After a rough start to the 2017 Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment season, two-time defending series champion Jake Wright broke out in a big way Wednesday night at Imola. Starting from the pole, Wright only fell behind during pit stops, leading 30 laps on his way to a win in the HPP Simulation Grand Prix of Imola, the inaugural event for the series at the historic Italian circuit.
“I was very nervous going into this race, everyone was extremely quick leading up to the event,” Wright said from the virtual victory lane. “A very stressful race because of the track and pace, but an amazing win.”
Wright cruised to a win by over 6 seconds on Travis Jegerlehner, who was so excited with his second place run he skipped the post race media session to celebrate.
Points leader Andrew Kinsella held off Michael Gray in a furious battle over the closing laps to take third, with Brian Yaczik coming home fifth.
“I’m happy with that podium,” Kinsella said. “Just settled in and raced my own race. I’m not sure how I finished third but I’ll take it.”
Gray was disappointed he couldn’t run down Kinsella at the end.
“Those curbs, I tell ya, they just love to spin,” said Gray, who lost it on lap 20 and fell back from second.
Two major incidents ended the race for drivers in contention for strong finishes. On lap 14, Dustin Wardlow and Jason Galvin made contact while slowing to avoid a spinning Jack Bogan. Wardlow’s race was done, and Galvin limped home in 14th with a heavily damaged car.
Ian Adams, who showed great pace all week, wrecked out in spectacular fashion on lap five, and finished in last place, 39th.
Contenders Dan Geren and Pierre Daigle were also disqualified for too many incidents throughout the 33 lap event.
Michael Goodman, James Krahula, Jason Robarge, Jonathan Goke and George Adams brought up the back half of the top ten after strong runs and avoiding the many off-track incidents throughout the race.
Kinsella opened his points lead to 16 points over Gray after race 3 of 24.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment heads back to the ovals, this time in Japan for the Twin Ring Motegi 150 Wednesday, April 5 at 10:40 p.m. EST. As with every Lionheart race, the action can be seen live on the Global SimRacing Channel.
For more information on the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, visit www.LionheartRacingSeries.com.
The Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment hits the road this week for the first time in 2017. The sim racing series embarks on a two-race international trek that will begin at the legendary Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, better known as Imola.
The Italian track which first featured auto racing in 1954 is best known for hosting Formula 1 races. Imola was the site of the Italian Grand Prix in 1980 and subsequently hosted the San Marino Grand Prix between 1981 and 2006. Although Indycars have never turned a wheel on the track, numerous Indycar stars have raced on the circuit during their F1 careers. These include Juan Pablo Montoya, Takuma Sato, Alex Zanardi, Michael Andretti and Jacques Villeneuve. Additionally, Nigel Mansell earned two victories at Imola before becoming an Indycar champion in 1993.
Imola appears on the Lionheart schedule for the first time and many league members have spent the last two weeks learning – and hopefully mastering – the challenging circuit. With only two of twenty-four rounds in the books for 2017, the visit to Italy presents a major opportunity in the wide-open championship battle.
It's no surprise that Jake Wright will take the green flag on Wednesday night as the favourite. Wright won six of seven road races last season and he's quickly found his way to the top of the charts in every Imola practice session thus far. However, the two-time defending league champion finds himself in the unusual position of actually needing this victory. Currently sitting 22nd overall in the championship after a DNF in the season opener, Wright can not afford to have any unexpected surprises if he wants to get back to the top of the standings.
There are several sim racers who could end up thwarting Wright's plans in victory lane and two of the most likely challengers come from the Team #NailedIt paddock.
Michael Gray seems to do well when Lionheart leaves North America and he is understandably excited about the series' return to Europe. Last season, it was at Brands Hatch in England that Gray managed an upset victory over Wright. Gray has posted some impressive times thus far in practice and he could pull off another victory this week if he maintains that strong pace and nails his pit strategy in the race.
Meanwhile, Dan Geren saw his first-ever road course win fall through his fingers last season at Phillip Island. Geren managed to out-qualify Wright and showed that he actually had stronger pace while leading 13 laps. However, a quick self-spin was all it took to allow Wright past and Geren was unable to get back around him. As always, Geren has been turning hundreds of laps in preparation for his first visit to Imola. It remains to be seen if he can challenge for a win but look for the Iowa-based sim racer to be near the front of the field when the green flag flies.
In addition to the familiar names who are expected to do well in this first road race of the season there are also a lot of unknowns. In the past, the series has featured a majority of drivers who were more comfortable on ovals. However, almost all of the new additions to the roster this season are just the opposite.
Dustin Wardlow proved his prowess on the road by winning the title in the Lionheart Challenge Series during the winter. Travis Jegerlehner finished fourth overall in that series and earned a victory while James Paulson was also a solid threat each week. Meanwhile, current points leader Andrew Kinsella and fellow rookie Michael Goodman have already shown that they bring a strong pace to any track the series visits.
When you mix those new faces in with returning talents like Jonathan Goke, James Krahula, Brian Yaczik and George Adams, it seems obvious that Lionheart road races will reach a new level of competition throughout the field.
