Mark Robertson - Drivers Champion
2017 Season Finale -  Week 12
 SPA FRANCORSHAMPS - GP PITS
Great Driving in Season Final

The 60Plus Driver’s Champion has been crowned for Season 4, 2017!  Congratulations to Florida’s Mark Robertson who drove to a 5th place finish at the season finale, Spa Francorchamps. A fifth-place finish was good enough to ensure the stranglehold at the top of the season’s leaderboard. Honorable mention to a new driver in our league this season, New York state’s Donal Fitterer, who finished first in the race and was runner up for the championship. Finally, we applaud the most winning driver in the league, hailing from Canada’s capitol city Ottawa, Steve Carkner. Steve drove a superlative season with 6 wins and 3 poles. He managed to do this while racing in only 8 of the 12 races.  This rounds out the season’s podium. Fittingly, our podium finishers all drove well and gave us hard fought racing, gentlemanly conduct and low incident points. These are all hallmarks of what we strive to achieve at 60Plus and therefore our winning drivers truly represent the league well!

The season’s finale was set with an exciting sense of anticipation and expectation. When coming to the last race, all three of our championship contenders had a shot at the title.  Mark knew he had to drive a clean race and finish well to take the title.  His closest competitors, Donal and Steve, were both tied in second place. They would have to rely on a poor result from Mark and a good finish from them if they were to challenge the top spot. Second place was open, but everyone was looking for a first.

Considering the season’s stakes everyone was ready for a qualifying session that did not disappoint. Steve Carkner took the pole with a 4/100 lead over Donal who was right on pace with him in second place. Rounding out the top five on the grid were John Morgan, John Unsbee and Mark Robertson. We have not mentioned John Morgan yet and readers need to know John finished 4th in the season championship.  Your leader board were obviously in good form for this race. Robertson had four great drivers’ in front of him on the grid. John Unsbee, who qualified fourth, is always a threat and a very tough driver to get around.  Unsbee’s background is rooted in real racing. He has raced from an early age and his experience shows. Although plagued with technical issues this season whenever he is in the race there is profound respect for his ability. Although he qualified well in race 1 for some unknown reason he started from pit row at the green flag.  Unsbee can take a little solace in the fact he would win the 2nd race of the day, but this part of the write-up is dedicated to Race 1.

Following the Porsche Pace Car down the back straight leading the chicane, Steve Carkner led the 29-car field.  He was quick on the throttle coming out of the chicane leading down to La Source getting a good jump on Donal and everyone else. Waiting patiently, starting from the pits sat John Unsbee. Anyone who has raced at Spa knows that after the La Source corner things get interesting every lap.  As cars head towards Eau Rouge and the Kemmel Straight you cannot pull away from anyone up to a full two seconds back.  This is how powerful the high-speed draft is in this section. Steve’s great jump at the start would not give him an advantage by the time they reached Les Combes.

The leaders were content to tuck in tight for the draft in the early going. However, Bill Lawrence wasn’t. He started in 7th but Remigio Di Pasqua passed him at La Source. On the Kemmel straight Bill took that position back. Unsbee, who we mentioned started from pit lane, did not take long to catch the back of the pack. John was challenging the back markers half way through lap 1.

We had our first of only a few incidents in this race near the end of lap 1, further back in the pack. Michael Goralski had the draft on Liverpool’s David Riley. The Georgian Goralski took a late braking, inside line into the chicane and found himself a little too hot and a little unbalanced having his Mazda come around after a very light tap by Riley. Somehow the closely trailing and fellow Georgian, Richard VanderHave, was able to keep out of trouble and both he and Riley came out of the chicane side by side.

Back at the front the first lap warming of tires and settling in were now about to be cast aside as Fitterer made his move on Carkner at the end of the Kemmel straight. With nerves of steel Carkner held the inside line as Donal put on a serious challenge. Andrew Fidler was content to sit just behind Robertson in sixth sizing up the prey just in front of him.

Still on Kemmel but back in field, everyone else was pretty much doing the same, when Larry Thomas exited turn 11 with a little bobble. This gave Ronald Mcmanus, who now had the momentum, his chance to make a move. Thomas caught a little grass and making a correction his tires rubbed the passing Mcmanus. As the next picture shows, this did not end well for Thomas who became the first one of the few casualties of the day.

The leaders were once again on the Kemmel Straight and this time Fitterer came out of Eau Rouge with the inside advantage as he drafted Carkner.  The challenge was on but once again Carkner was able to out brake and hold the lead but from an outside position this time.

 

Your top 5 qualifiers were beginning to think about where and when to make their moves.  Back a few positions Kelley, Lawrence and Di Pasqua were also feeling each other out. Behind them, the next grouping was also beginning to swap positions with Florissen and McIntosh jockeying with one another. Meanwhile Unsbee was quietly but steadily making passes, moving up from the back of the pack.

