Race Report by Matthew Overton
Image by Jerry Chen
Broadcast by Ross “Tnadz” Smith
A wet week with plenty of rain provided real challenges for the drivers of the NARS VDTMC as they prepared for their next challenge at Zolder. Teams and drivers both struggled with the constantly changing conditions and the difficulties of managing undulating terrain and constant chicanes in addition to the sweeping high-speed curves of this iconic Belgian track. 22 drivers were present for the race weekend, including PRO newcomer Edgar Cruz as well as AM recruits Pedro Gomes and Morgan McCalister.
Come qualifying, a welcome relief from the rain allowed the drivers to put down some seriously fast times. PRO driver Ahmed Abdallah proved that he was the man to beat, setting a time that at 1:23.474 was .8s clear of JT Tami. PRO drivers Dan Kirby, Norm Graf and Jon Uyan were close behind Tami, a promising development for the few fans present and of course the broadcast audience. In AM, Danny Corriveau’s 1:25.137 just edged out Matthew Overton, both of them sandwiched between the PRO front runners and another stack of 4 PRO drivers.
It was a closed-up field that took the green after the formation lap with a clean run down to T1. While the front rows moved through the left-hander cleanly, an encounter between George Angelidis and Brian Hall disrupted the remainder of the field with Hall falling well down the order as a result of the contact.
The race settled into a rhythm very quickly, with tight battles through the order however few position changes, mostly due to errors as drivers ran wide or struggled with one of the many chicanes. PRO driver Uyan and early AM leader Corriveau were the most notable victims of the track and while Uyan was able to recover through the later stages of the race, Corriveau was obliged to withdraw by lap 27.
The rain that had held off for qualification and then the first half of the race made its appearance in time to throw teams into chaos as they prepared for the obligatory pit for tires. Several teams were clearly caught on the back foot and were unable to get their drivers onto wets, including front runners Tami, Graf, and Uyan. While Tami and Uyan were able to weather the wet conditions and then take advantage of their slicks to push hard as the track dried, Graf was not so lucky. Ascribing his blown engine to wheelspin as he negotiated the final chicane, he was obliged to retire from the race on lap 30 in a strong P3 position at the time.
At the chequered flag, it was Abdallah with a comfortable 20s lead over second-place Dan Kirby who had been rapidly losing ground to a hard-charging Tami in the final laps. Post-race, Kirby admitted that ‘one more corner’ was all that Tami would have needed to have taken 2nd place. After the three PRO drivers, it was AM series leader Matthew Overton that took 4th overall and the class win a full lap ahead of John Maher and Paul Ibbotson.
While some of the top contenders struggled at Zolder, AM drivers Paul Ibbotson, Jimmy Regan, and Morgan McCalister found the track more to their liking, sharing ‘top mover’ honors by finishing 6 places ahead of their starting grid position.
The Aura manufacturing team continued to find themselves underperforming at Zolder, with only 2 of the top 6 finishing positions, and this after a dismal result at Lausitzring, . Attention is now starting to focus on Bayro, with factory representatives seen regularly at the team workshops of PRO Doug Ritter and AM drivers Rodger Gabryszak, Jimmy Regan, and Tom Nasella as they look to get drivers back on the podium in both series.
After four rounds, new leaders have emerged in both series with the standings at the top of the VDTMC (drop round applied) as follows: