Winners again at the Temple of Speed

The team take their second win in the SMRC eSports iRacing Summer Championship at the legendary Monza circuit - a place close to their hearts.


Qualifying

Following a positive pre-race test on Wednesday night when Jordan topped the lap time charts, the team were optimistic of a string showing at Monza. However, things took a turn for the negative as Jordan logged-in for Thursday's races to find that the randomly generated track conditions were considerably different than those in which he had excelled the night before.


Struggling to get to grips with a hot and 'green' track surface, Jordan could only manage 5th spot on the grid after his four timed laps.

"The car felt very alien out there, which was a surprise.' Said Jordan. 'We've been used to testing in cooler temperatures with a decent amount of rubber down on the surface, but I just couldn't generate the grip from our setup. The track is about 10°C hotter than I've been used to and there is very little usage. As a result, we've made some last-minute setup compromises to try and get some form of balance back and it's worked a little but this really isn't where you want to be heading into the first race."


Race 1

To compound the team's concerns, Gronkowski's getaway from the lights was poor as the field thundered down the famous Monza straight for the first time, dropping him to 8th by the end of lap 1. The fight-back was steady but sure, with some consistent driving ensuring Gronkowski made the most of any incidents ahead and by the 11-minute mark he was back in 5th spot.

Slowly closing-down the 1.5-second gap to the cars in-front, Gronkowski eventually joined Andrew Hopley, Fraser Williamson and Lewis Ward in the battle for second, with Jack Eyre having build a 3.5-second buffer behind him in the lead.


As the battling cars closed, disaster struck at just over the halfway stage when Gronkowski mis-judged his braking for the Parabolica, tagging the rear of Ward ahead and sending him into the barrier, before then spearing across the track and into Hopley. All three cars dropped down the order as Gronkowski was left to rue his error.

The remainder of the race was a case of damage-limitation as Gronkowski recovered to 7th and started to battle with Peter Moore and Keiran Smart ahead. More drama was to unfold with just five minutes remaining of the half-hour race as Smart and Moore went side-by-side into the first Lesmo corner. Gronkowski made to follow Smart's BMW up the inside but Moore was unsighted as he turned-in, tagging the front of Gronkowski's Porsche and sending both cars into a spin.

A hobbling Gronkowski eventually took the chequered flag in 12th spot, immediately making his way to the online driver's forum to apologise for the first incident.


"That was a bit of a disaster by any account!' He said. 'I can only apologise unreservedly to Lewis and Andrew over the first incident. We were running very close down the back straight and I simply braked too late. It was one of those which things seem to happen in slow-motion and there's nothing you can do about it. I knew as soon as I went on the brakes that I wasn't slowing down fast enough and was going to hit Lewis so I instinctively steered to the inside to try and avoid him. I didn't quite mange to though and after tagging him my momentum was unstoppable and I was a passenger. I saw Andrew's car ahead and knew I'd take him out as well - I'm so sorry to both the guys.'


'Then on the second incident with Peter, I went to follow Keiran on the inside and it initially looked as though Peter had seen me and was giving me space but then it was clear I must have been in a blind spot and unfortunately he just went for his normal line and I was there, so we touched. All-in-all definitely not ideal but at least we did finish the race. Hopefully we can wipe the slate clean for race 2."


Race 2

With the reverse-grid rule meaning Jordan would start 4th for the evening's second outing, the possibility of redemption was tantalisingly close.

At the lights, Gronkowski made a strong start to tuck-in behind Ian Erasmus and polesitter Sean Dobie. The slipstream effect then allowed him to move up on the inside line as Erasmus went for the outside and the cars roared three-abreast down to the first chicane. Erasmus out-braked himself, heading straight-on down the escape road, with Gronkowski making the apex in-front and leading the pack on the run through Curva Grande.

Gronkowski's focus was then on building a gap whilst the leading cars from race one made their way through the pack. As the sectors unfolded, it was clear that the Wednesday-night pace had returned as the gap rapidly grew until it was an incredible 3.9 seconds by the end of the first lap.


Gronkowski set about establishing his lead with metronomic consistency. At the seven minute mark, the gap was just over seven seconds as Williamson, Adam Brown and Eyre hit the front of the charge. Now was the key moment to see if Gronkowski was truly able to deliver on his pre-event promise and maintain the lead for the remaining 23 minutes.

As the laps ticked-by the answer was a resounding 'yes'. A combination of consistently rapid lap times from Gronkowski and the fact that Williamson and Brown were battling for position meant that the gap continued to grow all-race-long. By the flag, Gronkowski was a massive 15.9 seconds clear and crossed the line to take the team's second win of the series with relative ease.

"A fantastic result!' Was Jordan's reaction. 'After the first race it's great to move on so quickly and end the evening on a high note. I had a good start and managed to get into the lead at the first chicane and from there I knew it would be vital to build as much of a gap as I could before the usual suspects made their way to the front. But when I saw Fraser behind and he didn't start catching me I started to think we could actually do this! Then the gap kept increasing and it was just a case of keeping things consistent and neat all the way to the flag.'


'The major difference for race 2 was the car. I noticed in the warmup that the circuit had rubbered-in a lot after race one and so we went back to our original Monza setup from Wednesday and the car came back alive again. I had so much more confidence in it compared with earlier and that was the key to being able to make the most of our start and build such a lead.'

'On a personal note, Monza is a very special place for me and the team. It's the first (and so-far only) place dad and I have been to watch an F1 grand prix together and we loved the experience so much after 2016 that we went back last year to see Charles Leclerc win for Ferrari. It's a magical place and to have now won there, even though it's just the virtual version of the track, is something I'm very proud of."


Jordan retains 5th place in the championship standings as the field prepares for the final on-hour-long endurance event at Bathurst on the 10th of September.

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