Teenage Auckland karter Zach Blincoe can now add ‘Sim specialist’ to his racing CV after winning both races at the final ‘double-header’ round of KartSport New Zealand’s Liquidaction-sponsored, SIMSpeedTV-hosted iKartSport Racing ‘Virtual Club Day’ at two very different circuits and behind the wheels of two very different ‘cars’ on Tuesday evening.
To celebrate specialist Blenheim-based company Liquidaction’s sponsorship of the past seven iKartSport Racing events, KartSport New Zealand Sim specialist Travis Smith put together what he considered the ultimate combination of ‘grip ‘n slip’ racing.
For the first 15-lap race of the evening the 30-strong field was in identical Audi RS3 2-litre turbocharged front-wheel-drive TCR cars at a virtual Laguna Seca road course (Northern California).
In the second race the field swapped to Lucas Oils Off-Road Racing Series Pro 2-litre Stadium Trucks for qualifying and a further 15 laps round a virtual Belle Isle street circuit (Detroit).
Joining regular series commentator Simon Evans on Tuesday night was top Kiwi female driver Madeline Stewart, now set to race a Boss Air Bag suspension-backed Holden Commodore in the newly-merged Super2 and Super3 Supercar series for Brad Jones Racing in Australia later this year.
As well as being an accomplished Sim racer in her own right, Stewart, who held the #2NZ plate in the KZ2 class here in New Zealand, and was the first female driver to win her class outright at a round of Australia’s Rotax Pro Tour before her move to cars, was able to provide expert comments on both the cars and the drivers; many of whom she had raced against in karts.
“Yes,” she said, in answer to a question from Evans during the first qualifying session of the evening at the Laguna Seca track. “I actually had a go the other night (in an Audi RS3 TCR car) and I found it a very hard car to drive; certainly very different to anything else I have driven, and I found front-wheel-drive quite hard to get used to.
“It was definitely fun though, and I love the Laguna Seca track.”
Auckland-based international single-seater race and series winner Taylor Cockerton was the quickest qualifier of the 30-strong field at Laguna Seca, but didn’t make it through the first lap.
Instead the race lead went first to Feilding-based club racer and Sim expert Daniel Hetterscheid, then to Auckland kart/Sim ace Zane Hills.
Hills in turn edged away to a lead of just over 1.5 seconds over fellow Aucklander Blincoe with former NZ kart champ and now Highlands Motorsport Park’s resident pro driver Andrew Waite, the big mover – from P7 to P3 then eventually P4.
Also making their way up the rankings were schoolboys Ben Stewart from Wellington – who forced his way from outside the top 10 to 5th at the flag, and Mitchell Sparrow from Tuakau who got as high as 6th after catching and passing fellow teen Braedan Snowden from Whangarei, only to slip back down to P10 by the time the chequered flag came out,
Late in the race Zach Blincoe kept the pressure up on long-time leader Zane Hills until it eventually told on the penultimate lap. Hills colliding with a backmarker entering the circuit’s famous Dipper section, half spinning and dropping to 4th place.
Andrew Waite was also in the wars in the dying stages of the race. Though he was lucky not to collect the prone car which Hills had collided with at the top of the Dipper, the driver he was chasing down for P2, Daniel Hetterscheid, managed to get away again.
That allowed Waite to fall back into the clutches of Zane Hills. The two cars touched as Hills put on a passing move through the Dipper for the final time, gaining a position as Waite spun but was able to get going again to cross the finish line in P4.
The action then turned to a virtual Belle Isle street circuit on the lake front at Detroit, familiar to karters, Sim racers and motorsport fans alike thanks to the IndyCar series round held there every year.
This time it was race 1 winner Zach Blincoe who qualified quickest ahead of Zane Hills and Andrew Waite with schoolboys Izaak Fletcher from Christchurch, Arthur Broughan from Blenheim and Mitchell Sparrow line astern from P4 to P6.
