Typically hot and humid weather greeted the SBMRL drivers on our trip to Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia. The third race of the 2016-17 season was just as hotly anticipated as this was another new track for the league. With just two races in the books, the standings were still tight, and here is how the cars lined up on the grid:
P1 – Nero (Frank)
P2 – The Stig (Jason)
P3 – Captain Slow (Jason)
P4 – Launch Bornado (Frank)
P5 – Jaronimus Maximus (Geoff)
P6 – Danger Wheel (Ryan)
P7 – Jamonito del Verde (Geoff)
P8 – Mater (Ryan)
P9 – Jaap Snellrijder (Frank)
P10 – Ice (Jason)
A clean start when the lights went out meant that there was a legitimate drag race down the long pit straight to the first corner. As cars gained speed, Jaap and Jamonito collided just as they crossed the starting line, leaving each car with minor body damage. Nero was the first to reach turn 1, but Captain Slow took a temporary lead on the approach to the second corner. It was Jaronimus, however, who established himself as the lap 1 leader by corner 3, a position he would not relinquish.
The second sector saw Nero take control of second place, pulling away from the pack aiming to catch up. That pack consisted of Danger Wheel and the pairs of Scandinavian Blitz and Regency Motors drivers. Captain Slow, the Stig, and Jaap all found themselves up in 3rd place during this stretch, with Launch and Danger Wheel trying to fend off Ice. Jamonito and Mater trailed far behind.
Turn 7 proved to be the key corner on the first lap. It was here that The Stig managed to catch Nero while Jaap’s efforts to do the same fell short. That gave Danger Wheel the speed to pass him for 4th place. Jamonito came charging from the back here as well, but he wasn’t quite so lucky. He came in a bit too hot and the resulting collision with Captain Slow put him out of the race.
The remainder of the first lap saw Jaronimus take a commanding lead into lap 2 while Nero and Danger Wheel kept up with the Stig to create a tight battle for 2nd place. Everyone dove for the pits, with a number of cars opting for a new set of tires after a hard fought first lap. Nero came out of the fray in second place with Danger Wheel establishing some of his own space in third. That left the Stig, Captain Slow, and Launch Bornado fighting for fourth.
As with the first lap, things would change dramatically throughout the second. The first shift came with the Stig and Launch catching up with Danger Wheel on the approach to turn 4. It was here that Jaap caught up to them and took a lead over Captain Slow. Just one corner later, the Stig had found his line and caught up with Nero in the race for 2nd. With Jaronimus running away with things the two cars charged forward barely ahead of the 4-way battled for 4th place. Ice and Mater trailed at a distance.
Once again, turn 7 proved pivotal. The 4-car pack found enough speed through turn 6 to allow three of them to catch Nero and the Stig in the battle for 2nd place. Only Danager Wheel began to lag behind.
The Stig eked out a small advantage through turn 8, but Nero, Captain Slow, and Jaap were all hot on his heels. Launch, meanwhile, had been forced to take a conservative line. As the cars came out of the corner with the throttle pressed to the floor, Jaap was fastest down the straight. Nero led the Stig and Captain Slow in pursuit, while Launch was just getting through turn 8.
Sepang is a track that rewards accurate driving through the series of quick corners in the third sector. It also rewards blatant displays of speed down the dual hairpin straights that end and start each lap. It’s impossible to go fast enough down these straights, but you also have to navigate the hairpin, and it was here that Jaap failed. Carrying just a little too much speed into the final corner, Jaap spun out. In many parts of the track, this would not have been a major problem. He’d lose a bit of time but generally be okay. Here, however, the impact was huge. Instead of shifting up to 6th gear and cruising home with a runner-up finish, he found himself trying to right his car from a dead stop.
The rest of his challengers, had no such issues. In fact, the Stig whizzed by him in just about no time at all. Jaap’s teammate Launch, found speed to burn down the back straight and caught up with Captain Slow and Nero in the final corner. Launch flew on to take 3rd while the Captain and Nero had a drag race down the straight for 4th.
When the distantly trailing pack of Danger Wheel, Mater, and Ice made the turn, Jaap still hadn’t crossed the finish. In the end, he just barely eked ahead of Mater. Danger Wheel’s 7th place finish represented a dramatic drop from 3rd place over the course of the third sector of the track, and likely would’ve been the story of lap 2 if not for Jaap’s disaster.
|Jaronimus Maximus (ORC)||5||1||1|
|The Stig (SB)||2||5||2|
|Launch Bornado (RM)||4||6||3|
|Captain Slow (SB)||3||4||4|
|Jaap Snellrijder (RM)||9||7||6|
|Danger Wheel (RB)||6||3||8|
|Jamonito del Verde (ORC)||7||10, dnf||10, dnf|
Jaronimus won his first race, notching up Osito Racing Company’s first win in the process. His second consecutive podium gives him enough points to become the first SBMRL driver to lead the driver standings while having a DNF in the same season. With Jaronimus’ win, only Jamonito and Launch have yet to win a race. There are 4 other drivers with consecutive podiums: Jaap, Launch, Ice, and Nero. Nero is the only one of those who didn’t extend it to 3 consecutive.
The Stig’s 2nd place finish is his 3rd podium. He has never finished 3rd or 4th in a race. Despite his high finish, the fact that he started 2nd on the grid means that he hasn’t improved on his starting position since Singapore 2015, 10 races ago.
While Launch has never won, his 3rd place finish puts him in the lead with 6 podium finishes. He now heads a pack of 6 drivers spaced 7 points apart, and Jamonito is just 2 points behind that group. Launch’s 4th position on the starting grid means that he’s improved on his position in every race since the same Singapore races as Stig’s, when he started and finished 3rd. Nero’s disappointing race, dropping from pole to 5th, means that he’ll start from pole again in Monaco.
On the team front, Osito Racing Company is now tied with Regency Motors atop the board, with Red Bull falling to 3rd place. Scandinavian Blitz’s strong showing moves them out of the cellar and ahead of Cobalt, who are experiencing a tough season this year.