The ingredients needed to produce a great race are actually pretty simple. Drama, excitement and a feel good winner will ensure any race is one to remember.
In the case of Round 1 of the 2015 IronMan season, we had each of those ingredients in large volume.
The race began with the brand new standing Le Mans start and it would immediately be pre-season championship favorite Jose da Silva jumping out to the early lead from pole. Behind him it quickly became 2, 3 and even 4 wide at times as drivers battled hard for position, trying to get towards the front and take advantage of the new bonus points. The new bonus points for leading laps seemed to add an extra sense of urgency for many drivers, as the typically single file until the end IronMan race started to look more like a Super Series A Main. Drivers were not content to let anyone else take the point for long, which created one of the largest packs we have ever seen battling for the lead.
Typically, as an IronMan race begins to settle into a pace, drivers will start losing the lead draft and be forced to try some different pit strategy in order to try and earn their way back into it. But, on Saturday, no driver would be willing to settle into second and push the leader which created an opportunity for those drivers that would normally have fallen off, to catch back up and stay in the fight. Once pit stops had begun to get under way, it was still a 10 kart battle for the lead.
During the cycle of pit stops, trouble would strike two of the favorites heading into the race as both Mark Connell and Jose da Silva would get collected in other drivers incidents, effectively knocking them out of contention for the win in Round 1.
After the first round of stops, it would be Taylor Hays assuming the lead after a blistering trip down pit road that saw him gain full seconds on his rivals. The pit stops also served to separate the field, as it became clear that this was now a 4 kart battle between Hays, Steve Spring, Charles Eichlin and Adam Nagao. Each of the four taking turns leading laps and collecting the three bonus points to go along with it. Joining them as lap leaders during the pit stop cycles would be da Silva, Ariel Rubio, David Kelmenson and Mark Connell.
As the race began to wind down, the top 4 made their way down for their final stops which allowed da Silva to play some brilliant long term pit strategy as he would stay out on track until the last laps of the race. This allowed da Silva to collect the additional bonus points for leading the most laps. In a race that did not go da Silva’s way, this decision could pay large dividends when the season gets to the final few races.
Once da Silva made his stop, Steve Spring would be the new race leader. Spring had managed to build a small gap to Hays who was P2 and Eichlin in P3. Nagao was just behind, but running by himself and unable to close the gap.
Laps continued to click away and no one was showing any signs of gaining on Spring. The tension was high in the paddock as Spring has been one of the longest running competitors in the IronMan, and in fact had finished P2 in the points in 2013, yet had never won a race. If there was an emotional favorite, it was Steve Spring.
The white flag came out, showing 1 lap left in the 60 minute race and it was still all Steve Spring out front. The final lap showed little drama as Spring was able to come across the line with just enough over Taylor Hays to grab his first career win. Charles Eichlin brought it home with a strong podium finish, Adam Nagao took 4th and Kirk Feldkamp started his season with a solid top 5.
At the podium celebration it was noted by a number of drivers that if they themselves couldn’t win, Spring would be their next choice. It was a very popular win, and a great start to the season for Steve.
Round 2 of the IronMan season takes to the Sportivo track on February 28th. Registration is open, be sure to get your spot on our website. http://calspeed.mycustomevent.com/
For Round 1 results click here: http://www.mylaps.com/en/events/1105361
For the points standings after Round 1, click here: https://www.facebook.com/calspeedkarting