The 2016-17 season opener was taken on a comfortably cool day at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. The traditionally unpredictable weather remained dry throughout, leaving the cars to race freely.
As it was the opening race of the season, the starting grid was seeded randomly just prior to the start of the race. For the remainder of the season, it will follow the SBMRL procedure of starting in reverse order of the current driver standings. Here then, is what the lineup at Spa looked like, along with their new liveries for this year:
P1 – Ice (Frank) – white Williams-Martini, white tail
P2 – Jaronimus Maximus (Geoff) – green Lotus/Caterham, yellow nose stripe
P3 – Nero (Jason) – white Williams-Martini, black tail
P4 – The Stig (Jason) – red Ferrari, white engine cover
P5 – Captain Slow (Jason) – red Ferrari, black engine cover
P6 – Mater (Ryan) – blue Red Bull, blue tail
P7 – Jamonito del Verde (Geoff) – green Lotus/Caterham, white nose stripes
P8 – Jaap Snellrijder (Frank) – yellow Renault, black tail
P9 – Danger Wheel (Ryan) – blue Red Bull, purple tail
P10 – Launch Bornado (Frank) – yellow Renault, yellow tail
There was drama from the moment the lights went out to signal the start of the race. Nero stalled his car at the 3rd grid position and was immediately caught up with by Mater, who had a flying start out of 6th. It didn’t stop there, either. While Ice was able to get through La Source ahead of everyone, the rest of the pack fought their way through the tight corner. Jaronimus was sandwiched between Mater and the Stig, losing a bit of bodywork. Shortly thereafter, Nero’s race went from bad to worse as not only did he find himself all the way back in last place, Launch Bornado gave him some damage on the charge down the inside.
After the front pack flew through Eau Rouge, the trailing pack found themselves in a bit of a pickle. With 6 cars all trying to find their way through at top speed, the odd man out was Jaronimus. He had been on a particularly slow uptake out of La Source and when he went to charge through the high speed Eau Rouge-Radillon combination, found it all stoppered up. He was forced to slam on his brakes, leaving them near the end of their life in his effort to avoid crashing into the back of Jaap Snellrijder.
While Ice and Captain Slow took a moderate lead, the rest of the field battled to catch up. With Jaronimus falling from 2nd to last and having to drive extremely cautiously just to make it to the pits, things were not looking good for the Osito Racing Company. Then it got even worse. The hard charge into Les Combes meant that Jamonito suffered the exact same misfortune as his teammate, a desperate slam on the brakes just to stay in the race.
The second sector saw a gradual stratification of the field as cars began to spread out along the track. This was largely due to the technical nature of that section. The third sector with its long Blanchimont straight leading into the Bus Stop chicane then became the place were it started to come back together. Mater caught up to Captain Slow and Ice, leaving the latter down in 3rd place. Behind them, the rest of the field did their best to join them. Jaap was the leader of that charge, while Jaronimus saw his push result in a spin coming out of Stavelot. That spin effectively ended his chance of being competitive. At certain other points on the track, such a spin wouldn’t have been as costly. In fact, Nero proved the point just a bit further on. As it was, Jaronimus was inching along a stretch of track where cars are typically at full throttle.
Mater’s charge resulted in his being the first to cross the line for the second lap, finally forcing his way into the race lead. Unfortunately, he’d be out of the race moments later. His trip through La Source took him over the debris that had been left there on the first lap and he was forced to retire with a broken suspension.
Ignoring Mater’s wreckage, Ice pushed on with the second lap. Captain Slow followed close behind and Jaap made every effort to join them. The rest of the field, sans Jaronimus, almost literally piled into the pits. The instigator was Nero who, having spun out at the Bus Stop chicane, blocked access to pit lane. In the end, all five of Nero, Launch, Jamonito, the Stig, and Danger Wheel were in pit lane at the same time.
As Ice continued to lead through the second sector, Jaap managed to catch up with Captain Slow in the battle for second. Jamonito emerged as the primary challenger for 4th place, but the Stig was close behind and closed the gap on entry to Rivage.
Jaap’s attempts to get past Captain Slow resulted in a minor collision along the short straight leading into Stavelot. Last year’s champion was carrying speed, and flew into second place on the back straight. Ice, however, was flawless over the final half lap, and there was really nothing anyone could do to catch him. Jaap closed the gap enough to make it close, but Ice emerged victorious. Captain Slow pulled in with an uncontested 3rd place to round out the podium.
