Article: Bill Lawrence

Photo Credit: Bruce Poole

2017/18 Season 5 Week 1

AUTODROMO NATIONALE MONZA - GP

Background & Race 1 Coverage

Welcome to Season 5 of the 65Plus Racing Adventures League. Our league administrators headed by Joel Martin and Mark Lison have outlined the season schedule which will closely follow the official Race Season of the Pro Mazda.  In most cases our race week will trail the official series by one week.  This will allow league members who participate in both official and league events to get some practice in well before our event. To kick off the season though we start at Monza. The league extends our thanks not only to the administrators but everyone helping. All members help just by participating on a regular basis. Participation showed today with a strong grid of 35 cars!  Awesome turnout for a track that is fraught with dangers that lurk, not only at the end of long straights, but in the sweeping curves of Lesmo, Ascari and the very high speed Parabolica. This track simply demands precision and tempered aggression. The fields here often bunch into small groups caught in their respective drafts. In turn, this leads to very close wing to wing action with the complete field having battles from the front markers to the back of the pack. This was the setting for our kickoff race which was broadcast on RaceSpotTV on iRacing Live.

The top four grid positions had a very familiar look. The fifth position was taken by a newcomer to our league, Stephan Roesgen. Stephan hails from an area near Cologne Germany, a retired engine engineer. In this, his inaugural race, he qualified within about 3/100 of the pole sitter, Jos van de Ven.  Jos and Stephan live within about a 2-hour drive from each other both hailing from countries that have given us some very fast drivers. The international flavor of our top five on the grid continued with Steve Carkner. Steve is a former 60Plus Champion hailing from Canada and he sat number 2 on the grid. Following Steve, we have last seasons newcomer and a constant threat, Donal Fitterer hailing from New York State in the USA.  Donal makes his home in the scenic Finger Lakes area of New York very close to Watkins Glen. Fourth on the grid was Andrew Fidler from the Sheffield area of England and a continuous front runner in the league. Your top 5 are truly representative of the wonderful international aspect of this league. The Netherlands, Canada, USA, England and Germany revved their engines and warmed their tires following the pace car through Ascari, down the straight around the Parabolica and onto the front straight where Jos lead the field to the chicane.

The chicane at Monza comes at the end of the fastest part of the circuit. With a 35-car field there is going to be a very strong “accordion effect”. As front cars slow to what amounts to a virtual crawl, the rest of the field will witness an ever-increasing deceleration, cars stacking up and increasing down through the field. The effect increases more and more as we go towards the back markers.  This physical law will make incidents here, very difficult to avoid. Trying to race to the point of the funnel will likely prove costly in a big field. This physical law defeats any thought of an out braking maneuver in a large pack. In fact, sudden and unpredictable braking at this stage of a race will increase the effect.

Unfortunately, this principle was in full force on lap one beginning in the middle of the pack and could almost have been predicted. The accordion effect took its toll on a fair number of cars at this early point in the race.  It really is up to us as individual drivers to be very aware of and understand the effect at every track when there is a forced slowdown with lots of traffic. Incidents are inevitable if awareness is not extremely high or a very aggressive driver hopes to gain a position early.

After the mid field bottle neck at the chicane and still on lap one, Joe Renn running in 8th had a near death experience when he lost control entering Ascari. His car spun 180 degrees coming to rest facing oncoming traffic but on the left side of the track. This all happened directly in front of “Big” John Kelley and reigning “Drivers Champion” Mark Robertson, both of whom were able to go by without incident. In fact, everyone went by without incident. Drivers must give thanks to Joe as he sat facing every car coming at him around Ascari. He did not try to turn around or back up but waited patiently until near the very back markers before safely making his move. Joe moved from a contending eighth place to position 28 at the end of lap one.  I take my hatoff to him for this great display of situational awareness and his willingness to not endanger the cars behind him by patiently waiting and timing a safe re-entry.

Coming back down the front straight and into lap 2, Carkner got his inevitable run on van de Ven taking an outside line into the chicane for first.  Once again, the small accordion was stacking up with the small group at the front, ending with 7th place John Morgan on the tail of this group. Racers had already separated into smaller groups. The next pack of four

went through respecting the accordion and the space between as did the next grouping of four. The effect with smaller groups is not as pronounced. The groups looked like they were beginning to settle in until Mark Robertson, who was in 8th place now, lost control by the curbing at the exact same spot as Joe Renn did the previous lap. Mark’s spin was not as fortunate as Joe’s however and his car was not drivable after impacting the wall. Maybe 8th place was not the position to be in at Ascari!

