volvo was weaker than it’s opponents. Evgeny Volkov also did a few strong races, but this season, both drivers have decided not to return.
In fact, only one Volvo is in the whole field, driven by Finnish hotshot Juha Tuunainen. “The Juha” is famous for his hotlapping pace, but never got a podium in his TPS career. He will drive the red car with #19.

 

Tveit in the Rover. Image by Photoborg
Tveit in the Rover. Image by Photoborg

Second place was taken by Rover and Ben Crooks. The Rover excells with its excellent turn-in with pretty much no understeer at all, its high drag and decent tyrewear. Even on the straights the car can more or less keep up with the faster and heavier machines. The downside is the extremely tricky handling out of the corners.
And Ben Crooks returns! We haven’t seen much recently of the guy who was regarded as one of the best drivers in TPS three years ago. When he was seen most recently in the V8 Supercars, it didn’t seem like it was the same driver behind the wheel. Crooks certainly has to catch up a bit if he wants to repeat the results from season 2.
The star in the Rover is Erik Tveit though. Tveit spent half of season 2 sliding on the roof of his car, but he has matured to one of the top drivers in the meantime. A challenging season in VTM5 with the DRM cars should not distract from the fact that Tveit is a master in the Rover now, and for many he is one of the main favourites in the #4 Demontweeks car.
Alongside Tveit, youngster Lars Brugman returns to TPS, trying to find his promising pace from VV8S again. Brugman is in the classic #20 Steve Soper livery that Adam Eggbeer drove in Season 2. Matt Richards, who showed in VTM5 in the Capri that he has improved dramatically, will drive selected races in Kjell Stenbeck’s former Eurodefi car.

Toby Davis in the lead. Image by Photoborg
Toby Davis in the lead. Image by Photoborg

One of the most popular cars, once again, is the Ford Sierra. Many drivers (in other cars!) complained about the Sierra being overpowered. And in fact, the Sierra has good topspeed, oversteery but well controllable handling and is pretty much an all-rounder for the championship. The downside is high tyrewear and bad brakes, and in fact, a Sierra driver has never won the championship.
The one who was closest was definately Toby Davis. Toby finished 3rd in season 2 which was a breakthrough for him, before he lost the championship in dramatic fashion in season 3 at Bathurst. Season 4 was disappointing and a bit later, Toby even retired from TPS, but now he is back to clinch the crown that he missed so closely 2 years ago. As usual, Toby will drive the #21 Kaliber car.
Alongside him, in the #7 Labbatt’s car, it is Chris Butcher. Chris also has plenty of experience in these cars. Back in season 2, he was leading quite often in the early stages of the races thanks to his brilliant starts, but he never managed to take a win. He managed that in season 3 at Norisring though. Butcher himself certainly thinks it’s possible to win the title, but in the opinion of the author, there have been better chances that Butcher has missed.
Further Sierra drivers include Season 2 race winner Tommi Ojala, who is a dark horse again in his Bastos Sierra, and routineer Gary Lennon, who takes the Sierra for the first time in his VTM career. David Jundt will be back in the Texaco livery, but only for a part-season campaign. Finally, VTM routineer Jeff Dobbing makes his return to TPS in the Peter Brock Sierra.

Bonar and Matthews, teammates forever. Image by Photoborg
Bonar and Matthews, teammates forever. Image by Photoborg

Another car that has proven to be quite popular throughout the seasons in the Alfa Romeo 75. Gregory Degreef was one of the stars of season 2 and took two victories, while William Levesque showed good pace in season 3. The Alfa is quite a bit slower in a straight line than cars like the Sierra, and with its Turbo it is also not easy to drive, but it has excellent brakes and good cornerspeeds.
Jay Adgie, one of the most solid and experienced drivers, returns to TPS in his black and yellow Alfa and he will be joined by Joonas Raivio, who showed in the V8s that he has the potential to become one of the greatest. Joonas returns to simracing after spending the last year serving for the Finnish military. Other drivers include “bad boy” and VCC race winner Oscar Hardwick, TPS newcomer Paul Minnarr, and of course Tony Matthews and Andy Bonar, who will go in the same car again after a very good season in the DRM Toyotas.

A car with similar pace, but different driving behaviour is the BMW M3. The only car with a 6-speed gearbox has never had breakthrough success in VTM, but with the nice handling and iconic design it has always been a popular choice.
Mate Orban has always been fast in historic touring cars, but since he joined Optimum SimRacing, he has become a true all-rounder. Surprises are possible from the Hungarian in the Marlboro car. Another driver who can surprise (and certainly did so in the Clios) is Belgian Andy Vandevelde, who has improved dramatically over the last two years. He will make his VTM debut in the black and yellow LUK car.
Long-time teammates Anders Nilsson and Kjell Stenbeck will drive the season in M3s too. In addition, Sebastian Rosemeyer and Simon Shepherd decided to join after their decent DRM seasons, and TPS regular Daniel B?ck decided to sign up in another M3.

