By Justin Prince
For the third time in 2021, Matt Taylor has won in the Lionheart Retro Series Presented by SimXperience.
In what turned out to be the 14th-closest finish in series history, Taylor edged Aaron Morgan by 0.038 seconds in the HyperX Gateway 150 at iRacing’s virtual World Wide Technology Raceway on Sept. 2.
The dramatic finish came laps after Mike Rigney slammed the wall coming out of Turn 2 while in the lead, crushing his right-front wing. Taylor, Morgan and Chris Fowler had all grouped together after their final pit stops to reel in the gap despite Taylor completing his service with under 15 laps to go.
After the incident, Taylor and Morgan swapped the lead several times down the straightaways with Taylor leading into Turn 1 and Morgan into Turn 3. However, on the last lap, Taylor did not fully clear Morgan’s Avatar Auto Racing car, pinning him along the top of the track down the backstretch.
Taylor was able to defend along the inside wall coming to the checkered flag to win the race.
Fowler, Rigney and David Sirois rounded out the top five.
Taylor had been running in the back half of the top 10 prior to his final pit stop.
“It was interesting I guess I would say. I absolutely did not expect to be that close to the lead after that final pit stop,” said Taylor from HyperX Victory Lane. “It seemed a bunch of us were stuck back there and it seemed like a bunch of us were. Finally, the car and the track gripped up there at the end of that second stint, but I had absolutely no idea I’d be that close to the front.”
Before the bottom line started to gain grip later in the race, much of the field ran single-file behind pole-sitter David Sirois after the only caution of the race occured on Lap 1. The Lavoie Motorsport driver led a race-high 49 laps before coming in for his first pit stop. Drivers like Morgan and Fowler were able to jump past Sirois during the sequence by going longer on their first stints.
Meanwhile, Taylor was running in seventh position by the halfway mark.
“I was really just waiting,” said Taylor. “I was waiting for that car and track to grip up and switch. I really liked using that bottom line to make moves. I tried it a couple times and it was absolutely not there early on. I felt like I was a little bit quicker, but I couldn’t find the line.”
On Lap 63, Rigney was able to make the bottom work. He was able to dive underneath Fowler into Turn 3 to quickly take over the race lead. Rigney pulled away by more than 10 car lengths within 10 laps. He was able to consistently hit lap times which were one second quicker than the rest of the field before electing to pit on Lap 85.
That alternative strategy eventually set up the wild finish at Gateway.
Next up, the Lionheart Retro Series Presented by SimXperience will be heading to iRacing’s virtual Michigan International Speedway for the KARNOX Michigan 200 Presented by Espo Designs on Sept. 30. Coverage will begin at 10:35 p.m. ET on RaceSpot TV and can be watched on tape delay on ESTV.