All posts by Rhys Gardiner

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!

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!

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!

Farewell Old Reliable: An ATCC Editorial

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Sim racing as a hobby allows you to pursue dreams and engage in “what-if” scenarios where you find out what it might be like to drive your dream racing cars. Sim racing as a competitive E-sport allows you to engage in this even more, not just driving, but racing your dream cars against others – and creating a legacy you can look back on and say “Yes, I did that!”.

TouringProSeries places a great emphasis on this concept of history and legacy, with running statistics concerning the most wins, fastest laps, pole positions, championship victories and what-have-you. For a driver, this really creates the sense that one is taking part in something special and noteworthy, a racer's exploits recorded in the TPS history books for many to look upon in times to come.

This recording of statistics would be meaningless, however, without some consistent data. A fair few leagues out there will chop and change various things about their competition, changing the cars they race and even the sim they use from season to season. This is by no means a bad thing to do, but in the case of TouringProSeries, it will not happen easily, for the reasons outlined above. In order to get this consistency in their statistics, a wholesale change of cars or sim for a TPS championship is an uncommon occurrence.

However, when the time comes, a TPS series must change in order to keep moving forward; The sim industry and modding being what ATCC_LagunaSeca_5_5_540they are, things are always improving, and always changing – especially now in 2013, with a raft of new racing simulators scheduled to be released in the coming year. The American Touring Car Championship is the oldest league in TouringProSeries, nearing the end of it fifth season after racing hard since 2009. The next round at Road America, the final round of this season – scheduled for this Friday the 8th of March 2013 – is a significant one for the league as a whole. After nearly five years, the time has come to retire the old standard and put it out to pasture with a tip of our hats.

SimBin Studios' RACE 07, the official game of the FIA World Touring Car Championship, was released in 2007 as a sequel to 2006's RACE. Being the first racing simulators to feature Super 2000 Touring Cars, they were jumped upon by the Touring Car sim community, and RACE 07 in particular has been used for countless leagues with its wide and varied content. It was one of the first sims to truly challenge the pre-conceived notion that “difficulty = realism” in racing simulations. The physics were such that running onto the grass didn't spell instant doom, but they were (and still are) challenging enough that being successful requires a lot of dedication, practice and setup work.

ATCC_Mid-Ohio_5_5_1080The game was ripe for expansion from the start – SimBin first released a free addon in 2008 featuring Fabrizio Giovanardi's BTCC Vauxhall Vectra and the fictional Crowne Plaza Raceway. Later that year, one of the most significant was to come – GTR Evolution, featuring re-imagined cars from SimBin's earlier GT racing sims, and a full recreation of the fabled Nürburgring. Shortly after this, yet another expansion pack, focusing on the Touring Car side this time: STCC – The Game. Simulating the Swedish Touring Car Championship, with new specs of S2000 Touring Cars on new tracks, it was this version of RACE 07 that laid the seeds for what was to become our very own American Touring Car Championship.

It started with weekly races in the Racing Club at RaceDepartment. The genesis of these races lay with long-time RD members Warren Dawes

and William Yunck. Beginning in September 2008, these races were run Friday nights in America: two sprint races with mandatory 2-tyre pit stops and one-lap Superpole qualifying. The races drew small fields at first, around 8 cars or so. But as the months wore on, more and more racers began competing, and soon (thanks to competitor Keith Barrick's advertising of the races) full fields of 25 cars were seen. Mid-2009 brought with it the announcement that the Friday night races were to be transformed into a full-on league. The American Touring Car Championship was born.

By its third season, a pre-season event at the Nurburgring GP circuit was broadcast live for the first time, with Ryan Callan and Simon Smith commentating. It was this event that sparked the formation of Touring Pro Series, bringing a collection of Touring Car leagues together for a ride that is still going today. Many seasons, an aborted change of sim to rFactor, a moving of forums and some massive media expansion later, here we are, ready to take another step.

RACE 07 has come to be known within ATCC as “Old Reliable” or some such variation of the term. The sim has been a steadfast ATCC_VitusPark_4_5_1080platform for our racing, though it has come with its limitations and disadvantages. First and foremost of these is the sim's netcode. The American Touring Car Championship, despite its name, is very much a worldwide league, with European drivers being dominant in recent seasons, both in field numbers and success. Being able to maintain a stable connection to an overseas server is important in this regard – as well as being able to race closely with a little bit of contact, while simultaneously avoiding completely punting a fellow racer off the track – and unfortunately, RACE 07 is found a little lacking here.

Experiments have been performed throughout the last few ATCC seasons to try and iron out these kinks, but one will still find cars bouncing off each other occasionally. Other things, such as a lack of general stability when editing files to allow larger fields, and no live timing software on the level of LiveRacers being available for it, mean that RACE 07 is becoming a less viable option for racing in TouringProSeries as time goes on.

But that does not discount the many reasons why it was chosen to race with in the first place. Whatever one says about RACE 07, it cannot be said that it was not a good choice. The relative ease of applying custom liveries. The automated application of mandatory pit stops and other race conditions. Changeable weather. Balanced racing. And, lest we forget, the cars themselves. A fun mix of different makes and models, some front-wheel drive, some rear-wheel drive, all unique in their own way.

