IronMan Round 3 – Preview

From Tecnico to Sportivo (and with some rain in-between), the 3rd round of the 2015 IronMan season transitions from one of the most technical tracks on the circuit to one of the fastest. Sportivo is known across the paddock as a track that rewards racers. Bravery in passes, confidence in race craft and a mind for strategy are all keys to running up front on Sportivo, and each is exaggerated in a 60 minute long IronMan race.

In a sprint style event, a driver just needs to worry about going forward, however, in the IronMan series, a driver also needs to make sure to hit their pit stops perfectly and has to make them at the correct time. Pitting at the wrong time, without a drafting partner, can spell disaster for a driver that otherwise would have had a shot at victory. Being without draft on the Sportivo circuit can cost a driver up to 5 tenths per lap, over the course of just 5 laps all by yourself, 2.5 seconds is very easy to lose and nearly impossible to make back up.

Round 1 Rewind

One round into the 2015 IronMan season and already it is shaping up to be a season to remember. A first time winner in Steve Spring, a huge rebound for Taylor Hays in second and a fantastic season opener for Charles Eichlin in third were just some of the many highlights from Round 1.

There was plenty of drama to go around for other drivers, notably Jose da Silva and David Kelmenson. Both drivers had days that they’d like to forget, yet each showed great speed and promise for the upcoming rounds. Both drivers will have to be all but perfect from here forward, however.

Plenty of drivers had solid days in Round 1, but the question is, which of those drivers will be able to keep it up through Round 2 and which ones will fade towards the back? Sean Fite, Alyssa Yauney and Ariel Rubio are among those that had outstanding season openers and each are more than capable of continuing that pace throughout the season. As like anything in racing though, that is easier said than done.

Looking Forward

The driver to watch in Round 3 is without question going to be Sergio Bravo. The former IronMan series champ missed the first round, but has stated his desire to run for another championship. Thanks to the race drop that allows each driver to drop their lowest score of the season, Bravo still has a great chance to score gold this season, but he cannot afford any missteps. While most expect Bravo to run up front, his performance will be noteworthy regardless of outcome. A good day will give us another definite title contender, while a bad day could already put him in a big hole that he will have to spend the rest of the season digging out of.

You can’t call him a darkhorse, considering he is a 2 time IronMan champion and last year’s runner-up, but Jon Kimbrell is a driver to watch. Jon is not expected to run the entire season, but has signed up for Round 3 at the last moment along with his brother Aaron Downs and father Dennis Kimbrell. Jon and Aaron specifically will be two to watch as Aaron is the reigning and defending National Champion and last year’s Fall season champion. Watching these two brothers work from 29th and 30th on the grid is going to be a lot of fun to watch. Also, don’t count Dennis out either though as he did win an IronMan race last season. What will be really interesting is whether these three decide to run the entirety of the 2015 season.

Of course, the normal cast of characters will be worth watching as well. Steve Spring will be trying everything he can to not only keep his recent momentum going, but to follow up his first IronMan win with another podium. In fact, the trifecta of T4 Autosport drivers will be fun to watch as Chris Huerta joins Spring and Hays in Round 3. Spring and Hays were both on the Round 1 podium, while Huerta is making his first start of the year. T4 historically makes early pit stops and then gets into line quickly until the final laps, look for them to possibly use that strategy once again on Saturday.

Smitty’s Spotlight: To pit or not to pit, that is the question…
The IronMan season opener gave us a glimpse into what the strategy games could look like, while still having a dose of last year’s model; the grid was set by qualifying, while from this round forward we will see an inverted start from the previous round’s results.

Jose da Silva was able to bounce back from an altercation and change his approach, staying out to lead the most laps, and added a total of 5 bonus points to his championship tally. Here in round three (but the second round for the drivers), we will see just how much the invert effects the strategy for not just the win, but those bonus points.

One of the really fun things will be the inclusion of a few drivers that were not at round #1, and how that will affect the rest of the competitors. Names like Kimbrell, Bravo, and Downs will be coming through the field, and it will be interesting to see what strategy they employ; put early out of the mess, or attempt to slice their way through.

Tomorrow is a clean slate in terms of strategy, and I for one am very excited to see how it plays out!

Final Thoughts

Drivers aside, the biggest change for this round will be the first inverted start of the season. Ed Lewis will be the pole sitter after his unfortunate early exit from Round 1. Behind him, Round 1’s podium finishers and first time racers will be deep in the field and will have to make the early decision on whether they want to try and work their way through the field early, or make a stop in the initial few laps to try and get clean laps and leapfrog other drivers once they make their stops. It is anyone’s guess as to what the correct strategy is going to be.

Round 3 Starting Order:

Driver Round 1 Finish Round 3 Start
Edward Lewis301
Michael Floerchinger292
Greg Reinhardt243
Joe Sabella234
Simon Wong225
Nathan Hood216
Patrick O'Keefe197
Chris Carter178
Michael Wojdat159
Steve Jasinski1310
Mark Connell1111
Jose da Silva912
Ariel Rubio813
Sean Fite714
Alyssa Yauney615
Charles Eichlin316
Taylor Hays217
Steve Spring118
Sergio BravoNA19
Christopher HuertaNA20
Brian StarrNA21
Alton ArnoldNA22
Marcin BalazyNA23
Mike ArnoldNA24
Felix DurairajNA25
Hasller OrtegaNA26
Sheng WuNA27
Dennis KimbrellNA28
Jon KimbrellNA29
Aaron DownsNA30