The team improve upon their Road Atlanta success by taking a double-podium finish at Donington Park in round 5 of the SMRC eSports iRacing Summer Championship, crowning the event with their first win in the series. Jordan is also awarded the Torq Racewear Driver of the Day!
Following practice at the shorter, National version of the virtual Donington Park circuit, it was clear that evening would be a competitive affair. Jordan had ended the session second quickest, less than a tenth behind the fastest time and only four hundredths ahead of third-spot. In fact, the top seven drivers were covered by just 0.5 seconds...
Into the qualifying session itself and times gradually tumbled as the cars ran through their four timed laps - each getting faster as the tyres heated-up. As the dust settled, it was Fraser Williamson on pole, with championship-rival Lewis Ward just 0.044 behind. Jordan secured third on the grid, a further 0.063 back, with Jack Eyre - the third of a trio of drivers virtually tied on points - another 0.019 back. Peter Butcher and Ronald Großmann rounded-out the top six, all of whom were incredibly covered by less than two tenths of a second.
As the red lights were extinguished for the start of race one, Gronkowski made an excellent getaway to leapfrog Ward into turn one. Eyre behind made a similar move to snatch 3rd. Williamson immediately set some blistering pace to move a second clear of the pack and the Gronkowski-headed group of Eyre, Ward, Großmann and Butcher started to move away from the competitors behind. Try as he might, Gronkowski didn't have the pace to reel-in Williamson, but neither did he lose sight of the leader as the gap stabilised at around two seconds. All attention was on the five-car battle for second through, as after Gronkowski having an initial second-plus gap behind, the four drivers behind gradually closed until all five circulated virtually nose-to-tail.
At first, it was Eyre who tried to find a way past Gronkowski, but never quite managing to find one. The gap between the two varied between nothing and half a second as the constant battle unfolded, with Ward always in close pursuit; the trio gradually pulling away from Butcher and Großmann.
At the 15-minute mark (and halfway point of the race), Ward made it by Eyre down the back straight and set about his own efforts to de-seat Gronkowski from second place.
The pressure mounted on Gronkowski as the laps ticked past, but he always managed to have a crucial gap onto the key straights to deny Ward, and when he didn't he managed to place his Porsche Cayman in the right spots to successfully defend the position.
With a few minutes remaining on the clock, lapping cars without losing the position became the focus for Gronkowski, with traffic allowing the five car scrap to resume in earnest. As the drivers negotiated the final chicane for the penultimate time, Butcher accidentally tapped Eyre into a spin, sending him back to fifth, but Gronkowski maintained a few tenths advantage over Ward across the line. A neat and tidy final lap meant Gronkowski took the team's highest finish in the championship to-date; second place, just 2.3 seconds behind winner Williamson and less than a tenth ahead of Ward in third.
"As the timer ticked-down the realisation started to kick in that I might actually be able to keep 2nd until the flag."
"Unbelievable!" Was Jordan's assessment of the race. "An amazing feeling to be back on the virtual podium again after an absolutely epic race. The pressure was constant from lap one, after I made probably the best start I have yet to jump up into second. I was pretty determined that I was going to do everything I could to hang onto that place for as long as possible and although I couldn't catch up to Fraser, I was quite surprised that I was able to keep him within a few seconds. To be honest my attention was more on defending though and just making sure I was neat onto the back straight and onto the start/finish straight a that's where the main overtaking sports are."
"As the timer ticked-down the realisation started to kick in that I might actually be able to keep 2nd until the flag. Luckily I was able to make it past the traffic without dropping anything and despite some pretty close moments we eventually did it! I have to say a huge thank you to the other guys out there - especially Jack and Lewis, the racing with them was always fair and clean and I loved it - even though I would have appreciated a little more room to catch my breath at times!"
And so it was onto the infamous reverse grid for race two, where the team's luck had been poor so far in the series. Having finished 2nd in race one, Jordan lined-up 14th on the grid for the second outing of the day.
The incidents started for Gronkowski before the warmup lap had even finished as the field bunched-up unexpectedly on the back straight behind the pace-car. Jordan was forced to brake suddenly to avoid the car in front doing the same and unfortunately Vic Covey Jnr behind was unable to react likewise, crashing into the rear of Gronkowski's Porsche. There was no time to worry about the potential damage however, as the grid slithered through the final chicane and onto the starting straight.
All seemed well until the leaders reached turn one, then carnage ensued. Contact between 4th and 5th placed drivers sent Rory Bryant shooting across the grass on the inside of the corner, collecting P1 and P2 as he re-joined, tipping them into spins and then causing a pile-up.