Now well past Kemmel and exiting Pouhon, Fidler had a run on Robertson. Would Mark play it safe protecting his run for the championship?  True racing enthusiast that Mark is, and placing full trust in his competitor, he ran side by side with Fidler through three difficult corners, each driver being challenged down through the Campus and Stavelot and on into Blanchimont.  This racing left Fidler taking the position.  The downside of side by side racing is this, once that decision is made it gives opportunity to the cars charging behind you.  And this is exactly what happened when John Kelley and Lawrence closed the gap coming into the hairpin with Di Pasqua hot on their heels.

Behind these racers the next large grouping was heading to the chicane, at very high speed, when Kenneth Baldwin made an extremely late braking maneuver. He was unable to hold the line overshooting the curbing at the chicane.  Attempting to regain the spot, his car bounced over the curbing and he made contact with Gerard Florissen, sending Gerard off track. This dropped Gerard from 11th to 16th position.  Just behind them came our next grouping charging into the notorious chicane. Jeff Kanter was the unfortunate recipient of a punt by VanderHave who must have misjudged his braking point. These incidents allowed John Unsbee to move up again, now from 26th to 21st beginning lap 4.  It should be noted John finished 12th in this race showing great patience and skill gradually gaining positions through the field.

Back at the front again the leaders were in full draft on Kemmel, where this time Fitterer had a great run on Carkner and he was able to complete the pass to take over first. This lasted for less than a half lap as Carkner regained first place utilizing the draft down Blanchimont, leading to an inside position at the difficult chicane. Directly behind them, positions 3 thru 8 were separated by a very small margin beginning lap 5 as this picture shows.

This group of eight exited La Source where Kelley had a very slight wheel spin and bobble and that was all it took for Lawrence to take advantage moving into 6th. Just in front and back on Kemmel things were getting really tense as Donal once again had a great run on Steve. Donal, moved right, ready for the inside line and Morgan dove in behind him. With a multi-car draft this gave Fidler afterburners moving three wide coming into Les Combes.

Steve must be a miracle worker as it looked like he might move back to 4th, somehow, with great braking and driving skill, he managed to hold onto second but Fidler now had third. And so, it kept going, the challenge, back and forth. Now another lap and back to Kemmel we see Carkner once again taking first and Morgan had a strong look to take back third but was not able to pull it off. Just a few moments later an unfortunate technical issue took Steve Carkner out of the race when his screen froze, and his car crashed hard onto the guardrail taking him out of the race for a podium finish.

Reviewing other action, in the middle of the field the racing was strong with Bonasera, who had moved from 27th to 11th by the half way point of the race, giving battle with Coulombe. Also, John Hill had an incident back on lap 3 where a touch with Gianni Raspaldo left him with a damaged front wing.  John was able to hold his own even with a significant aero effect. Known as a low incident driver, John was able to make improvements in position even with this aero damage.

Coming out of La Source on lap 9 Lawrence had a good run on both Robertson and Morgan and attempted to move up two positions at the end of Kemmel. Morgan would have none of it as they drove side by side through Les Combes. He did however gain the position on his teammate Robertson.  Baldwin and Martin, in 8th and 9th began to work together attempting to catch 7th place Kelley.

On lap 10 Lawrence had another run on Morgan at the end of Kemmel when Fidler went wide to try and take first from Donal.  Morgan made the decision to draft Fidler which gave Lawrence the opportunity to get the long draft from Fitterer. Andy made the pass for first, but this gave Lawrence the inside line on Morgan where he gained third. The leaders had another battle again at the chicane where Donal and Andy went side by side one more time. The result was Donal now had first going into the last lap. First may not be the best place to be coming back to Kemmel. Meaning Andy might get a good 

run on him by the time they got to Les Combes.  This time Andy did not have quite enough to make the move and it was the same throughout the field. There was no other opportunity to challenge on this last lap with Fitterer finishing first, Fidler second and Lawrence third. They were closely followed by Martin in fourth and Robertson fifth ensuring him the season’s crown for the driver’s championship. 

This ended a great season for the Driver’s Championship but for those outside of the podium finish there was another race to go.

 
Race 2 Coverage

The 60Plus Driver’s Champion had been crowned in Race 1, Mark Robertson.  The league has been having 2 races this season were the podium finishers from the first race are not allowed to participate in the second.  Points in the second race can only apply to team standings, not driver standings.

The field for the second race was set with 23 cars qualifying.  It was great to see Steve Carkner back on pole after suffering a catastrophic technical failure in the first race that removed him from contention. Once again John Unsbee and John Morgan qualified well and sat beside and behind Carkner on the grid. Rounding out the top five were Paolo Bonasera and John G Hill.

Carkner was hard on the throttle coming out of the chicane just as the pace car exited the corner.  This time, Steve had an even bigger jump on the field as Unsbee and Morgan fell a good distance behind right away.  By the time they reached the end of Kemmel, Unsbee had narrowed the margin, but Morgan was still well back and at the mercy of Bonasera, in what was now the second pack.  Paolo completed a clean pass for third and right behind him came a charging Kelley who had passed Hill. 

The start had been clean with only Richard Coulombe loosing grip coming out of La Source where he spun cleanly over to the inside wall without any contact. This spin did move him from 9th place to the end of the pack as he patiently awaited the field to go by before reentering the track again.

