Scott McLaughlin Races NZ ‘Virtual Club Day’

The stars came out for the latest round of the Liquidaction-sponsored, SIMSpeedTV-hosted KartSport New Zealand iKartSport Racing ‘Virtual Club Day’ at a virtual Mt Panorama circuit at Bathurst in Australia on Tuesday evening.

The main attraction was the opportunity to – literally – race wheel-to-wheel with current Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 title-holder, and proud KartSport NZ patron Scott McLaughlin. But the event also attracted the return to the NZ-based series of top Aussie karter and Sim ace Jackson Souslin-Harlow, who dominated the second round back when the country was in Lockdown.

Kiwi Supercars champion, defending Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 title holder and KartSport New Zealand patron Scott McLaughlin was a special guest driver at Tuesday’s night’s Virtual Club Day (pic – Fast Company/SIMSpeedTV)

It’s not every day, either, that local karters like schoolboys Ben Stewart, Mitchell Sparrow and Izaak Fletcher, or indeed local Sim specialists like youngsters Nathan Anderson and Callum Pratt from West Auckland get the opportunity to even get to a race meeting at the famous country New South Wales circuit – let alone the chance to set-up, qualify for and compete in current (albeit virtual) Holden Commmdore and Ford Mustang Supercars against the current event champion.

Tuesday night’s event was the sixth (and penultimate) one hosted by professional SIM company, the SIMSpeed eSport Network and sixth of eight to be sponsored by Blenheim-based irrigation company LiquidAction. 

Jackson Souslin-Harlow was the big winner at the Liquidaction-sponsored SIMSpeedTV-hosted KartSport New Zealand iKartSport Racing ‘Virtual Club Day’ at a virtual Mt Panorama circuit, Bathurst, Australia on Tuesday evening (pic – Fast Company/SIMSpeedTV)

It was also supported by KartSport New Zealand promotional partners Giltrap Group and Carter’s Tyre Service, and Cadbury’s Chocolate Fish were again distributed amongst competitors afterwards courtesy of Cadbury’s.

Though KartSport New Zealand-affilated clubs in Auckland, Rotorua, Taranaki, Christchurch and Dunedin ran successful club days at tracks around the country over the weekend, Tuesday evening’s ‘Virtual Club Day’ was once again over-subscribed, with 44 entrants vying for the 30 available spots on the Bathurst grid.

As it turned out the event was again dominated by Jackson Souslin-Harlow, the 16-year-old from Sydney who races a Iame X30 class kart for top Australian team Tom Williamson Motorsport.

Young Kiwi karter Mitchell Sparrow hard at work on Tuesday evening (pic – Fast Company/SIMSpeedTV)

He also admits, however, to doing ’heaps’ of Sim racing when he is not at school or contesting rounds of the SP Tools Australian Kart Championship presented by Castrol Edge, in which he is currently lying second in class.

Either way he is blisteringly quick, setting pole position in qualifying and winning both of the races at the Liquidaction-sponsored, SIMSpeedTV-hosted KartSport New Zealand iKartSport Racing ‘Virtual Club Day’ event at Bathurst on Tuesday evening behind the wheel of an Astro gaming controllers-backed Holden Commodore.

True to form, Kiwi-born 2019 Virgin Australia Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin, himself no slouch behind the steering wheel of a Sim rig, proved his closest challenger.

Auckland-based kart international Nathan Crang adopted quickly to racing round the virtual Bathurst track (pic – Fast Company/SIMSpeedTV)

After qualifying second quickest, however, the Shell V-Power Team Penske-DJR Ford Mustang driver had an off through the Cutting early on in the first 10-lap race which saw him slip back down through the field from 2nd place then only make it back up to 3rd by the time the time the chequered flag came out.

That left Souslin-Harlow in a lead he never looked like losing from former NZ kart star and now accomplished tin-top and Sim racer Jaden Ransley from Chirstchurch.

The big mover in this race was Wellington schoolboy Ben Stewart who came from nowhere to run as high as 4th in his retro-liveried Mike Pero Mortgages Holden Commodore.

As the race went on, however, he was caught and passed by young third-generation racer Nathan Anderson, and karter and fellow Auckland-based Sim specialist Zane Hills.

