IronMan Series 2016 Championship Preview

Taylor Hays

The 2016 CalSpeed IronMan Series readies itself for another season this Saturday, taking to the Sportivo layout, and in attendance, many of the big names that make this a special championship of its own. The series itself sees virtually no change in its format or rules structure, and with this consistency we should see yet another fantastic year of excitement. The lone championship in the CalSpeed stable that requires immense skill in not only sheer pace and race craft, but also a keen eye for on the fly judgment and strategy, the IronMan Championship does not disappoint when it comes to exciting, and unpredictable finishes.

In today’s preview, we’ll take a little closer look at the entry list; sold out to a capacity 30 entries, as well as guess at what we may expect at the drop of the green at just after noon on Saturday…

2016: What’s New?
As was mentioned before, not much is different from last season, and instead we will see series veterans look to fine tune what they already know, while newcomers look to tackle the already daunting task that is the CalSpeed IronMan Series. This includes things like driver endurance, pack racing, pit strategy, and even the ability to work hand in hand (or bumper to bumper in this case) with a competitor to achieve a better result.

There are a couple new things on the docket however; and first and foremost is how each race will get started. Gone is the Le Mans-styled standing start from last season; While fun and different from season’s past, the starts to the hour long races were a bit rougher than usual, and officials have made a change to to not only clean up the starts, but focus in on the race over the full hour, instead of the race through the first few corners. Now each IronMan race will start in the same fashion as other CalSpeed races; the staggered standing start on the front straight. Familiar to all CalSpeed regulars, these start formats prove to be the cleanest, and will ensure that the result has the best chance of being decided over the course of the hour long contest.

The other big change to this season is the eligibility for the inverted start beginning with round #2. Instead of just inverting the entire entry list from the previous round, drivers will need to finish on the lead lap, OR be the first driver a single lap down to be eligible for the invert for the next event. This should further help out the smoothness of the starts, while simultaneously giving drivers further down the order a goal to strive for at the checkers.

Round #1, Sportivo: What to expect…
As we will see throughout the 2016 racing season, the IronMan championship will be the first race every month to hit the course after a configuration change. This means a limited amount of time to practice, with the upside being the Race Clinic that happens immediately prior. For drivers that ran in the Super Series season opener a couple weeks ago, the first thing to do will be to turn off the auto pilot heading down the hill to Sportivo. The tighter version of the two downhill, left hand corners sometimes catches drivers out that have Nuovo on the brain, and we could see a few mistakes here if anyone has a lapse in concentration.

What will also be curious to see is how things will shake up in the early laps here in 2016, especially with the starts looking to be less of a land-rush, allowing for drivers to get in line a lot sooner. While there was still a large amount of working together last year, we also saw drivers get a lot more racey then the previous season, and it will be interesting to see which way the trends fall this year. There are certainly plenty of passing opportunities on Sportivo, and going at it alone is not as detrimental as some of the other tracks on the calendar.

Smitty’s Spotlight: New Season, Same Names…
The new Ironman seasons dawns with some familiar faces at the helm, including the reigning champ returning to defend his title from a season ago. It was an absolute dominant performance from Taylor Hays that earned him his first CalSpeed championship, one that saw him with also bring home both sub-championships in the process. He’ll have plenty of competition to deal with to make it two in a row however, as his toughest competition from 2015 all plan to get behind the wheel and challenge him for the top spot. Both Mark Connell and Steve Spring are returning and looking to improve on their overall podium run last year, while former champs Jon Kimbrell, Sergio Bravo and Bill Myers will also be in attendance. The list of talent doesn’t stop there, as a host of up and coming CalSpeed talent look to make their mark on the sole endurance championship on offer, with names like Fite, Nagao, Yauney, and Rubio all on the entry list.

The season opner for the 2016 IronMan Season has a little bit of everything on the docket, and I can’t wait to see how it shakes out!

2016 IronMan Series Season Opener Entry List

  1. Bill Myers
  2. Vince Burke
  3. Patrick Okeefe
  4. Ariel Rubio
  5. Mark Connell
  6. Sean Fite
  7. Duane Lawson
  8. Sergio Bravo
  9. Frank Hsu
  10. Kevin Ferrara
  11. Alexander Bermudez
  12. Dustin Monroe
  13. John Cherniack
  14. Mark Walton
  15. Kelly Bastian
  16. Sheng Wu
  17. Don Diego Veloria
  18. Adam Nagao
  19. Henry Morse
  20. Benjamin Morse
  21. Steve Spring
  22. David Kelmenson
  23. Michael Chen
  24. Nick Marascio
  25. Jason Collins
  26. Taylor Hays
  27. Alyssa Yauney
  28. Jon Kimbrell
  29. Aaron Downs
  30. Mike Skinner