With only two weeks left in their 2012 Season Three, members of the Red Sox Racing League traveled to Phillip Island in Victoria, Australia for the “Victorian 30 at Phillip Island”. Run counterclockwise, the 2.762 mile course features twelve corners and a stunning view of the ocean. The course is situated in a beautiful island location and is always a favorite destination for RSR fans who travel the globe keeping tabs on their favorite drivers. “We love coming to the races down here”, said Christine Preston. “The racing is fun, but the beaches are the real attraction. The sun, the sand, the surf… what’s not to like?! Besides, you never know when you’ll see Wilbur Gildersleeve, Jr signing autographs at the nearby clothing optional beach!”
While Wilbur’s cameo titillated the fans, the other league drivers got down to the business at hand seeking the few remaining championship points available. Les Turner spent much of this season wearing a bride’s maid dress while Brad Vincent maintained a vice grip on the top spot in the Class A HPD field, so it was no surprise their battle would continue in Australia. What did turn out to be a surprise however, was how the race ended for the front runners.
Turner and Vincent were both fast in qualifying, with Turner’s lap time of 1:17.912 edging out Vincent’s effort of 1:17.968 for pole position. Troy Harder (3rd), Douglas Beard (4th), John Koscielniak (5th), Terry Daul (6th), Ed Sutcliff (7th), Andrew Feldman (8th), William Kabela (9th), Divina Galica (10th), and Kyle Young (11th) completed the HPD starting grid.
Only five Corvette drivers made the trip to Australia. Paul Hesla dominated qualifying and secured his 6th pole of the season with an impressive lap time of 1:24.692. Jeff Thomas (2nd), Dennis Griffen (3rd), Scott Husted (4th), and Dean Ayer (5th) completed the Corvette starting grid.
The HPD field took the green flag without incident, but things were not as easy for the Corvette field. Pushing hard to maintain position, Hesla carried so much speed into the first right hand corner that he could not keep the car on the track. Griffen and Thomas both passed Hesla as he slowed to regain control of his car in the infield grass. Griffen found his luck hard to believe. “I was surprised to take the lead so early. We weren’t as fast as those other guys in qualifying, so I figured my passing opportunity would come much longer into the run if I took care of the tires and had a clean pit stop.”
While Griffen maintained a steady lead over the Corvette field the HPD leaders took turns nipping at each other for the top spots.
Running nose to tail for the top 4 spots, Turner, Harder, Vincent and Beard barely gave each other an inch as they jostled for position. Koscielniak, Sutcliff, Daul and Feldman followed running consistent laps in the hopes of capitalizing on any error made by the lead drivers. Galica, a veteran F1 and sports car driver showed more patience than her fellow competitors. She chose to run a more conservative race at Phillip Island in the hopes of avoiding on-track incidents and to preserve her tires. “I was simply trying to keep the car on the track for the long haul tonight”, said Galica afterwards. Her strategy was foiled on lap four when the normally unflappable driver lost control of her car exiting T11. She lost valuable time to the leaders while recovering from the subsequent spin and trip through the grass.
Harder and Vincent were both pushing Turner for the lead when the veteran driver had a slight bobble in the middle of T2 on lap six. Luckily, Harder reacted quickly enough to avoid a race-ending accident as his car lightly tapped the rear of Turner’s “The Grinch who stole Christmas” Batmobile. Turner and Harder both lost some momentum and Vincent seized the chance to get past Harder for P2 as the group of drivers headed down the hill towards T4.
Vincent’s early luck vanished several laps later. First Beard tagged him from behind as Vincent slowed for traffic in T4 on lap nine, then Vincent made contact with the left rear of Turner’s car when the leader attempted to pit on lap eleven. Neither incident was serious enough to slow Vincent from his pursuit of the lead, but they rattled the defending league champion. Vincent chose to take fresh tires during his pit stop on lap 12 which left him with plenty of ground to make up as the other HPD drivers chose to take fuel only. He re-entered the race in 7th position but quickly made it past Feldman who pitted a lap later, and then past Young, who pitted on lap 14.