The 635 isn't quite as popular as in past seasons. Image by Photoborg
The 635 isn’t quite as popular as in past seasons. Image by Photoborg

The older BMW model, the 635, was one of the most solid cars in season 3 and 4 with podiums for Strauß, Raivio, McGregor and Burlaka. This season, the weight and tyre situation is not in its favour, so there is a smaller amount of 635s in the field.
Bruno Sousa Ferreira decided to stick with his blue #29 car from season 4, and he will be joined by veteran Lukasz Demolin, who drives the white #30 car.

Another car that has struggled with this seasons performance balancing (but is a little bit underrated in the authors’s opinion) is the Toyota Supra. Remember, this was the car that brought Degreef to his season 1 title, and Taulborg to his season 4 title. Easy handling and good tyrewear characterize the car. And there is only 1 driver, Hungarian Mate Rakosi, who picked the car.

Experimental lines or completely mental?
Experimental lines or completely mental? Image by Photoborg

The Mercedes 190 is also regarded as an easy car, however when you watch the season 2 highlight videos and see Kelvin van der Linde sliding through the corners, this might not be entirely true. Pacewise the car is comparable to the M3 or the Alfa, and behind the wheel there are two returnees. Bradley Vanian is one of the main guys behind Optimum SimRacing, but his own simracing career has been stagnating recently. He will be joined by Kris Vickers, who returns to TPS after a very long break.

Now, let’s increase the power a little bit. Who needs brakes, handling or tyre conservation when you can go over 250 kph on the straight and sideways into every corner? That’s what it’s like in the Ford Mustang, and only 2 drivers decided to join in the American beast. Jonatan Acerclinth is one of the most experienced drivers in TPS, and recently he picked up a lot of momentum in the Mini championship. Tim Straub on the other hand is still pretty much a newcomer, and has chosen a huge challenge with his car choice.

Holden Power! Image by Photoborg
Holden Power! Image by Photoborg

A similar car, although a bit more tamed, is the Holden Commodore. Anders Nilsson had some spectactular races in season 2, while Jesper Taulborg did everything right in season 3 and clinched the title.
This time, the Holdens will be led by Rasmus Salo, race winner in season 3 at Salzburgring. At some point, Rasmus looked like a future champion after making the move to THR, but he hasn’t quite made the improvement he needed. With a familiar car though, we can expect a lot from the Finn, who is a pretty tough rival on track. Alongside him, Rhys Gardiner makes an unexpected return to TPS. The Australian, who suffers from being in a completely different timezone than anyone else, decided to ignore his retirement and return for this league.
Also returning is Ole Marius Myrvold in the pink Holden, who has become a fan favourite over the years. There will be another routineer with Lee Palmer, who has a lot of VTM races under his belt.

The Nissans have never won a race in VTM. Will this change? Image by Photoborg
The Nissans have never won a race in VTM (same for the Mustang). Will this change? Image by Photoborg

This can’t be it, right? Where are all the stars from season 5 with the DRM cars? The answer is simple and surprising: In the Nissan Skyline. A car that has largely been ignored by the drivers throughout the years is now the most popular one on the grid. The car is not easy to drive with the high turbo boost effect, but the high topspeed and decent tyrewear mean it’s a force to be reckoned with.
Maybe it is just logical that many DRM drivers don’t want to miss the turbo kicking in brutally, and therefore take the Skyline. Robert Wiesenmüller has been the star of the early part of the VTM season, before technical issues and pushing a little bit too hard meant that he lost out to Taulborg in the end. Wiesenmüller worked a lot on his all-round abilities, so the fact that he has not so much experience in the Group A cars might not hurt him so much.
The star of the second half of the season was Ross McGregor. Four wins for the Scotsman, always against Taulborg in the same car. Only some bad rounds meant that McGregor couldn’t get the title. Unlike Wiesenmüller, McGregor has a lot of experience in the cars and this time goes into the season as one of the outright favourites.
Fellow Scotsman John Munro had his breakthrough win at Österreichring in the Ford Capri, and he will drive the blue Calsonic Skyline. On his day, Munro can be unbeatable when the circumstances are right, but he doesn’t quite have the all-round pace yet, so it remains to be seen how quickly he can adapt to the cars. His pre-season pace looks very promising though.
Then there is Danish Dynamite: Claus Nyring and Peter Henneberg are following the footsteps of Taulborg and Lauritzen, and in the Minis they have proven that they are very fast. The VTM cars are completely different though. Additionally, Pedro Amaral and Ethan Bass have also chosen the Nissan, looking to land a surprise.
And then, there is one of the shooting stars in simracing. Adrian Holm has just started a winning streak in the Clios, was extremely successful outside TPS and now he will make his VTM debut in the black Winfield car. Holm has never been close to winning a TPS title really, but his talent and dedication certainly put him amongst the best drivers.

