ESR ACC League Round 1/8 – Suzuka

Initially planned as the final round of Season 2, this race was now the first of eight rounds that would make up Season 3. Like the previous season, these would be 50 minute races with a mandatory pit stop for fuel and tires. Before each race there’d be a 60 minute practice and qualifying session. I decided to keep my AMG from Seasons 1 and 2 rather than try and learn a new car.

Prep

For this race (and the season) I especially wanted to concentrate on consistency and concentration – not making any mistakes and keeping the car in good condition is critical to success in a league where people don’t tend to make many mistakes. A 40s delay in the pits getting damage fixed has cost me too many good results. In the weeks running up to the race and I did a lot of prep and really worked on both my times and my concentration. Going into the race, I was pretty sure I could get a decent result if I managed to keep the car in good condition. In practice sessions in the lobby I’d taken 3 seconds off my best times in a week, going from a 2:07.8 baseline to a 2:04.9.

Getting some laps in during the qualifying session

Race

Stupidly, I forgot to share the screen until about 20 minutes in to the race and the live commentary is missing the first 2 laps. In the first couple of laps I got a good start and was as high as 5th, being hounded by Bazoks who was immediately behind me when the commentary started. At the hairpin on lap 3 I made an error, ran wide and Bazoks got past me and I started to fall behind him.

The live stream of the race with commentary

When I started my own recording there were 32 minutes remaining and I was on lap 9 and sitting in 6th, 4.1s behind Bazoks. My car was still undamaged and the incident at the hairpin was the only one I’d had. I’d also set my fastest lap of the race of 2:04.914s. Basoks made a mistake at the 2nd Degner and I was able to close the gap quite a bit and it was only 2.2s at the end of the lap. He must have been struggling with the car as he made a few errors on the following lap and I had the gap down to 1s as we crossed the line. He ran wide again at the first corner and I took 5th place from him. He stayed with a second of me and, now being halfway through the race I pitted at the end of the lap to complete my mandatory stop.

As the car was undamaged, it was a nice and quick stop at just 30s and I rejoined in 6th. Bazoks pitted the following lap and rejoined 4.5s behind me. He wanted the position back and we fought hard over it for the last 20 minutes of the race.

We were quite even matched on pace and the gap stayed at 4.5s for several laps until I made an error between the 2 Degrees and lost time avoiding a spin. The gap was now down to 3.5s. By the end of lap 16 he had it down to 2.5s. I was feeling the pressure and he was reeling me in and he was soon only a few tenths behind me. I held on for what seemed like ages and we had some really good, clean racing. With 3 minutes to go we were closing in on terence-322 and then with 2 minutes to go I ran wide at the first corner again. I stayed on track but the loss of momentum was enough for Basoks to get a run on me and he passed on the way to the first part the esses.

Losing 5th to Basoks with only 2 laps left

Once he was past me he started to pull away and we continued to catch terence-322. Terence-322 lost control at the first corner on what turned out to be the last lap and we both passed him, promoting me up to 5th where I finished, 2.7s behind Basoks.

Lessons Learned

The 30 or so minutes I managed to record of the race

I was really happy with the race result. A 5th place was my best result in any ESR ACC league race and I’d run competitively throughout the whole race and not damaged the car at all. On both stints my tires were overheating so I need to look into better tire management – this might be the reason I seem to set my best times in races when I’m heavy on fuel rather than later on when the car is lighter.

Round 2 is at the Hungaroring which I’ve been to before with the ESR drivers. Last time it was my first race and I was quickly lapped and was very slow. Let’s see how it goes this time around!