ATCC_VitusPark_3_5_1080So as we move forward and begin the search for a new sim to move to for Season 6, take a moment to look back and reflect on the good times and great racing that SimBin's RACE 07 has given us over the years. Treat this Friday not as a funeral dirge, but as a celebration of a damn good racing sim and a damn good league. The time has come to farewell one of the old generation sims after a long and successful run.

Precision Motorsports' Jack Keithley is in the lead for the drivers championship, on 551 points. Not far behind is his teammate Simon Kilov, followed by constant presence Miguel Neto on 517 points. EKT Portugal is in the teams championship lead. The long straights and sweeping turns of Road America await our ATCC field for the final round of the season, and the final two TPS races to be held using RACE 07.

Who will be TouringProSeries' last RACE 07 champions? Find out by tuning in to our broadcast at 9:15pm EST on Friday March 8.

Let's make it a good one!

Rhys Gardiner
ATCC Article Writer and Founding Competitor
March 7, 2013

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ATCC 5: The Story So Far

The full division 1 field snakes into turn 1 at Watkins Glen.
The full division 1 field snakes into turn 1 at Watkins Glen.

Season 5 of TouringProSeries' frenetic American Touring Car Championship has now passed three rounds. After six races full of action, controversy and excitement, we will look back on the season so far, and in turn look forward to the next rounds of the season. The Christmas and New Year's break calls for rest and introspection, so now is a good time to sit back and take a look at the movers, shakers, highs and lows of ATCC Season 5 – so without further ado, let's get right into it!

Car choices for the final ATCC season on the RACE07 platform have seen a vehicle lineup that is rather different from previous seasons. While a few of the quickest drivers are seen in the BMW 320si, as per normal, the dark horse car choice has been the Alfa Romeo 156. The pretty Italian car, which has been largely ignored for much of ATCC's history, has seen a resurgence as the Portuguese racers (among others) have taken to its nimble handling and favourable power and drag stats. Other cars which have seen a fair amount of action have been the Vauxhall Vectra, with the best power-to-weight ratio in the class, and the SEAT Leon, with similar characteristics to the Alfa Romeo. While there are still racers sticking to the standards, such as the Honda Accord and Chevrolet Cruze, their numbers are a far cry from past seasons, when they dominated the grid. If anything, the spread of car models across the grid is more even than ever before. The balance of power has shifted at a late stage in RACE 07's run – what car lineup, and the resulting choices, will we see when ATCC moves to a newer sim in season 6? Time will tell!

The first three rounds of this season took place at Watkins Glen, Laguna Seca and Hungaroring in that order. Three very differing tracks – one high-speed and flowing, one bucking and diving, and one flat, twisty and technical.

Track boundary violations were a point of contention at round 3. [Image courtesy of Jesper Taulborg]
The leaders keep it clean through this chicane – but track boundary violations were a major point of contention at round 3. [Image courtesy of Jesper Taulborg]
And the man to come out on top in this first part of the season has been Formula SimRacing Precision Motorsports driver, and World Supertech Series 1 champion, Jack Keithley. The freakishly fast, BMW-driving Briton – in his debut ATCC season – leads the championship standings at 192 points, topping regular contender Miguel Neto on 183 points. Find the championship standings in full here.

The rest of the Portuguese squad – now competing as EKT Portugal and Hardmodding Team – have had their usual good showing, with familiar names such as Diogo Lopes, Francisco Villar and Andre Caiado comfortably in the top 10 as of Round 3. The same cannot be said of usual top-10 contender Pedro Amaral, however: after a horror round 1, with heavy damage in both races, he was moved

 to division 2 for round 2, in which he had further bad luck by way of disconnection. He has thus far been steadily attempting to get back into division 1, with a win and 3rd place to his name in round 3.

The Portuguese drivers have continued to mix it up at the front of the grid. [Image courtesy of Jesper Taulborg]
The Portuguese drivers have continued to mix it up at the front of the grid. [Image courtesy of Jesper Taulborg]
The other consistent top runners have been the former Walk Racing drivers – the three Danes, Simon Kilov, Lasse Sorensen and Alexander Lauritzen. The word “former” is used because these three drivers now no longer compete for Walk Racing; they parted ways with the team after round 2 over a dispute concerning their racing tactics. Kilov and Sorensen now race under the banner of ART Competition, and Lauritzen now races for Twister Racing. This leaves Londoner Chris Shepherd as the only Walk Racing representative in ATCC, at least at the time of writing.

More controversy has been simmering after round 3 at the Hungaroring, as it came to be known that many drivers had violated the track boundary rules. In the words of league administrator Ivan Navarro: “The fact is there was a lot of cutting. And just about everyone got the pit entry wrong.” Penalties ended up being given out to many of the front runners for these violations, and a heated (but civil) discussion in the forums ensued. Thankfully, though the penalties stand, the controversy has subsided, and the vast majority of drivers have been putting their heads down and preparing for the next round.

Never mind the giant spiders - the track itself is what you should be wary of!
Never mind the giant spiders – the track itself is what you should be wary of!