Who doesn't like Spa? Image by Photoborg
Who doesn’t like Spa? Image by Photoborg

These are the cars and drivers, now let’s take a look at the tracks.
The season kicks off at Spa-Francorchamps, and the iconic Belgian circuit should not advantage any car in particular. Toby Davis has usually been strong here, however the Nissans look fast in pre-season testing and McGregor scored his first TPS win here in the last season with the DRM cars. Also, the light cars could surprise here as well, given that Degreef won back in season 2 in the Alfa.
Next stop is Suzuka. There was no pre-season testing in Japan, but back in season 2, the track was good for the mid-paced cars. Might this be the first oppurtunity for Erik Tveit?
Then we go to Vitus Park for the first of the sprint rounds. Toby Davis won his first race there in the Sierra, but everyone has to be very careful here to keep it on four wheels. The track showcases the possibilities if someone would lift the motorsports ban in Switzerland and build a track in the Alps, without caring about safety standards whatsoever.

Laguna Seca maybe isn't the most popular track amongst the drivers, but it is good for the slower cars. Image by Photoborg
Laguna Seca maybe isn’t the most popular track amongst the drivers, but it is good for the slower cars. Image by Photoborg

Laguna Seca is next, and the night sprint races will be the biggest chance for all Alfa, Mercedes and M3 drivers. The Nissans and Holdens will struggle a lot on the track, while for the Rovers and Sierras, a surprise is certainly possible.
Afterwards we go to Pukekohe for more sprint rounds. All the cars that didn’t perform well at Laguna Seca will have their oppurtunity here. The Holdens should be good, the Nissans too, but maybe Tveit can fend them off in his Rover.
Back to endurance race length, but still high speed at Salzburgring. Salo got his first win in the Holden here, Tveit got his first win in the Rover, Wiesenmüller scored a perfect weekend in VTM5. The Austrian circuit is one of the most popular tracks of the calendar and will certainly provide good entertainment.
Round 7 of the championship is Brands Hatch, a track that hasn’t been used in TPS that often. But back in season 2, it was the venue of a brilliant strategy battle between Toby Davis and Ben Crooks. It should be very hard to predict on this track which cars we will see at the front.

It's easy to make a mistake at Trois-Rivieres. Image by Photoborg
It’s easy to make a mistake at Trois-Rivieres. Image by Photoborg

Then it’s time for Trois-Rivieres. Tommi Ojala will look back in delight, as this was the place of his first and only race win in TPS. The tight and twisty street circuit features one of the tightest corners in TPS history, and the fact that it is a night race doesn’t make it easier for the drivers.
The final race of the championship will be held at Bathurst as usual. The infamous mountain provided lots of drama throughout the VTM  seasons; especially Toby Davis won’t have the best memories of the Australian circuit. With such a close and competitive field, it seems very likely that the title will be decided down under again.

The VTM engines will roar again on Wednesday, June 25th at Spa-Francorchamps. Qualifying is at 19:00 GMT (20:00 UK / 21:00 EU) and the races will be broadcasted live at www.touringproseries.com/broadcast.

VTM 5 Round 6: The Championship tightens at Fuji!

Round 6 of the Virtual Touring Masters went East on February 12, heading to the 1992 layout of the Fuji International Speedway! The 34-lap race was another high speed affair, Fuji’s insanely long front straight providing some surefire drafting opportunities.

The Ford Capris had the way of it at the front, with John Munro taking pole and Rob Taplin in 2nd. 3rd went to Ross Mcgregor and 4th was taken by Jesper Taulborg, while the 5th grid position was taken by the Toyota Celica of Robert Wiesenmueller. Gary Lennon lined up 6th, while 7th and 8th were taken by Mate Orban and Anders Nillson. Matt Richards and Bruno Sousa Ferreira rounded out the top 10.

The start was mostly run-of-the-mill, save for Taplin having a horror first lap. Taplin got off the line more slowly than anticipated, then overshot turn 1 and made contact with McGregor, pitting at the end of lap 1. The Capri driver then got a further penalty for exceeding the pit speed limit, an event that drew the ire of the driver after the race due to confusion over what the pit speed limit actually was. In later laps, contact with Raul Pereira left Taplin in the wall with massive damage.

Mate Orban had a terrible second lap – after misjudging his braking for turn 1 and running into the gravel, he later locked his rear wheels and spun. To add insult to injury, an odd physics glitch saw Orban flip as well. Erik Tveit, by comparison, was enjoying a BMW M1 that had a clear advantage in a race situation. Tveit found himself in 5th by lap 6, a substantial improvement on his 11th place starting position. Wiesenmueller dropped from 3rd to 7th after suffering a spin, while Munro and McGregor maintained their lead. Richards found himself in 3rd thanks to the aforementioned incidents.

