The SMBRL headed to Japan for the third leg of the 2017-18 season, to race Suzuka International Racing Course. The day was cool with some morning rain, but the skies held back in the afternoon for what would ultimately be a dry race. Here’s how the starting grid looked:
P1 – Stevie Wondertyres (Jason)
P2 – Bubba McQueen (Barb)
P3 – Captain Slow (Jason)
P4 – The Stig (Jason)
P5 – Whiplash (Frank)
P6 – Launch Bornado (Barb)
P7 – Jaap Snellrijder (Frank)
P8 – Sheila Dinkum (Frank)
A clean start to the race saw the front four jockeying for position through the first turn and then into the “Esses”. The Regency Motors pair of Jaap and Sheila couldn’t quite figure anything out in the same stretch, failing to make up any ground even on Launch Bornado.
The first key moment of the race was the beautifully approach to the Degner Curve taken by Bubba and The Stig. Both drivers hit the corner just right, leaving Captain Slow and Stevie to watch as they established an early lead. They carried that momentum into the hairpin and on through Spoon. By the time they hit 130R, they were seemingly miles ahead.
For their part, Captain Slow and Stevie did their best to keep the leading pair in their sights. They were adept enough at it that the entire field eventually separated into pairs. Launch and Whiplash were chasing Stevie while Jaap and Sheila were falling further behind and just hoping to have a clean enough lap to catch up at the pits.
Unfortunately, nearly everyone in front of them had run fairly clean, too. Only Stevie opted to pit for fresh tires, meaning that the rest of the field plowed on to the second lap with nary a thought for those poor sods at the back. The poorest of the sods was Jaap, who had pushed his car enough on the first lap to have to pit from last place.
Meanwhile, back at the front of the field, Bubba began to pull away from the Stig. After hitting all the corners just right on the first lap, Bubba was putting in a repeat performance on lap 2. The Stig was doing all he could to keep up, while at the same time starting to feel some pressure from Captain Slow behind him. Whiplash had passed his teammate while Stevie was in the pits, putting Sprite Racing in 4th and 5th.
It was again the Degner Curve that allowed the Stig to get the separation from Captain Slow that he needed. That solidified his 2nd place position, but with Bubba not putting a foot wrong, there was little that could be done beyond just keeping up in Spoon. Degner was, incidentally, also the place where Launch managed to catch up with Whiplash and Stevie, leaving Sheila put out.
At last, Bubba and the Stig began their drag race through 130R and into the final chicane, this being the last ditch chance for the Stig to snatch victory from Bubba. The Stig, being the true racer that he is, was not going to settle for 2nd if there was a shot at victory, so he gunned it and flew past Bubba. Unfortunately, it was a bit too much, and he couldn’t control his car on the exit, his car crashing into the barriers just as he was entering the approach to the checkered flag.
Bubba cruised past with the win in hand, and then Captain Slow came charging down 130R and into the chicane as well. With Whiplash and Stevie behind him and the finish line in sight, his engine failed catastrophically. He was so close he could’ve pushed his car over the line, and what was looking like a double podium finish for Scandinavian Blitz turned into complete disaster. The rest of the field came home in undramatic fashion, with no true fights remaining for position.
|Bubba McQueen (FR)||2||1||1|
|Stevie Wondertyres (SR)||1||5||3|
|Launch Bornado (FR)||6||6||4|
|Sheila Dinkum (RM)||8||7||5|
|Jaap Snellrijder (RM)||7||8||6|
|Captain Slow (SB)||3||3||7, dnf|
|The Stig (SB)||4||2||8, dnf|
Bubba had a dominating race that would’ve been a complete walk in the park if it hadn’t been for The Stig racing nearly as well. It’s Bubba’s first win and second podium. After a 3rd place finish in Austin, Whiplash goes one better here. Stevie gets his first podium, meaning that his is also Sprite Racing’s first double podium finish.
There’s really not much more that can be said for Captain Slow and the Stig. They raced brilliantly until it all fell apart at the end, making it that much harder to deal with. Jaap had his most forgettable race, never challenging for anything other than 2nd to last place.
At a team level, Force Ravenswood have their best result after recording their second consecutive victory. Sprite Racing, as mentioned above, had their best result as well.