The battle for 4th was an entirely different matter. Jamonito had taken control of the position through sector 2, but a number of cars were closing that gap. Initially led by the Stig, Danger Wheel passed him at Stavelot with Launch and Nero on the charge. Launch took the corner just right, but Nero carried a bit too much speed and found himself in the barriers, out of the race.
Danger Wheel’s charge along the back straight was inspired and he was able to pass Jamonito on entry to the Bus Stop. The latter was nursing some severely worn tyres, and that left the door open for both Launch and the Stig to scuttle past. After entering the third sector with 4th place seemingly in his grasp, Jamonito found himself 7th across the line.
Not to be forgotten, Jaronimus slogged along in last place. With Nero having crashed out at Stavelot, there was still something to strive for. Namely, surviving long enough to secure 8th place. The Osito Racing Company rookie took the opportunity to string some turns together and get a proper feel for the car. Emboldened by the sight of the long Blanchimont straight and with nothing on the line, he simply floored it the rest of the way. It was his best driving of the day… until he crashed at the Bus Stop.
ORC management was said to be less than amused. “When the track was full and everything was on the line, he drove slow,” was the disgruntled comment. “When the rest of the field has finished and he’s got nothing to lose, he suddenly goes fast enough to wreck the car! Now we’ve got to go about fixing it before Austin.” Perhaps he’ll have better luck in Texas.
|Jaap Snellrijder (RM)||8||4||2|
|Captain Slow (SB)||5||3||3|
|Danger Wheel (RB)||9||9||4|
|Launch Bornado (RM)||10||6||5|
|The Stig (SB)||4||8||6|
|Jamonito del Verde (ORC)||7||5||7|
|Jaronimus Maximus (ORC)||2||10||8, dnf|
|Nero (CO)||3||7||9, dnf|
|Mater (RB)||6||1||10, dnf|
Spa proved to be an extremely challenging track for all drivers. Having an additional team on the grid certainly meant that driving at the front was an advantage. Ice and Captain Slow made the most of it, while Jaap somehow managed to successfully find a way through all the chaos behind them. Ice is now the first driver to lead the drivers standings other than Jaap. It’s hard to pick a bigger disappointment between Jaronimus’ struggles after starting 2nd on the grid and Mater’s crash, but we’ll go with Mater. An inspired drive from 6th to 1st at the halfway mark went for naught just seconds into the second lap.
Regency Motors began the year in the same way that they finished last year, atop the team standings. The margin is slim, but both drivers managed large gains from the back of the grid. Ice’s win gives Cobalt their 4th victory, which is twice what any other team has achieved. Nero’s crash puts them at the back in terms of ability to actually see the checkered flag. Scandinavian Blitz is a close 3rd, while Red Bull and Osito will have some catching up to do.
It’s always fun to compare the recent race results with things that have happened in the past. As stated above, the win for Cobalt is their 4th overall. No other team has won more than two races. Those 4 victories have all come in the last 5 races run. The only recent race they missed out on was Sochi. On the other hand, their points haul has been significantly lower than expected. The run started with a dominating 1-2 finish at Sebring, but since then, the team’s second car has never finished higher than 7th.
Speaking of failing to finish, Nero has now crashed in 3 of his last 4 races. In those races, the only time he’s seen the checkered flag was his victory at Valencia. He won at Sebring, too, so he’s literally been all or nothing for 5 straight events.
Osito Racing Company’s 10 points in their maiden race were quite a few less than what they were hoping for. They can take some solace in the fact that last year, Scandinavian Blitz managed just 8 in the opener and Red Bull managed the same 10 at Singapore.
Individual drivers had some interesting trivia as well. Jaap never finished lower than 4th last season, but he also never once finished in 2nd place. Naturally, that’s where he finished in the first race of this year. Captain Slow’s 3rd place finish after starting 5th on the grid marks the first time that he’s moved up more than one slot from his starting position. He went from 6th to 5th at Buddh last year, and he won from pole in Singapore, but dropped position in every other race. Similarly, Danger Wheel went from 9th to 4th for a 5 position improvement. Last year, he never moved up. His best races were his win at Buddh and a 2nd place finish at Hockenheim, and in both cases he started in those same slots.