Round 4 of the Scottish Motor Racing Club eSports iRacing Summer Championship took place at the Road Atlanta circuit in Georgia, USA last Thursday. With the return to the usual two 30-minute race format, with qualifying deciding the grid for race one and the top 15 finishers being reversed for race two.
After showing good pace in the practice sessions, Jordan struggled to hook a complete lap together around the challenging Road Atlanta course in the 5-lap qualifying session. Still, by the end of the 15-minutes, he had registered the 5th fastest time, collecting the final extra bonus point in the process.
Race one started with action from the get-go - which lasted all the way to the flag! Fraser Williamson took an early lead from pole, with Ronald Grossman following-suit in second. After that, the chasing pack was headed by Jack Eyre, followed closely by Andrew Hopley in the BMW M4, Gronkowski, Michael Weddell and Lewis Ward. Coming out of the esses, Eyre ran wide over the rumble strip, causing Hopley to move alongside, but back-out of the throttle in the process. With greater momentum than both, Gronkowski made for the middle of the track, overtaking both drivers in one move.
With Eyre close behind, the new few laps were tense and he repeatedly tried to make the pass on Gronkowski through the chicane. Eventually, he made the move stick and re-took third, but Gronkowski wasn't done yet.
Laps passed and Gronkowski kept the pressure on until Eyre drifted slightly wide around the sweeping turn one. Moving alongside as the pair crested the blind hill to enter the challenging esses section, Gronkowski moved ahead to again steal the final podium spot.
Another mistake from Eyre a couple of laps later dropped him down the order and the fight for third became a two-horse-race as Gronkowski now had Ward on his bumper. The pair started to pull away form the chasing pack, but were never separated by more than a few car widths as the laps ticked-by.
The pressure was intense, but through navigating lapped cars and positioning his Porsche defensively when needed, Gronkowski held-off his attacker until the flag, crossing the line to take he team's first podium finish of the Summer Championship!
Jordan was delighted afterwards: "Wow, that was a fantastic race! It was just constant action from the first corner on and I had some amazing battles out there - wheel-to-wheel so many times. Lewis really put so much pressure on in the second half and although there wasn't as much passing as in the first half of the race, it was such an intense race. I'm so happy to finish on the podium for the first time in the iRacing Summer Championship - especially against the calibre of drivers we have on the grid. I spoke to dad immediately after the race and he said it was like being at the circuit and he was on the edge of his seat the whole time, so thank you to Camber Media and the commentary team for making this not just fun for the drivers but for those watching as well."
Heading into the race, Jordan's plan was to take it easy and stay out of trouble, following incidents in every reverse-grid race so far in the series. However, that plan was to go out of the window even before the start line...
Lining-up 13th on the grid, Gronkowski's inside column of drivers seemed to get a better start than the outside column. As as drivers accelerated flat-out to the start line, he moved up the inside of Weddell around the final turn and just as the cars overlapped, Weddell started to spin as if he had been clipped by Gronkowski - taking both cars into the pit wall.
The pair continued, but a during Gronkowski's recovery drive, he was hit from behind going through turn one, sending him backwards into the barrier. With severe handling issues, he opted to pit for repairs, taking him out of the action for 7 minutes. By the time he re-joined, he was in 24th place and three laps down, but a dogged drive to the finish meant that became 19th by the flag thanks to other retirements.
"Looking at the footage it seems that we didn't touch, but sometimes in the sim, the software will register contact where there is none..."
"What a nightmare race." Said Jordan. "After it was over I immediately looked back on the replay to see what happened at the start and if I'd hit Michael, as I honestly didn't think I did and I didn't feel anything in the car. Looking at the footage it seems that we didn't touch, but sometimes in the sim, the software will register contact where there is none and I suppose that is what happened here. It's a real shame as it took us both out and then led to me being out of position later in the race when I was collected by someone going too deep into turn one. That really damaged the car and it was completely undriveable. So my choices were to quit or to nurse it back to the pits and hope that things would be repairable. Luckily I was able to get back out again and the car felt fine so I could put in some good laps, but we were too far back to be able to make up any ground. I'm still glad I kept going through, because I gained a few places from other people retiring, which means a few more valuable points. This seems to be our luck in the reverse grid races, but hopefully we can turn things around next time!"
"At the end of the day I'm super-delighted with our P3 in race one and even the disaster of race two can't put a dampener on that feeling. It's great to have a virtual podium under our belt!"
After round 4 of the championship, Jordan is in 6th place in the standings. Check out the full results and points table at the SMRC website here.
The next round of the championship takes place at Donington Park on the 6th of August.