There has been yet more shock in the intervening weeks between rounds 3 and 4, as series founder and Season 1 champion Keith Barrick has accrued enough penalty points after round 3 to be removed from the league, as per TPS rules. Due to a larger-than-normal incident count this season (boosted by the Hungaroring penalties), there are many other competitive drivers close to being dealt the same fate – as the halfway point of the season draws near, we may see a different front running order by season's end; but time will tell, as there is plenty of time for competitors to clean up their driving.

And so we look forward once again. Round 4 takes place on Friday January 11, 2013, at the rolling and flowing Barber Motorsports Park. This relatively new circuit in Birmingham, Alabama has been a firm favourite with

drivers since the club-racing days before ATCC became a league, and here it makes its championship debut. This course is nothing but hills and flowing turns, and will favour brave drivers with well-set-up cars. Who will come out on top at Barber? Will Keithley keep or extend his championship lead? Will Neto, Kilov and the rest of the front-runners bite at his heels? Or will another driver come to the fore? Find out by watching the broadcast here, at 9:15pm EST on Friday night!

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ATCC 5: Season Preview

September 2008.

A small club race takes place, at Ring Knutstorp in Sweden. Less than 10 drivers are there. The event, with its enjoyable, clean and close racing, leads to more every week.

And as the events come and go, becoming more popular

as the weeks and months go by, one driver in particular – Keith Barrick – feels that this group of sim racers are on to something.

Just about a year later, in September 2009, the American Touring Car Championship holds the first round of its inaugural season. A near-full grid of drivers braves the elevation changes of Mosport International Raceway… and becomes the first chapter of a legend.

Well over four years after the first club race, and three years after the start of the first season, the American Touring Car Championship has gone through four seasons and four different champions, and is now gearing up for its fifth season, under new management by the capable hands of Ivan Navarro. A part of the Touring Pro Series league collective since season 3, and the oldest league in the lineup, this championship is the main TPS draw for drivers in the Americas and Australasia, along with the Virtual Mini Challenge. Such is its popularity, though, that it attracts its fair share of European drivers too, who brave the small hours of their morning for a slice of the ATCC pie.

Races take place on Friday nights for racers in the Americas, and anywhere from crazy-o’clock in the morning for Europeans to midday Saturday for Australians. The league focuses on international-level Touring Car racing, with cars from the Super 2000 regulations – the dominant class of Touring Car racing in the northern hemisphere for the last decade. A mandatory pit stop for two tyres in every race and the top 8 on the grid being reversed for race 2 of a round means that there is action aplenty, something that ATCC has built its reputation on.

The racing has always been close in this championship, but in recent seasons, the competitiveness has skyrocketed. With the appearance and rise of talents such as Jesper Taulborg, Francisco Villar and Stoffel Vandoorne – who only recently won the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup title in real life! – the speed, racing nous and professionalism required to succeed in ATCC has gradually risen every season.

This upcoming season sees the debut of some new faces and the return of many familiar ones. So without further ado, let’s start our season preview by talking about the drivers for this season of the American Touring Car Championship!

Drivers and Teams

For the most part, league regulars like Keith Barrick (Season 1 champion), Francisco Villar (Season 3 runner-up), Miguel Neto, Yuri Braham, Rhys Gardiner, Glenn Petersen, Eric Nelson, and many more, have returned to contest the season once again. But new names, both from within TPS and outside it, have signed up to the league to try their hand. Names like Jack Keithley, World Supertech Series season 1 champion, and Fabian Werner and

Australia Represent: XSimGear.com.au Motorsport (above) and Terra Australis Racing (far right).

[Image courtesy of Paul Wood]
Andrew Waring – both unknown constants that may add to the mix – have put their names on the signup list.

Terra Australis Racing, league veterans and the biggest Australian contingent in the league, now boast a new livery and a new sponsor in In2SimGear. Another Australian team, XsimGear.com.au Motorsport, return for a second attempt at ATCC, being represented by long-time TPS racer Rhys Gardiner and later, new team member Matthew Barron.

On the European front, Dan Allinson and Mike Bell drive for Plimspeed racing, a team named in honour of the late Eric Plimmer – a fellow sim racer and friend to many drivers in TPS, who sadly succumbed to the effects of cancer recently. Dan and Mike will undoubtedly be hoping to do Eric’s name honour during their campaign in ATCC. Dariusz Swiderski and Ethan Bass drive for SimSpeed Racing, having helped with the development of the custom mod used this season, which will be explained in greater detail later.

A bold statement: Team Walk Racing’s liveries. [Image courtesy of Caramidaru Bogdan]
Meanwhile, Alexander Lauritzen, Simon Kilov, Lasse Sørensen and Chris Shepherd represent a new team by the name of Walk Racing – organised by former league regular Caramidaru Bogdan, who is known as “Mr. C” in ATCC, but who sadly will not be racing this season. “Why race when we can walk by you?” seems to be their team motto, and their livery is among the most striking on the grid; overall, a bold statement indeed.

Calendar

The calendar for ATCC season 5 also sees a mix of familiar and new ground. The switch back to the RACE 07 platform, after plans to use rFactor for season 5 fell through, means that there were some track choices that weren’t able to be carried over – thus, this season’s calendar consists almost entirely of tracks that have been visited before, but are definitely favourites.

