When it comes to predicting road course winners in Lionheart, Jake Wright is usually the safe bet – at least when he's behind the wheel of a Dallara DW-12. It's been a different story so far in the Lionheart Retro Series where Wright had yet to pilot the classic Lotus 79 to a road course victory in three attempts.
Everything changed on Thursday night as Wright found his way to victory lane in the Mid-Ohio Retro 100 presented by dewarscandy.com. Wright, who also earned the pole, led the field of 25 Lotus 79's to the green flag.
However, the victory was far from certain and the series points leader had work hard to earn his first win thanks to hard-charging newcomer Adam Blocker, who, in just his second start in the series, was not intimidated by the road course ace.
Blocker held the outside through the first turn and found himself with the preferred inside line heading into Turn 2. The rookie took full advantage of the situation and snagged the lead – a position he would not relinquish for 28 laps.
“It's really difficult to get a good start on the inside in that final little kink before the start/finish line, so he got ahead of me,” explained Wright.
With on-track passing at a premium, it was the first and only round of pit stops during the 45-lap sim race that finally put the advantage back in Wright's hands. After pitting with 19 laps remaining, Wright returned to the track and waited for Blocker to come in.
“That wasn't when I initially wanted to pit,” said Wright. “I wanted to pit a few laps earlier but the pit entry was blocked for me so I had to abort. I was waiting until there might have been a few cars in front of Adam and then I went down pit road.”
Two laps later, Blocker pitted. He would exit just as Wright went by him on the outside. Despite keeping pace on cold tires, Blocker would be unable to reclaim the lead. Following a late-race off-track, he would collect a cone under his car. The issues would slow his pace and cost him second position as Ryan Otis passed him in the closing laps.
“I took my attention off the race for a second,” said Blocker. “I ran over some cones and got a cone stuck under my right sidepod.”
Despite the disappointment, Blocker was quick to praise the racing between he and Wright.
“It was a really good race. Jake and I were about the same pace in the first stint. It was pretty much a yo-yo. I would stretch it out to 1.3 seconds and then he'd close back in to half-a-second.”
The unexpected runner-up position came as a welcome surprise for Ryan Otis as the two-time race winner needed all the points he could get to keep pace with Wright in the overall standings.
“I'd lost a little bit of pace for some reason today. I just didn't have the speed of Jake or Adam,” explained Otis, who'd spent much of the race battling David Altman. “I was trying to keep David behind me; I knew he had the pace to give me a run for my money if he'd had the opportunity.”
Altman would ultimately finish fourth, followed by Dustin Wardlow, Jason Galvin and Samuel Reiman. For much of the race, Galvin and Reiman put on the best show of the night as they battled for position. The fight continued into the closing laps as the two sim racers diced their way through a string of lapped traffic.
James Paulson, Joe Branch and Bart Workman would round out the top ten. Overall, 22 of 25 sim racers would finish the event.
The win allowed Wright, who now tops the standings in both Lionheart-sanctioned series, to grow his lead over second-place Ryan Otis to 49 points. Jason Galvin remains third overall, while Dustin Wardlow and Travis Jegerlehner round out the top five.
The Lionheart Retro Series takes almost a month off before returning on July 27th for the Grand Prix of Monterey at the legendary Laguna Seca. The event, presented by Dewar's Candy, will be broadcast live on the Global Sim Racing Channel (GSRC) and iRacing Live beginning at 10:35PM ET.