Article: Bill Lawrence

Photo Credit: Bruce Poole

2018 Season 6 Week 1

Spa Francorchamps

GP Pits

Article in Video Format

Season 6 has arrived and the 60Plus Racing Adventures League was gearing up to begin with a fresh start.  Race Reviews this season are going to take on a slightly different form.  In addition to race coverage of front runners, I will randomly spotlight certain drivers throughout the season. The hope is to give everyone some coverage by seasons end, at least that is the goal. This idea may help me focus a little more clearly on what is going on throughout the field which can be difficult and time consuming while reviewing the race.  Before beginning the coverage for this writeup I randomly choose the following three drivers who will get some extra attention. Two of them are veteran league members, Richard Coulombe and Gerard Florissen. The other is newcomer Rolf Just who we welcome to this new season with us.

Let’s set the stage for the opening race at Spa Francorchamps by a review of the final race and championship which ended our 5th Season.  Richard Coulombe wrote the following in his summary of the season as follows: “The official road driver championship was intensely disputed by the league’s top guns, but in the end, it was an exciting duel between past champion Jos Van de Ven from the Netherlands, and newcomer Stephan Roesgen from Germany. Only after the 23rd and last race of the season was the title confirmed to our new Season 5 champion Stephan. The third position on the podium was earned by one of our Super 70’s drivers Manning Grinnan from Texas, living proof that you can be “experienced” and fast at the same time.

Congratulations to all participating drivers for a sensational season, and in particular to our podium, Stephan, Jos and Manning.” 

In addition to the Drivers Championship we saw three of six team make the Team Podium Finish. Team Old Speed took first with Teams HART and Morgan finishing 2nd and 3rd.

With this backdrop 29 cars qualified for the Season 6 opener. This season we have introduced several changes which will have an effect on how things play out during each race.  Some races will be rolling starts, others standing. There will be quite a few races with mandatory pit stops which add another dimension of realism and excitement into the mix. How would Race 1 play out?  The great coverage by Racespot TV showed racers and spectators were going to get seat of the pants excitement up and down the field. When qualifying finished we witnessed three past champions leading the grid. Carkner was fully back on form followed closely by van de Ven. These two top qualifiers were the only two making it into the 2:17’s. Rounding out the top three was Mark Robertson.  As the pace car exited the famous bus stop on a rolling start the only question on many minds was pit stops. The question being, when will each of them take their mandatory stop?  Had the drivers already determined a pre-race strategy for pit stops or was there going to be a seat of the pants decision?  When to pit might play an important role in the racing this season.

Following the pace car and leading the pack out of the bus stop, Carkner was hard on the throttle leading the group down to the very tight and slow La Source. Up front it was a clean start however further back in the field there was an unfortunate incident.  This incident was likely caused (as my replay showed) by netcode. From my review it appeared netcode was a factor when Gianni Raspaldo was involved with Michael Goralski sending Michael airborne and careening to the inside field. As a result, a cascading effect took place to those following closely behind. John Hill and Mark Lison could not avoid what was happening in front of them. Lison’s teammate Jose Carlos Campodonico went wide attempting to avoid the mayhem and made contact with Michael Knapp driving the orange Nationwide Mazda. PJ Salley thought he had cleared the incident when the recovering Mark Lison got into his back end. A driver that escaped all this which was happening right in front of him was newcomer to the league Rolf Just.  Rolf avoided this incident and moved up 5 positions on the first lap.

Back the start we drop back to 5th and witness a move by Lawrence. Coming out of La Source Bill took the outside line getting a jump on Unsbee who was pinned to the inside, slower line. Could he hold it down the lengthy coming straight? The charge down through Eau Rouge and the Kemmel Straight would be a scene that would repeat itself throughout the race. The Kemmel Straight gives drivers an amazing opportunity to draft and this fact would contribute to at least 10 lead changes in this race with many more positional changes down through the field. This fact should really make drivers think before making a risky move like Lawrence did at La Source.

At the end of lap one, it appeared strategy was on the mind of Canadian Bruce Poole when he made his mandatory pit stop. That stop had him moving from 12th to 23rd and eventually Bruce finished just inside the top 10.  The field was already separating by the time they came back to Eau Rouge on lap 2. Jos made his move on Steve making this the first of many lead changes. Unsbee got his position back on Bill near the end of the lap taking the outside line into the bus stop and coming out ahead of Lawrence, once again pushing Bill back to 5th. Gerrard Florissen had maintained his 16th position through the first lap and was about to watch some drama unfold in front of him.  As he raced down the Kemmel Straight he was just outside the draft of the small pack in front of him. Being outside of that draft may have saved him. The pack was led by Jay Freels followed closely by John Morgan, Baldwin, Kemmerer, Martin and Fidler.   Everyone was positioned well when Joel’s back end broke loose on a downshift coming into Les Combes. Andrew Fidler had no option and they collected spinning of track to the inside wall.  Florissen got around these two making a positional gain as a result.

On the next lap and coming into Bruxelles Kemmerer stayed wide allowing Gerard the inside line on the tricky right hander and Gerard now found himself in 13th. Meanwhile Richard Coulombe was settling into a rhythm and being very patient generally following last year’s champ, Stephan Roesgen.  Rolf Just and Michael Hilliard were feeling each other out and swapping positions getting comfortable with the flow of the track and staying out of trouble, picking their respective moments.