Round 1 visits Watkins Glen, an old favourite that has featured in every season of ATCC thus far. This fast, flowing and wide track has always been good for racing, with cars that are high power and low drag being favoured, and slipstreaming being a essential part of on-track battles.

Round 2 moves from the East to the West of the USA, when the field holds two 19-lap races around Laguna Seca. This bucking, diving,

Eventual Season 4 champion Stoffel Vandoorne leads the field into Laguna Seca’s famous Corkscrew last season.

twisting and turning circuit in California has history and reputation behind it – which drivers can successfully brave the fabled Corkscrew?

The third round of the championship crosses the pond to Europe for the season’s first international race. The Hungaroring, host of the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix since 1985, has been used in preseason events last season, but this is the first time it will be used in the season proper. Flat, technical and twisty, it will favour drivers who have set up their cars with good mechanical grip.

Round 4 moves back to the United States, to Birmingham in Alabama. Barber Motorsports Park was a favourite track to visit for club races in the pre-ATCC days, and it finally makes its ATCC debut in season 5. Rolling elevation changes and blind turns will reward the most daring of drivers.

Round 5 is the marquee event of ATCC – the double oval race at KW Superspeedway. With all drivers switching to the rear-wheel drive BMW for this round, expect special-edition paint jobs, trains of drafting cars, and close wheel-to-wheel racing at scary speeds!

The sixth round of the season goes to Europe for the second and final time, to the fictional Vitus Parc circuit in Switzerland. The club layout of this facility has been a Touring Pro Series favourite, and promises an exciting event with its fast chicanes and rolling turns.

The end of the season goes back to America, to two classic road courses. The first is the rollercoaster of Mid-Ohio. Tight and twisty, with drivers barely getting a rest over the course of a lap, this legendary track will surely provide a frenetic penultimate round of the season. All eyes will be on turn 5, to see if any drivers will become victims of the infamous car-flipping kerb at the apex…

The second of the two classics is Road America – America’s Monza. With a perennial, high-speed layout dating back to the 1950s, Road America is the perfect track at which to (hopefully) decide a championship, and conclude the American Touring Car Championship’s run on the RACE 07 platform.

Cars

The grand finale for SimBin’s Touring Car sim sees ATCC using a custom mod once more. Masterminded by Michael van Scheppingen of SimSpeed Racing, the SSR S2000 mod balances the cars of the Super 2000 class and introduces new parameters to make their handling and setup methods more realistic. Every car has its strengths and weaknesses, and in the hands of a good driver, any of the

A wide selection of cars promises variety throughout the field.

cars used will do well in a race.

The cars should be familiar to anyone who has watched or followed Super 2000 racing since 2003 – cars like the Alfa Romeo 156, Vauxhall Vectra, SEAT Leon and BMW 3-series are the current popular choices among the drivers. Currently, the Alfa seems to be the dominant car in terms of sheer numbers, but the BMWs have always attracted some of the most unearthly-quick drivers in the league, and as said earlier, no car should be discounted due to the balancing this mod applies. It will surely be an interesting championship car-wise!

It is a universal rule that a good racing series, real or virtual, will have one winning combination: good drivers, challenging tracks, interesting cars and great racing. Taking all of the above into account, it would seem that season 5 of the American Touring Car Championship is looking to be the best yet. Will the “Old Reliable” RACE 07 go out with a bang? We’ll be one step closer to finding out this Friday, November 16!

As always, ATCC will be broadcasted live on MultiBC, Touring Pro Series’ broadcast partner. Remember to keep your finger on the TPS pulse by liking Touring Pro Series on Facebook, following Touring Pro Series on Twitter and subscribing to the Touring Pro Series YouTube channel. You will be updated with articles, race reports and replays of live broadcasts of all of our leagues, including ATCC!

We’ll see you at Watkins Glen on November 16, with the broadcast kicking off at 9:15pm EST!

For more information on ATCC, such as league history, signups and more, visit http://www.touringproseries.com/atcc/ and check out the links on the top toolbar.

ATCC S4 Round 7 Report: In-Depth

The penultimate round of the American Touring Car Championship’s 4thseason was the usual mix of excitement, drama and unpredictability, with a new championship leader being produced.

Join me as I recap Round 7, held at the amazing Adelaide Street Circuit!

 

Qualifying

The name that has been appearing at the top of the tables for much of the season secured his place there once again – Stoffel Vandoorne took pole position, followed by Team Portugal’s Francisco Villar. Villar’s squadmates, Hugo Goncalves and Andre Caiado, took 3rd and 4th. Alessio Luchessi and Miguel Neto filled the 3rd row of the grid, followed by Keith Barrick and Yuri Braham. The top 10 on the grid was completed by Jesper Taulborg and Vincent Kan.

 

Race 1

From the rolling start, Vandoorne kept his lead. The field began approaching the first set of turns, the Senna Chicane: a high-kerbed complex bounded by tyre bundles at either apex. Initially, all got through the chicane with little incident, apart from Braham, who had to sidestep turn 2 and take a shortcut through the gravel trap. However, as they exited the complex, Elio Luchessi and Alexander Lauritzen were turned around by Reggie Blain and Dariusz Swiderski respectively. This left them at the rear of the field.