After a manic opening stage, the race began to settle into a consistent rhythm. Wiesenmueller began a quest to gain back positions – the championship fight was hanging in the balance, and McGregor being in front of both Wiesenmueller and Taulborg meant that there was great potential for a shakeup. Turn 1 caught out drivers a few more times, Tveit and Richards overshooting and handing positions over, and Nilsson accidentally shifting into reverse under braking, causing an understandably major spin.

By lap 20, the championship contenders were maintaining the pace, with Wiesenmueller closing in on Taulborg bit by bit. McGregor got within 2 seconds of race leader Munro when the latter suffered a slight spin, which was the latest in a consistent pattern that suggested that the Capri drivers were having issues with rear brakes. Matt Richards, having tyre issues, elected to pit for fresh rubber. Unfortunately, he too was caught out by the vague pit speed limit rules, having to serve a penalty afterwards.

Wiesenmueller dropped to a 5 second gap to Taulborg as McGregor continued to pursue Munro for the win. It was speculated that with the high loads given by Fuji’s fast corners, tyres would come into play late in the race, and this seemed to be happening to Munro. The gap to McGregor had dropped to just over one second by lap 29, setting the top two up for an epic slipstreaming battle.

This eventuated, with McGregor closing the gap up to 0.5 seconds by turn 1 on lap 30. From then on it was only a matter of staying behind Munro, and McGregor jetted past around the outside of turn 1 on the following lap. Unfortunately, after that, Munro’s composure broke, and the Capri driver spun. Perhaps to Munro’s relief, he was far enough ahead that he did not immediately lose 2nd place to Taulborg. However, Taulborg got by on the last lap thanks to Munro’s rear tyre issues.

Up the front, Ross McGregor took his 3rd TPS win, with Jesper Taulborg in 2nd. John Munro took 3rd, while Robert Wiesenmueller finished 4th. David Jundt finished an impressive 5th.

Your top 5 in the championship standings remain as they were after the last round at the Osterreichring: Taulborg leading on 148 points, Wiesenmueller in 2nd on 140, McGregor in 3rd on 133, Taplin 4th with 113 points, and Richards rounding out the top 5 with 108 points. The final round of VTM season 5 is going to take place at the legendary Mount Panorama circuit in Bathurst – and with the championship being able to go to any of the top four as it is, having the championship finale take place at such a demanding and difficult circuit will certainly put the pressure on!

Tune in for the final round on February 26 at 19:45 GMT to see who prevails!

VSS 2014 Round 5: Brasilia Brings The Action!

Alexander Lauritzen extended his championship lead for THR, whilst Butcher took his second win this season in the Virtual Supertech Series at Brasilia.

With times not quite as competitive as previous seasons, it was Lauritzen who took pole position from surprise front row starter Danny Asbury. Butcher had it all to do from 8th on the grid, and in fact lost 5 places after an horrendous start. However, over the next 7 laps he gained 12 positions to take the lead from Wiesenmueller, who had made a good start from 6th on the grid and got embroiled in a battle with Stranne and Asbury.

Lauritzen himself lost 8 positions on lap 3 thanks to an incident with Tveit, causing both to fall down the field. However, eventually, Lauritzen was to make it up to 2nd place with some hard fought battles.

Race two was just as exciting, with pole sitter Lauritzen, Tveit, Stranne and Butcher battling hard throughout most of the race. Butcher and Lauritzen were constantly swapping positions with one another, and Tveit was getting involved with the THR twins. However, Lauritzen eventually took the lead on lap 14 and held it to the end of the race from Tveit, whilst Stranne took the final podium slot after Butcher slipped to 7th.

Join us for the next round of the VSS, which is of course Cascavel on the 8th Feb!

VTM 5 Round 5: A New Winner at the Österreichring!

Round 5 of the Virtual Touring Masters saw the classic Group 5 field make their way to Austria, to another classic venue. The Österreichring (known later on, in a new configuration, as the A1-Ring and now the Red Bull Ring) played host to a round of VTM 5 that produced yet more shakeups and a new winner. This circuit could be described as Hockenheim, the circuit that hosted round 4, but without the chicanes. A fast and flowing layout greeted a field whose cars felt quite at home through the high-speed turns.

John Munro, part-time TPS commentator, took pole position in his second VTM outing, his Ford Capri beating out Robert Wiesenmueller’s Toyota Celica. Matt Richards took 3rd on the grid, while Erik Tveit and his BMW M1 made a return after missing out on round 4. Championship leader Jesper Taulborg took 5th ahead of Ross McGregor, Rob Taplin, Anders Nilsson and Mate Orban. Kevin Endermann rounded out the top 10 in the highest-qualifying Lancia Beta.

Off the line, Munro had no troubles holding his lead, but Wiesemnueller and Taulborg lost out, moving down to 3rd and 7th respectively by the time the field had cleared turn 1. The former dropped further to 4th as Tveit used the power of the BMW to pass him on the back straight. Munro, Richards and Tveit were the top 3 as lap 1 came to a close. Meanwhile, Taplin began making is way back through the field after having a bad start.

