One energy drink-sponsored car’s crash led to another energy drink-sponsored car’s opportunity in the fourth round of the season sponsored by an energy drink.
Ken Block, in the No. 43 Monster Energy Ford Fiesta ST for Hoonigan Racing Division, took his second win in four Red Bull Global Rallycross races this season at the MCAS New River military base in Jacksonville, N.C.
Block seized his opportunity following a restart from a red flag, after an accident for Brian Deegan, in the No. 38 Rockstar Energy Drink Chip Ganassi Racing Ford Fiesta ST, with four laps to go following the Turn 2 right-hand kink on the 0.993-mile circuit.
That brought out the red flag in the eight-lap Supercars final and forced a restart of the order. Patrik Sandell had led 2014 GRC Supercars champion Joni Wiman and Block prior to the red.
After the restart, Block launched better off the line and moved into the lead. He was not challenged over the final four laps and able to secure the victory.
Wiman was due to finish second, which would have been the best finish of the year for the Olsbergs MSE driver, but a mechanical issue resigned him to an eighth place.
It promoted Sandell back to a season-best second in the No. 18 Kobalt Tools Bryan Herta Rallysport Ford Fiesta ST, and Nelson Piquet Jr., the newly crowned FIA Formula E champion, to third in the No. 07 HAUS Vaporizer red-white-and-blue SH Rallycross Ford Fiesta ST.
Austin Dyne and Steve Arpin completed the top five finishers in the final.
Wiman’s issue capped off a brutal day for OMSE, as prior points leader Sebastian Eriksson had a left front issue, either a puncture or suspension, and limped home to a ninth place finish, two laps down.
Deegan, in his first Red Bull GRC regular season start of the year (he had run the X Games in Austin), had pace but the heavy accident resigned him to 10th.
Neither of the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross drivers, Scott Speed nor Tanner Foust, made it into the Supercars final after various issues during the day.
Block and Eriksson split the Semifinal wins; Bucky Lasek of Subaru took the Last Chance Qualifier win.
Eriksson had led Block by nine points going into the weekend, but Block’s second win will promote him to the championship lead.
The Red Bull GRC season resumes July 25-26 in Detroit, with Rounds 5 and 6 serving as the series’ second doubleheader round of the season and with Round 6 marking the midpoint of the 2015 campaign.
No laps have been turned in the NTT IndyCar Series this season, yet rookie Oliver Askew incessantly is analyzing fresh lap data with his Arrow McLaren SP team.
For the past two weeks, Askew has turned hundreds of laps in iRacing at Watkins Glen International and Barber Motorsports Park, and his support team meticulously has scoured the data in real time.
Race engineer Blair Perschbacher, assistant engineer Mike Reggio and strategist Billy Vincent are connected via all the software and timing systems that are on Askew’s real-world No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet. After every run, numbers instantly are crunched, and Askew debriefs with his crew on improving the handling of his car in search of every fraction of a second as he would in real life.
Last Saturday, Askew started and finished fifth at Watkins Glen International, where he practiced with the advisement of his team for more than 15 hours in the SimMetric Driver Performance Labs simulator. Despite a relative sim racing newbie, Askew, 23, finished only two spots behind Will Power, who has more than 1,500 starts and 150 victories on iRacing road courses.
“We’re taking this very seriously,” he said. “You can tell by the results at Watkins Glen. You know which drivers have built their sims properly. How much they’ve been practicing. Those are the guys who finish up front.
“I’m still trying to represent everyone. It’s cool we have the same paint scheme. We’re just trying to represent Arrow and our partners the best as possible. We know they’re all watching, and it seems the viewership is going up.”
The Jupiter, Florida, native has found an edge through his friendship with SimMetric Driver Performance Labs, which is based in nearby West Palm Beach, Florida. Askew and SimMetric CEO Greg De Giorgis met last year through mutual friends. Last year, Askew had done a few simulator sessions before winning the 2019 Indy Lights championship (and graduating to the ride with Arrow McLaren SP).
With an official simulator partnership in the Road to Indy program, SimMetric’s CXC Motion Pro II simulator travels in a trailer to racing events around the country, providing drivers with extra preparation time for the real world.
The full-motion simulator includes a motion system developed by drivers and engineers, hyrdaulic brakes and force-feedback steering system. Though at the high end for simulators available to the general public, it retails for much less to the seven-figure simulators used by auto manufacturers with race programs.
“While time in a driving simulator will never fully replace real seat time, sim seat time can go a very long way in supplementing the seat time a driver gets,” De Giorgis told NBCSports.com in an email. “With three added benefits you don’t get in the real car: Significantly lower cost per hour, no risk of bodily harm or damage to the car, and of course, no limitations on time.”
There are some limitations for how much Askew can practice, though. A schedule was set up last week so the team, Askew and De Giorgis (who helps run the simulator and maintain communications with the team) could work together while also maintaining self-isolation with their families.
The trailer with the simulator is parked indoors at the Riviera Beach, Florida, shop of Extreme Velocity Motorsports, which also has an unofficial affiliation with SimMetric.
“We’re practicing social distancing and making sure the trailer and everything is clean,” Askew said. “We’re taking that very seriously. It’s still a job for me, so I need to get what I can out of it.”
He’s gotten a lot from it despite a lack of experience. The team can compare simulation data from iRacing to real-world historical data from past races and test sessions.
Reggio handles fuel data, and Simpson monitors strategy and timing. While setups are fixed for the iRacing IndyCar Challenge, Perschbacher is able to work with brake bias. “He’s just trying to bend the rules as much as we can,” Askew said. “We’ve done a lot with brake bias. That’s pretty much all we can change.”
Fans also can watch Askew practicing via a YouTube channel provided by De Giorgis, who has chatted with viewers about the car’s laps in real time during the streams that are available by clicking here.
It’s all relatively new to Askew, who doesn’t even have a sim rig at his Indianapolis home. His previous sim experience mainly came on the Chevrolet simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina.
“Honesty, for me personally, I’m a little late to the party,” Askew said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that. I’m young and they assumed I’ve been doing this. I’ve never even had my own iRacing account before. Guys like (McLaren driver) Lando Norris, (Watkins Glen winner) Sage (Karam), all these guys have been streaming live on Twitch and have been running iRacing for multiple years now.
“ It’s a great way to get fans engaged in the race weekend and get eSports get bigger and bigger every year. Very interesting moving forward. It’s cool that IndyCar has dipped their feet into these waters now. Even once the season starts, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do more of these races.”
If so, he and his team have learned to keep an eye on Power, a real-world ace on road courses. During some practice races Thursday, Askew thought he’d done well by qualifying third, but Power then put a half-second on the field by winning the pole position.
“Will is unbelievably quick and does the same things in real life as well,” said Askew, who did turn the fastest lap in the practice race. “He just pulls it out somehow. That’s where the engineers and our staff in Indy come into play because they’re able to watch his on-board in real time and replay his on board to figure out what he’s doing to get the most of out of his car in the video game.
“It gets the creative juices flowing again. It’s still very different from real life, but I think we’re going to be able to start the season a little more fresh than we would have without this.”