The spectacular, tall, gangly, loose-limbed gait of the off-road-style Lucas Oils series ‘Stadium Trucks’ could not have provided a greater contrast to the buttoned down TCR Audi RS3s used in the first race, with a very different driving style – or lack thereof! – obviously required to ‘thread-the-needle’ between the concrete-lined canyons of the Belle Isle street circuit.
Not surprisingly there was carnage towards the back of the 30-strong field on the first lap, though up front Zane Hills and Zach Blincoe quickly pulled a useful gap on a chasing pack which consisted early on of Leo Scott, Arthur Broughan, Blake Dowdall, Elliot Andrew and Daniel Hetterscheid.
The need to make a fuel stop added a strategy call – do you come in early or wait for a possible Safety Car period to even up the field? – and sure enough more multi-vehicle tangles saw the Porsche 911 Safety Car deployed on the 9th (of 15) laps.
Zane Hills was the leader at this stage of the race from Zach Blincoe, Daniel Hetterscheid, Andrew Waite, Leo Scott, and Taylor Cockerton.
With just three more laps to go when the track finally went green again (lap 12 of 15), for the next lap the race order remained the same.
Come the penultimate lap, however, Zach Blincoe again put the pressure on race leader Zane Hills, and again made a late race pass for the lead.
Right behind, meanwhile, schoolboy Blake Dowdall from Palmerston North gambled on there being as much grip on the grass inside one of the corners as there would be on the seal, and in a text book move leap frogged Andrew Waite for fourth place then – at the next corner – passed Daniel Hetterscheid for third.
Unfortunately that move edged the latter wide and after clipping the inside wall as he exited the turn Hetterscheid lost control, cannoning across the track to hit the outside wall and roll out of the race.
That elevated Dowdall to second and Waite to third – until later on in the lap when Dowdall himself clipped a wall and Andrew Waite run into the back of his truck, rolling and putting Waite out immediately but allowing Dowdall then Zane Hills and a fast closing Taylor Cockerton passage through into second, third and fourth places respectively.
Cockerton then put in a flier on the final lap to catch and pass both Dowdall and Hills to cross the line in second place behind race and round winner Zach Blincoe.
Behind the front bunch meanwhile, schoolboy Ashton Phipps crossed the line in 5th place just ahead of the big mover through the midfield, fellow Aucklander Ryan Bailey, with Leo Scott, Matthew Griffin, Arthur Broughan and Izaak Fletcher closing out the top 10
It was another exciting action-packed evening of Sim racing and though the final of seven rounds sponsored by Liquidaction, it is definitely not going to be the last in KartSport New Zealand’s SIMSpeed eSport Virtual Club Days’ ‘Chocolate Fish’ Series supported by KartSport New Zealand promotional partners Giltrap Group and Carter’s Tyre Service,
The series continues next Tuesday night with sponsorship from nationally-focused Nelson kart shop Tasman Kart Supplies.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Nth Calif, USA – Audi RS3 TCR 2-litre Touring Cars
- Taylor Cockerton 1.31.559
- Zane Hills 1.32.133
- Daniel Hetterscheid 1.32.377
- Zach Blincoe 1.32.445
- Elliot Andrew 1.32.524
- Izaak Fletcher 1.32.534
- Zach Blincoe
- Daniel Hetterscheid
- Zane Hills
- Andrew Waite
- Ben Stewart
- Elliot Andrew
Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series Pro 2 litre trucks, Belle Isle Detroit street circuit, Detroit Grand Prix
- Zach Blincoe 1.53.405
- Zane Hills 1.53.767
- Andrew Waite 1:53.944
- Izaak Fletcher 1:53.960
- Arthur Broughan 1:54.461
- Mitchell Sparrow 1:55.103
Race 2 15 laps
- Zach Blincoe
- Taylor Cockerton
- Zane Hills
- Blake Dowdall
- Ashton Phipps 6. Leo Scott