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Austin Recap

Despite miserable weather prior to race day, the sun was out in Austin on the big day as the SBMRL prepared for the second race of the 2018-19 season.  With just one race in the books, everyone still had the chance to make a big impact.  The biggest story heading into the race was how Scandinavian Blitz would respond to having last year’s driver champion, the Stig, finish in last place, and rookie Rask Sjofar winning in his first time out.

Here’s how the grid lined up:

P1 – The Stig (SB)
P2 – Whiplash (SR)
P3 – Sheila Dinkum (RM)
P4 – Jaap Snellrijder (RM)
P5 – Delilah Whipplefilter (FR)
P6 – Launch Bornado (FR)
P7 – Bubba McQueen (SR)
P8 – Rask Sjofar (SB)

Ready to roll!

This race marked the fourth time in his career that the Stig had started on pole position, and in the past three instances he won twice and finished second, so there was plenty for him to be positive about.  That all went out the window when he stalled on race start.  It hardly took any time at all for Sheila, Whiplash, Jaap, and Delilah to all pass him by the first corner.

First corner approach

Sheila took the early lead but the Stig was not to be down for long.  He managed to get by all three of Whiplash, Jaap and Delilah at Turn 3.  Those three cars were battling hard throughout the first sector, ultimately resulting in a collision between Jaap and Delilah, leaving the latter to retire before even reaching Turn 4.

The Stig caught back up quickly

As the field barreled down the long back straight, Sheila maintened a slim lead while Jaap and the Stig began a battle in earnest for second place.  Behind them, the Sprite Racing duo of Whiplash and Bubba made a charge that saw them join that battle at Turn 6.  Rask and Launch were bringing up the rear, but close enough to catch the others in the event of a mistake.

Third sector battles

As predicted, the third sector jumped up and bit someone right at Turn 8.  Or perhaps more accurately, it bit three someones.  Jaap, Whiplash, and Bubba all found this corner a bit too tricky.  Jaap was thrown off his rhythm into Turn 9 as well, forcing him to watch the others pull away and allowing Launch to catch up.  Suddenly, in the space of two corners, he went from battling for 2nd to trying to avoid falling to 6th.

The Stig, meanwhile, was busy catching up with Sheila at Turn 1 thanks to an exceptionally fast pit crew.  The two would continue to battle back and forth through the first sector, exchanging the lead as they went.  Behind them, Launch was able to catch up with Whiplash and Bubba by not pitting, and putting himself in position to battle for yet another podium.

The start of Lap 2 with Jaap languishing in the pits

Jaap’s struggles in the third sector of the first lap were reversed with sublime driving through the first sector of the second.  He was able to get around both Sprite Racing cars at Turn 3 and then catch back up with Launch at Turn 4.

As the field charged down the back straight, there really was nothing between Sheila and the Stig.  Launch and Jaap were too far back to catch the front runners, but Bubba was close enough to join the battle for third at Turn 6.  That left Whiplash to fade and give Rask some hope of catching somebody… anybody.

Battles for 1st and 3rd remain tight

Navigating through the third sector a second time, the field had clearly learned from their mistakes on the first lap.  Sheila and the Stig came around the final corner with the Stig ahead by just a nose.  In the end, he was able to carry the momentum down the finish straight and take the checkered flag.

The Stig wins!

Jaap, Bubba, and Launch were similarly neck and neck.  Jaap had the slight edge coming out of Turn 7, but Launch held it coming out of Turn 8.  Bubba took an inside line at Turn 9 to pass them both.  He was able to carry that momentum around Turn 10 and down the finish straight to take the final podium.  While Jaap was slightly ahead of Launch around the final bend, Launch passed him down the straight to snatch 4th place out of his grasp.

Final Results

Driver Start Lap Finish
The Stig (SB) 1 2 1
Sheila Dinkum (RM) 3 1 2
Bubba McQueen (SR) 7 3 3
Launch Bornado (FR) 6 5 4
Jaap Snellrijder (RM) 4 6 5
Whiplash (SR) 2 4 6
Rask Sjofar (SB) 8 7 7
Delilah Whipplefilter (FR) 5 8 8, dnf

The Stig bounces back from a last place finish to win in Austin for the first time.  It’s his 6th career victory, which is now just 1 shy of Jaap’s SBMRL record.  The win marks the third time in four tries that the Stig has won from pole position.  His victory also gives him 10 podiums, which ties Jaap for second on the career list behind Launch.