Tveit and Richards began a battle for 2nd with Wiesenmueller lurking in the background. This soon evolved into a 3-way fight as the strengths and weaknesses of the three different cars began to come to the fore. Unfortunately, Tveit hit a wall at the start of lap 6, leaving Richards and Wiesenmueller to fight amongst themselves as Munro continued to slowly pull away.

Taulborg came out of a small scrap with Orban to begin chasing Tveit down. However, Tveit made the job easy as the M1’s sheer power began to overwhelm its tyres, the young Norwegian sliding everywhere. Nilsson had a moment later on, his Capri catching a bump and nearly finding a barrier. As the race reached its halfway point, McGregor made an optimistic move on Tveit that turned into an understeery trip to the barriers.

Tveit and Taplin met each other in the mid top 10, Taplin only just staying with Tveit through slipstreaming, and attempting moves through the corners. Tveit eventually lost 6th to Taplin due to a well-timed move into turn 4 by the Capri driver. But Tveit did not let him walk away, by way yet again of the powerful BMW M1. As Ross McGregor caught up to them, a 4-way scrap evolved when Mate Orban ran wide at turn 4.

A massive incident almost eventuated on lap 24 when Matt Richards ran on to the grass off turn 2, letting Taulborg by for 3rd – and almost losing control and crashing into Taulborg at turn 4. The battle still raged on in the dying stages of the race, Richards pushing incredibly hard to snatch the podium position back from TPS’s most successful driver.

Taplin had pulled away from the fight for 5th, leaving Orban, Tveit and McGregor to squabble over the scraps. It all came to a head at turn 4 on the final lap – McGregor got a monster run on Tveit, but as he completed the move, Tveit caught McGregor’s rear quarter, sending them both around and leaving Tveit with massive damage.

But as this was happening, John Munro had no troubles as he crossed the line to take a dominant first TPS win, just over 10 seconds ahead of Robert Wiesenmueller, who consolidated his championship position in 2nd. Jesper Taulborg won out in the battle with Matt Richards, the two drivers taking 3rd and 4th respectively. Rob Taplin finished 5th, in an improvement on his 7th place qualifying position. Kevin Endermann took 8th, the highest finishing position for any Lancia Beta driver yet.

Taulborg continues to lead the championship, on 121 points as of January 31. Wiesenmueller is still very close behind, on 117, while Taplin is a little further back on 104. Mcgregor is 1 point further back on 103 points, while Matt Richards remains in 5th on 94 points. Mate Orban and David Jundt, 6th and 7th on 64 and 62 points, remain in mathematical contention for the title – and with VTM season 5 being as unpredictable and close as it has been, who knows what will happen in the two remaining rounds?

Round 6 will be held on February 12 at the 1992 layout of Fuji Speedway! Another extremely fast circuit broken up by chicanes, this track retains good flow and will favour drivers who are careful over the 34-lap distance. Be sure to like Touring Pro Series on Facebook and follow @Touring_Pro on Twitter to stay updated!

 

VTM 5 R4: High Speed Thrills at Hockenheim

Touring Pro Series’ historic racing league returned on January 15 to a lost classic racetrack. The Hockenheimring, modelled as it was in 1988, played host to round 4 of the Virtual Touring Masters. The high-speed blasts through the German forest, broken up by high-kerbed chicanes, saw cars exceeding well over 300km/h, setting the stage for a race that was predicted to be dominated by the higher-powered cars and in which slipstreaming was to be crucial.

Rob Taplin took pole position for the first time in his TPS career, breaking the stranglehold that Robert Wiesenmueller has had on the grid’s top spot in VTM season 5. Behind Taplin’s Ford Capri was the Porsche 935 of Ross McGregor, followed by Matt Richards. 4th spot was taken by Kevin Endermann in the Lancia Beta Turbo, the highest qualifying position thus far for the least powerful car in the series. Championship leaders Jesper Taulborg and Robert Wiesenmueller were only able to manage 5th and 8th respectively, while Simon Shepherd took a surprise 6th, using the superior power of the BMW M1 to his advantage on Hockenheim’s long straights.

The race start saw Taplin lose out, initially dropping to 4th, but by the first chicane he had re-taken 3rd from Taulborg. Wiesenmueller had a horror start, dropping down to 14th but working his way up to 10th soon enough. Richards took himself out of 2nd place by spinning under brakes at the third chicane, handing positions to Taplin and Taulborg among many other drivers.

An epic battle for the lead soon formed between Taplin and McGregor, the former taking the lead around the outside of the first chicane after a massive slipstream at the start of lap 4. The two continued to dice, McGregor retaking the lead at the same place on the next lap. Shepherd and Mate Orban also battled for 4th, with Shepherd having the edge thanks to the M1’s superior drive off the corners. By lap 8, Endermann had pitted for damage, Wiesenmuller had passed Gary Lennon for 6th, and McGregor had fallen back from Taplin thanks to braking too late for the Stadium section of the track.