As Vandoorne did his party trick of pulling away from the field, Rhys Gardiner took advantage of incidents in front of him to move to the cusp of the top 10. Meanwhile, FDR CanDen teammates Barrick and Taulborg found themselves racing closely as positions were shuffled.

“Single file waiting game” has to be the term I’ve used the most in these reports this season. This round was no exception for some laps – the tension rose as it has so many times this season, with everyone waiting for everyone else to make a mistake. The poor competitor who was the first to slip was season 1 champion Barrick, who caught too much of the turn 2 tyre bundle and flipped. Braham, Kan, Swiderski, Gardiner and Michael van Scheppingen were all involved in the incident, either having made contact with Barrick’s upside-down car or having to swerve to avoid it.

Swiderski ended up with a puncture and had to pit for repairs, while Kan’s car was too damaged to continue, forcing the season 2 champion into retirement. Braham and Gardiner, however, benefited from the incident, moving up to 7th and 8th respectively.

As the mandatory pit window passed and everyone had taken their stops, little overtaking happened. Considering that this was a street circuit, with walls all around, this was not really a surprise – one small mistake and the least one could expect was a damaged car. Jesper Taulborg found this out the hard way, flipping at turn 2 in the same manner as Barrick did earlier in the race. Goncalves narrowly avoided Taulborg’s out-of-control Honda to take 5th place, leaving Taulborg splitting Braham and Gardiner in 7th.

There was no trouble, yet again, for Stoffel Vandoorne, as he cruised to victory ahead of Francisco Villar. Andre Caiado finished the race in 3rd place. After Keith Barrick, Vincent Kan, Alexander Lauritzen and others had races to forget, Race 2 was their chance to make things right again…

 

Race 2

Rhys Gardiner finished 8th in race 1, which meant he started from pole for race 2 with the top 8 being reversed. He was followed in the top 10 by Jesper Taulborg, Yuri Braham, Hugo Goncalves, Miguel Neto, Andre Caiado, Francisco Villar, Stoffel Vandoorne, Reggie Blain and Michael van Scheppingen.

At the standing start, the BMWs of Villar and Vandoorne made the expected fast getaway, scything past either side of the pack as they approached turn 1. As Gardiner led the way, chaos erupted behind him: Alessio Luchessi’s late braking manoeuvre went wrong as he clipped Pedro Amaral, who then careered into Gary Lennon. Lennon then touched Alden Edwards, who then went into Dariusz Swiderski. Daniel Wood slowed up to avoid this large incident, but it was only compounded when Michael Carver accidentally ran into the back of his car, completing the conga line.

While Gardiner continued leading from Taulborg, Villar and Vandoorne continued to climb up the order, but that would be the last time the two BMW drivers would be close to each other for the rest of the race. Villar started making small mistakes, letting his teammates past, while Vandoorne made a conceited effort to snatch positions off Taulborg and then Gardiner. Vandoorne attempted an epic move up the inside of the Dequetteville hairpin, and only just managed to avoid contact with the two leaders. He ended up on the inside of Taulborg for the next three left-handers, and pulled the criss-cross on him by the end of the lap to take 2nd, setting his sights on Gardiner.

As Lauritzen and Barrick made good recoveries to 7th and 11th respectively, Villar’s luck was worsening. Various large errors, including a flip at the Senna Chicane, left last season’s championship runner-up in 18th place.

Meanwhile, Vandoorne was really putting the pressure on Gardiner. The Belgian eventually got right up to the Australian’s bumper, and Gardiner cracked under the pressure – he became another casualty of the turn 2 tyre barrier. Taulborg was slowed up slightly by this incident, and Neto took advantage to take 2nd place off the season 3 champion, but by the end of the race, Taulborg had retaken his position.

As the race wore on, Gardiner suffered much the same problems as Villar – small mistakes, big mistakes, contact with other drivers, all conspiring to drop him down the order. As the drivers began taking their mandatory pit stops once again, a familiar sight emerged: Vandoorne far out in the lead, with no-one putting up enough of a fight to keep up with him.

The final carriage in a train of humiliation for Villar came when he made a slow exit from turn 3, and ended up being turned around by Blain. Later on in the race, the last victim of Turn 2 was Paul wood, who hit the tyres and flipped into retirement. This ended up gifting a place to Villar and Gardiner – 14th and 15th, the last two finishing places.

Up front, after a long and arduous race for many, Stoffel Vandoorne came home the victor yet again, with Jesper Taulborg in 2nd. Alexander Lauritzen put in a fine recovery drive to finish 3rd from a 14th-place start.

 

Standings

In a scenario that could never have been imagined at round 1, Stoffel Vandoorne now leads the drivers championship by 13 points from Miguel Neto. Jesper Taulborg lies in 3rd place at the moment, with 515 points, while his teammate Keith Barrick is only 1 point behind with 514. He is followed by Francisco Villar and Andre Caiado, while Yuri Braham in 7th is the lowest-placed driver who can still take the title at Sebring. Granted, this would only be possible if Braham won both races and none of the other contenders showed up (hey, it could happen!), but it’s still an amazing fact that goes to show how competitive this league is.