Your leaders were now approaching the Parabolica where Jos thought better of making a move on Carkner going into the high-speed curve. Andrew Fidler thought he could make it work and dove inside of Donal taking third and going two wide at the Parabolica.  Donal was forced to slow, going wide which was just enough to allow Stephan Roesgen to steal a place as well. And so, began lap 3 and the jockeying for position from the draft.

John Kelley had now taken, what was turning out to be, the unlucky 8th place.  We just were not at Ascari yet.  Mike Taylor who had been in the middle of the accordion with many other cars on lap 1 came out of the pits just behind the leaders on lap 3.  Making a safe entry off pit row he was quickly caught by Morgan.  Finding a clear spot, he cleanly moved over and slowed, showing good racing awareness allowing John Morgan to overtake him, John was in 7th.  Kelley, in 8th, was next to approach the lapped Taylor. By the time he got to him they both communicated a pass and willingness to be overtaken but it was at the approach to Ascari and John could not have known exactly what happened here the last two laps. The fact is, both he and Taylor were quickly running out of straight track. On the overtake, and both attempting to give enough room, Kelley took the exact same curbing that Renn and Robertson had in each previous lap and it resulted in the same outcome. Kelley was into the wall and had to pit. Sadly, emotion triggered a response which then had a powerful effect on Mike.  Mike’s first race with us was not going well. First the accordion effect and now, while trying to do the correct thing another driver loses control and showed some emotion.  Mike had now slowed to let other passing traffic by but did not shift a gear which blew his engine. He then brought his smoking, damaged car to rest on the back straight deciding there and then to end his race.  A retirement based on unfortunate circumstance. Our sim is not much different then real-world racing and emotion is a part of a human response. We will all experience this, some more, some less but at times frustration and disappointment move to a higher level. It is part of racing and it happens to all of us.  We keep moving on trying to demonstrate mutual respect and understanding as best as each of us can.

Just ahead of this incident the top six were entering the Parabolica again with Carkner leading and van de ven and Fidler in good draft position. Things were getting tense with the leaders as the racing was extremely tight, well fought and close. The leaders went three wide down the front straight and just behind them Roesgen made a move on Fitterer who had retaken 4th entering the Parabolica. It was back and forth between positions within this group.  This writer was sitting as a back marker in the lead group and still within 10ths of the draft. The draft was so strong for Fidler he decided on an inside line move on Carkner. That decision saw him moving from 3rd to 1st in a clean and well executed pass at the chicane. Entering the chicane Carkner had been defending Jos on the outside while Andrew took the inside line. Three wide coming barreling down the straight to the chicane. Fiddler had the pass, Carkner defended from Jos but got just a little hot giving Fidler a very light tap. The tap was so light there was no damage showing to either car. Immediately behind these 3 were Donal and van de ven, one fighting and one trying desperately to hold on to 4th. Fitterer had the speed from the draft to overtake van de ven as the accordion effect with the three in front caught Jos short. From a being down to fifth a lap earlier Donal was now in position to push Carkner for second place.  In a moment positions can change rapidly here at Monza. Donal could not make the pass at the chicane but he did not have to wait long as Steve’s exit out of della Roggia had him go wide and Donal made his move having a faster exit.

With Donal challenging, now coming into de Lesmo, Fitterer caught a little grass over the curbing on the inside line and came out a little as Carkner came down a little leading to contact with two of the front runners.  The contact caused both cars to careen out of control directly in front of Roesgen who impacted Donal as Carkner spun off to the gravel trap. Jos stayed low barely escaping the twisting Roesgen as he came down to the wall directly in front of Lawrence who had no place to go but into the wall passing through Roesgen.   The out of control Lawrence screamed across the track with Morgan blasting by on the outside edge missing Lawrence by centimeters.  Fitterer, Carkner and Lawrence had to be towed but Stephan stayed out with a heavily damaged front end.  This incident had left Andrew Fidler alone in first with Morgan now in 2nd. Only 1 of the qualifying top 5 would finish in the top 5. Fidler had taken full advantage of the draft which had left him out of harms way and now well out in front and alone in first.