McLaughlin qualified 2nd and finished the first race third, but crashed out of the feature while challenging for the lead (pic – Fast Company/SIMSpeedTV)

A full reverse grid start – plus the need to make at least one pit stop over the 20 laps – meant that the odds were definitely stacked against Souslin-Harlow in the main feature race later in the evening.

Win it again he did, though, this time from teenage karter/Sim racer Zach Blincoe, and fellow Aucklanders Stephen Beaumont and Nathan Anderson, Christchurch schoolboy Izaak Fletcher and Ben Stewart.

New Plymouth karter Brad Still took an early lead only to be quickly shuffled back to 2nd place by Auckland teenager Hayden Bakkerus. Multi-car bingles towards the rear of the (reverse grid) field at both the first and second turns accounted for a number of the quicker starters.

Not Jackson Souslin-Harlow, however, who was up to P15 (from P30) at the end of the first lap, and an incredible P5 by the end of the third.

Scott McLaughlin was making similar headway (he was up to P13 at the end of lap 3, and P8 by the end of lap 4, as was Jaden Ransley (up to P10 by the end of lap 4).

By lap 5 Hayden Bakkerus had been passed for the lead by Callum Pratt, but with Souslin-Harlow fast-closing from P3 it was only a matter of time. And sure enough Pratt spun out over the top section of the Mt Panorama circuit on lap 7, just after Souslin-Harlow has passed him for the lead.

Two laps later the Safety Car was deployed so that some of the debris from the various crashes which had occurred around the circuit could be removed, negating any time advantage Souslin-Harlow might have been able to build up, and – once the 10th lap half way point of the race had ticked over – prompting a flurry of pit stops for (virtual) fuel and tyres,

Dunedin’s Mike Muir briefly inherited the race lead at this point, ahead of  a recovered Callum Pratt, Souslin-Harlow and Scott McLaughlin.

Souslin-Harlow then lost time with a wild ride onto the grass on the run down into Murray’s Corner. Two laps later Mike Muir was bustled off on the exit of the same turn allowing Scott McLauhglin to take the lead from Souslin-Harlow, Anderson, Auckland-based kart international Nathan Crang, Zach Blincoe, Blake Dowdall and Zane Hills.

After being tapped wide on the entry to the start/finish straight Scott McLaughlin then put in and pulled off argubaly the passing move of the meeting entering the first corner, diving from the outside of a three-wide pack to take the race lead with a perfectly executed pass down the ‘inside.’

Somehow Souslin-Harlow was back into second place two laps later then into a lead he would never lose on lap 17. McLaughlin remained in 2nd place and was in the process of disputing the lead through the Skyline part of the track when he clipped a wall….and ended his race in a spectacular multi-turn barrel roll down the track.

Despite ending the race this way McLaughlin said afterwards that he had thoroughly enjoyed himself and that the evening’s racing was good preparation both for getting out in his own KZ2 kart this weekend as well as his return to the Virgin Australia Supercars championship at the Sydney Motorsport Park circuit the weekend after.

“It was a fun night, definitely,” he said, “ and I’m keen to do it again.’ 

Souslin-Harlow, meanwhile, said it was good just to be racing again,

“Yeah it’s been really fun to jump in and race against a lot of my mates from New Zealand, and also against a lot of the NZ guys I race here in Australia.

“Obviously with no real racing this is the closest we get to it, so yeah a big thanks to everyone at iKartSport over there in New Zealand for putting on some fun racing  each week for everyone.”

RESULTS

Australian Supercars, Mt Panorama circuit, Bathurst Australia

Qualifying

  1. Jackson Souslin-Harlow
  2. Scott McLaughlin
  3. Jaden Ransley
  4. Zane Hills
  5. Nathan Anderson
  6. Stephen Beaumont

Race 1 (10 laps)

  1. Jackson Souslin-Harlow
  2. Jaden Ransley
  3. Scott McLaughlin
  4. Nathan Anderson
  5. Zane Hills
  6. Ben Stewart

Race 2 (20 laps Reverse grid + a pit stop)

  • Jackson Souslin-Harlow
  • Zach Blincoe
  • Stephen Beaumont
  • Nathan Anderson
  • Izaak Fletcher
  • Ben Stewart
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