In terms of the teams championship, Team Portugal leads with a nicely-rounded 1111 points – but FDR CanDen is not far behind with 1108. We shall see at Sebring who will take the crown – but with Sebring being suited to both Villar’s rear-wheel drive BMW and Neto’s high-top-speed Chevrolet Cruze, Barrick and Taulborg in their Hondas will have their work cut out for them!

Check out the standings here: http://results.touringproseries.com/league.php?leagueid=2&type=introduction&menu=season

 

Looking Forward

This is it. The last round of the championship takes place tonight. Sebring International Raceway, hallowed ground in American Sports Car racing, plays host to the championship finale for ATCC Season 4. Who will take the champion’s laurel? Will it be the dominant Vandoorne? The Iceman, Taulborg? The seasoned campaigner, Barrick? The in-form Neto? The highly skilled Villar? Or will another competitor surprise us all? Find out at 9:15pm EST tonight, by going to this link: www.touringproseries.com/broadcast

 

See you all there!

ATCC S4 Round 6 Report: In-depth

If one word were to sum up this round of the American Touring Car Championship, it would be “crazy”. As the first event of the season with changeable weather, Round 6 at the fictional Vitus Parc Club threw up many surprises.

But we’ll get to that

in a bit. Here’s the in-depth report from Vitus to get you pumped up for Adelaide!

Stoffel Vandoorne was once again the class of the ATCC field at Vitus.

 

Qualifying

One thing that wasn’t a surprise was Stoffel Vandoorne taking pole position. The dominant Belgian managed to hold off Alexander Lauritzen for first position on the starting grid, followed by Francisco Villar and Keith Barrick. Hugo Goncalves and Jesper Taulborg took up the third row, while Miguel Neto and Andre Caiado were 7th and 8th.

Neto’s Father had sadly passed away in the days before the race, and as a result, Neto and all of the other Team Portugal members were sporting black hoods on their cars. Neto’s was inscribed with the text “Obrigado por tudo Pai” – a message thanking his Father for being a part of his life.

The top 10 was completed by Alessio Luchessi and Vincent Kan.

 

Race 1

Vandoorne and Villar got the usual good start, but coming into turn 1, Villar fell back. He was still able to run near the front, which was more than can be said for Lauritzen, who suffered some strange lag and went into the wall halfway round. Missing his bumper, Lauritzen pitted for repairs, but eventually retired.

As drivers throughout the field scrabbled for position, Vandoorne yet again played the cool card and began to pull away from the leading pack. Meanwhile, Gary Lennon was having no such luck, making a mistake and losing some positions after running quite well in the opening laps.

The racing eventually turned into a now-familiar sight for ATCC viewers – a mostly single file waiting game, with the tension between the drivers almost palpable. The mandatory pit window came around soon enough, and the question on everyone’s minds was, who would pit first? Among others, Reggie Blain answered that question by electing to take an early pitstop.

Unfortunately for Blain, it almost went belly-up. As Lennon was jostling with Michael Carver for position, he accidentally turned Carver around in turn 1 – right as Blain was exiting the pit lane! The construction of Vitus’ pit exit meant that Carver essentially became a road block for Blain, delaying his exit from the pits.

As racers began piling into the pit lane, Neto was running well, having moved up in the order from 7th to 5th. The opposite happened for Rhys Gardiner, who was running 12th when his rear left tyre caught the grass at the entry of turn 1. Gardiner would eventually finish 15th.

Near the end of the race, FDR CanDen drivers Keith Barrick and Jesper Taulborg – both former champions – were running a comparatively quiet race in 3rd and 4th respectively. That is, until Taulborg got a run on the outside of the main straight, and pulled a classic criss-cross move under Barrick in turn 1. This left Taulborg in the final podium position by the end of the race.

Up front, Stoffel Vandoorne put in a Sebastien Vettel-like drive to come home in first place, ahead of Francisco Villar in 2nd. Taulborg, as noted earlier, finished 3rd.

 

Race 2

Andre Caiado headed up the grid for race 2, by virtue of finishing 8thin race 1. Behind him was Yuri Braham, followed on the grid by Hugo Goncalves, Miguel Neto, Keith Barrick, Jesper Taulborg, Francisco Villar, Stoffel

But for others, the changeable weather of Race 2 threw a spanner into the works!

Vandoorne, Vincent Kan and Alessio Luchessi.

Race 2 was where the surprises really kicked in. The standing start was the first to offer some drama: Villar and Vanndoone got the expected great starts in their BMWs, but shockingly, they came together in the maelstrom of cars headed down the front straight. Villar came out better off, with Vandoorne having fallen slightly behind after the contact.

The next shock came as Alexander Lauritzen bumped Reggie Blain, sending the latter into the barriers, off which he then ricocheted into Duarte Lopes. It could have been a massive wreck with the midfield pack bearing down upon them, but fortunately, no other drivers were harmed in this incident.

On lap 2, irony hit the FDR CanDen teammates quite hard, if you’ll pardon the pun. Barrick accidentally made contact with Taulborg, sending the latter sideways and holding them both up, which let Vandoorne through into 5th place.

