In a race that featured it all, including apparent netcode in the final hairpin coming to the white flag, Oscar Mangan has won the fourth race of the ISOWC Sim Racing Series season.
The race came down to a six-lap shootout between Gustas Grinbergas, Bryan Carey and Mangan after a late-race crash for second position brought out a yellow flag.
After using all his push-to-passes earlier on in the final run, Grinbergas attempted to hold onto the lead coming to the final lap. Chaos broke out heading into Turn 11 after Grinbergas went around after being tapped by Mangan.
Carey, Pierre Verne, Pedro Sanchez Albert and Andreas Eik completed the top five.
“I obviously don’t want to win it that way,” said Mangan after the race. “I don’t blame Grinbergas (for being upset) and I don’t really feel I could have avoided anything really. There was just kind of ghost contact between us. I never want to take a win like that. I was saving push-to-pass for that straight after the contact and I feel I could have gotten him there.”
The CoRe SimRacing driver said he was gutted for Grinbergas.
Carey was left flabbergasted after the race.
“I have no idea what happened there,” said Carey. “I mean, if I got top 15 in qualifying, that’d be a huge result. I got close to that and thought ‘okay, I got to pick a good strategy. I have to be flexible.’ … I’m feeling good right now.”
The championship battle took a major turn on Lap 61 when Valtteri Alander hit the back end of Alexander Walton, causing a multi-car pile-up and damaging his right front tire. Alander went from being a race contender to being a lap down as a result of the incident.
Strategies and safety cars also flipped around the running order several dozen times during the 85-lap race.
“We were kind of hoping that it would go green after we stopped (for the final time),” said Mangan. “We were comfortable on fuel, so we were just banking on pulling away, hoping Valtteri would be caught in traffic and we’d be able to pull a gap and go from there, but it didn’t go that way.”
The race started with a quick safety car period after several competitors, including Matt Pawelski, Peter Zuba and Henry Bennett, were involved in a calamity of crashes through the first three corners.
On the ensuing restart, Alander quickly pulled away from Adam Blocker and Mangan. The KOVA driver built up a 1.3-second lead in the span of the first lap after the restart alone.
That gap quickly evaporated after Chris Aoun hit the tire barrier heading into Aquarium Way. Adam Crane then smashed into the side-pod of Aoun, demolishing both cars. That incident quickly triggered the second yellow of the race.
The caution mixed up the early strategies for a couple drivers, including Christian Steele, Eik and Grinbergas. Half the field elected to switch tire compounds during the Lap 8 safety car period.
The blistering pace from Alander continued after the restart. Alander pulled away from Blocker and Mangan by more than four seconds in the span of four laps.
Mangan took away second position on Lap 14 after getting a large run down East Shoreline Drive. His CoRe SimRacing teammate, Carl Jansson, then followed suit a lap later, relegating the Powerslide Motorsports car to fourth.
The third caution flew on Lap 22 after Riley Thompson crashed coming out of Turn 9. Thompson snapped loose on the corner exit, sending him sliding into the retaining wall. The contact immediately crushed his front wing. The Total Downforce Racing driver had been visibly loose for several laps before the incident.
Pit stops began for much of the field under the yellow flag. However, Alander elected to stay out on the track during the caution along with João Vaz, Alex Ellis and a couple others.
The incidents kept coming after the Lap 26 restart when Graham Sanders slammed into the tire barrier out of Turn 1, demolishing his suspension and right front wing. Sanders immediately made his way to the pit lane as a result of the hard contact. He had been running inside the top 10 prior to the prior safety car period. The incident did not trigger a caution.
Alander made his first pit stop of the race under green on Lap 30. The call cycled Austin Espitee to the lead.
He nearly got a caution seconds later when Manuel Domingo rammed into the back of Severi Seppa. The contact caused the front wing to break, sending the Radicals Online Track Racer car sliding. Steele, who was three car-lengths back when the incident began, then crashed hard into the back wing and side-pod of Domingo. The contact caused Domingo’s back wing to dangle from his car, causing him to nearly spin several times coming to the pit lane. Domingo lost two laps and had to serve a drive through penalty as a result of the incident.
The caution did eventually come out on Lap 36. Pierre Verne looped his Race Clutch car around in the final hairpin, causing him to get stuck the wrong way on the track. Verne backed up and moved forward several dozen times before finally pulling away from the corner after 40 seconds.
Ramez Azzam cycled to the lead for the restart on Lap 39 and was immediately pressured by Alander from behind. Alander nearly ran into the back wing of Azzam in the final hairpin before retaking the lead down East Shoreline Drive on Lap 41. Alander was able to immediately pull away by more than two seconds in one lap.
Cautions continued to fly on Lap 45 when Sai Andra went airborne exiting Turn 1. Andra slammed the tire barrier, lifting the right-side tires off the ground and smashing his side-pod. He needed a tow as a result of the contact in the middle of the fountain section with debris scattered across the track.
Tempers flared on Lap 53 when Vaz lit up his back tires coming off the final corner into the path of Jansson. The contact destroyed Jansson’s front wing on impact. Vaz then spun into the road median, destroying the rest of his car. Jansson hit Vaz as he spun towards the lane, detaching his right front tire and sending him spinning as well. The chaos triggered an additional safety car period.
Ellis, Bryan Carey, Walton, Alander and several others elected to pit during the caution. After the restart though, Ellis damaged his right front wing against the Turn 1 tire barrier, crushing the endplate. Ellis and Walton then touched tires in the fountain section, allowing Grinbergas to make the swap for second position for the strategy.
The championship was blown wide open moments later in the final hairpin. Alander bumped the back end of Walton, sending him into Grinbergas. The incident immediately blocked the track and damaged the right front tire of Alander. The KOVA driver immediately ducked to the pit lane due to the damage.
The incident brought out the caution with under 25 laps to go and cycled Ellis to the lead.
Grinbergas pounced after the restart, squeezing Ellis wide in Turn 11 to take away the lead. Ellis responded by trying to go for a move in Turn 1, but could not make the line stick. Blocker then started to apply pressure to Ellis on Lap 68, trying to pass the VRS Satellite Racing driver several times during the lap. By Lap 71, the two drivers were almost two seconds behind Grinbergas.
Ellis was very defensive on Blocker for much of the final stages of the race while dealing with the damage. Blocker attempted to poke his way around Ellis several times before bullying his way past him in the final hairpin on Lap 76.
The next lap, Blocker and Ellis were side-by-side in East Seaside Way again for position. Blocker ran tight along the rumble strips into Turn 9, sending Blocker sliding. Ellis dodged the Powerslide car by inches. Seconds later, Joshua Chin and Austin Espitee both made contact with the spinning car, breaking their front wings.
That triggered a six-lap shootout to the end.
Overall, just 10 drivers finished on the lead lap.
Next time, ISOWC will be heading to Road America for the second-last round of the season. The green flag is scheduled for 6 p.m. UTC on July 17 and can be seen live on RaceSpot TV.
This report was written by Justin Prince.