One notable absence this week will be Ryan Otis who ironically may pose the biggest threat to Jake Wright on the road this season. Otis, who is unable to attend this week due to travel, dominated a recent Lionheart Retro Series race at Watkins Glen. Otis is currently sitting second overall in the championship and the missed race will undoubtedly have an impact on his position in the overall standings.
Regardless of their results, several league members will have reason to celebrate during their visit to Italy. Joe Hassert will make his league-leading 75th career start at Imola while Chris Lanini will make career start number 50 on the legendary road course.
The HPP Simulation Grand Prix of Imola will be broadcast live on the Global Sim Racing Channel (GSRC) and iRacing Live on March 29th beginning at 10:35PM ET. The league champion at the end of the season will be awarded with a set of HPP 3P-PRX-SE pedals valued at $1247.00.
In his second race back from another deployment in the United State Air Force, Jonathan Goke didn’t look rusty. In fact, the airman looked like her learned how to fly in his time overseas. Goke led a race-high 62 laps en route to a dominant win in the Thumbs Up, Cancer Down 150 at Phoenix International Raceway, his sixth career win, moving him into third place all-time in the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment.
“I was definitely not the fastest, I had some trouble with this set all week,” Goke said in the virtual victory lane. “But I found my rhythm halfway through...I was just riding, and the caution fell exactly where I needed it. I hit the pits, took my stop and we were good from there.”
A caution on lap 88, in the midst of green flag pit stops, threw the entire race on its lid. Dan Geren, Ian Adams, Michael Goodman, Jake Wright and Joe Hassert, all with strong runs and a chance at the win, were trapped either a lap down or at the tail of the field.
To that point a relatively clean race, the final 62 laps were run in short sprints with several cautions as quicker drivers battled to regain their early race form, and fortuitous drivers fended off the pack of wolves searching for a better finish.
When the final green flag flew with seven laps to go, Goke jumped out to a comfortable lead over Ryan Otis and never looked back.
“I really just found myself in the right place at the right time,” Goke said.
Otis, who started 12th, fought through the field and pulled his best career oval finish as the runner-up.
“I was struggling at the end,” Otis said. “Everytime I’d get up to Goke, the front end would go away and I’d fall back...it backfires on you, because you’d get a good run and get up right behind them, and the second you get your wing next to them you lose all front end grip.”
Brian Yaczik battled through the pack from 15th to round out the podium.
“I’m just as happy with that as with some good saltine crackers with some soup,” Yaczik said. “Holy moly you couldn’t pass out there. A good result for us though.”
Teammates Joe Branch and Tony Showen rounded out the top five. Brandon Limkemann, Michael Gray, Andrew Kinsella, James Paulson and Rory Collins completed the top ten.
Robarge, Wright, Jason Galvin and Goodman finished eleventh through 14th, after getting back on the lead lap with less than 30 laps remaining.
Pierre Daigle (21), Geren (23), Adams (26) and Hassert (29) could not recover from the poorly timed caution, or contact with other drivers, after all looking like potential winners early on.
Kinsella, the Homestead winner in his series debut, maintains the points lead after two rounds of the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment. Otis is seven points back in second, with Showen, Limkemann and Gray the top five.
The series heads to Imola for the inaugural HPP Simulation Grand Prix of Imola on Wednesday, March 29. As always, the race can be seen live on the Global SimRacing Channel at 10:40 p.m. EST.
The Lionheart Retro Series returns Thursday night for the Remember the Fallen 250 at Pocono Raceway, the first Triple Crown event of the year. That race can also be seen live on GSRC at 10:40 p.m. EST.
Two weeks ago Andrew Kinsella stole the spotlight in the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Canadian came from mid-pack to edge league veterans Pierre Daigle, Dan Geren and Brandon Limkemann for the win in his league debut.
Kinsella will be looking to keep his undefeated record intact this week as the series heads west to the virtual Phoenix International Raceway for the Thumbs Up, Cancer Down 150. However, earning another victory won't be an easy task. The likes of Geren, Daigle and Limkemann will all be hoping to build upon solid results in the season opener. Additionally, there will be numerous Lionheart favourites who will be looking to find some redemption in the desert.
Jake Wright's quest for a third consecutive league title did not get off on the right foot at Homestead. A connection glitch in the early laps of the race sent Wright into the wall and resulted in a career-worst finish. He'll arrive in the desert with a clean slate but it remains to be seen if Phoenix will help turn his luck around. Wright won both the pole and the race in Season 3 but he finished a disappointing nineteenth last season after being collected in a wreck. The 2017 season is still young but Wright could use a good finish to avoid falling too far behind the leaders in the championship battle.
Homestead dealt Chris Stofer an even harsher blow as he finished dead last following contact on Lap 3. Stofer, who'd finished second at Homestead last season, was coming off a run of three-consecutive podiums to end 2016. While his Adrenaline Motorsports teammate ultimately took the win, Stofer will undoubtedly be looking to find his form again at Phoenix and avoid another early-season slump that took him out of title contention last season.
