Get used to this sight, it’s likely to be a familiar one for fans of the Lionheart Retro Series in 2017. Ryan Otis dominated the Watkins Glen 100 presented by DewarsCandy.com Thursday. Otis led every lap en route to a 22 second win over Jake Wright, proving his road course prowess will be hard to beat.
“I drove the wheels off of it trying to get away (from Wright),” Otis said in the virtual victory lane. “I was anticipating sooner or later catching up to some traffic. I was afraid he’d close the lap, so I was pushing 100 percent the whole time.”
But by the time pit stops rolled around, Otis knew he had the race in hand, barring a mistake.
“I had a good 10 seconds there,” Otis said. “I knew if I didn’t miss my stall or get a penalty I’d be ok.”
Wright backed up to Brendan Hobbart towards the end, but Hobbart couldn’t close the gap.
“Everybody was pretty respectful and everyone was pretty spread out as well,” said Wright, looking for another championship. Wright is the two-time defending Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment champion. “If I can continue to have races like tonight, I think I’m in good hands.”
Brendan Hobbart, a relative unknown amongst the stars of the Lionheart series, cruised to a career-best third place finish.
“Catching the guys up front, I knew I wasn’t going to have anything for Jake or Ryan,” Hobbart said. “At the end of the day, it’s keep it on an island, just keep it out of trouble.”
Dustin Wardlow beat Jason Galvin to round out the top five. The two drivers, both from Bakersfield, Calif., battled intensely with David Altman for the first eleven laps. But Altman crashed just before pitting, and Galvin ducked in early, only to be held up by Tony Showen, allowing Wardlow to open up a comfortable gap.
“This is crazy competitive here,” Wardlow said.
The race was relatively clean, sans a few single car spins. 15 cars finished on the lead lap.
Wright jumped to the points lead with another strong finish, 12 points ahead of Galvin, the winner at Homestead to open the season. Michigan winner Bob Mikes slipped to third in points after finishing 8th at Watkins Glen. Teammates Joe Branch and Chris Stofer sit fourth and fifth following the first road course race of the season.
The Lionheart Retro Series returns to the ovals for its first Triple Crown event, the double-points Pocono Raceway 250 on Thursday, March 16 at 10:40 p.m. EST. The race can be seen live on the Global SimRacing Channel.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment takes the grid for the first time on Wednesday, March 1, for the First Medical 200 at Homestead Miami Speedway. That race can also be seen live on GSRC at 10:40 p.m. EST.
At the inaugural Lionheart Retro Series race two weeks ago at Homestead, Bob Mikes led 19 laps and seemed well-positioned to contend for the win. However, he didn't take care of his tires and soon found himself dropping back eventually finishing eighth. Mikes learned from his mistakes this week and got to the front when it counted, collecting the victory at Michigan after a wild and controversial last lap.
After starting eleventh, Mikes hovered near the back of the top ten as several familiar names battled it out for the lead in the first half of the race. Pole-sitter James Krahula along with Dan Geren, Trevor Malone, Joe Hassert and Homestead winner Jason Galvin were all involved in an unrelenting dog-fight at the front.
Bob Mikes eventually joined the battle in the second half of the race. Adrenaline Motorsports teammates Chris Stofer and Joe Branch also entered the fray ensuring that there was no shortage of action in the latter half of the 100-lap sim race.
With no cautions in sight the final round of pit stops were made under green. It was Joe Branch and James Krahula who emerged from pit lane with the advantage while Dan Geren suffered an incident entering the pits that ended his night. Trevor Malone eventually returned to the front and as the laps ticked down it was he, Mikes and Stofer who found themselves leading the pack.
When the white flag flew the trio at the front found themselves battling not only each other but also several lapped cars that were just in front. It was entering Turn 3 where things finally unravelled when Trevor Malone made contact with Robert Blouin as he attempted to pass. The incident sent Malone careening off track and dashed his hopes of winning.
Bob Mikes chose to pass Blouin on the outside and easily made it through the final turns, taking his first career Lionheart Retro Series victory. The win was the second in less than a month for the sim racer from Controlled Chaos Racing as Mikes recently earned a victory in the Lionheart Challenge Series at Lucas Oil Raceway.
“It was a race to the finish for the last twenty laps. Nobody was able to pass Trevor on that high lane,” said Mikes, who now takes over the points lead. “I just knew I was going to be up in the top five and be a contender and it's awesome to be on the first place on the podium!”
Chris Stofer would go on to finish second, which was something of a redemption for the Adrenaline Motorsports sim racer. Two weeks ago at Homestead, Stofer was leading the race when his engine blew under caution.
“I was holding my breath waiting for something to happen. I kept thinking the lapped cars were just gonna pull down and let us go on by and race it out, and they didn't,” explained Stofer, who drove through the field after starting 22nd. “I'm typically not a great qualifier, so I'm used to having to come through the field like that. That always makes it fun!”
Joe Hassert rounded out the podium, finishing just ahead of teammate James Krahula.
“I was just trying to get a top five,” said Hassert. “I thought the car would come to me a little bit sooner. It didn't feel really good until about two or three laps to go. I was glad I was able to avoid the carnage; I'll take a podium!”
James Krahula, Joe Branch, Jake Wright, Jorge Anzaldo, Michael Gray, Chris Lanini and Jason Galvin rounded out the top ten. Trevor Malone would ultimately finish 21st.
The race was slowed by just two cautions for six total laps. 37 cars started the event, with 30 finishing. Overall, nine different sim racers led laps, with Malone leading a race-high 65.
The series returns on February 23rd at Watkins Glen for the first of seven road courses on the 2017 schedule. Another large field of over 35 classic Lotus 79 cars are expected to take the green flag, which will be broadcast live on the Global Sim Racing Channel (GSRC) and iRacing Live beginning at 10:35PM ET.