Young arrived late to Phillip Island and started at the back of the HPD field, but he conserved his tires and made excellent fuel mileage while keeping pace with the lead pack. His strategy paid off. After passing Daul, Sutcliff and Feldman in the pits, Young found himself in 6th position. But he kept up his charge and gained 2 more positions by passing Beard and Vincent when those drivers had incidents.
Husted looked to be turning in a solid podium performance in the Corvette race, but was forced to retire early after his car suffered heavy damage on lap fourteen. His accident was similar to Hesla’s lap one incident, with Husted carrying too much speed into T1 and going off course and into the infield grass. Instead of slowing and rejoining the race in one piece however, Husted’s car continued at race speed and careened through the infield before crossing back over the track in the middle of T2. It then continued sliding through the gravel and grass until it slammed into the outside tire barrier. Husted walked away from the accident, but declined to speak with reporters after the race.
Beard also lost a chance for a podium finish when he got loose exiting T4 on lap sixteen. He appeared to have gathered it back up in T5, but the car got away from him again in T6. His hopes of a top-3 finish were dashed when his right side tires caught the dirt and sent his car into the grass.
Still recovering from the effects of his early race mishaps, Vincent was in 5th place and struggling to work his way back into contention when things fell apart on lap sixteen. He stayed too far to the right edge of the track in T11-12 and spun out when his wheels caught the grass. He was then forced to sit and watch as four HPDs and a Corvette passed him. Unsure of the extent of damage his car had suffered, Vincent tested his front suspension with some quick turns of the wheel on the high speed front stretch and accidentally sent his car into another spin. He barely managed to correct the mistake before his car came to a stop along the outside wall approaching T1.
Class A results
Turner led the first twelve laps of the HPD event, but gave up the top spot after his failed attempt to pit on lap eleven. Young inherited the lead for one lap before pitting , and then relinquished it to Harder. Harder led the final ten laps of the race and crossed the line with a slim 1.1 second lead over Koscielniak. Turner finished in 3rd place. Young (4th), Beard (5th), Daul (6th), Feldman (7th), Sutcliff (8th), Kabela (9th), and Galica (10th), all crossed the line on the lead lap. Vincent retired early and was scored seven laps down. “This was definitely a race to forget”, said Vincent afterwards. Turner was equally as disappointed in the outcome. “We had the car to beat here tonight. I was running clean laps until we hit that traffic just before my planned pit stop. I’m pretty sure I’d have had the win if I had been able to get into the pits on that lap.”
Harder, Koscielniak, Daul, Sutcliff, and Kabela earned bonus points for completing the race without incident.
The championship points race in the Class A is going down the wire. Vincent has a six point lead on Turner with one race remaining. Koscielniak (3rd), Daul (4th), and Sutcliff (5th), round out the top-5 spots.
Class B results
Hesla’s lap one mistake was all Griffen needed to secure his first win of the season. “Phillip Island is a track where it is really easy to overheat your tires. I knew I could consistently drive near my qualifying speed in the race, and I knew traffic would come into play before it was over. My game plan was to conserve the tires and gamble for fuel only during the pit stop, but everything changed when Paul went off course. All three of the top Corvettes were running identical lap times, so I chose to pit before the HPDs caught us. Avoiding them and having a clean entry to pit road was exactly what I needed to keep the lead.”
Thomas crossed the line in 2nd place, while Hesla was forced to settle for 3rd after he was caught speeding on pit road. Ayer (4th) was one lap down, while Husted’s early exit from the event put him in last place and ten laps down.
Griffen and Thomas earned bonus points for completing the race without incident.
Griffen has a two point lead over Hesla in the overall championship race. Thomas, Rhyne, and Hardin round out the top-5 positions.
RSR members head to Belgium for the “Season III Final” at the Circuit Zolder Grand Prix course on 12/06/12.
Results / Standings / Video coverage
League Standings: http://rsr.ileaguerace.com/champ/show_champ/Red-Sox-Racing-League/355
League Video Site: http://www.youtube.com/user/draftin11