A few laps later, and back at the front Steve and Jos continued swapping the lead and Unsbee gained 3rd on Robertson. Behind these 4 Roesgen was putting pressure on Lawrence trying to take the fifth spot.  Immediately behind and right on his tail came Richard Coulombe, Remigio Di Pasqua and Manning Grinnan. Your top nine were running very tight and keeping in each other’s draft.  Coming out of the bus stop at the end of lap 5 Robertson got on it a little early, his car spinning out but not hitting anything. So good battles were continuing up front. All of those just mentioned went by and Mark dropped back to the ninth spot.

Soon Stephan had Lawrence lined up for a move as they came through Eau Rouge and into Kemmel and he set up for the outside pass.  Late on the brakes into Les Combe Roesgen could not hold on going off onto the grass he was able to hold it but dropped a few positions with Richard and Remigio also passing by. Behind them Fidler had made a move on Just and was able to hold him off down Kemmel gaining another position.

On lap 7 the front 3 ran close but had a separation on the trailing Lawrence who also had a gap on Coulumbe. This fight up front was intense which would allow the trailing cars to close the gap. By the beginning of lap 8 Lawrence had closed the gap, he was back in it and challenged Unsbee for third at la Source where the late breaking Lawrence got the inside line taking the spot. Down through Kemmel they raced three wide coming to Les Combes where Bill was able to take 2nd away from Jos and began to put Carkner in his sights. At the end of lap 8 Steve surprised Lawrence, van de Ven and Unsbee when, at the last moment, he dove into pit lane taking his required pit stop. This put him out of the intense fight at the front and would allow him clean air for the next number of laps. Time would tell if this was a wise decision or not.  One thing was for certain.  The fight for the lead was getting every more aggressive.

Up front, the short train was going down Kemmel again where Unsbee gained two places through the draft taking 1st at Les Combes with Lawrence dropping back to 3rd. Richard was alone and closing in 4th and just behind him Manning was making a draft on Remigio. Being the third car in this draft Roesgen must have misjudged his closing rate and hit Manning at Les Combe, spinning Grinnan out he kept it off the wall. Your front 4 remained tight and Jos took 1st back again at Kemmel. He was not to hold it long though as Unsbee kept the pressure on and made a move at the end of lap 10 at the bus stop. By the time they crossed the start/finish line John had the lead again. The racing was getting very aggressive now as Unsbee had the lead but Kemmel was still ahead. Sure enough Lawrence now found himself in the perfect spot to pick up the draft of both cars ahead of him.  The slingshot would have him move into first again as Jos and John fought hard behind him and right in front of Richard Coulumbe. Coming out of Les Combe it may have been netcode once again when John’s left rear had him jump over Jos’s right front.

The resulting spin and slow down allowed Richard to blast into 2nd place while Jos fought hard to maintain control. Remigio came out of Les Combe to see Unsbee sitting smack in the middle of the track. He made the correct decision in moving left avoiding a collision with John. Up ahead Jos had enough momentum to get 2nd back from Richard at Pouhon.  All of that action had left Lawrence alone in 1st now with a fair gap between his car and second place. It was then he decided to take his pit stop at the end of lap 11. Jos, Richard, Remigio, John Unsbee and Stephan and Robertson all stayed out.  As fate would have it, a few moments later when Lawrence exited the pits, he came out right behind the charging Carkner now in 12th.  Now the path ahead was filled with a lot of cars who had not made their required pit stop. It was lucky that Bill was right behind Steve but unfortunately, he was just out of draft position on him. This would change within a lap as there were some slower cars ahead which would allow him to get in range of Steve’s draft.

Florissen had now worked his way up to eighth place when exiting the bus stop at the end of lap 13, he took it to the inside wall. There was enough damage it required him to go to a fast repair. Carkner and Lawrence moved into 8th and 9th. Would the frontrunners pit on lap 14?  Jos and Richard exited the bus stop continuing on to lap 15. Remigio in 3rd stayed out. Roesgen in 4th came in as did Robertson in 5th and Unsbee decided to stay out getting back to 4th in the process. Freels in 7th came in as Lawrence and Carkner rounded le Source with Robertson and Roesgen still in pit road.

At the end of lap 15 Jos and Richard came in as did Remigio and Unsbee. With just a couple of laps remaining this left Carkner and Lawrence in a position to finish in 1st and 2nd place. When Jos exited the pits, he had a view of these two charging down to Eau Rouge with a couple of seconds lead now.

Up ahead Lawrence now made the move at Kemmel on Carkner, taking 1st once again. Steve was very patient knowing the white flag was coming for the last lap and he would be in the best position. The trailing cars had enough of a gap that the draft would not be a factor.

Coming down Blanchimont to the bus stop Lawrence had a good run in draft and made a final move on Carkner. He was in first coming to the bus stop and guarded the inside line.  Steve moved left out braking and out maneuvering Bill to take the checkered and win race 1 of Season 6.

This race had terrific driving through the field and was as good an opener as anyone could hope for.  Well done drivers!