With the standings about as close as they could possibly be, the SBMRL field took to Valencia for the final race of the 2016-17 season. Those further back in the standings would be racing for pride and a chance to play spoiler, but a good five cars all had a shot at taking the championship. The starting grid looked as follows:
P1 – Nero (Ryan)
P2 – Captain Slow (Jason)
P3 – The Stig (Jason)
P4 – Ice (Frank)
P5 – Mater (Ryan)
P6 – Danger Wheel (Ryan)
P7 – Jamonito del Verde (Geoff)
P8 – Jaronimus Maximus (Geoff)
P9 – Launch Bornado (Frank)
P10 – Jaap Snellrijder (Frank)
The field managed a clean start with everyone proceeding cautiously off the line for the season’s deciding race. The first pair of corners, Principal 1 and Veles e Vents, caused a great deal of compression among the contenders. In fact, all 10 cars were piled into Veles e Vents in short order. Launch Bornado was forced to lean heavily on the brakes, and would struggle with them the rest of the first lap. Both cars of the Osito Racing Company suffered minor collision damage as they, too, tried to work their way forward.
The pack moved on towards Malvarrosa with Danger Wheel joining the front four Scandinavian Blitz and Cobalt drivers. Nero suffered some damage as Captain Slow misjudged the slowdown heading into the turn. He then clipped Nero’s front wing again as he tried to sneak past in the middle of the corner. Sadly, it was Nero’s own teammate, Ice, who ultimately knocked him out of the race just as they were coming out onto the bridge straight.
At this point, the Stig had managed to stay ahead of the chaos behind and charged on towards Nazaret. Jaronimus Maximus had flown through Malvarrosa with speed and carried that onto the bridge straight, with Ice and Launch close behind. The latter of whom had managed to weave through the field after starting all the way back in 9th. With Danger Wheel running 5th, each team was represented in the top 5. That would only last briefly, however, as Jaronimus’ speed heading into Nazaret proved too great. He was unable to find his way around the Stig without bumping hard into his rival, ending his race then and there.
With two cars out of the race and less than half a lap completed, the rest of the field took a bit more care. At this point, Launch and the Stig began establishing themselves as the two contenders at the front. Danger Wheel, Ice, Captain Slow, and Jamonito battled it out in the middle, while Jaap and Mater struggled to keep up with the pace.
The third sector was where Launch was able to get an edge on the Stig. He was able to find a better line through Grao, coming out of it with the speed needed to smoothly run through Principal 2 and into the pits. While the Stig struggled, Danger Wheel took advantage and caught up. Similarly, his teammate, Mater was able to get the jump on the middle pack, leaving Jaap alone in back.
As the second lap began, Launch, Danger Wheel, and the Stig were far ahead of the rest of the field. Ice skipped the pits in an effort to bypass his rivals, while Regency Motors pitted Jaap quickly to get him back in the thick of things. Jamonito was the last car to make it out of the pits and embark on his second circuit.
Into Malvarrosa, Launch continued to hold a comfortable margin over Danger Wheel, who had by now established the same over the Stig. However, Ice, Mater, and Jamonito had now taken a bit of an edge over Jaap and Captain Slow at the back. The field was so spread out that Launch was on his way into Grao when the trailers were just getting into Malvarrosa.
The bridge straight was taken at speed by Jamonito, who was able to use that speed to charge forward and catch the Stig at Nazaret. Ice and Mater weren’t quite up to the same task, but it was Jaap who was charging now from the back. He had managed, like Jamonito, to carry speed down the bridge straight in an effort to make his charge.
As Launch and Danger Wheel navigated through Grao with little suspense, the battles behind them were tight. The Stig and Jamonito battled for third place through Nazaret, and behind them, Mater and Ice followed closely. They left little room for Jaap, who was forced over debris left on the track by Jaronimus’s crash on lap 1. Jaap’s suspension snapped, leaving two of the top 3 drivers in the standings out of the race.
As Launch rounded Principal 2 for an uncontested march to the finish, Danger Wheel followed in procession. The battle for third place, however, had a new entry in it. With the Stig and Jamonito fighting it out, Ice had managed to force his car into the mix. He came into Grao with speed, and due to the effort needed to get there and lack of a pit stop, had worn his gearbox down completely. Unfortunately, that meant that he carried too much speed through the corner, and couldn’t keep it on the track. His momentary shot at 3rd place wiped out.
Grao proved to be the undoing of other races, too, although not in quite as severe a fashion. While the Stig was unable to carry speed through the corner, Jamonito was, and he used that to set up a pass around the final bend of Principal 2. From there it was a drag race to the finish that saw him make good on that advantage.
The final finishers came down to Mater and Captain Slow. Mater fell foul of Grao’s speed trap, though, and spun out as he came out of the corner. That was all that Captain Slow needed to pass him and take an easy 5th place, with Mater righting his car and finishing a lonely 6th.
|Launch Bornado (RM)||9||1||1|
|Danger Wheel (RB)||6||2||2|
|Jamonito del Verde (ORC)||7||8||3|
|The Stig (SB)||3||3||4|
|Captain Slow (SB)||2||5||5|
|Ice (CO)||4||4||7, dnf|
|Jaap Snellrijder (RM)||10||6||8, dnf|
|Jaronimus Maximus (ORC)||8||9||9, dnf|
|Nero (CO)||1||10||10, dnf|
Having never won a race until last time out in Magny-Cours, Launch’s victory at Valencia marks the first time a driver has ever won back-to-back races in the SBMRL. It also makes him this season’s championship driver. Jamonito’s 3rd place finish, coupled with DNF’s from Jaap and Jaronimus allow him to leapfrog them into 2nd place.
Danger Wheel’s 2nd place finish didn’t quite do enough to catch Jaap and Jaronimus, but it was his best showing for the year. With the Stig in 4th place, we once again had 4 different teams represented in the top 4 finishers. This is the first time that’s happened in consecutive races.
Nero’s early DNF made the battle to avoid the cellar end quickly. There really wasn’t much that Nero could have done, and no driver has suffered as much damage in such a short space of time as Nero did in Malvarrosa. His teammate, Ice, marked his first ever DNF.
At the team level, Launch’s win sealed the deal for Regency Motors to repeat as the team champions. Newcomer Osito Racing Company takes a superb second place, which is all the more impressive after their debut race in Spa was a bit of a disaster. Scandinavian Blitz’s strong showing easily put them ahead of Cobalt to avoid last place.