On lap 13, Rhys Gardiner was caught out by the difference in braking distance between his Lancia and David Jundt’s Capri. Under braking at the Ostkurve chicane – nicknamed “Heartbreak Chicane” by the commentators – Gardiner smashed into a barrier, ending his race. Mate Orban ended his race at the same place on the next lap, not being able to see the tyre wall past Shepherd’s M1.

Meanwhile, McGregor retook the lead from Taplin once again, setting the fastest lap along the way, and Wiesenmueller had worked his way up to 4th. Taplin began falling back from McGregor due to tyre wear as the race entered its final quarter. The last lap was marred by two DNFs – the first being Robert Wiesenmueller, whose wheel controller disconnected on a straight, and Bruno Sousa Ferreira, who crashed out after running well in the top 10.

Ross McGregor won the race, with Rob Taplin coming home in 2nd. Jesper Taulborg ran a quiet race to finish 3rd, while Simon Shepherd got his highest finishing position at TPS with a fine 4th. The top 5 was completed by Matt Richards, making a good recovery from his first lap incident.

With penalties not yet applied, Jesper Taulborg leads the championship on 96 points, despite not yet having won a race this season. 2nd is Ross McGregor, only 2 points behind. Robert Wiesenmueller is running 3rd, with Taplin and Richard still occupying 4th and 5th respectively.

The next round of the season will be held on January 29 at another historic venue – 1976’s fast and flowing Österreichring! High speeds now tempered with fast and flowing turns, it will be interesting to see how the lower-powered cars fare against the mighty M1s and 935s!

VMC 2014 Round 4: Rookies Shine at Velopark

The return of the Touring Pro Series from the Christmas break was full of drama, tension and surprises. The ever exciting Virtual Mini Challenge never disappoints!

A new track, never before raced in VMC, was the perfect place for rivalries to reignite and close action to commence. Velopark has its own unique style – a strong mixture of fast straights and tight hairpin bends. With only nine corners, it is also one of the shortest circuits on the calendar. This event would be anyone’s for the taking. Four rounds into the season, the man with the most pressure to handle was Chris Butcher the championship leader. With his recent form it would be difficult to look past him for the win, but would he have it all his own way at Velopark?

Qualifying began with a sense of uncertainty after new drivers Adrian Campfield and Paul Patrick stunned the field by topping the time sheets in practice. A promising debut for Campfield Racing was looking more than likely. It was however a surprise name that set the provisional fastest lap as Rhys Gardiner hauled his Smile Power Mini around the circuit in 58.8 seconds. This time would see the TPS veteran line up in a very impressive P4 for the opener. Two of the top three spots were accommodated by the flying rookies Adrian Campfield and Paul Patrick, who qualified on pole position and Third respectively, a stunning Debut session. It was championship leader Chris Butcher who put his THR Red machine alongside Campfield on the front row with Andrew Waring qualifying Fifth for Airastream after flying in practice. Would the experience of Chris Butcher help him off the line or would Campfield hold his nerves into turn 1?

A great launch by Butcher saw him leap into the lead and pull in front of Campfield heading into turn 1. The only other position change involving the top 5 was Andrew Waring who passed Gardiner on the exit. Many incidents were expected at the controversial first corner so it was a pleasant surprise to see no major incidents. The order remained until the end of lap 2 when Campfield pulled off a perfectly executed move to take lead, leaving room for his team-mate to slot into second. As Adrian pulled away at the front, the main talking point early on in the race was the intense battle between Patrick and Butcher for second with the Campfield Racing driver defending like his life depended on it. His race however came to an abrupt end on lap 15, as he misjudged his braking point heading into turn 5. Too much kerb caused the car to bounce into the wall and bounce back across the track, narrowly avoiding the front end of Butcher’s car. It was a large enough incident to see the debutant retire from the race. Campfield continued to set new fastest laps as he cruised to victory at his first attempt.

By lap 20 a five car scrap for second had developed which ultimately ended in disaster. As the drivers approached the first turn on lap 27, a mistake by Butcher saw four cars bunched together as the proceeded to enter the turn four wide. Gardiner was forced all the way to the outside of the track and unlucky to clip the wall. This sent his car back onto the track taking the charging Miguel Neto out of a strong P6. No driver was particularly at fault, and it was deemed by the drivers themselves as a racing incident. Rhys also picked up some suspension damage which saw him struggle to an eventual fifth placed finish, a great effort. Fourth in the end was Andrew Waring to continue Airastream’s run of form, whilst Rasmus Salo picked his way through the carnage to seal a podium slot for THR Blue. It was championship leader Chris Butcher who won the silver medal but gold, and a debut race victory, was earned by the incredible Adrian Campfield.