So, the first couple of laps were relatively cleanly driven but the dangers of an unbalanced vehicle showed itself near the end of the second lap. Gerard Florissen took just a little too much kurbing at the chicane to spin him off track and into the grass and once again, no contact.  Kurbing can really unsettle a car as this picture shows just before Gerard came around.

A few moments later Joe Renn, exiting La Source, had the exact same issue Coulombe had on lap one when his car went a little wide, lost grip and came around on him. Where Richard had some luck, Joe unfortunately did not. He spun right in front of the trailing Raspaldo who had nowhere to go, colliding with Renn. This ended Joe’s race and caused serious front end damage to Gianni’s Mazda.

Back with the leaders and coming out of Eau Rouge Unsbee had a great draft on Carkner coming into Kemmel and easily took over the lead. Just behind them the second pack had closed the gap as Morgan, Bonasera and Kelly began to test their limits.  John Hill found himself alone in 7th and trailing him came Fred McIntosh who had been closing on Di Pasqua.

Gianni Raspaldo, who had contacted Renn, now had aero damage allowing Gerald Florissen to draft and pass cleanly for 12th place while Jay Freels elected to stay out of that fight for the time being.  Later the same lap Freels took advantage just before the chicane to pass the ailing Raspaldo.

Behind this grouping we found some racing action in another group led by Charles Gilley in car 18. Charles had position on the trailing Mark Lison coming off Les Combes with both Jose Carlos Campodonico and Joel Martin looking for position.  Entering the Bruxelles curve, Mark’s rear end stepped out and while he recovered quickly it was enough for Jose and Joel to push past him moving Lison back two positions.

Up front Unsbee and Carkner continued their duel allowing both Kelley, Bonasera and Morgan to continue to close. At the same time a little further back Martin tried to overtake Jose on Kemmel but Campodonico held the inside line protecting his position and closed on Gilley. Just in front of them Jeff Kanter was the next to catch up to the ailing Raspaldo, passing him on Blanchimont.

Jose had reached the wing of Gilley by the chicane and made a daring move, diving to the inside and holding his line, he now put Gilley between him and Joel Martin. Joel, not liking this new separation, took a similar move on Gilley at La Source, taking a late braking maneuver to get back on the tail of Jose. Perhaps these two late moves shook Charles a little as they began the race towards the Kemmel straight.  Because now, launching out of Eau Rouge, Richard Coulombe and Mark Lison both had Gilley in their sites.  Richard went right and Lison left and maybe Charles did not see Richard as their tires touched when Coulombe’s line had left him running out of track. The resulting collision left the team Otto driver spinning down Kemmel where somehow, he was able to gather it up keeping the car of the Armco.  Up ahead and coming into turn 13 at Campus, PJ Salley shifted down 2 gears and blew his transmission, severely crippling his car in puffs of black smoke.

Laps 6 saw a change up front when both Kelley and Unsbee had a great run down Kemmel on Carkner.  Going 3 wide Steve moved from first to second and almost back to third in a few hundred feet.  Racing nose to tail through the back half of the track the leaders came again to the infamous chicane with Unsbee and Carkner side by side.  Kelley was right there with them followed closely by John Morgan as they entered the chicane.  It was here that Steve took to much kurbing exactly like Florissen had at the beginning of the race upsetting the car and causing a spin. This time however it was directly in front of Kelley who had nowhere to go hitting Steve square on the front right. This caused Carkner’s car to spin back in the correct direction allowing him to get back on the gas, but he had sustained aero damage to his front wing. This allowed Morgan to slip past and into second place. The now damaged Carkner could not stay ahead of the charging Kelley who appeared to escape the collision with no damage. This incident also allowed Paolo to close the gap on Carkner.

By the time the leaders got back around to the chicane once again everyone was tight with the leading Unsbee. As they finished Kemmel and came into the series of sweeping corners Kelley became aware that his car was not handling as well as it did before the accident. Spotters had reported that it appeared he had no damage, but Kelley could feel something was wrong. On each corner he fell back just a little until at Campus, Carkner was much faster into the corner and rear-ended Kelley. Paolo was able to move to his left and into the grass avoiding the collision in front of him. Carkner, slowed by the sand track gathered it up. The race for the top spot was now solely between Unsbee and Morgan with Paolo moving into third.

Back in 9th spot Joel Martin was entering turn 11 when he lost it and hit the barrier hard bouncing him back into traffic where Jeff Kanter escaped the bouncing car 27 but Ronald Mcmanus did not.

By the last lap of the race Steve was once again able to close on the third-place car of Paolo and pass him on Kemmel. And John Morgan had a few good runs on Unsbee but was unable to pull off the pass.  Your finishing podium was Unsbee in first, Morgan second and Carkner third.  The two Turtle teammates of Bonasera and Di Pasqua rounded out the top 5 for the final race of the season.

This season was greatly enjoyed by most drivers and we are looking forward to the Season 1 of the 2018 schedule… Stay tuned for more information.

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