Further back in the pack and in other racing groups, Bruce Poole and Remigio Di Pasqua moved past Jim Oliver on the front straight. Jim had made room being a lapped car and knowing Remigio and Poole were chasing 8th place Kenneth Baldwin. Another lap, another unknown and chance 8th place for Kenneth. When Baldwin exited Lesmo he found himself quickly bearing down on the now heavily damaged Roesgen in 5th.  Closing very quickly he found himself on Roesgen’s wing nearing Ascari. He had a good look at passing using that inside move that had now taken out three others, it just looked so inviting. Ken moved to the inside looking like he wanted that curbing where those others had been taken out. He looked hard and then wisdom must have overridden instinct, so he backed off and wisely thought better of it. On this lap the spell was broken and 8th position remained in the hands of Baldwin.  That wise move however allowed the closing Remigio to get firmly in his draft heading down the straight to the Parabolica.  Remigio feigned a move to the inside but thought better of it and he came off the throttle. Choosing to wait for the front straight and sizing up the slower, damaged 4th place of Roesgen.

Hurtling out of the Parabolica came Baldwin, Remigio and Poole all bearing down on the ailing Roesgen heading down the fastest part of Monza and into lap 5. Remigio stayed in Roesgen’s draft giving him a very strong pull at the halfway point when he moved left to make his pass.  Baldwin had already taken 4th by staying wide and out of the draft as he had a great exit out of the curve. This allowed Poole to get a real head of steam as the 4 cars closed to a tight pack heading into the chicane.  Remigio thought he could outbreak Baldwin and maybe Kenneth was surprised when he moved to the apex finding Di Pasqua at his right rear wheel. Stephan came close but never hit Remigio who now had damage as Poole moved into 5th. This accordion allowed Unsbee who had started 14th to take 7th and position himself in this group. Very close behind came Richard Coulombe and Gerard Florissen who had both worked their way up from 17th and 15th.  Unfortunately, Remigio voluntarily took to the gravel trap and exited for repairs.

Bonasera and McIntosh sat alone in 11th and 12th while a group behind them were fighting for 13th thru 15. Kern, Raspaldo and Dummer all dove into the chicane and barely escaped damage as they fought for position via the draft as well. Freels, Kemmerer, Renn, Gilley and Lison trailed finding themselves in lonely, non-draft positions. The next pack had the draft.

Manning Grinnan in 26th was making a move on PJ Salley coming up to the Parabolica. A few 10ths in front Marcel Gutierrez made a move on David Riley taking the inside line at the curve which forced David outside and allowed Manning to take that position in an exact replication of how Fidler made a move on Fitterer earlier in the race. Racing was in true form throughout the field. PJ was even able to take the spot from David. Behind them Jose Carlos Campodonico gave room for Bill Switzer as they approached the Parabolica as well.

Fidler had been able to hold a good margin from 2nd place Jos who in turn had space between himself and Morgan in 3rd. Poole took advantage of the long draft down and through the Parabolica to the front straight passing Baldwin and claiming 4th on lap 6. The next couple of laps remained consistent with some movement but on lap 8, van de Ven misjudged the approach at della Roggia and hit the high curbing sending him airborne, across the track and into the gravel. This mistake allowed Morgan to move into 2nd. With heavy damage Jos choose to stay off track allowing the trailing traffic to pass without incident, everyone moving up a position. Limping around to the pits he was able to expertly stay clear of all traffic as far as mid pack before getting repairs.

Strong positional battles were taking place between Renn, Dummer, Kern and Freels by lap 9.  Back near the front, at the end of this lap, Poole was about to make a move on Baldwin again. They had been swapping in the draft for a few laps. First one and then the other. This back and forth was allowing Unsbee and Roesgen to quietly close the gap on the third and fourth place cars. On lap 10 Poole once again made his move taking third entering the chicane. Morgan had caught up and Roesgen misjudged his exit coming out of the chicane spinning John Unsbee around allowing Florissen to overtake Unsbee.

Behind these leaders Renn passed Raspaldo at the chicane and later in this lap exiting Ascari a seven-car grouping was about to form up. New “Andy” Morgan teammates, Kern and Dummer were in a draft with one another but working together as a team. The racing was clean and tight as this larger group entered the chicane.

Lap 11 saw Florissen take Roesgen by drafting to the chicane cleanly taking 5th. On lap 12 however, Gerard spun at della Roggia allowing Morgan who had passed Roesgen to take his position.

Same lap, same corner a few seconds behind teammates Dummer and Kern came together which caused a chain reaction involving the following and rapidly slowing Raspaldo and Freels to come together. Dummer’s car was damaged enough to need a tow. The others had damage but decided to carry on racing. Your top 5 were now locked in position to end this event filled race.

Congratulations to the podium finishers with:

FirstAndrew Filder – England – Team Rusty Nut

SecondJohn Morgan – USA – Team Otto

ThirdBruce Poole – Canada – Team Rusty Nut

Rounding out your top 5 were Kenneth Baldwin and John Unsbee.

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