For the first time, Gronkowski's race two luck seemed to turn as he managed to avoid the spinning and crashing cars on the inside, taking to the grass around the outside to keep safe. As the surviving drivers swept down the Craner Curves, more contact at the Old Hairpin meant that by the end of the first lap Gronkowski was already running sixth.
Lap two and the action continued as Peter Butcher lost the rear of his Porsche through the Craner Curves, right in front of Gronkowski. A few corners later and Lewis Ward was knocked out of third place while trying to take second through Coppice corner. Lap three and up to fourth from fourteenth for Gronkowski.
Gronkowski, with Großmann close behind, chased-down the top three over the next couple of laps, slowly closing on Michael Weddell.
Six minutes into the action-packed race marked another incident at the front as John Lang in second, under pressure from Weddell, dropped a wheel onto the grass exiting the Old Hairpin, spinning across the track and out of contention.
Gronkowski piled on pressure of his own to Weddell, but was unable to find a weak spot to make a move until Coppice corner at the 9-minute mark when Weddell finally made a small mistake, allowing Gronkowski to run down his outside on the back straight. Out-braking him into the chicane from the outside line, Gronkowski was up into second, with a four-second gap to leader Adam Brown.
Gronkowski and Großmann, nose-to-tail almost constantly, lowly began to eat into Brown's lead, cutting it to just over one second at the 17-minute mark. As the latter exited the Old Hairpin and jinked to the right to pass a back-marker however, he lost the rear of his Porsche and careered off onto the grass. The luck which had written Gronkowski out of every reverse-grid race so far in the series had just delivered him into the lead of the race.
The remaining 13 minutes were some of the most intense and closely-contested of the series. Großmann clearly had a pace advantage over Gronkowski, especially in the first half of the lap, but Gronkowski's car placement and pace at crucial points of the lap - just as in race one - seemed to be enough to keep the challenge at bay.
At just over 24 minutes into the 30-minute race, Großmann found himself closer than ever before on the run out of the Old Hairpin. Gronkowski moved to defend the inside into Mcleans, with Großmann moving alongside and trying the long way round. The pair ran side-by-side up to Coppice and through the corner, with Großmann moving slightly ahead around the outside. However, the inside and gripper line gave Gronkowski the run down the back straight to put his nose back in front. It was Großmann however who could brake later into the hairpin, moving ahead properly for the first time, with Gronkowski cutting back underneath to try and get a run down the main straight. As the pair crossed the line again side-by-side, Großmann suddenly slowed briefly, allowing Gronkowski back into the lead as the pair rounded Redgate corner.
A lap later and the pair were in amongst traffic when yet more drama unfolded at the chicane. Großmann was unsighted on the brakes, hitting the rear of Gronkowski's Porsche and sending him wide. Then, in fantastically sportsmanlike fashion, Großmann waited for Gronkowski to re-join rather than taking advantage of a move he knew he was at fault for.
With just a couple of laps to run, Gronkowski finally seemed to find a better balance in the first sector, opening out a small breathing space of half a second, which lasted until the flag. Gronkowski crossing the line to win a thrilling race and taking the team's first victory in the SMRC iRacing Summer Championship!
During the post-race coverage, it was announced that Jordan had been awarded the Torq Racewear Driver of the Day, winning a pair of sim-racing gloves.
Jordan was delighted afterwards. "Woohoo! We did it! Wow, that was an absolutely insane race! I finally managed to survive the first corner chaos of the reverse grid and then all of the bad luck we've had so far this series just seemed to get paid back all at once. It almost seemed like every time I came up to another driver they made a mistake or something and we were able to find a way through."
"He is a real sportsman of the highest calibre."
"Then once we were in the lead it was a bit like race one, but even tougher - which I didn't think would be possible! Ronald was so much faster in turn one especially and I just couldn't get away from him. I was really struggling with the front tyres through there and every time I though I'd started to open a gap, there he was again. It was a fantastic battle though, and that lap where we ran side-by-side for pretty much half of it was so intense. Again, it seemed that a final bit of luck was on my side there as I thought he was through on the start/finish straight when he suddenly slowed-up and I've since found out that he accidentally hit the pit-limiter as he was changing gear!"
"I also need to thank him for being such a sporting competitor when he knocked me wide once but waited for me to get going again and not just taking advantage. He is a real sportsman of the highest calibre."
"What an evening. I never thought I'd be able to win a race against these sim drivers and it's such a feeling to actually do it. Thank you to everyone who's supported us and helped us to get this far, and of course to all of our official sponsors!"
Jordan is up to 5th in the official standings. Check them out here.
The next round of the championship is at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace, also known as Interlagos, in São Paulo, Brazil on the 20th of August.