Sheila led a race for the first time in her career, but she wasn’t able to bring home the victory.  This is her 4th time a bridesmaid, and she’s never had any other podiums.  Bubba’s 3rd place finish makes him the only driver with a podium in both races this season, and puts him in first place in the driver standings.  It’s the first time a Sprite Racing driver has held that position as he continues to make Force Ravenswood regret firing him.  Like Sheila, it’s the 4th time he’s finished in this particular place.  Unlike Sheila, he now has 6 podiums to his credit, which is 4th on the career list.

With consecutive wins to start the season, Scandinavian Blitz has given themselves a small cushion in the team standings.  The rest of the teams are all bunched up behind them.

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Austin Preview

With one race in the books, the SBMRL stays in the United States but heads south to Austin, Texas to run Circuit of the Americas.  This will be the fourth time in as many seasons that the league competes on this particular track.

Austin

Circuit of the Americas has a little bit of everything, with rhythm sections, a sharp hairpin followed by a long straight, and some technical driving through the final sector.  The starting straight isn’t particularly long and leads into a blind lefthander for turn 1.

Turns 3 and 4 keep everyone close and the field will likely stay together through the first sector.  The exit of Turn 4 is key to a fast lap as it sets up Turn 5 and the track’s long back straight.  In the past, this straight and the approach to Turn 6 have been key overtaking zones.

This is also, of cours, a prime opportunity for drivers to overcook things.  In fact, Jaap’s retirement from last year’s race was largely the result of an overaggressive attempt to catch up that ultimately cost him.

After a first sector that seems relatively straightforward, the second sector feels like the highlight of the lap.  The high risks involved leave the third sector as a bit of an afterthought.  Sure, it looks as simple as the first one, but the reality is that this section of the track has caused more problems than anyone seems to remember.  There’s nothing flashy about it.  Any overtaking that occurs here feels more like one driver’s failure rather than the other’s skill, but that doesn’t mean it won’t play a key role in the race.

Starting Grid

As this is the second race of the year, the starting grid for Austin is the reverse order of finish at Elkhart Lake.

  1. The Stig (SB)
  2. Whiplash (SR)
  3. Sheila Dinkum (RM)
  4. Jaap Snellrijder (RM)
  5. Delilah Whipplefilter (FR)
  6. Launch Bornado (FR)
  7. Bubba McQueen (SR)
  8. Rask Sjofar (SB)

As is league policy, pit selection will be in order of team standings, with ties broken by reverse order of average starting position.  That leaves the following:

  1. Scandinavian Blitz
  2. Force Ravenswood
  3. Sprite Racing
  4. Regency Motors

Austin will be Bubba McQueen’s home race.

Track History

Jaap and Launch have both previously won in Austin, while Sheila and Whiplash finished on the podium last year.  Pole-sitter The Stig has fared poorly in his three attempts to handle COTA, finishing no higher than 6th place.  However, all three previous winners have started on the front row, with two of those being on pole.  Mater is the only driver to have multiple podiums.

The previous three races have seen 5 cars fail to finish.  Ironically, it was the 2016 race with 10 cars on the grid, the largest of the three, that saw all cars make it to the checkered flag.  Last year, Jaap and Bubba both retired early.

SBMRL @ Circuit of the Americas

Road America Recap

The fourth SBMRL season got underway in Elkhart Lake, WI with a visit to Road America.  There are always a number of changes from year to year, and this season was no exception.  The first thing of note, however, was something that didn’t change.  This will be the first SBMRL season in which all the teams from last year return to the grid.  What that doesn’t mean is that the drivers are all the same.  In fact, only Regency Motors sports the same driver lineup as a year ago.

Scandinavian Blitz naturally returned last year’s championship winner The Stig, but he will be joined by Norwegian rookie Rask Sjofar.  Force Ravenswood hired another rookie, Delilah Whipplefilter to replace Bubba McQueen.  The latter will pair with Whiplash for Sprite Racing.

The other news of note heading into the season opener was one rule change which may be significant.  Safety concerns have prompted the league to institute a yellow flag condition whenever a crash occurs.  In the event of car retiring due to collision, suspension damage, or tire failure, the rest of the field must temporarily slow to 3rd gear or lower while the stricken vehicle is removed.