Caiado was holding onto his lead, but only barely – Braham and Villar both wanted a slice of the pie, the top 3 locked in an intense battle for a suspenseful few laps. Braham eventually got past to take the race lead, but Villar briefly fell back under pressure from his teammate Miguel Neto, throwing another spanner into the mix.

Meanwhile, Vandoorne was eating away at the top 4 like one would eat a fine cheese; pensively, patiently, contemplating, but chewing all the same. This was briefly shattered by a resurgent Taulborg passing him, but Vandoorne decided to take his mandatory pit stop early in the hope that it would regain him an advantage. As it would turn out, it did.

Following Vandoorne’s cue, competitors began pitting for new slick tyres. Pedro Amaral and Rhys Gardiner, on the other hand, elected to stay out – weather was still a factor, and there was a possibility that rain could fall before the mandatory pit window closed.

By the time the window had nearly closed, Gardiner was leading the race, but Vandoorne had played the strategy game very well up to this point – he had taken advantage of the cold new tyres of his rivals by pitting a lap early, and had moved up into 2nd – with positions corrected, he was essentially leading the race.

Gardiner’s tyres were wearing, and he was soon swallowed up by the lead pack. However, just as the racers entered the final lap of the pit window, the sky turned grey. It began to rain – heavily. Gardiner came in to the pits to serve his stop, taking four wet tyres in anticipation of the new conditions. Vandoorne continued to lead the race, but he and the rest of the leaders perplexed commentators Toby Davis and Ryan Callan by staying out on slick tyres.

They soon began to feel the pinch. The track wetness level increased enormously, and with that, the combination of slick tyres and a wet racetrack took its toll in a lethal way. Cars began sliding everywhere, struggling to stay on the tarmac – casualties included Neto and Barrick, who slithered off the track at turn 1. Elsewhere, other racers were hitting walls and fighting cars that had their behaviour exaggerated by the wet conditions. The leaders began a Mexican standoff of sorts. Who would bite the bullet and take wet tyres?

The answer was this: None of them did!

As chaos erupted, Toby and Ryan’s attempts at calling the action dissolved into what seemed to be a who-can-wreck-their-vocal-cords-first contest. There was simply too much happening at once. It reached a height when Gary Lennon spun right in front of Vandoorne, but managed to hit the escape button just in time!

The amazing turn of events was capped off by Vandoorne taking the win, with Miguel Neto coming in a fantastic 2nd place, with Villar 3rd – and Gardiner using his wet tyres to climb from 16th to 4th in the final 5 laps of the race. Unfortunately, Villar had a penalty imposed for actions earlier in the race which demoted him to 5th, promoting Gardiner to the final podium spot after the event.

 

Standings

The drivers championship standings for ATCC are figuratively being spun in a blender at the moment. Keith Barrick still leads the championship, but only 5 points separate him from an in-form Miguel Neto. A further 6 points separates Neto from the hard-charging Stoffel Vandoorne, whose level of domination has not been seen before in ATCC. It’s another 3 points back to Francisco Villar, and Taulborg is further back by only 2 points! Anything could happen in the last two rounds of the season, so close eyes will be trained on the top 5.

In the teams standings, the battle is a bit more relaxed. FDR CanDen leads Team Portugal by a reasonable margin of 24 points. However, it would pay to keep an eye on how these two teams decide to attack in the final races of the season. Could Team Orders come into effect? We’ll find out next round!

Check out the standings here: http://results.touringproseries.com/league.php?leagueid=2&type=introduction&menu=season

 

Looking Forward

Speaking of next round, it happens tonight! ATCC will be visiting the streets of Adelaide in South Australia for round 7 of the championship. Two races around the tortuous circuit used by the V8 Supercars will most definitely test the mettle of the drivers, and it should mainly be a game of who can stay out of those evil concrete walls.

Tune in to www.touringproseries.com/broadcast from 9:15pm EST tonight to see what happens!

ATCC S4 Round 5 Report: In-Depth

On Friday March 2, 2012, ATCC visited one of the most iconic tracks on the North American continent. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has been one of the most revered racetracks in the US, if not the entire world, for decades – not

The newcomer vs. the reigning champion - Stoffel Vandoorne defends against Jesper Taulborg in Race 2.

least because of its daunting “Corkscrew” complex. One of the most extreme elevation changes in the world of racing, combined with narrow kerbs and quicksand-like runoff, played havoc with the ATCC field!

 

Qualifying

Francisco Villar took pole for this event, with a returning Alexander Lauritzen slotting behind him in 2nd. 3rd was taken by Yuri Braham, while Stoffel Vandoorne was 4th, and the third row of the grid was taken up by Andre Caiado and Jesper Taulborg. Vincent Kan and Miguel Neto took up 7th and 8th, and the top 10 was completed by Hugo Goncalves and Pedro Amaral. Championship leader Keith Barrick had a less-than-ideal qualifying, lining up 12th.

 

Race 1

As the field pulled away from the rolling start, Villar fell back, leaving Lauritzen to assume the lead and Vandoorne to take advantage. As the field braked into turn 1, it all went horribly wrong once again for Rhys Gardiner, who lost grip and spun off in the braking zone, rejoining in last place. Two other drivers who suffered on the first lap were Kan, who was bumped off in Turn 3, and Dariusz Swiderski, who turned in on Kane Lasky in turn 4 and also ended up in the gravel.