Qualifying 2 was a similar story with the latest name on the list of TPS race winners maintaining his 100% record in qualifying with another pole position. A disastrous event for Ice Cold continued with Eric Stranne and Erik Tveit both struggling in qualifying, much like they had in the previous race. Butcher didn’t manage to repeat his Q1 performance, with a disappointing session that would see him start in eighth; a position that would cost him come the race. Smile Power’s Ben Hackeson was the surprise of Q2 taking an impressive third row slot on the grid, his best so far in a young TPS career.

As the cars completed their formation lap it became apparent that front row man Paul Patrick was not taking to the grid, he would start from the pitlane. Campfield led the race but didn’t show the sheer pace he managed in the opener, with Waring and Salo pushing him hard from the get go. Waring was the only man able to keep pace with Campfield, putting him under serious pressure throughout the race. On the penultimate corner of the last lap, the turn 8 hairpin  he dived to the outside but wasn’t able to pull off the outside maneuvre and Adrian was able to hold on for his second win on the bounce.

Overall, Chris Butcher extended his championship lead with Eric Stranne holding onto second and THR Red continue to dominate the Teams Championship. Join us again on the 21st of January for Round 5 of the 2014 Virtual Mini Challenge, live from Taruma!

VTM 5 Round 3: Scintillating Race At Cleveland!

The new-look Virtual Touring Masters, now running the rFactor DRM mod, headed to the United States for round 3 of its fifth season – a race that saw plenty of high-speed, nail-biting action!

Wednesday’s race took place at the unusual airport circuit of Cleveland. Short, fast, wide, flowing and bumpy all at the same time, the runways of Burke Lakefront Airport looked ripe to put on a good race. Amid much drama and controversy over the first two rounds – specifically a horror first round at Spa with much contact all through the field, for which many penalties were dished out – many drivers were looking to finish well and stay out of trouble.

Robert Wiesenmueller took a surprise pole position in his Toyota Celica, running the only lap time under one minute and seven seconds after only joining the server very late in practice. Wiesenmueller edged out Matt Richards, who had to settle for second after topping the timesheets in practice in his Ford Capri. Jesper Taulborg qualified 3rd, edging out Erik Tveit by just over 5 hundredths of a second. Round 1 winner Ross McGregor was only able to manage 10th place.

Wiesenmueller’s race start was not the best, the VMC 2013 champion being beaten off the line by Richards, who led the field into turn 1. Wiesenmueller dropped further back to 3rd thanks to a move up the inside by Tveit. Taulborg lost out as well, dropping to 5th thanks to Tommi Ojala pulling a move on him halfway round the first lap. The first casualty of the race was Rhys Gardiner, the Lancia Beta driver retiring due to a disconnection as the field came around to start lap 2.

More troubles followed for Taulborg, the multiple champion dropping to 6th by way of Rob Taplin, and then on lap 4 hitting an anti-cut at the final chicane which dropped him to 10th. Wiesenmueller re-passed Tveit for 2nd, and promptly began eating away at Richards’ lead. On lap 7, Ojala found himself knocked down to 7th place after contact with Tveit at turn 1. Meanwhile, the battle continued for the lead between Richards and Wiesenmueller, after a scrappy few laps from the former.

Battles began forming throughout the field, highlights being the battle for 10th between Scott Sovik, Lars Brugman and Mate Orban, and the battle for 6th between Tommi Ojala, Sebastian Rosemeyer, and Anders Nilsson. By lap 16, Wiesenmueller grabbed the lead from Richards after the former went too deep into turn 1. A few laps later, Erik Tveit lost both control of his car and his podium position by spinning under brakes at turn 2, which let Rob Taplin onto the provisional podium.

Richards had a scary moment at the end of lap 25, where he very nearly ran into the start of the pit wall, only swerving to avoid it at the last fraction of a second. This being the latest in a series of small overdriving errors by Richards, Taplin began closing in bit by bit. David Jundt had a major incident on lap 30, hitting an anti-cut head on and spinning across the track. This incident caused the Porsche 935s of Mate Orban and Bruno Sousa Ferreira to spin at the same location. Meanwhile, Taulborg dived up the inside of Tveit at turn 1 to take 5th place. Taplin continued his pursuit of Matt Richards, whose gap to Wiesenmueller had further increased to nearly ten seconds.

Lars Brugman grabbed 6th from Erik Tveit, who was increasingly losing grip in his BMW M1. Merely minutes later, mayhem erupted when Lukasz Demolin spun in the path of Tommi Ojala, Ojala heavily impacting the Lancia, while Raul Pereira was also caught up in the incident, rolling his car. Sliding down the track on his roof unfortunately disqualified Pereira from the race. The unfortunate incident between Demolin and Ojala promoted Taulborg to 4th place. Brugman was squeezed for 5th by a recovering Ojala at the final chicane, bouncing off an anti-cut and only just avoiding a wall. Erik Tveit suffered further loss of control of his car, and dropped all the way back to 10th place, and Lars Brugman hit the same anti-cut that took out Jundt, which ended a great run from the Norwegian. But further up front, yet another podium-altering incident happened when Matt Richards suffered a hardware issue and spun, handing Taplin 2nd place.