THE SBMRL RETURNS TO ACTION

Track conditions were perfect for racing and the cars were eager to get going after several months away.  With a blank slate and checkered flags in their imaginations, the cars lined up as follows:

P1 – Whiplash (SR – Frank)
P2 – Rask Sjofar (SB – Jason)
P4 – Bubba McQueen (SR – Jason)
P4 – The Stig (SB – Jason)
P5 – Launch Bornado (FR – Barb)
P6 – Jaap Snellrijder (RM – Frank)
P7 – Delilah Whipplefilter (FR – Barb)
P8 – Sheila Dinkum (RM – Frank)

The 2018-19 Grid

Despite a full offseason of pent up racing agression, the entire field got off the line smoothly to start the race.  Rask got a better push than Whiplash did and was through the first corner before the rest of the field knew what was happening.  The rest of the field split into a leading group containing Delilah, Launch, Jaap, and Bubba and a trailing group containing Sheila, Whiplash, and the Stig.  The latter group being notable as it contained a pair of cars that started on the first two rows of the grid.

Rask… and everyone else

The second half of the first lap was notable for the diametrically opposed fates of the Scandinavian Blitz drivers.  In his first race, Rask was proving that he could put no foot wrong, as he gradually increased his lead heading into the second lap.  In contrast, the Stig was struggling so mightily that he was gradually falling farther and farther behind.  Perhaps it was a major hangover from last season’s victory.  Perhaps he just starts the season slow, he didn’t perform well to start the season last year, either.  Regardless, this was not the way to get off a title defense.

Lap 1 Groupings

The second lap saw Rask navigating the second corner just as the rest of the field was first getting to the pits.  Bubba got a slight edge by not pitting, but was soon caught up by his replacement at Force Ravenswood, Delilah.  The Stig was the only other drive not to pit, and it did help him catch back up to Sheila and Whiplash.

Through the second sector, Delilah and Bubba battled back and forth, alternating in their battle for second place.  There was really no hope of catching Rask aside from a failure on his part in the third sector.  Launch had, meanwhile, gotten a leg up on Jaap as those two former teammates sought to demonstrate superiority.  Sadly, they were both struggling enough that the case could be made that they were trying not to demonstrate inferiority.

Bubba ekes ahead of Delilah in the fight for 2nd

Those waiting for Rask to stumble found themselves disappointed, as he coolly navigated the final third of the track to take a dominating victory.  Bubba also thumbed his nose, in his case towards Force Ravenswood, but taking a comfortable second place.  He lost Delilah in the second sector as she found herself lacking pace.

The next battle, then, became not just the fight between Launch and Jaap for fourth place but whether or not either would catch Delilah.  The answer was yes, but unfortunately for Regency Motors, it didn’t involve Jaap.  Launch passed Delilah around the penultimate Bill Mitchell Bend, crusing to 3rd place with Jaap trailing Delilah.  The final three cars were all neck and neck through the third sector, but Sheila prevailed over Whiplash, leaving Stig to last place.

Launch comes around the final corner

Final Results

Driver Start Lap Finish
Rask Sjofar (SB) 2 1 1
Bubba McQueen (SR) 3 3 2
Launch Bornado (FR) 5 4 3
Delilah Whipplefilter (FR) 7 2 4
Jaap Snellrijder (RM) 6 5 5
Sheila Dinkum (RM) 8 6 6
Whiplash (SR) 1 8 7
The Stig (SB) 4 7 8

Rask becomes the first driver to win their first race outside of Jaap in the SBMRL’s inaugural race.  He now boasts a 100% winning percentage, which likely won’t last for long but is fun to say.  Not only did he win, but he did so in dominating fashion, taking control of the race from the opening straight and never looking back.  Rask becomes the 12th different driver to win an SBMRL race.

Bubba finishes 2nd for the first time in his career, ahead of both Force Ravenswood drivers for a bit of revenge.  Launch starts out the season with a strong showing, adding another podium to his SBMRL leading tally.  Coupled with Jaap’s 5th place finish, Launch has now moved ahead of Jaap on the all time points list, 367 to 366.

From a team standpoint, the Stig’s poor showing means that Scandinavian Blitz holds a small, 2 point lead in the team standings over Force Ravenswood.  Regency Motors finds themselves in the unfamiliar position of last place.

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