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I hadn’t updated my qualifying time since yesterday, so started waaaay back in this one. On the grid of thirteen I was going to start tenth, but with the third highest iRating I felt that (if I could avoid any crashes at the start), I’d be in a great position to take my first oval racing win since the iRacing statistics were reset!

I got a decent start (I think that when starting, it’s probably best to be in first gear – I seemed to start a lot slower than some people). Avoiding all the accidents on the opening lap I suddenly found myself in third place!

Unfortunately I found myself all alone with gaps infront and behind, I knew that I’d need to try to catch the leaders (who at this point were still side-by-side racing – which is aerodynamically slower) soon, if I didn’t, I’d have no hope of a win.

When eventually some cars came out of the pitlane, I hoped that I would be able to use them to catch the leaders. Unfortunately it seems that most people do not understand how they are very much faster when running single-file… So after losing nearly two seconds to the leaders, I just stopped fighting with the backmarker and followed him around… Luckily for me, the leaders also hadn’t realised just what a huge advantage it is to run single file (or simply, they didn’t care), so once I started to run behind the backmarker, we caught them in no time.

I now had a tough choice… I knew that if I could stay within range those leaders wouldn’t be going anywhere and I also knew, from having watched them the entire race, that nobody in the group around me was even thinking about running in line… I decided to just lay back for a bit and see what would happen.

Eventually we came around to a name I recognised and knew was both fast and clean. I let him straight past, tucking into his tow, hoping that he’d pull me by the leaders… One by one the backmarkers who were in the lead pack fell away and unfortunately, they took one of the leaders with them in an accident… I was so very nearly taken out in the accident and even got a car contact penalty… Luckily for me though – there was no real contact and I drove into first-place shortly afterwards.

After a few laps in the lead the backmarkers (who were battling hard) had gotten side-by-side and slowed down greatly. This allowed the guy in second to not only catch me, but get side-by-side with me… After a couple of laps wheel-to-wheel, we’d lost the draft of the backmarkers and it became just the two of us, on the track, for the win…

Constantly checking how many laps remained, I decided to sit behind the new leader and bide my time…

Once the laps started to wind down, I started trying to see just what my opponent was capable of… We started to run wheel to wheel and had a really good dice but I felt that (if I timed things right), I should be able to pull it off.

Passing me with twelve laps to go, my opponent looked quite evenly matched and I knew that (like I said above) this was all going to be about timing. If I make a move on the wrong lap and we swap position on alternate laps – I’m toast – so I decided to just have fun and try things with four to go…

Things didn’t go well with four to go and I found myself over-driving the turns, as we crossed the line with three to go I set myself up with a game plan and decided to lay back a little, hoping I’d be able to use the draft and slingshot by on the backstretch… Well, that didn’t work, infact I only got close to the rear of his car again with about one and a half laps to go!

So on the backstretch, with one and a half to go, I sprung! I made my move to the inside and found myself wheel-to-wheel around the turn… As we crossed the line with one lap to go he edged infront and took his low line in the turn, forcing me to give way.

So it was the last lap and edging closer and closer to the rear of his car I knew that if I couldn’t make a move out of turn two I might as well not even bother… I pulled down low on the backstretch and by turn three my opponent had decided to give me the turn and probably hoped that I would screw up the turn by running wide… Thankfully I was able to hold the car low and (using lessons I had learned when racing with him earlier in the event) stopped him from being able to pass towards the line – I won my first oval race in a loooong time – woohoo!

The really cool thing about this race is that it made me think. So easily I could have just spent the entire race side by side with other drivers, but drafting with them actually made the win possible. After the race I said to the guy who finished second that had he and the other leader who crashed out not raced side by side so much, I’d not have even caught them (neither would the backmarker who eventually got in an accident with them, either). Anyway, I’m absolutely delighted with this win, it’s a shame about the car contact incident points but hey, it’s better than actually being physically involved in that wreck. ;)

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British-born U.S. Resident, Tim Wheatley, works for Image Space Inc., a developer of driver-in-the-loop simulation technology. He lives in Illinois with his wife and children.
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