The penultimate round of the 2021 SMRC eSports Lockdown Cup saw the field descend on the historic Oran Park in Australia. The roller-coaster ride of a circuit, famous for it's sweeping corners and figure-of-eight layout was closed in 2010 to make-way for a housing development, but thanks to the wonders of the digital world, it lives on forever in the iRacing simulation.
Jordan had never broken into the top four during any of the practice sessions, but felt comfortable with the car and the track. Heading into qualifying, hopes were that he could secure a spot on the first two rows of the grid. Expectations were about to be exceeded though, as a neat and tidy effort put him on pole position - the team's first such achievement of the 2021 season!
"It is very easy to overdrive around here". said Jordan. "and if you go a little deep or a little wide you can loose your lap time due to track-limits penalties. I just kept it as clean and smooth as I could and to be honest was a little surprised to get pole. But I'll take it!"
At the lights, a night of intense action immediately got underway as Jordan picked-up a little too much wheelspin, allowing Michael Weddell and Sandy Mitchell through as the field swept into Coca-Cola corner for the first time. Jack Eye was also alongside on the exit, dropping Gronkowski to fourth as contact and spinners unfolded behind.
The leading quartet started opened a small gap back to Stuart McPhaden, with the quartet slowly edging away from the rest of the field.
As the race entered it's closing stages, Mitchell tried a move up the inside for the lead at Coca-Cola corner, but ran wide in the process, dropping him down the order. McPhaden and Gronkowski enjoyed some tense wheel-to-wheel moments, but the racing eventually went the way of the former by the flag. Gronkowski taking home a fourth place form the evening's opening race.
Starting fourth, it was once again all-go as the field streamed through the first few corners, Weddell leading from Eyre, McPhaden and Gronkowski. Over the bridge for the first time and Gronkowski moved up the inside of MacPhaden to take third and set about catching the lead pair.
The trio closed, but Gronkowski was unable to make any headway as the teammates ahead worked together to ensure they didn't leave any openings or slow each other down. Once again the action was saved until the closing stages though, as the leaders went side-by-side through the sweeper into Coca-Cola corner, with Eyre running slightly wide. It was all the invitation Gronkowski needed to seize second place.
Disaster struck a few minutes later for Eye, as a spinning backmarker returned to the track under the bridge right in front of the leaders. Weddell went right, Gronkowski darted left and Eye was left in the middle to collect the stationary car head-on, putting him out of the race.
Gronkowski could smell the victory ahead, and fought to find a way past Weddell in the final few laps. Getting close out of the final corner, Weddell moved to the inside through the sweeper to defend. Gronkowski hung-on round the outside, moving ahead into the braking zone. As he returned to the apex, Weddell was slightly over-committed on the brakes and tapped the rear of Gronkowski's Mazda, just enough to push him wide onto the grass and allowing McPhaden to pass the pair of them.
Gronkowski dropped to fourth behind Keiran Smart, but managed to get back ahead and onto the podium on the final lap, followed-home by the recovering Mitchell.
With the top-eight finishers reversed on the grid for race three, more action was guaranteed. At the lights, Weddell made a stunning start to leapfrog multiple drivers and take third after Coca-Cola corner, with Gronkowski running sixth and engaged in a multi-car fight with McPhaden, Smart and Peter Butcher.
After six-minutes of door-to-door action, Gronkowski was past Smart and Butcher - setting about closing the gat to Ayden Wilson in third, whilst Weddell chased-down leader Cameron Evans. Another series of close exchanges ensued between Wilson and Gronkowski, as the Mazdas fought for the final podium spot.
Gronkowski eventually found a way past once again at Coca-Cola corner, but any thoughts of pulling away to the flag were quickly put to rest as McPhaden once again appeared in his mirrors and chased him all the way.
Gronkowski ultimately held on in a drag-race to the line, securing third and topping a fantastic evening of action with a double-podium result.
"...it's shame as the win was definitely possible."
"An absolutely fantastic evening of racing!" said Jordan. "We thought that this circuit would lend itself to good action and so it proved! The racing out there was so intense tonight and I loved all of the battles, particularly with Stuart, who seemed to be next to me most of the evening, but everyone who I raced was great - very hard but always leaving just enough racing room. The only slight downer was the contact with Michael, as I'd made the pass into the lead and was in-front by the corner, but I think he just mis-judged his braking a little. Very easy to do and I've certainly been guilty of that many-a-time before, so I can't complain too much, that's racing, but it's shame as the win was definitely possible."
"Still, I definitely can't be unhappy with tonight. To take our first pole position of the year was incredible in itself, but then to bag a double-podium on top is fantastic. Thanks to everyone who tuned-in and to all of our official sponsors as always for making all of this possible!"
The next and final round of the SMRC Lockdown Cup takes place on Wednesday the 10th of February, from the iconic Laguna Seca circuit in the USA.
Jordan currently sits 6th in the Championship Standings.