Barrick was taking advantage of these incidents to move up to 8th, while Lauritzen extended his lead. Villar suffered another bout of bad luck when he lost the rear of his BMW coming out of the corkscrew, and then being hit in succession by Caiado and then Taulborg. This left Villar in 17th position – a far cry from his first-place start.

Meanwhile, Lauritzen and Vandoorne continued to pull away from the rest of the field, setting up an epic battle that would take place after the mandatory pitstops. When the mandatory pit window opened, the first racers to pit were Gary Lennon, Villar and Gardiner. The lower half of the field began filing into the pitlane, hoping to gain an advantage on those in front of them by pitting early for fresh tyres.

The scramble in the pits was followed by a hairy moment in the Corkscrew from Barrick, who overtook Braham with two wheels on the gravel under braking – contact ensued, but both were able to continue unharmed. The last driver to pit was Kane Lasky, who was briefly able to hold off a hard-charging Lauritzen and Vandoorne before pitting himself.

Villar had moved up to 11th, which seemed to be a glimmer of hope for the pole-sitter, but it came crashing down once again when he caught the gravel on the exit of Turn 6 and slid, being demoted to 13th place. It was the opposite for Barrick, who moved up to 5th.

Gardiner, who had gotten back up to 15th, was being pressured by Bon Accord drivers Kan and Reggie Blain. Kan managed to get by, but on the last lap Gardiner came off third-best when Lasky hit Blain into him in an attempted braking manoeuvre in the Corkscrew.

Back up front, however, the fight for the lead was intensifying between Lauritzen and Vandoorne. The former was struggling with more worn-out tyres, leaving the latter to pile the pressure on – Vandoorne even attempted a move around the outside of the last corner at one point. However, he couldn’t make it stick, leaving Lauritzen to take victory in Race 1. The podium was completed by Villar’s teammate, Miguel Neto.

 

Race 2

Alessio Luchessi’s 8th-place finish in Race 1 secured him pole for race 2. He was followed in the top 10 by Taulborg, Caiado, Braham, Barrick, Neto, Vandoorne, Lauritzen, Lennon, and Eric Nelson.

Since race 2 has a standing start, it is almost a given that the rear-wheel drive BMWs will have the advantage. But Stoffel Vandoorne took that advantage to new heights – in an almost tit-for-tat copy of what he did at the Nurburgring, he rocketed to the lead from 7th place before the field even started braking for turn 1!

However, it was not the same story for Francisco Villar: his car’s rear-felt quarter was tagged by Nelson on the exit of turn 2, which sent him sliding. This left him at right-angles to the oncoming midfield – the ensuing crush and wreck left 5 cars off the track, and terminal damage for Villar. He escaped to his garage, topping off a horrid night of racing that may as well have been taken from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft.

As the rest of the field carried on, Lennon experienced a problem when he somehow took turn 6 sideways, going from 8th to 10th. Near the end of lap 2, Duarte Lopes pulled a surprise move on Luchessi for 8th position at the final corner. Stoffel Vandoorne, on the other hand, was pulling away – but Taulborg was keeping him honest, staying in close range.

As the field began to settle into a rhythm and positions were comfortably assumed, the pit window came around to shake things up all over again. It was much the same deal as last race – cars at the rear of the field largely pitting first to try and gain some track position on the front runners. However, this time it was the on-track leader, Vandoorne, who was the last to pit. He had quite a job to do holding off Taulborg, who was on warmed-up tyres and had already gotten into the groove. Vandoorne’s car was a tad skaty as he tried to stay ahead of the Season 3 champion.

Meanwhile, a chain of cars was battling for 3rd. Caiado held the position while Barrick and Braham jostled for 4th, followed by Lauritzen and Neto. On the last lap, Rhys Gardiner and Reggie Blain were scrapping over a position in the midfield when Gardiner misjudged his braking point and hit Blain off. The redressing of this incident cost both drivers valuable positions.

Ultimately, Stoffel Vandoorne was able to keep it all together and win Race 2, followed closely by Jesper Taulborg. Andre Caiado was able to take advantage of the fight between Barrick and Braham, and come home 3rd.

 

Standings

Keith Barrick holds his championship lead, but behind him there’s been another shuffle. Miguel Neto is now in 2nd, while Jesper Taulborg is 3rd – and Francisco Villar has dropped to 4th. Stoffel Vandoorne remains a possible dark horse for the championship, only 31 points behind the championship leader.

In the teams standings, the battle between FDR CanDen and Team Portugal has lessened somewhat – the team headed by Barrick and Taulborg now has a sizeable buffer over Villar and Neto’s squad.

To check out the standings, click on this link: http://results.touringproseries.com/league.php?leagueid=2&type=introduction&menu=season

 

Looking Forward

Tonight, round 6 kicks off at Vitus Parc Club. This fictional Swiss circuit is challenging enough in the dry – so how will it be in changeable conditions? Go to http://www.touringproseries.com/broadcast/ to find out. There’s $500 total in prizes on offer from Viper Technologies tonight, so make sure you get to the broadcast and watch for your chance to win!

 

See you all at Vitus!