Robert Wiesenmueller crossed the line in first position, his second win of the season, with Rob Taplin finishing 2nd and matt Richards finishing 3rd. Taulborg took 4th, and Tommi Ojala rounded out to top 5 for VTM round 3 at Cleveland.

Penalties for round 3 have not been applied at the time of writing, but as of December 20, Wiesenmueller is the championship leader on 79 points, with Taulborg not far behind on 71. Round 1 winner Ross McGregor lies third in the standings on 64 points, with Rob Taplin in 4th on 56, and with 50 points, Matt Richards lies in 5th place.

Join us after the Christmas and New Year’s break for the next VTM round at the old layout of the Hockenheimring. The blast through the forest will certainly test the power and braking prowess of these insane Group 5 race cars! See you then!

VSS 2014 Round 3: Fuji Feast!

For the third round of the VSS 2014 season, the long straight at Fuji provided the biggest challenge for the drivers to overcome, with Push-to-Pass strategy and slipstreaming throughout qualifying playing the biggest roles in how drivers attacked the historic Japanese circuit.

For the first qualifying session, we saw packs of cars together on track in an attempt to slipstream each other up the order. Gergo Baldi took pole position with an excellent lap, whilst Tveit took second place. Championship leader Alexander Lauritzen took a good third position, whilst Ryan Walker took 4th position after setting competitive times in practice.

The race itself saw a great start from Baldi and Petzold, whilst Salo and Holm dropped back through the pack. Salo actually got involved in an incident with Petzold, after Petzold had been tapped into a half-spin by Stranne. Salo lost his front splitter and his car started understeering badly, as he dropped back through the pack. Baldi led in the early stages but once Lauritzen had cleared Tveit he set about closing him down.

And close him down he did, the lead swapping several times before Lauritzen managed to get clear of Baldi’s push-to-pass to take his second victory of the season. Tveit took third from Holm, who fought well through the pack to finish 4th and take the fastest lap of the race. 5th place went to Stranne, who also had a good run through the pack, ahead of Airastream team mates Walker and Richards, who made it up from 15th to finish 7th.

In qualifying two, Holm, Baldi, Lauritzen and Salo started tandem slipstreaming, with the result that Holm took pole position from Baldi, with Lauritzen still in 3rd. Asbury took a cracking 4th place with Salo in 5th. Stranne took 6th place, whilst Munro and Walker were the best Airastream drivers, locking out row 4.

After a great qualifying, Holm had technical issues and failed to even start the formation lap. This left Baldi to inherit pole which he duly converted into a race lead at T1, whilst Holm jumped past Asbury to take 4th. Stranne also got by to take 4th, and a slipstreaming battle commenced. Erzen and Navarro made contact on lap 1 which left the pair effectively out of contention.

Then at the end of lap 1, it all fell apart for THR Orange completely. Salo ran a little wide, and spun into the pitlane wall, causing massive damage to his car and ending his race. This left Stranne to fight Lauritzen and Baldi, whilst Munro moved up into 4th to begin a battle with Asbury and Walker.

Lap after lap, the leaders squabbled, with all three leaders taking the lead. At any given point, it was anyone’s guess who would take the victory. Meanwhile, Danny Asbury disconnected, ending a promising race for the American, and Richards spun from a battle with Brugman to drop back to 12th place.

Baldi made a mistake on lap 7, which allowed Stranne and Lauritzen to escape, and Lauritzen duly took the lead from the Swede on the beginning of lap 8, but Stranne used Push-To-Pass on the next lap to take the position back from him. Thus began a game of Push-To-Pass ping pong, with Lauritzen and Stranne on alternate strategies meaning every lap, the lead would change on the long one mile straight. This happened every lap until the penultimate lap, where Stranne made a very small error and tapped Lauritzen, which dropped him back. Stranne still used a Push-To-Pass, his final one, to overtake Lauritzen into T1, but Alex had one remaining. Despite a small error and almost a photo finish, Lauritzen was able to use the extra power to get by at the line.

Behind him, Baldi made a huge error and hit the wall at T5 on the final lap, which allowed Munro a run on him out of the final corner. They crossed the line less than 6 thousandths apart, with Munro taking the final podium slot from the Hungarian THR driver. Walker finished 5th for Airastream, with Palmer ahead of Tveit after a race long battle.

Lauritzen duly extended his championship lead and must be favourite heading into the second half of the season, whilst in the teams championship THR Red closed up and overtook THR Orange due to Salo and Holm not scoring in the second race.