Also hoping for good luck in the desert will be defending race winner Jonathan Goke. He finished a disappointing twenty-fifth at Homestead, which ironically was actually an improvement over his result from a year ago. Goke, who is not a fan of the Florida-based oval, will likely be much more comfortable on the one-mile bullring where he will be looking to re-assert himself as a championship contender.
If Goke finds himself at the front it's very likely he'll have to contend with Joe Hassert for the victory. Hassert had a modest tenth-place finish at Homestead two weeks earlier which was likely a disappointment following his win a year ago. Hassert has never finished lower than fifth in three career Lionheart starts at Phoenix and he is expected to be strong once again in 2017.
Finally, it was a disappointing start to the Indycar season for Jason Galvin. He finished twenty-sixth in the season-opener after winning the Lionheart Retro Series race at Homestead a few weeks earlier. Galvin, who is sponsoring this week's event, is expected to be a threat at the Phoenix circuit where he has worked as a track announcer for many years.
Other sim racers to watch at Phoenix include Pierre Daigle, who started 2017 with a career-best finish at Homestead. Daigle is still in search of his first Lionheart victory and has already shown strong pace in early Phoenix practice sessions. Brandon Limkemann is in the same position and he also posted a career-best result in Florida. Additionally James Krahula finished just off the podium at Phoenix last season and showed strong pace at Homestead. Krahula posted the fastest lap of the race and led 12 laps before an untimely yellow shuffled him back to seventh.
Underdogs to keep an eye on this week include Tony Showen. Showen, much like his teammate Chris Stofer, had a solid finish to 2016. After a sixth-place result at Homestead it appears he has picked up where he left off. Michael Goodman just missed out on a top ten at Homestead and has already shown good pace in early Phoenix practice. Goodman could easily become the second rookie to earn a victory in 2017. Finally, Michael Gray, who is often seen as a road-course ace, finished seventh at Phoenix last season and is coming off a fifth-place result at Homestead. Gray won at Brands Hatch last season. Could an oval victory be in the cards for the Australian sim racer in 2017?
The Thumbs Up, Cancer Down 150 will be broadcast live on the Global Sim Racing Channel (GSRC) and iRacing Live on March 15th beginning at 10:35PM ET.
To learn more about Thumbs Up, Cancer Down, please visit www.thumbsupcancerdown.com
For more information about the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, please visit www.lionheartracingseries.com.
Andrew Kinsella heard the talk, but he didn’t listen. Everyone said a wily veteran would win the season opener for the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment at the challenging Homestead-Miami Speedway. Instead, it was a rookie in his series debut capturing the checkered flag in the First Medical Equipment 200 Wednesday evening, holding off Pierre Daigle on a green-white-checker finish.
“What a race,” Kinsella said from the virtual victory lane. “I knew as long as I got about three tenths on that last restart I could hold off Pierre. And I got a good jump, so I felt good about making him work the outside and I knew I had the tires.”
It was a bumpy race for Kinsella, who nearly had his race ended on lap 48. While battling in turn one, Rory Collins came down the track as Kinsella was exiting the turn. The two touched, and Kinsella gathered it up while Collins careened off the outside wall, ending his race.
A long green flag run saw Kinsella take advantage of short pitting to work his way through the field. The Canadian had a three second lead when the third and final caution of the night flew for a half-spin by Jason Galvin on pit exit. But countrymate Daigle was unable to close the gap during the final two lap sprint to the finish.
“It feels good, starting off the year with a second place finish feels good,” said Daigle, who won both practice events leading up to Wednesday’s show. “There’s a part of me that’s disappointed, but I have to be happy with this...it was a great start.”
Dan Geren led a race-high 74 laps from the pole, but settled for third.
“I thought I was going to have something at the end, but that definitely wasn’t the case,” Geren said. “I was pulling for Pierre to get that first win...just another one slipped by him.”
Brandon Limkemann and Michael Gray rounded out the top five. Defending series champion Jake Wright brought out the first caution on lap 4 when, while racing Limkemann for second place, a freak incident brought on by a connection issue in the race server caused the two to collide. Wright slammed the wall, ending his race. Limkemann escaped without damage.
Wright finished 36th, just ahead of Jared and Tyler Turnbull, who wrecked avoiding Wright, and Chris Stofer, who finished last after catching the wall in turn two on lap 3.
20 cars finished on the lead lap of a race slowed for just 12 laps by cautions. 12 drivers swapped the lead 19 times. Three quarters of the field earned bonus points for a clean race.
Kinsella leads the points heading to round two of the fifth Lionheart season. The Thumbs Up, Cancer Down 150 at Phoenix International Raceway is set for Wednesday, March 15 and can be seen live on the Global SimRacing Channel at 7:40 p.m. EST.
The Lionheart Retro Series returns the following night, also at 7:40 p.m. EST on GSRC with the Pocono 250, the first Triple Crown event in series history. For more information on the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, head to www.LionheartRacingSeries.com.