It was a very encouraging start to the team's second virtual 2020 racing championship adventure, as the SMRC iRacing eSports Summer Championship got underway at the Okayama International Circuit in Japan. Having made their choice to compete in the Porsche Cayman GT4 rather than the BMW M4 GT4 car, the team were eager to go racing using the iRacing simulation software for the first time. If you missed it live, you can re-watch all of the action at the SMRC YouTube page here!
Preparation for the event in the form of open practice sessions had gone well, with Jordan ending all sessions inside the top five, although with 36 drivers entering the first round, there as always the possibility that a surprise pace-setter or two would appear on race day.
Qualifying The first competitive session of the championship was the 15-minute qualifying session. For the duration of qualifying, each car would have the circuit to themselves to set a maximum of four timed laps - the fastest of which would determine the grid for race 1.
Jordan's initial effort placed him 9th on the grid, but steady improvements over the next two laps saw him vault to second place. An unprecedented pole position looked like it might be on the cards as his final lap unfolded, posting personal-best times in sectors 1 & 2... But it wasn't to be as he ran out of fuel with just three corners to go.
As the 15-minites ended, confirmation came through that Jordan was P2 on the grid, just under 2-tenths of a second shy of Fraser Williamson on pole.
"To put it second on the grid in the actual event is unbelievable!"
"That was completely unexpected!" Said Jordan. "We've looked strong in all the test sessions, but we've always struggled to quick match the pace of the top guys. To put it second on the grid in the actual event is unbelievable! I'm more than a little embarrassed to have to admit I ran out of fuel on the final lap - I slightly miss-judged the consumption and was about half a litre shy of making it to the line. It's a shame as I was up on all my sector times, and seeing that thee was less than two tenths to pole, it would have been very close if I'd finished the lap. But that's another lesson learned - double-check the fuel required!"
Williamson made a perfect getaway at the lights as the rolling-start marked the beginning of racing proper. Jordan slotted neatly into second at the field rounded turn one, but cold tyres caught him out around turn two and a small slide meant that three cars were by before the back straight.
After the excitement of the first lap, the race settled into a rhythm, with the top five breaking away from the rest of the pack in general and Williamson, being chased by Jack Eyre, opening up their own gap in front. Drama at around third-race-distance as Eyre dropped the rear of his Porsche exiting the final corner and brushing the pit wall in a spin which he luckily recovered from. However he had dropped a number of places, elevating Jordan to 4th in the process.
The remainder of Jordan's race was a steady affair, with the gap to Lewis Ward and Ronald Großmann ahead yo-yoing around between 0.5-1.0 seconds but never being small enough for Jordan to try a pass. At the end of the 30minutes, Williamson took a comfortable victory, with Jordan crossing the line in a commendable 4th place.
"I'm really pleased with that race and that result." Said Jordan afterwards. "To be competing with these guys, most of whom are full-time sim racers with affiliations to eSports teams, is something I'd aimed to achieve by the end of the championship - so to be right at the sharp end form the first round is both surprising and also very satisfying! We got lucky with Jack's spin, but it just shows how on-edge you have to be to get the most out of these cars and even the best guys out there can make mistakes. Luckily we had an incident-free race and I'm delighted to come home just shy of the podium!"
The championship rules mandate that the top 15 finishers from race one were flipped on the starting grid for race two - meaning that Jordan lined-up 11th for the rolling-start. Reverse grids, by intention, tend to have a reputation for throwing-up incidents and excitement, and race two was no exception!
Even before the lights went out, carnage started to unfold as the left-hand of the grid moved away too early, with one of the cars up-front then braking to correct the mistake. This resulted in a concertina effect further down the field, with cars being spun and crashed as the green lights eventually come on. Jordan luckily avoided getting caught up in the action as the race got underway, even avoiding spinning cars halfway round the first lap.
The race then seemed to settle, but again the reverse format was providing action. Jordan found himself at the head of a group of cars behind the BMW of Andrew Hopley - who proved difficult to pass due to the inherent straight-line and power advantage of the BMW over the Porsche. After a number of laps stuck behind, Jordan moved up the inside and alongside at turn one, only for Andrew to turn-in and the two to have the lightest of touches at the apex.
It might have only been a 'kiss', but it was enough to send both drivers spinning, with Jordan first being collected by Großmann, who was close behind, and then reversing into the concrete wall on the inside of the track. The latter contact was the most damaging, dislodging his rear wing and meaning that when he did re-join, he was missing some significant rear downforce, making the car very tricky to drive.
The Porsche of Martin Buchan hunted Jordan down as the laps ticked-by, but Jordan was just able to fend off the attacks as the air closed again on Hopley. A mistake from the BMW driver in the closing stages allowed Jordan through and up into the top ten positions again, but it wasn't to be as with only a couple of laps to go the rear tyres on his damaged Porsche cried enough in the final corner and a tank-slapper moment meant that Hopley had a the run on him down the start/finish straight. Into turn one the pair arrived side-by-side again and in a carbon copy with the first incident, contact was made (this time a little harder) and around Jordan went once more. He luckily recovered once more and dragged his battered Porsche home in 12th place to collect valuable points.
"...let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say he didn't realise how close I was..."
"Well, what can you say? Reverse grids definitely are exciting!" Laughed Jordan. "In fairness, I was very lucky at the start to not get caught up in the various incidents out there and my own excitement was a bit more subdued in the grand scheme of things. The first time, I wasn't actually planning to go passed Andrew into turn one, but he braked much earlier than I anticipated so I had to go for the inside, At first he didn't seem to turn in, so I thought he saw me and then at the apex, once I was alongside he did just keep coming over and even though it was a small tap it was enough to ruin both our races, which is a shame. To be honest I don't think it was malicious in any way and just a product of the fact it was a relatively last-minute move and that you just don't have the awareness in the sim that you do in the real world with other cars around you, so I think he just didn't see me. The second contact was a bit harder, and I'm sure he must have known I was there since we'd just drag-raced down the main straight, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say he didn't realise how close I was that time."
"Overall, these things happen - especially in Sim Racing, so I'm not upset about it. It's a shame obviously but at the end of the day we've picked up two good points scoring finishes and there's a lot of racing still to do in the series. A huge thank you to all of our official sponsors and #MyRaceSpace members, who we are absolutely delighted to be able to take with us on track virtually in this championship!"
After Round 1, Jordan is sitting 5th in the Championship. Find the full table of results here.
The next round of the championship takes place on the 25th of June at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.